I didn’t anticipate having to coordinate planning funeral luncheons or dealing with welfare issues – typical responsibilities for a family ward Relief Society President – but I would need to fellowship them, and be sensitive to whether or not the Sunday and weekday meetings met their needs — the needs of 100 students close to my age, only half of whom came to church.
Those who showed up every Sunday were easy to get to know. We attended the University of Wyoming, where LDS students are definitely a minority. Adjacent to the campus is a lovely Institute building [read more about LDS Institute] where many Mormon kids gather between classes, in the evenings, on weekends. Previously, I had found it a good place to meet friends or flirt, but now my interactions took on a new urgency: I needed to be a friend – a genuine one – and I doubted myself.
I try to be friendly, and can even fool you into thinking I’m an outgoing person, but that’s only after battling through an almost painful shyness. Could I be the kind of leader I needed to be? Was I smart enough, charming enough, caring enough to do this?
Soon my worries were swept away in the most powerful ongoing spiritual experience of my young life. I didn’t have to find it in myself to love these young women. The love our Heavenly Father feels for His daughters overwhelmed me and spilled over into my interactions with them.
He knew them. He knew their struggles, their potential, their ambitions and joys. He wanted them to do well and be happy. Not just as a group, but individually. In Relief Society, we refer to each other as “sisters,” and I grasped that this is a true assessment of our relationship. We are part of a divine family.
You can’t spread honey without getting some on yourself, and as I reiterated the message that our Heavenly Father knows us, and loves us, I came to know that my Heavenly Father also loves me, and understands me.
Me – Stephanie – full if imperfections and insecurities, is a beloved daughter of God.
Throughout that year I took this message to the young women who already knew it. With the cute Elder’s quorum president from the other ward, I helped track down the students who stayed in Laramie during the summer, but didn’t make it to church.
Fall and spring, I rejoiced in their successes and was anxious about some of their choices, always feeling a spiritual echo in my soul, that these were not my concerns alone.
I served in that position for only one short year, but the perspective I gained still colors my life. Understanding my divine heritage allows me to sets my sights higher. I see the work I and other women do as so much more important than the world would have us believe.
And knowing myself to be a beloved daughter of Heavenly Father makes it easier for me to pass an awareness of this reality on to my own five daughters – the ones I’m raising with that cute elder’s quorum president from the other ward.
Stephanie writes this about herself: “I am a wife, mother of five daughters, avid reader, wannabe writer, occasional artist, and lifelong Mormon. My life appears quiet and ordinary from the outside, and is an unexpectedly grand adventure on the inside.” She blogs at http://www.themountlaundrynews.com/