Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Confessions of a newly RELEASED Relief Society President

I sat down at the end of the day on Sunday, April 24th and just let the events of the day wash over me. I was a little bit numb from it all, but knowing that I needed to ponder and pray and spend some time with the Lord. While I was sitting there, I received a text from someone in a tough situation who needed help. Immediately my stomach did that little twist thing it always does and then my mind started to work out a plan of action and then, as if someone immensely kind and loving whispered them to me directly, these words filled my mind, "You don't have to do that anymore. It is someone else's turn now."

A wave of relief, gratitude and peace filled my heart and I called the new Relief Society President - the sister who had been sustained and set apart earlier that day. I called her and handed it over to her with the promise of helping in any way. Then...I let it go. It was really in the Lord's hands and I knew He would take care of everything - He always does.

In October of 2013, I was called to be the ward Relief Society President. This last Sunday, April 24th, 2016, I was released from that calling. When I started I didn't have any idea how long my turn would be. This release feels right at this time. I trust the Lord and His plan.

Several people have asked how it feels to be released from such a heavy responsibility - sad? - relieving? - joyful?

I'm gonna say...


...and I'm also going to add to those feelings, grateful, humbling and grateful, very, very grateful to have had this amazing experience.

I know I should say here that I felt so much joy as the Relief Society President - and I did. But I have to be honest...it was also hard...very hard. Every Relief Society President's experience is different. The needs I encountered were often very draining and confusing and overwhelming and unexpected and even painful at times and constant. That's just the truth. I'm not complaining and if you know me, you'll know that I'm a bit of a "Pollyanna" so, what I have written, is not meant to sound whiny, it is meant to be truthful. I know there are many women around the world who read what I write and I do not want to paint a picture that everything was centerpieces and casseroles. This is the work of Salvation we're involved in here - that's not an easy schmeasy thing.

Now, before you start lecturing me about how I probably didn't delegate or I took on too many projects, or I did too much...let me tell you that I have learned that we should never say that to a Relief Society President. Never. She is probably painfully aware of all that she is not getting done and the sisters she is never able to visit. Don't tell her she is doing too much - rather, ask her how you can help.

Let me tell you why...

You know what, I'm just going to write a list of lessons learned and I think that will cover it all. (I was not perfect at any of these items - that's why they were lessons. I could have still used a few thousand years to perfect them!)

1. Jesus Christ does it all. We think it is us and, to be fair, it is our feet and our hands and our thoughts and our time and energies that get the work done. But ALL of the energy, the thoughts, the motivation, the time, the love come because Jesus Christ loves us. This is all about us growing closer to Him while helping others grow closer to Him. This is His work and His glory. This is His job and His joy. He will not let His work fail and so He will not let you fail. He does it all. He does it all.

I love this specific picture of Jesus talking with the woman at the well. It reminded me always that maybe I felt like I was doing the work, but I always knew the Savior was watching and giving me the strength and inspiration to do that work.

2. All Jesus Christ expects from you is that you do your best. That's all. Just do your best. Yes, that means that there will be many things left undone. Yes, there will be those who do not understand that this is all that the Lord asks and so they will bring to your attention all that you are NOT doing - sometimes they won't be nice about it. You just have to let that go and concentrate on the Savior just asking that you do your best and He'll take care of the rest. Just focus on the Savior.

3. Always remember that everyone else is doing their best as well. You will wish that others were remembering that about you and so you must do that for others as well. This is a volunteer organization. We are not professionals. We are all learning and growing and making mistakes and we're all at different places each and every day in our discipleship. (Including yourself.)

4. Follow every prompting. Follow every prompting. Let me repeat...follow every prompting. No matter how small or inconvenient or even scary that prompting may be...follow it. It will take serious spiritual guts sometimes. You are on the Lord's errand. He will tell you what those errands are and you must follow. Miracles - big and small - will take place that way. Once again, some may not agree with what you are doing. They do not know the prompting you received and the reasons for that prompting. Do it anyway. Don't worry about what others will think. Just concentrate on the Savior. You serve Him.

5. Use your counselors and the visiting teachers. This is one area where a Relief Society President can get it wrong - trying to do it all by herself. That is IMPOSSIBLE! Let me repeat IMPOSSIBLE! Besides, you are not the only one who needs to grow. You are not the only one who can serve. Even Heavenly Father delegates. Follow His example and let/expect others to fulfill their callings and do their parts. Interestingly, enlisting the help of others will require a bit more work on your part. It is easier (at first) to just do things on your own and get them done in your own way and in your own time. If you choose to allow others to help, you will have to make more phone calls and do some training and do some groveling. But, once again, it is not all about you and your job is to help the women in your ward grow closer to Jesus Christ - let them do that by letting them do their part.

6. If you are a micro-manager, or a control-freak (I say that with love and kindness), #5 will be difficult. Your counselor who has stewardship over additional activities is entitled to inspiration within her stewardship. If her ideas are not the same as yours, that is OKAY. Did you read that? Say it with me...EVEN IF HER IDEAS ARE NOT THE SAME AS MINE, THAT IS OKAY! Different is not bad. Let her grow. The same goes for any other assignments within your presidency and board. Let them grow. As long as commandments are being kept, guidelines are being followed and you've been kept up to date about all decisions...let them do their thing in their own way.

7. This one is for those who are currently serving as a Relief Society President and those who are not: some of the "duties" of a Relief Society President are not truly her "duties" as outlined in the Church's Handbook of instructions. As an LDS culture, we have come to expect some things from a Relief Society President that are simply not her responsibilities and by so doing, we add unnecessary burdens on her shoulders. It is important for a President to know her duties and not get sucked into what others can and should do for themselves. It is just as important for those of us who are not Presidents to not expect more from her than we should.

8. This one is also important for those who are currently serving as a Relief Society President and important for those who are not, to know: As the Relief Society President, do not assume that your personal and family life will be free of trials and challenges. In fact, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say, satan may work extra hard on your family while you serve. he did mine. There were moments, days, weeks, months when I felt nearly unable to function properly because of the sadness, pain and anguish in my heart with regards to my personal challenges, while simultaneously responding to texts, emails and phone calls of others who were feeling the similar anguish in their own lives. The weight on my heart was very heavy at times.

9. It will be in your hardest moments when your own heart is in anguish, yet you find the strength to comfort others in their heartaches, that you will come to know Jesus Christ better than ever before. Somehow, in those defining moments, when, in the midst of your personal heartache, your heart can find compassion for others during their turmoil, the Savior will heal your turmoil. He will. He will look down on your heartache and He'll be so touched by your willingness to still help someone else and He'll help you and He'll heal you and you will feel so very, very close to Him. You'll discover that you are surviving your life's ordeals BECAUSE of your service and you'll decide you better never be released or else you might not survive. ;) That doesn't mean all of your trials will go away, it just means you'll realize how much you need the Savior and you'll reach for Him more and you'll understand His pain more and you'll realize that in His greatest anguish, He reached out to us to comfort us. You'll love Him more than ever. Read this BYU devotional talk by Elder Bednar "The Character of Christ" - you will be so glad you did!

10. Okay, enough of the hard...have FUN! Find ways to enjoy the women you serve and learn from them and get to know them. Add fun parts to your additional meetings. Laugh with your ladies. Include the younger sisters in fun ways. Shake things up a bit sometimes by going on "field trips" - such as having every woman in Relief Society on Father's Day go over to the Priesthood Quorums opening exercises to surprise them all with cinnamon rolls. (That was fun!) Don't just do the typical, nice, sit and listen lessons on Sundays. Try new things. Think out-of-the-box. Don't pressure yourself to be perfect - especially with decorations, handouts, activities, etc. Keep it simple so that the women in your ward will not feel pressured to do more than is necessary. SIMPLE is always better and happier. (You'll figure it out. Just have fun!)

11. Remember who it is you are serving - DAUGHTERS OF GOD. Remember who they are at all times so that when they forget you can remind them. Pray to see them how our Father sees them. You will LOVE those women so dearly and you will long to help them find joy in their lives. Remember what these royal daughters are capable of and tell them. Lift them higher. Fill their hearts with hope. Remind them of their divine DNA. Pray for an eternal perspective that will allow you to remain above some of the depression and darkness of the world so that your light will be bright enough to help others see the Savior.
Photo credit: http://www.sugardoodle.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2607

12. Expect miracles. You will watch miracles take place! You will be amazed at how people's lives can change and at how hearts can be touched and you will fall to your knees in gratitude.

13. DO NOT compare yourself to any other Relief Society President in any other ward, including those in your ward who have served before you. Do not allow yourself to think that you are worse than, or even better than the President before you or those serving in other wards near you. That is wrong and DANGEROUS! The Lord called YOU at this time to do what only YOU can do. Trust that and don't let satan convince you otherwise. Don't let others try to convince you either. There will be those who will tell you why you are worse than, or even better than, the last Relief Society President. Not even entertain their comments. Each President is different, with different talents, Heavenly assignments, trials, circumstances etc. We are all different and that is just how it should be.

14. If you are a wife and a mother, your most important callings are being a wife and a mother. Relief Society comes after those two callings. That is easier said than done. But when all is said and done, it will be your children you are held accountable for, not anyone else. If you have small children (like me) that simply means that many things will fall through the cracks and you will just have to learn to live with that. Heavenly Father knew your children would need to come first when He called you. He is finding ways to take care of the things that must be sacrificed.

15. Appreciate the Priesthood brethren in your ward and work alongside them with humility and gratitude. Remember who they are as well - sons of God - and remember that they are not perfect and they have families to take care of and jobs to do each day and they are just doing their best. Communicate with them. Work WITH them, not against them. I once heard Sister Julie Beck refer to the church as a row boat with the Priesthood Brethren having one ore and the Relief Society sisters having the other. If you are both rowing in opposite directions, your ward is just going to row around in circles. But when you work together, your ward will go forward.

16. Everything is going to be okay. This is the Lord's Work of Salvation. He will not let it fail. No matter what you do wrong or how you flub up or upset someone or overreact or forget something important or whatever it may be. You are not going to destroy the Lord's Kingdom with your weaknesses. People will not know most of what you do. That's okay. The Savior will. He'll be with you.

17. Be released graciously and humbly. This is not a competition. You are not being fired. You knew when you started that one day you would be released. It was your turn once and now it is time for someone else to have a turn. Be the new Relief Society President's biggest cheerleader! She'll need your support - remember? :)

There's more, but this will do for now. I'm most certainly not an expert. I was not perfect at any of these items - that's why they were lessons. I could have still used a few thousand years to perfect them! Yes, I copied this from above because it is very true!

When I was very first called to be the Relief Society President, I wrote a post entitled "Confessions of a newly called Relief Society President". That post generates viewers every day and email messages from Relief Society Presidents all over the place. It is a tough job - a job that requires help from Heaven every single moment.

The truth is, callings come and go. What we must remember is that we are Disciples of Jesus Christ who are willing to serve whenever and wherever He needs us - our homes being of the utmost importance to Him. Our callings are just opportunities for us to smooth out our rough edges and become more like Jesus Christ.

I LOVE being a member of the Lord's RELIEF Society in these last days before He comes again.  I get to be the Sunbeam teacher now. I've gone from a stewardship of 250 to a stewardship of 6. I love it and I'm grateful to serve and learn about the Savior in a different way and from a different set of His children.

I'm most excited to be able to spend some more time with my own children who wanted to stand up and cheer on Sunday when they heard that I was released. They are wonderful and they have gone on many a Relief Society adventure with me over the past few years - sometimes cheerfully, sometimes not. They are my greatest stewardship in this life and I love them very much.


  1. Oh Debbie! I'm just trying to be like you! :) You are one amazing gal yourself!

  2. Thank you! I was just called to be the relief society president in my ward today. My heart is racing. Your words have helped me.

    1. Oh, I'm so glad you were able to find something in these words that will help you. I loved being the Relief Society President, but I've thought to myself that if that calling ever comes to me again, I'll probably burst into tears right there in the Bishop's office and ask, "Are you sure?!" It is a massive responsibility, but you are not alone and the time will pass by. Just do all you can to remain close to the Savior and all will be well (even if it isn't). ;) I would love to hear some of your experiences. You can email me at dwangmanii@gmail.com

  3. Lisa! This is a beautiful post. I happened upon it by accident, but truer words have not been spoken. This has been my calling for the last three years and counting. You've articulated so well all of the thoughts and feelings that I've had while in this calling. It is truly miraculous the way the Savior helps us and heals us as we strive to help and heal his daughters. Another thing I learned is that when we are on His errand, He somehow expands our capacity...it's almost as if the hours in the day expand to allow time for His errands and our own. I just feel so much gratitude in my heart for His love and the feeling that He is smiling down upon us when we do His work. Thank you again for these beautiful words, thoughts and ideas! :)


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