My senior year in college, I was struggling to reconcile my value as a woman and my experience in the LDS church. The sexism I encountered by some LDS men had always been hard for me, but it had started coming from people I respected as friends and leaders, and it hurt me deeply. I was feeling very frustrated and angry this particular day, and I just wanted to stay home, eat ice cream, and not think about church-related things. But at the end of the day, I did decide to go to my meeting. Our stake RS presidency had arranged for a tour of the Relief Society Building on Temple Square to be given to all our wards' RS presidencies.
While we were waiting for the tour to start, all the other women were standing around chatting, but I was feeling anti-social, so I'd gone off to a corner and was looking at the display items. After a few minutes, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and was greeted by a woman that I didn't recognize. I later found out that she was a member of the Relief Society Board, and the woman who would be giving us our tour. She smiled at me, took me by the hand, and said in the most loving way, "Sister, we need you." She then walked me to the rest of the group. I wish I had words to describe the overpowering sense of love and peace that came over me as she took my hand, but I truly don't. It was a simple gesture, but it was a turning point for me. In that moment, the spirit overpoweringly communicated to me that the Lord needed me, and that the church needed me, in all my strengths and imperfections. He valued me as a woman, and He valued the unique service I could give as the daughter of God that I am.
The more I heard this woman talk as we went through the tour, the more I came to admire her. In the world's eyes, she wasn't very important. She'd alternated between being a kindergarten teacher and a stay-at-home mother. But in my mind, she is one of the most empowered women I have ever known. I've come to understand that it is because she knew who she was as a daughter of God, knew the Lord valued her contributions, and truly made a difference in her service. She just emitted love and power. I loved listening to her talk about her feelings about the biblical women featured in the portraits on the walls, their relationship with Christ, and the love and respect that He showed them. I loved how she'd celebrated her experiences with women in a variety of countries, and how passionate she was about the welfare programs that the Relief Society had been involved in. I loved her earnestness in wanting to hear about our experience as college-aged relief society sisters, and her gratitude for the service we were giving. She was committed to issues facing women, and was serving them faithfully and diligently.
I never did learn her name. I went home and tried to find pictures of the Relief Society Board, but I never did succeed. I've thought about her many, many times over the years, and it has made me think about all of the other nameless LDS women that contribute to the Lord's work. I feel that we're missing something as women in the church when we forget each others' stories. So in honor of women's history month, I am sharing the stories I can. Most of these posts will come from the research of others, and I am grateful to them for bringing me these stories of inspiring women via blogs and other new media. I've been reading all the historical accounts of LDS women that I can get my hands on here in Indiana, and I have felt a surprising kinship with these women. I hope that as you read these stories, that you will be able to recognize the women that have influenced you, and recognize the love the Lord has for his daughters.