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Raquel Hardman
Professor Stone
English 2710
March 3, 2018

Six Million Women and Growing


Where can you find over six million women from all over the world, with different

ethnicities, familial statuses, with varying degrees of education who gather together weekly as well

as twice a year to be inspired by uplifting Christian faith-based messages, given worldwide calls

to action instruction and tools and guidance on how to nurture and strengthen their individual

family and other families around their communities? One place; the Relief Society of The Church

of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as LDS.

This all women group, which was formed in the early years of the church believe, as stated

on the LDS church website; “the Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal

life as they: Increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement; strengthen

individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity to help those

in need” (The Church).

The members of this folk group consist of women of the LDS faith, who are 18 years of

age or older. Women are entitled to be a member of this group, just by their membership in the

faith alone. Participation ranges from simple spectator, small roles such as music leader or
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secretary, to president of a local group, regional group and rarely, president of the entire group.

This group fits the definition of a folk group because; they are a group of specific women, who

share similar religious beliefs and rituals, have similar life goals and parallel views of worldly and

spiritual principles. Their folklore is “lived, experienced, created and shared by people” who

belong to the Relief Society group (Living Folklore).

Their membership in the LDS church is what brings them together and their desire to better

one’s life and family life, love and assist those around them and to learn about Jesus Christ and

how to be a better Christian woman, is what binds and keeps them together. Although the group

membership stems worldwide, they are

organized in smaller groups based on the

geography of where the individual woman

lives. Membership is based solely on physical

location; not race or affluence.

Individual, Social and Cultural Significance

The women in this group are individually and socially significant for many reasons. First,

they represent a very large number of women; over 6 million women are members of the Relief

Society in over 170 countries and territories, this organization

is thought to be the largest women’s group in the world. Twice

a year the women meet as a whole group and are given

inspiration and instruction. These 6 million women become

members of the organization when they turn the age of 18 in


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the LDS faith. The Relief Society women are attributed with countless hours of service in their

communities, service that reaches beyond their individual faith and belief system. Finally, in

March of 2017 the Relief Society marked 175 years since the group was organized by the former

LDS Prophet, Joseph Smith (The Church). Making this folk group one of the longest running

organized women’s group to date.

As their motto or lore reads; “The Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of

eternal life as they: Increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement;

strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants; and work in unity

to help those in need” (The Church). Socially, this lore and group was established to support the

mental and physical needs of the individual member, as well as the member’s families and

communities.

The Relief Society group has deep roots based in charity. The founder, Joseph Smith,

taught the women “not only to relieve the poor, but to save the souls.” It is believed the spiritual

welfare and the temporal welfare of the women are both of great importance (The Church). One

of the ways the Relief Society does this is through their Visiting and Teaching Program. Women

across the society are given names of women in their local group and they are expected to visit or

be visited by those women each month. During these visits a coordinated message is usually

shared, and the needs of the member being visited are accessed. If necessary, the findings are

brought back to the local leader (president of the group on a local level) and an action plan to help

and assist those needs is devised and carried out, usually by the women within the local group.
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Comparative Significance

In comparing this Folk Group to other similar groups,

sadly, the choices were not plentiful. I then remembered my

youthful membership in the Girl Scouts; their group has a

membership of 1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults (Girl Scouts).

Wonderful!

Through my exploration I found another group; The National Organization for Women,

also known as NOW. I found this group incredibly interesting and very

timely in the world’s state of affairs. Their organization is devoted

to achieving full equality for women through education and

litigation. Through my research I discovered NOW has over 500,000

members (About the NOW). Outstanding!

Both my comparative groups, the Girl Scouts and NOW, work towards educating and

empowering women and girls. Although the Relief Society is based on Christianity as well as

education and charity, both of my study organizations put an emphasis on education. As a young

girl, I was a Girl Scout and can

attest to the emphasis of

empowerment the girls are taught

through the Girl Scout program,

as well as charity and service.


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Interestingly, today I would welcome a

membership in NOW. I chose sexism as my social

justice issue for my current English class and through

my research for this Folklore paper I found great

information on both the Girl Scouts and NOW

websites to accompany my English 2010 social justice

issue.

I now consider both my comparative groups to have membership in the category of living

folklore and I would like to add – doing important, excellent work in education and equality for

girls and women.

The Relief Society group is a member of living folklore. They have deep roots, based on

Christianity and charity as well as modern day teachings and inspiration. Their group can meet as

two members sitting on a couch in a home visiting about the individual, her family and local

activities and concerns, to the largest meeting where over 6 million women are invited to attend

and learn of global concerns and endeavors as well as the divine worth of each human soul.
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Works Cited

“About the NOW Foundation.” National Organization for Women, now.org/now-

foundation/about-now-foundation/. Accessed 15 February 2016.

“How Many Members Does NOW Currently Have?” National Organization for Women,

now.org/faq/how-many-members-does-now-currently-have/. Accessed 15

February 2016.

Sims, Martha C., and Martine Stephens. Living Folklore: An Introduction to the Study of

People and Their Traditions. Utah State University Press, 2011.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-

Day Saints, www.lds.org/. Accessed 15 February 2016.

“Who We Are - Girl Scouts.” Girl Scouts of the USA, www.Girlscouts.org/en/about-girl-

scouts/who-we-are.html. Accessed 15 February 2016.