Thursday, March 24, 2016

"Relief" Society vs. "Fix-it" Society By Amy

These words by Amy really resonated with me and helped me think about the ways I try to "fix" things that I can't. There is some real wisdom in her words and I hope you learn from her. And, by the way, I didn't tell her to put my book as her favorite... though I'm flattered she did. 

When I first received the calling to be the Relief Society secretary, I asked Heavenly Father a couple questions. I wanted to understand the purpose of Relief Society better and what my personal responsibilities are as a member of the Lord’s organization for women.

I had completely forgotten about these questions until the beginning of this year. We know that the Holy Ghost can “bring all things to [our] remembrance.” (John 14:26) And as I was wondering whether the things I have been learning, as I struggle to improve as a mother, were appropriate to share the Spirit reminded me that I had asked these questions. It whispered to me that I had received the instruction I was being given specifically as answers to those questions. And I realized that these questions were universal to all of us as members of the Lord’s organization for women.

My questions were:

1. What does the title “Relief Society” mean and what does it have to do with me?
2. What is meant by “Charity Never Faileth”?

What’s in a Name?
After careful reflection, I realized that what I was wondering is: who named the Relief Society? Was it named by the women who had the desire to be organized? They had a purpose, a strong desire, wrote up a constitution and had a vision….you know the history.

But I am coming to realize just how important names are to our Heavenly Father. In the Book of Mormon, Christ is given over 100 distinct names and each of them have "particular significance"  in describing Christ’s divine nature. When we make covenants, we are given names. For example, when we are baptized we take upon ourselves the name of Christ. And in the temple we learn more about the eternal significance of names.

Names matter to God.

Since understanding a little more about the significance of names, I have changed some opinions which I previously held. For example: Who named Eve? Was her name chosen by Adam? That’s what I had always thought...that the Lord left it up to Adam and Adam made the decision.

But my thinking has shifted. I now believe that the Lord asked Adam what he would call Eve to give him the opportunity to ponder, to think about it, and to be open to inspiration. The Lord doesn’t ask us questions because He doesn’t know the answers, or because he doesn’t care. Instead there is growth for us to be had in the search to discover the answer He has to give to us. As a result of that growth, the understanding we gain is more precious to us. And therefore, I believe that Eve’s name had been selected already and that the Lord inspired Adam to know what it should be.

As I used to believe Adam chose the name for Eve, I also believed that those early sisters chose the name of Relief Society because that is what they wanted to do….provide relief. I’m certain that is how they felt. But I now believe that the Lord--who knows everything from the beginning to the end--chose that name to organize his precious daughters. This name was no incidental necessity or afterthought. The desire to call the Lord’s organization for women his “Relief Society” was planted in the hearts of those sisters. Our Father who knows all things from the beginning to the end intentionally selected this title to give us a vision of our purpose as women.

Why does that matter?

It matters to me because if the name Relief Society only applied to those sisters in their time, I feel disconnected from that purpose. That was so long ago, a different chapter in history. But if that name was chosen by an all-knowing God….to stand throughout time as the name by which the women in His kingdom would be known, then it applies now.

That is the purpose the Lord has given to me…to all of us. This name matters. The mandate is clear…we are to indeed be a Society of women who give Relief.

Sisters in Zion

One Hymn has been coming to my mind over and over. It is Hymn 309 As Sisters in Zion. The words of this hymn teach about both what it means to be a Society and what it means to give Relief. (Other lyrics that speak to me.)

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

The Lord’s Society
There is great value in sisterhood. I have heard many lessons about this crucial concept, have read much about the blessing of society and united purpose, and have had many experiences which deepen my understanding of what it means to be a Society of sisters as daughters of God. I love that concept. And in no way do I wish to detract from that. But I want to explore the concept of "Relief."

There are countless ways to give relief. Meals, quilts, humanitarian kits, babysitting, kind words, fulfilling callings, visiting teaching, praying for others, etc. I am surrounded at all times by women giving relief in tangible ways. But I have been prompted that I can and should do more, that even my every interaction should be a means of giving relief. Although Relief is something I should DO it must also be who I AM.

Relief vs. Fixing

Sometimes to help understand something better we look at the opposite. If we can define its antitheses, we have a clearer vision of what something is. The opposite I want to explore for a “Relief Society” is a “Fix-it Society.”

Only Christ has the power to fix

We are directed to give relief, not to fix. The work of fixing is the work of the Atonement. We can’t fix situations and we can’t fix people. For example, when someone loses a loved one, we can’t bring them back to life; when someone loses their job, we can’t get it back for them.

We understand that we can’t fix those situations.

But it hurts us to see those whom we love and care for hurting. We want to take the pain away. So we do things like tell them not to feel sad or discouraged, as though our saying they shouldn’t feel it, will cause them to forget their sorrow. We do things like remind them about the Atonement or the promise of the resurrection, although we already know they accept, understand, and have faith in that doctrine.

If the person we want to comfort doesn't know eternal truths, our sharing them can certainly be a relief. But for those who know and have testimony of these truths—but are still hurting because circumstances of mortality are by their nature painful and difficult—statements like those can cause the people we wish to comfort feel like we think they shouldn’t be experiencing the pain they are having…like there is something wrong with them or that we believe their faith is weak. We imply they have no right to feel sad, that faith means they shouldn’t experience sorrow, disappointment, or other “negative” emotions. That is never my intent; I want my words to instead give love, acceptance and true comfort.

Why does a child feel better when he cuts his finger and Mom soothes, cleanses, applies antiseptic, and a bandage, and then kisses their owie? The child feels better because someone 1) understood his pain/need 2) offered the help that was possible.

That is what Relief is:

--understanding someone, their needs and their pain.
--offering acceptance and love
--offering the help that is possible

When someone breaks their arm, a doctor can’t fix it. Instead the doctor understands there is pain and offers relief. He provides alignment and support. But the work of healing happens on the inside.

Sometimes surgery is needed. But I am not a surgeon--Christ is the great physician. My words should not be sharp, cutting, or painful. That is not the role assigned to me.

So in those situations where the pain people are experiencing is not a result of their choices, I am doing a better job of remembering to offer relief rather than trying to “fix” the situation. But where I struggle is when I think I can see how their behavior is causing the pain they are experiencing.

In those situations, I feel like I can see what is wrong. So the best way for them to receive relief is to stop their incorrect behavior, right? Isn’t it the right thing for me to tell people when they are doing something wrong to prevent them from having more pain? I wouldn’t let my 2 year old run in the street, I would stop them. Shouldn't I stop the people I love when they are using their agency inappropriately?

Desire vs. Ability and Responsibility

I’m kind of an argumentative person. And I often argue with promptings and understanding I’ve gained. So I’ve been wondering...since Christ can “fix” things, isn’t it following His example to try to “fix” others?

I don’t want to change. If I can justify what I’m doing then I don’t have to, right? But after thinking on it for quite a while I have to admit that the idea that I have a responsibility to “fix” those around me is not something Christ teaches. It is Satan who wants me to believe that.

Think of the examples we have of Christ’s life. Even when he had the power to bring their brother back to life, Christ’s first reaction to Mary and Martha was to weep with them rather than telling them not to feel bad. He could fix that situation. In fact he knew he would. But first he understood their pain, and wept with them.

Over the past year I have often had the words to hymn 240, "Know this That Every Man is Free" running through my mind over and over reminding me how I can follow Christ’s example in my attempts to influence those I love…”God will force no man to heaven. He’ll guide, persuade, direct aright and lead in wisdom, truth, and right. In every way be good and kind, but never force the human mind.”

It would seem that we get our desire to help--which is good; it is right that we empathize and feel sorrow when others are hurting--mixed up with responsibility and capability.

We are not capable of fixing anyone. And it is not our responsibility. But Satan would have us believe otherwise because if He can get us to focus on the weaknesses of those around us we won’t have the energy or time to worry about improving ourselves.

Misguided Effort

I have yet to find anyone who really appreciates my efforts to “fix” them. Certainly my children don’t appreciate it when I do. I don’t appreciate it when others attempt the same with me.

If my children are doing things wrong, sometimes I feel I haven’t taught them or they haven’t listened. So I say it again, and again, and again. My kids feel like I treat them like they are stupid when I keep trying to teach them things they already know. And this feeling is amplified when I do it in a frustrated or condescending manner.

Instead, I need to have faith that I have taught them and they know what is right. They are just exercising their agency. I should be happy about that, right? Isn’t that what I fought for so fervently in the pre-mortal existence? It helps me to remember that I also make poor choices, even when I know what is right.

I keep getting the message from the Lord that I need to worry about myself and let him worry about everyone else. This makes me laugh because I say that to my children and my preschoolers all the time! “Just do your best and forget the rest.” They think it’s my mantra as I encourage them to stop worrying about others around them. Apparently I forget it also applies to me.

It was even right there in print in the Visiting Teaching Message for February 2016….did you see it? The lesson was on Marriage. But the question in the "Consider This" section tells us that we aren’t supposed to worry about our spouse, or even the sisters we visit. It tells us that we need to be focused on how we as individuals are coming unto Christ. I thought that was insightful.

Sometimes we are trying to “fix” someone or change their position because we aren’t secure in who we are or what we are doing…as though if we can convince others to want to be like us we must be ok. Strength in numbers, right?

When we are at peace because we feel God’s approval, it will radiate from us and touch the hearts of those around us. They will be drawn to us and desire to be with us and like us. We invite others to be with us not because we want them to change, but because we love them and accept them as they are. This difference is crucial.

Defending your Ground

Let’s think about it in a military way. Of course, the best place to be is on high ground. And when you feel safe, you are able to assess your position and move to join those on higher ground. But wherever your troops are located when you are attacked—no matter whether it is where you want to be or not—is where you dig in and defend your position. You seek for reinforcement. You shore up your defenses.

People are the same way, especially my teenagers. When I attack them and ask them to change, they dig trenches and set up their defenses. They are certain they are in the right, they are justified. But, when I don’t challenge them and they don’t need to defend their position, they can have the ability to see their situation more clearly and evaluate where they want to take their stand. I’ve even noticed that I myself am the same way.

This saddens me to think that in my efforts to encourage them to move to higher ground, I am essentially halting their progress. My actions are having the exact opposite effect from my intentions.

That doesn’t mean my children don’t have consequences. If they violate the rules of our family the consequences still stand. But when I am being successful and following the promptings I have received—which sadly happens less than it should—I listen to their side. I don’t tell them they are wrong. I don’t fight with them at all. I understand why they made the choices they did. And I suffer with them as they experience their consequences. But the consequences that we have already established still take place. That is how the Savior is. He loves us; he stays with us while we are suffering the consequences of our actions. And he has faith that we are better than our poor choices.

The Errand of Angels

I don’t pretend to know what this means for men, but I do know that “the errand of angels is given to do whatsoever is gentle and human to cheer and to bless...”

It is important to remember that we are a “Relief Society,” not a “Fix-It Society”...we are not trying to change someone else’s course or trajectory…In fact, we may not be able to see theirs clearly due to the beam in our own eye.

I’m not saying it is never right for us to correct someone, but it has been impressed on me that my standard operating procedure should be to speak correction only when moved by the Spirit—at those times correction can be a relief. Instead of being aware of what people are doing wrong, I should instead focus on loving, accepting, “comforting the weary and strengthening the weak.”

Advocate vs Accuser

In a Sunday School lessons towards the end of 2015 we read the scripture Revelations 12:10. This scripture talks about the Accuser. And I asked myself “Who is the Accuser?” Of course it is Satan. Christ is the antithesis of an accuser, he is our Advocate. It made me wonder, “Which am I most like?”

When I see my children, my husband, or others around me, am I building a case for their defense or their prosecution?

I am a piano teacher. I am accustomed to helping my students notice the weak spots in their playing and then teaching them how to improve…thus helping them become better musicians. I thought that was the right way to function in every aspect of my life. I try to help my children see their weaknesses and then teach them how to overcome those…thus helping them become better people, right?

Now I am realizing that is NOT my role as a parent to my teenage and nearly adult children and probably not my younger children either. It is not how I am supposed to relate to my husband, nor is it how I am supposed to relate to anyone else. It is not my responsibility to notice or remember anyone’s weaknesses.

I think I have felt that if I forget about their weaknesses that the Lord will also….like I am crucial in His work of perfection; as though he needs me to help him remember the improvements that my children still need in order to attain exaltation. Now I’m realizing how egocentric that perspective is.

It is important that I be aware who is motivating my thoughts. The Accuser is the one who points out the discrepancies between other people’s behavior and the teachings of the Savior. It is not the Advocate who does that. When we hear of someone making a mistake, it is not the Savior who tells us they have made a wrong choice. It makes me think of the woman taken in adultery. Christ lovingly told her, “Neither do I condemn thee.” (John 8:11)

When I see my children make mistakes, I must be aware that it is the enemy of happiness revealing those to me. I believe I had thought it was the Savior helping me see their weaknesses…I believed I had a responsibility to help them change, to “fix” them. I was taken in by the wolf in the Shepherd's clothing because he was reminding me of the Savior’s teachings and showing me the discrepancies between His ideals and their lives.

Now I’m coming to see that although I am reminded of scripture through the process, this idea is a dangerous, deceptive “philosophy of man.” I have been living and functioning under a false understanding.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) I need to realize that He has a plan for everyone’s instruction, for their personal journey to Him. I must let go and trust the Lord. If He needs me to say or do something about the weaknesses of those around me, He will let me know. But it is more likely that I am seeing their shortcomings because my vision is skewed by the mote/beam in my own eye. I might be seeing myself instead.

Fixers are Hypocrites

I have noticed that I project my frustration with myself onto my children and even on to my husband. After all aren’t they an extension of me? When I feel I am not accomplishing what I should, instead of making changes in my life, my “natural man” suggests I should become more aware of the shortcomings of the people connected to me.

I become irritated with their mistakes and imperfections. I spew accusations, saying to them what I feel about myself…as though I could shift my guilt on to them. That is an unfair burden for them to carry. And I typically do it without even realizing. I am so susceptible to hypocrisy that I rarely ever realize what I’m doing. It isn’t until I’ve hurt those I love, and feel remorseful and willing to humble myself that I realize with whom I was really frustrated.

As I pondered how the concept of an Advocate and an Accuser relates to me and my parenting, I realized that if I am a “fixer” then I see everyone as broken. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And because I want to “fix” the broken people around me...most especially my husband and children…I will accuse others so they will listen to me. If I can convince them they are broken, my hope is that they will let me fix them.

Christ-Like Love
Not only is this totally hypocritical (and we know how Christ feels about hypocrites) but what we are thinking is what we end up saying…even if not verbally. No one wants to spend time with someone who doesn’t like or accept who they are.

Being in my presence should be a “Relief” to my children, to my husband and to my friends. I do not want them to feel that I am sitting in judgment or that they are awaiting my condemnation. I have a mandate to be a member of the “Relief” Society.

Whether or not we realize it, people will sense when we are unaccepting. If we feel they need to change then our love is conditional. And conditional love is not Christ-like love. Christ doesn’t say “get these things in order then come to me.” He doesn’t say “fix yourself” before you call upon me. That is Satan’s message. Instead our Advocate calls us to come to Him no matter how we struggle.

Christ looks at us and sees us as we are. He knows us…all of us, the good and the bad. And when he sees those things that are broken and sinful he loves us…he is waiting to take us into His arms. There is no reproach, no condemnation, only inviting us to receive Him. He wants to “encircle us in the arms of his love” (D&C 6:20), in the “arms of safety.” (Alma 34:16) And then when we are in his embrace he will apply His healing balm, his glorious Atonement.

Christ is “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) He “will not leave us comfortless;” our Savior comes to us (John 14:18), as we are. He is with us emotionally and spiritually and even sends his Spirit to be with us physically. And he condescended to become mortal, to walk with men on earth then descended below all things to fulfil the work of the Atonement.

Eyes of Charity

And if I want to become like Christ, to love as He loves, I need to teach myself to see as Christ sees. So a significant step in being able to offer Relief rather than condemnation, to be an advocate rather than an accuser, is learning to shift my focus. It is like this picture of a duck:

People are like this image. No one is completely good or completely bad. But what we look for is what we see. If you are looking for a duck, you will see a duck. If you are looking for a bunny, you will see a bunny.

Charity is not just what I DO but an entire shift in how I SEE. That is what is taught in the lyrics about fulfilling our purpose “in SPIRIT and DEED”. What we are thinking is what we end up saying…even if not verbally. I need to change my thoughts, my perspective. I need to look for what my children are doing RIGHT, think about what I admire about them, focus on the good and be an advocate for them.

Taking Action

One significant way to make the shift from Accuser to Advocate is in how I pray. I am realizing that in my prayers I am often an accuser. Instead of praying about what I see wrong and how it can be “fixed” I want to start telling Heavenly Father about the good qualities. Rather than asking Him what I should do or say or how I can persuade those I love of the need to make changes in their lives, I should take this time to celebrate their strengths. If I do, this personal time with the Lord will inspire my mind and help shift my focus. He will help me become an advocate.

"At the throne I intercede. For thee ever do I plead" (Hymn #185) Can I say this about myself? I hope to make this example from our Savior the pattern for my life.

Charity Never Faileth

This is indeed a “vast purpose” and “broad mission,” to make this shift in how I see myself and how I view those closest to me. But as I strive to act I know I can “fulfill it in spirit and deed.”  It is not easy for me to let go of the responsibility to “fix” my children. Letting that go and trusting my children to the Lord, for that is how I feel when I sing, “so trusting my ALL to His tender care, and knowing [he loves them and] me, I’ll do [his] will with a heart sincere.”(Hymn 270) I want to BE as He is and COME unto Him! I want to BECOME what He would have me be.

When I meet my Savior, I want to be taken into his arms and to hear the words “well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23) I hope not to fail in my most important efforts as a wife and mother. And truly the motto of Relief Society speaks as instruction from God in how to succeed in His work….for “Charity Never Faileth.” It is essential in families and especially relevant in my roles as a wife and a mother.

I feel so grateful for the “Spirit’s divinest tuition” in my life thus far. I pray the Holy Ghost will help me remember and act upon the understanding with which He has blessed me. I want to do a better job of applying this knowledge to my life and thus I pray for the “wisdom to truly succeed."

That we will all be successful in our righteous endeavors is my prayer. I know we can be. That is a primary function of the Atonement. I know Christ’s enabling power can be applied to our weaknesses and that he will purify and sanctify both us and our efforts to provide relief.

Amy Lindsey loves reading and studying the gospel.  Her two favorite books at this moment in time are Walking with the Women of the New Testament by Heather Farrell and Falling to Heaven by James L Ferrell.  She keeps busy in Springville, Utah as a stay-at-home mother to 5 busy, talented children.  She loves her children, the music of the gospel, teaching piano and preschool, serving in Relief Society and her incredible husband Ryan. 


  1. Amy- Wow! This was extremely insightful and well written. I felt the gentle but kind chastisement of the spirit as I read this as it describes my outlook so closely. Honestly, if there is not a book in the works about this (that you are writing) it should be. Loved it. Thanks so much for sharing your innermost thoughts. It has truly helped me today.

    1. It's like she's in my head too. Ah, my pride. So much to work on.

    2. It's like she's in my head too. Ah, my pride. So much to work on.

  2. I love this!! It is just what I needed to hear! I feel relief myself, being reminded I don't have to fix everything. I just have to pray to know how to love as the Savior loves and see those around me as He sees them. Be an Advocate. What a beautiful, inspired perspective! So many things to ponder! Thank you!

  3. Beautifully stated. I truly appreciate your perspective, as it resonates deeply with me. (Is the title supposed to say 'fix' instead of 'fit'?)

    1. Oh, dear! Yes, it should say Fix it. I have a real problem with typos :) No matter what do I always seem to have them! Thanks for the catch.

  4. Beautifully stated. I truly appreciate your perspective, as it resonates deeply with me. (Is the title supposed to say 'fix' instead of 'fit'?)

  5. This totally hit the nail on the head. "Being in my presence should be a relief....." Such a beautiful way to sum this article up. Is my presence a relief? I pray I Remember to ask myself this often. Thank you for posting such a wonderful article.

  6. This was really beautiful. I have never consistently had the opportunity to attend Relief Society since being married, but this just sums up well my duty as a Sister in RS and as a mother. Such a down-to-earth practical discourse on applying gospel principles. Thank you to the author and for sharing it!

  7. This has a lot of great points and really made me think. I think my favorite point is the gentle reminder that only Christ can fix. I often get swallowed up in my weaknesses and I get overwhelmed with trying to fix myself. But this was a great reminder to not only give relief to others but to myself as well and remember that grace is what fixes, not any of my efforts. When my focus is relief for myself and others, I also think it can help me from being too overwhelmed because I am focusing on what I can do (relief) vs trying to do what only Christ can do (fix and heal). Thank you for the post.