Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Women Who Have Led the Relief Society: A Program for Relief Society Birthday Parties

Last year when I wrote my script for the Reenactment of the First Relief Society I actually also wrote a script highlighting each one of the 15 women who have held the position of "General Relief Society President." My intent was to have it be done after the reenactment, but once I realized that the reenactment was going to be a lot longer than I'd thought I decided to separate the scripts and make them two different ones. So this year for our ward's Relief Society birthday party we did the other half of my script--- the one about each of the Relief Society Presidents. I've warned my Relief Society though that I don't have any more scripts up my sleeve for next year--so they can't get their hopes up!

Each woman had an introduction that included historical information about the time in which she lived and things that happened in the church and in the Relief Society while she was president. Then I had each actress read a quote by the president she was portraying and then she went and sat under her name on the stage. I wasn't in the performance this year because I wanted to watch and it was really a powerful thing to see all those women lined up on the stage. It reminded me that even though our clothes might be different and the world we live in more complex that we are are still all sisters in the gospel and are working towards the same goal.

I purposely left an empty chair after Julie B. Beck (the current president) to indicate that the line will just keep going and that in the future there will be more women who will serve as the General Relief Society President.

All my actresses did a wonderful job. I was so impressed with their costumes. I put them each in charge of finding their own and they did such a good job.Here is our Belle Spafford (1945-1974)

And our Amy Brown Lyman (1940-1945)

Don't they look great!

I think the most touching part of the program was the very end. Instead of doing Emma Smith (the first president) at the start I saved her till the very last and this is what I wrote:

You many have noticed that we have skipped over one of the Relief Society Presidents tonight. That is because, the story of Emma Smith, (have Emma come out and in the middle of the stage) the first president of the Relief Society is a hard one to tell. We thought that it would only be appropriate and fair to have someone who knew her intimately, as a friend and fellow relief society sister, tell her story tonight. Eliza R. Snow would you please come up.
Then the woman who played Eliza R. Snow sang the song "Emma" by Jason Deere from "Joseph: A  Nashville Tribute to the Prophet." I've posted the song at the bottom of the post in case you haven't ever heard it. It is a beautiful song. The spirit was so strong as our Eliza sang it and the woman playing Emma burst out into tears. Afterwards they embraced and it was such a sweet moment and I couldn't help but think that if the real Emma and Eliza had been there that night it wouldn't have been much different.

I was a bit nervous about how this program was going to turn out-- I was afraid it might be boring-- but it turned out really beautiful. Half of the room was in tears when it was over and I consider tears (of joy, not boredom) to be the best sign that things went well! It was also nice that this one took MUCH less planning to pull off than the re-enactment.

If you'd like a copy of the script you can access it here. It runs about 35- 40 minutes and, like the reenactment, you are welcome to use it but PLEASE make sure you give me credit for writing it. I took some of the historical information from an anonymous script called "Emma's Garden Party" and I took all the Relief Society President's quotes from the book "Faith, Hope and Charity: Inspiration from the Lives of General Relief Society Presidents" by Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt. All the quotes are real things that each woman said or wrote during her lifetime.

Here is the Emma song. You can buy the sheet music here for $5.


  1. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I have this CD too and this song has always touched me so deeply. I had no idea there was a video as well. I feel such compassion for Emma. I cannot imagine going through the trials she did. What a beautiful tribute.

  2. FANTASTIC! That is AWESOME! We did something similar this year and I got to be Eliza. I really enjoyed learning more about and portraying her. Very cool.

  3. WOW!!! this song is beautiful. thanks you so much for sharing the link.

  4. Ooh, those women look great! What awesome costumes!

  5. That sounds amazing! I may save this for our RS birthday next year!

  6. I love that song, and that whole cd! Such inspirational music. (Chris' MTC companion and his family are involved with the cd. :)

    What a neat experience to write up those scripts - I'm sure you learned so much making them! Looks like a wonderful program. Good job, Heather!

  7. I'm so glad it went well, and that you got to watch it!

  8. this looks totally amazing. I am going to talk to my relief society president about it.

  9. Hi Heather -
    love your script! I just got back from speaking about Emma at the Lincoln Library in Springfield Ill, and here is the link to the video myhusband made about her- that includes both Emma songs - one sung by Katherine Neilson. The person that made the other video does not have the rights to the footage. I do. So you are welcome to share what I have. I love it anytime anyone talks about Emma. If its good.;0)

    1. Hi Shantel!
      I'm doing this skit for our Relief Society birthday party next week and I would love to show your video. However, when I watch the video on youtube it comes out super blurry. Is there another way or better way to get the video so it comes out clear?

  10. Thank you for sharing that song. It touched me deeply.
    We performed your First Reenactment this year and it was an amazing experience. I hope we get to do this Presidents of the Relief Society script, too. Thank you for freely offering this gift.

  11. This is so awesome! We tried to get something like this going in our stake but is just did not work. We just could not get the right costumes together and I totally love that it worked out for you. We will have to try again next year or later in the year. Thanks for giving me some great ideas. naomi x

  12. I'd love to purchase the sheet music to this song but the link provided isn't working. Do you know where else it is available?