Sensing Responsibility of Office
Relief Society General Conference
Bishop’s Building, Salt Lake City, Utah
April 4, 1933
The life of each of us is largely governed by a threefold obligation: duty to ourselves, duty to our fellowmen, and duty to our God. The law of ethics prescribes certain rules whereby human relations and behavior are controlled.
The members of a Relief Society organization are in a school of training in ethics which is far superior to any other class or club. Besides gaining knowledge through outlined lessons, they learn other lessons in courage, tolerance, kindliness, and devotion. This school is also trying to create in its membership a sense of social obligation, to stimulate interest in the welfare of neighbors, and to develop interest in all classes and races of people.
Every woman who enters into the service of this organization as an officer11 does so with some degree of ambition and determination to gain new ideas and experiences that will give her a broader view of life, will raise her own and others’ standard of ideals, and efficiently serve those with whom she comes in contact. At no previous time has the preparation for better and more complete living been so intensive. Women are interested in more things and in more people than heretofore. They are eager to know more of human nature, their own personality and its development.
Those who have been given the responsibility for directing this preparation12 must rise to their possibilities and offer opportunities and experiences to their respective groups, which will enable them to find a life freer from those things which discourage, worry, and annoy, and fuller of things that satisfy, stimulate, and inspire. This responsibility has not been solicited, but has been bestowed upon us as an honor. Any office, however, ceases to be an honor unless that office is honored. Ben Jonson says, “Great honors are great burdens, but on whom they are cast with envy he doth bear two loads. His cares must still be double to his joys in any dignity.”13
To be worthy to preside over a well-organized society in dignity and poise is an officer’s greatest achievement; it requires long, intensive labor to acquire.
The mission of officers is to create and develop in the lives of our members the spirit of the gospel and carry its message to all people, to encourage the distressed and disheartened.
As we approach the end of our season’s outlined work, we may well ask ourselves, has this year’s work been a success or failure as far as I am individually concerned? What is success, and how is it to be measured? Not by the length of the days or the accumulation of knowledge or influence, but by the continuous and unrelenting adaptation of the powers and capacities that we have to the opportunities and needs of our environment.
Such a result may be far short of the standard we have set for ourselves, or it may even exceed it, but nothing can excel in loftiness of purpose the desire to make the most effective use of our talents in the service of others.
That Relief Society officer has achieved success who has lived well, loved much, given generously, served willingly, and grown graciously through her responsibility. She has failed if she has ignored the truth, discarded her highest ideals, and lain aside the standards of her own organization and the church.
Let us sense seriously the responsibility that rests upon us to rise and shine and show the way to a doubting, waiting, skeptical world that there is a God in heaven, that Jesus Christ lives, and that he is interested in the welfare of his children.