The Church Historian's Press The Church Historian's Press

37

Union of Feeling

An original recording of this discourse is available at churchhistorianspress.org (courtesy of Church History Library).







Relief Society General Conference

Tabernacle, Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah

October 3, 1962


crowd of women in Salt Lake Tabernacle

Relief Society General Conference. 1962. The first Relief Society general conference was held in 1889. This photograph of the Salt Lake Tabernacle shows a large crowd at one of the sessions of the October 1962 conference, at which Louise W. Madsen spoke. Photograph by Ross Welser. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

Life experience led Elen Louise Wallace Madsen (1909–1987) to develop the organizational, homemaking, and intellectual skills she would use during her service on the Relief Society general board. Beginning when she was thirteen years old, Madsen helped to raise her four younger siblings after her father died.1 She graduated from LDS High School, then took courses in English, history, literature, and law at the University of Utah.2 On June 1, 1928, she married Francis Madsen, and together the two established the Madsen Furniture Company, first in Ogden, Utah, and later expanding to Salt Lake City. Also while in Ogden, Louise Madsen hosted a radio program.3 Her early church service included teaching seminary, leading the Gleaner Girls, and teaching literature and theology classes in the Relief Society.4 She was also the Emigration Stake Relief Society president.5 Madsen began her service on the Relief Society general board in December 1947, and by the time she became a second counselor to Belle S. Spafford in the Relief Society general presidency on August 11, 1958, she had served on many general board committees.6

Madsen’s work in the presidency included directing homemaking activities (called work meetings until October 1966) and overseeing both the temple clothing department and the Mormon Handicraft Shop.7 She oversaw a yearlong course of study inspired by the Red Cross home nursing program to educate Relief Society members in home nursing skills.8 She also supervised the creation of a nursery program, which the Relief Society established to enable more young mothers to attend Relief Society meetings, to provide learning opportunities for young children, and to create service opportunities for Relief Society members who either supervised or volunteered in the nursery.9 Madsen traveled around the world to instruct various Relief Societies and represented the Relief Society at the National Council of Women.10 Many of Madsen’s speeches and articles, for which she was celebrated, appeared in the Relief Society Magazine and the Church News.11

By the early 1960s, the United States was entangled in conflicts both internal and external. Awareness of racial violence in the United States had increased substantially during the late 1950s, following media coverage of a number of high-profile acts of violence against the African American community.12 In 1962, the United States was also on the brink of war with the Soviet Union over the placement of ballistic missiles in Cuba.13 During this period of heightened fears and disputes, Madsen spoke on how God rewards unity with power at a Relief Society conference in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in 1962.

My dear brothers and sisters, just before he entered the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of his betrayal, the Lord “lifted up his eyes unto heaven”14 and prayed to the Father. President McKay has spoken of this prayer as “the greatest, most impressive prayer ever uttered in this world.”15 His prayer was for those who had believed on him and for “them also which shall believe on” him. A sublime message contained therein is in this verse: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”16

This is a most beautiful expression of the principle of unity. It is this principle of unity, this spirit of being “one,” with each other and with our God, which has been instrumental in enabling the church to progress and to accomplish the purposes for which it was established.

One of the statements of the Prophet Joseph Smith to Relief Society which has great and continuing significance is “By union of feeling we obtain power with God.”17 This is an expression of the principle of unity which shows how it works to fulfill purposes. He urged the sisters to obtain power from on high by being “one” in spirit and determination to do the work he would have them do. The fact that they have done so is attested by the growth and accomplishment of Relief Society throughout the world. Separation by vast expanses of land and oceans of water does not change or diminish the feeling for, or necessity of, “oneness.” A quarter of a million women unified in feeling and purpose, seeking power from our Heavenly Father in righteousness, can exert a tremendous power for good wherever they may be.

What is this power we may obtain? Since it derives from our unity with God our Father and his son Jesus Christ, is it not in the words of Micah “to do what is good, to do what the Lord requires of us, to do justly and to walk humbly with our God”?18 Is it not the privilege to serve we seek, the moving force of compassion to feel? Is it not the power of God-given strength and his blessing of knowledge we cherish? Is it not the power of unselfish thought and action, selflessness, the ability to rise above fault-finding and petty-mindedness we desire? The power to be instrumental in saving souls has been accorded to Relief Society. To build firm testimonies to the divinity of the Savior and of the gospel is our ultimate purpose. Charity, the true love of Christ, is our guiding principle.19

We are again reminded that these aspects of power are derived through “union of feeling,” “union of feeling” among ourselves and with our Heavenly Father. This kind of unity cannot be successfully maintained with less than the best from each other. Dissatisfaction with mere mediocrity enhances the ability of the organization to use this heaven-given power to its fullest extent. Our vision and aim must be exalted and the integrity of purpose and dependability of each member must be heightened.

Those to whom power is given must assume the responsibilities that accompany it. One of these is wise leadership. To guide, persuade, and direct aright,20 to fortify in righteousness, to educate and to give impetus to courageous action are facets of leadership for which Relief Society women are trained.21 The strength of an organization dedicating itself to good, fitting itself for what needs to be done, and thoroughly believing that its work is basically and spiritually right, is the strength required of us by the Lord. Each Relief Society, no matter how small, no matter how isolated, must participate in this “union of feeling.”

Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, speaks of the “mutual faith both of you and me,”22 and beseeches his brethren to “strive together”23 in all that must be done. He warns them to avoid “divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine.”24 A number of the sisters he singled out for special commendation:

I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the Church at Cenchrea:

That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Jesus Christ:

Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles …

Greet Mary, who bestowed much labour upon us …

Salute Tryphena and Tryphosa, who labour in the Lord. Salute the beloved Persis, which laboured much in the Lord.25

That kind of commendation can also be given to many individual women in this dispensation. Great numbers of the sisters holding office in the society could be described in the words of Paul as having “laboured much in the Lord.”26 But it is the society as a whole, as an auxiliary of the church, receiving power from God by “union of feeling,” which best serves to do the work he would have an organization of his daughters do.

Beautiful are the bonds of sisterhood! Uplifting are the ties of friendship. Glorious is the work of thousands of sisters unified in righteous purpose. Humbling is the realization that it is the Lord’s work we are to do.

May he bless us with the desire to approach him in “union of feeling,” and be one as Christ prayed his followers would be, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.