News Release

Relief Society Celebrates 176th Anniversary

Members of the Relief Society around the world are marking the 176th anniversary of the world’s largest women’s organization. The Relief Society of Nauvoo was organized by early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Illinois on March 17, 1842. Today, it has over 7 million members worldwide.

The Relief Society is for women ages 18 and over whose purpose is to provide support for the temporal and spiritual needs of all women in the Church, as well as others who are in need. 

Latter-day Saints believe that, as the Bible attests, Jesus Christ performed a mortal ministry as a healer, a teacher and the Savior and Redeemer. During His ministry, Christ also established a church. Through His authorized and ordained apostles, Christ prepared a way to spread the gospel, continue teaching the Saints (followers of Christ) and make accessible the necessary ordinances of salvation (such as baptism). As affirmed by scriptural accounts, the original fledgling church relied on the participation of female disciples such as Mary, Martha, Tabitha, Priscilla and many others to strengthen and sustain the church.


Mormons believe that in 1830 Joseph Smith Jr. was called by God to reestablish the ancient church and its priestly authority, teachings and ordinances. As part of this “Restoration,” an organization of women was established after the order and “pattern of the priesthood” believed to be a part of the ancient church. Joseph Smith declared, “The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized.” Eliza R. Snow, the second Relief Society general president, later affirmed: “Although the name may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet [Joseph Smith] that the same organization existed in the church anciently.”

The Relief Society, as this institution came to be called, was originally organized to administer welfare needs and quickly expanded to encompass the spiritual as well as temporal needs of the Saints. By the 20th century, John Widtsoe, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, summarized the Relief Society’s purpose as pursuing the “relief of poverty, relief of illness; relief of doubt, relief of ignorance — relief of all that hinders the joy and progress of woman.” The early Relief Society worked to fund medical training for women, make and market homemade goods, make their own silk, store grain for relief, build hospitals, secure suffrage and establish adoption services and programs of loans and grants to women. The early to mid-20th century, Relief Society expanded relief efforts and community involvement with public and private welfare agencies (including the Church’s own) and included a “more varied and extensive educational program.” After mid-century, with the accelerated growth of the Church, the focus has often included an emphasis on local congregations and empowering members to find opportunities for “service, learning, sisterhood and spiritual growth.”

The mission of Relief Society includes increasing personal faith and righteousness, strengthening homes and families and seeking out and helping those in need. Today, the Relief Society creates a sisterhood for women in the Church and opportunities for rendering service to all members of the congregation, as well as to the global community. Relief Society women serve in leadership roles, share the gospel, provide service, teach, train and deliver sermons. The Relief Society women pair together to visit other sisters and families in the congregation to offer service and support as well as to ensure that their temporal and spiritual needs are being met. Local Relief Society presidencies in congregations throughout the world work with the bishopric to help those who have special needs because of old age, physical or emotional illness, emergencies, births, deaths, disability, loneliness and other challenges. They also work to help foster self-reliance, literacy and other needed skills for individuals. At a regional level, Relief Society leaders supervise regional welfare efforts and Relief Society-supported emergency relief. General Relief Society leaders conduct training for local leaders around the globe and assist with general welfare services and Church educational boards, among other responsibilities.



Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.