In her discourse to the Relief Society on November 18, 1871, Rebecca E. Smith Standring (1828–1913) expanded the definition of family to comprise all those around her, including her Relief Society sisters. She had addressed the visiting teachers of the Lehi Relief Society on October 22, 1871, about their role as mothers to the women on their assigned blocks. She encouraged them to “look after their welfare, feel of their spirits, and teach them the principles of salvation, as well as relieve the wants of the poor. By this they make themselves saviors; they save souls.” The value of family was a consistent theme in her addresses, including her brief remarks to the entire Lehi Relief Society a month after she spoke to the teachers (reproduced below). 1
Standring was born in Northampton, England, one of eleven children. She joined the church there in February 1851 at the age of twenty-three. With two sisters, she immigrated to America in 1855. Standring lived first in New York and then in Dayton, Ohio, before moving to the Salt Lake Valley in September 1857, settling fifty miles south in Springville. While visiting a sister in Lehi in 1859, she met and later married Edwin Standring, who also was from England. After his death, she adopted and raised two children: Alice Bahr Royle and John Edwin Standring. 2
Standring was very active in the community and the church. During the early 1860s, she participated in the Home Dramatic Association and was active in the Lehi choir. When the Sunday School was organized in 1866 in Lehi, she was the first female teacher, serving for thirty years. The Lehi Relief Society was organized in October 1868, with Standring appointed secretary. 3 Eleven years later, she was named president of the Lehi Relief Society, a position she held for twenty-two years. When the Alpine Stake Relief Society was organized in 1901, she was appointed president and served for twelve years. She also served on the Relief Society general board from 1896 to 1902. 4 Standring assisted with the Utah Stake Primary Association and served as an ordinance worker in the St. George, Manti, and Salt Lake Temples. 5 6
Standring worked carefully to contribute to a spirit of unity in her Relief Society. At the meeting on November 18, 1871, Relief Society President Sarah C. Evans requested that Standring read a chapter from Parley P. Pratt’s Key to the Science of Theology. After the reading, Martha P. Thomas, a counselor in the presidency, expressed her inability to further explain Pratt’s words. Standring responded by encouraging the sisters to be filled with love, kindness, and forbearance for one another, bearing one another’s weaknesses. Inspired by Standring’s words, several other women bore their testimonies “of their determination with the help of God to stand faithful to his cause, putting their whole trust in him, knowing that all others may fail. He would never fail but make bare his arm in our deliverance from our enemies and set his seal upon his faithful ones, that they cannot be lost.” President Evans concluded the meeting by saying she was pleased “to see so many of my sisters here. I love to hear them speak. I know it is right for us to improve the talent God has given.” 7 8
How different the feeling will be if we are ever permitted to return to the presence of our Eternal Father. Then we shall greet each other with smiles of love, and every feeling contrary to love and kindness will be banished from us.
Then let us begin to cultivate more and more the spirit of love and kindness and forbearance one with another. Bear with each other’s weaknesses, remembering we are all members of the same great family, which may God bless us with his Holy Spirit so to do, I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.