August 25, 2008

Sisters in Zion

I LOVE my sisters. One of my favourite things to do is to just spend time with my sisters. There’s no agenda. Just get together to talk. Whenever we’re together you can be sure there will be lots of laughing. It can be a great therapy session.

People who don’t know me have come up to me and said “You have to be a Leneham. You girls all look like each other”. I remember one friend saying that although he can tell us apart, if he were to try and pick who is who simply by listening to us he wouldn’t be able to. So we must sound similar too.

I LOVE my sisters but I want to talk about my OTHER sisters. The rest of you!

Sisters like Kirsten F. We were pregnant at the same time with our third child. We served in Primary together. We have laughed and we have cried together.

* Kristie G. and Alison B. we go WAY back. I was their YW’s leader. They threw me a surprise party when I turned 21. We would have so much FUN on camps together.

* Lynda I. I found out that she was baptised by someone whose music I have loved for over 20 years now. I love to be able to share that with her.

* Sis Palau....If you’ve never had a Sis Palau hug then you’re really missing something.

I know some INCREDIBLE women of FAITH who are an example to me. Nicky M., Roslyn T., Cheryl E., Wilma M., Theresa F., Leanne G., Louise M.. Just to name a few. Some of these women probably didn’t even know that I have watched them over the years and admire them. Their testimonies and continued service strengthen ME.

I LOVE being with YOU! I don’t go to the Relief Society retreats so I can stay up all night....because I DON’T like to...I love my sleep and my own bed too much. I just LOVE to be surrounded by my SISTERS in the gospel. I don’t go to ‘midnight madness’ or ‘super Saturday’ because I need more stuff around the house...NO....I go to be with YOU.

When I have impressed my husband by doing something he didn’t think I was able to do I love to break out in song and sing “I am woman hear me roar”. I really like that song. I guess it would be the woman’s anthem out there in the world.

Listen to the words:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an' pretend
'Cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again

You can bend but never break me
'Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul

I am woman watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin' arms across the land
But I'm still an embryo
With a long, long way to go
Until I make my brother understand
Oh yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

Now compare it to another song about women:

As sisters in Zion, we'll all work together;
The blessings of God on our labors we'll seek.
We'll build up his kingdom with earnest endeavor;
We'll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak.

The errand of angels is given to women;
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity's name.

How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission,
If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed.
Oh, naught but the Spirit's divinest tuition
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.

While Helen Reddy’s song is powerful in showing that a woman can do anything in an “In your face” kind of way, ‘As sisters in Zion’ shows there is more to being a woman. It involves tenderness and ‘the errand of angels’ as we seek the blessings of God and are tutored by the spirit.

This song we love and know so well, was first published in a Relief Society publication back in 1874 as a poem. There are ten verses in all. The first and the last are the same.

Two verses that are fun:

2 We’ll turn from our follies, our pride and our weakness,
The vain, foolish fashions of Babel despise;
We’ll seek for the garments of truth and of meekness,
And learn to be useful and happy and wise.

3 We’ll wear what is sensible, neat and becoming
The daughters of Zion—the angels of light;
We’ll work with a will, while the angels are scanning
Our aims and our actions from morning till night.

I think the best three verses were chosen.

It was written by Emily Woodmansee. Emily and her sister Julia were part of the Willie handcart company. Emily walked all the way while Julia wasn’t able to and was carried in a handcart. Emily’s first husband deserted her and their two children. She later married again and had a further 8 children.

Janice Kapp Perry was asked to put the three verses we know, to music so it could be included in the 1985 hymn book. So now we have this beautiful hymn.

I have loved Relief Society since I was a little girl.

I grew up attending midweek activities with my mother. I was happy when I was home sick from school on the day that Homemaking was on. I’d be playing in the nursery area and I’d hear the women talking and laughing. I’d hear plates knocking around. I loved it.

There’s not too many here who would remember the bake sales and the bazaars that the Relief Society would put on in order to raise money for the ward budget. I remember sitting in the little booth in the shopping center car park while the sisters sold the goodies. I loved being around the Relief Society sisters even back then.

When I turned 18 it was not a problem to be in Relief Society. I LOVED being there.

I love to be numbered among you. Any opportunity that is mine that I may serve you, I am happy to do so.

Back to the hymn.

Although I could spend a whole evening on discussing this hymn bit by bit. Tonight I’m just going to pick out a couple of my favourite parts.

We’ll start with:

The errand of angels is given to women;
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity's name.

Oh my goodness! Are these not the most beautiful words to be spoken about women?! I’m sure we can all think of women who have touched our lives. Who have been on the errand of angels and have been there for us when we needed them the most. Whether it’s a meal or help doing the dishes. It could even be a walking buddy or my favourite....someone to sit and talk to. Regardless of how big or small. You sisters have been angels to someone at some time. You have cheered and have blessed and I thank you.

Sister Hinckley has said:

“I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, Wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, Perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking the kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with grass stains on my shoes from mowing Sister Schenck’s lawn.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone else’s garden.
I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and Tears of a friend on my shoulders.
I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”

The women who founded the Relief Society consisted of eleven married women, two widows, six unmarried women, and one whose marital status is unknown. They ranged in age from three teenagers to one woman in her fifties. They were all converts, and some had been converted when they were very young. They lived in different sections of town and in varying economic circumstances.

Our Stake is like that first Relief Society-We are a diverse group of sisters. Coming from different parts of the world and different family backgrounds. Though there are differences we remain sisters in Zion.

Elder Faust spoke to the Relief Society sisters back in 2002 and had this to say:

“I believe the four great enduring concepts of this society are:

First, it is a divinely established sisterhood.

Second, it is a place of learning.

Third, it is an organization whose basic charter is to serve others. Its motto is “Charity never faileth.”

Fourth, it is a place where women can socialize and establish eternal friendships.”

Which leads me to my most favourite part of the song. The very beginning.

“As sisters in Zion, we'll all work together”

We ARE sisters. And I love when we work together.

Elder Faust spoke of the socializing and eternal friendships that can be made in Relief Society.

I have a cookbook that is well worn. It's pages are falling out and it's covered in the ingredients that have been used in the recipes over the years. I was asked by the RS presidency to put together a ward cookbook back in 1992. I was a little taken aback by the request but I had great response and terrific support. In fact I did very little except come up with how I wanted the book to be and what I wanted in the book and the sisters ran with it.

I love this book NOT because I had anything to do with it or that I have recipes included. No...I love this book because I see the names of the people who submitted recipes and I think about them and ask that question...”Where are they now and what are they doing?”

These sisters were an important part of my life and learning as a young wife and mother. They helped me when my children were sick and when I was sad and lonely. They helped as I grew in the gospel. I LOVE these sisters.

In D&C 130:2 we read “that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”

Sis Parkin said: “Whether we serve in Primary or Young Women, whether we're active or less so, whether we're married or single, whether we're spring chickens or fall hens, we all belong to Relief Society. We need your voices, your feelings, your hearts. Relief Society needs you. And you know what? You need Relief Society. When you don't participate, you're depriving yourself and you're depriving Relief Society.”

Earlier this year I spent a great deal of time with a sister I’d known MANY years ago when I was just a child. This woman scared me. I didn’t like her. But this year we talked friend to friend. It was a special experience for me. And just a few months ago I got to have lunch with her daughter (we were Laurels together). I mentioned this to my friend and said I could not believe the change in her mother. Her daughter also recognized this change and said “You know what happened? She started going to Relief Society.”

The theme of this fireside tonight is: Hearts knit together in faith.

We need each other. As in knitting the yarn becomes stronger, so do we as we join together. The different colours and patterns of yarn knitted together makes for a beautiful object. Our Relief Society too, with all the differences we have, when knitted together in faith, is a beautiful thing.

I look forward to the eternities where we can enjoy our continued sisterhood only with the eternal glory mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants. When we can sit down together in the eternities and reminisce about the times we had together here on earth.

It is my prayer that we will ever remember that we ARE sisters in Zion and let’s all work together. And in doing so our hearts will be remain eternally knitted together.

5 comments: said...

I read about your talk on Forever Friends. These are beautiful words and a wonderful testimony of the Relief Society. I too love the sisterhood of RS. I hope it is alright to share this with my daughter-in-laws. Thank you for sharing it. Ginger Hulet

Wendy said...

Absolutely you can share this with whomever you like. Thank you for your kind comments Ginger.


Suz said...

Thanks wendy,
You truly have the gift of words. I really enjoyed reading your talk and regret that I wasn't able to stay and listen to it on Thursday. You continue to be an inspiration to me and I greatly apprectiate your friendship. Suz

Rukia said...

my 3 sisters and i don't look anything alike! Most of the time, people don't believe us that we're related! But, when we get together, Watch out! There's so much laughing going on that anyone listening is is under threat of passing out!

(i miss australia--it was so beautiful where i served)

Robyn said...

Girl you need to write your own book!!!!