I'm writing this on Friday night, and Sunday I will be released as Relief Society President. I won't publish this until after the release Sunday. For my non-Mormon readers, each ward (equal to a parish) has a branch of our church women's organization, the Relief Society. The last 3 1/2 years has been quite a learning experience for me. It's been one of the most difficult times of my life, but I've also had some of the sweetest experiences of my life.
As Danny and I sat in the Bishop's office 3 1/2 years ago, the Bishop issued this calling. Danny laughed hysterically, and my mouth dropped to the floor. The Bishop looked at Danny and said, "Well, that's not an appropriate response." Danny explained that his wife doesn't like women--and I reiterated that fact. I've always worked better with men than with women, and I've always found women quite annoying, to say the least. In spite of our initial reaction, I did accept the call. I'm pretty sure that Heavenly Father wanted me to be Relief Society President so that I would learn to love women. After 3 1/2 years, I have learned to love women. Yes, they still annoy me at times--okay, often--but I've learned that if you sift through the pettiness, women really are wonderful people. Women truly are the nurturers of the earth.
I worked with two bishops during my presidency, as we had a Bishopric change. Both men were wonderful to work with, and truly inspired. I seemed to wear out counselors and secretaries. I had two first counselors, four second counselors, and three secretaries. All of these women will forever have my utmost respect and love.
The other night when the Bishop told me that I was being released this Sunday (we have been talking about it for a while now), he asked me what I had learned. There were too many things to pick just one on the spur of the moment. I did tell him what was the best moment of my presidency. There was a sweet little old lady in our ward who was dying. She had never married, and had no living relatives in town. The Bishop and I were called to the Emergency Room one evening. The doctors determined that there was nothing they could do for her but to make her comfortable.
I decided with my counselors that this sweet lady was not going to die alone. My first counselor was out of town, but kept in touch by telephone. Ironically, my first counselor was first in line on our friend's Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and since she was gone, guess who was second in line--and, yes, it did come into play. My second counselor and I, together with another sister in the ward, stayed the night in the hospital.
The next morning, I had a welfare food order to deliver, and then I was supposed to go to work. I delivered the food order, then called my supervisor and told her I wouldn't be in to work. I made some phone calls, and had some sisters in the ward take turns in the hospital so that my counselor and I could get some sleep. I had a very short nap, and was about to head back to the hospital, when I got a call that our sweet friend had passed away. I found it very appropriate that the sister who was with her was our wonderful Stake Relief Society President. (For non-Mormon readers, a stake is the equivalent of a diocese.) When my first counselor got back into town, my entire presidency was involved in dressing our little angel for burial. That was a moment that bonded the four of us forever.
The next two weeks produced a flurry of activity. Her home had to be cleaned out so that it could be remodeled and sold. We organized a whole group of people to go through her home, sort, organize, give away, and toss. Every waking moment when we weren't at our places of employment, or taking care of our families, we were sorting, tossing, and cleaning. We were all exhausted when it was over, but we had come together in the spirit of the Relief Society motto, "Charity Never Faileth."
That is only one experience in a 3 1/2-year period. There were many. I did not accomplish the main goal that I set 3 1/2 years ago. I always said I would be a better Relief Society President if I wasn't working full-time--but Heavenly Father knew I was working when he called me to do this. Looking back, there were other things that we did accomplish. I guess maybe Heavenly Father's goals were not my own. We took the ward through a merge with two other wards. I gained 101 new sisters and their families in that merge. I believe we were quite successful in making those new families feel welcome in our ward. We have huge ward boundaries now, and it has not been easy; but I think we are a pretty cohesive ward now--though not without problems.
I will not know until Sunday who the new Relief Society President and her counselors will be. Maybe I'll add some thoughts at the end after it is announced. I'm quite certain, however, that whoever it is will be the Lord's choice. We have a Bishop who prays long and hard for inspiration. I've joked about how he prays slow--as evidenced in how long it took him to release me after we began talking about it! The Bishop is an inspired man, and I know that whoever he has called is the Lord's choice. This calling is not easy, and whoever the new presidency is, they will have my full sustaining vote, and my full cooperation, respect, and love.
Addendum: The announcement has been made, and the sustaining vote is a done deal. Our new presidency will be wonderful! I'm so pleased! The Bishop may pray slow; but he prays well!