By Jamie Larsen, Boston Stake Relief Society President
(Given at the Boston Massachusetts Stake Conference March 22, 2014)
I love the idea of time travel and good books and movies about it. So I hope that you don’t mind going back in time with me tonight to Oct.1918.
The Great War in Europe was winding down as the Americans had joined the fight but Americans were still rationing food with campaigns of Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays to help with food shortages in France. The Russian Civil war was raging with the Red Army successfully defending the Bolsheviks after they overthrew and executed the former Czar and his family. Influenza season was beginning with a repeat attack of the Spanish flu that would in two years affect 1/5 of the world’s population, over 50 million people worldwide falling victim to this strain. Gandhi was advocating for farmers in India. Houdini had recently performed his “Vanishing Elephant” illusion at New York’s Hippodrome Theater. The Boston Red Sox won the world series…their last until 2004.
And President Joseph F. Smith, the prophet, had been quite ill and confined to his room for a number of weeks. As he read a passage in first Peter he began to ponder on exactly the question that we are pondering today as we strive to follow the counsel to Hasten the Work of Salvation. This charge has a very time sensitive tone doesn’t it? Hasten, according the little yellow box that pops up on my iMac, it means, “to be quick to do something.”
In this time he spent pondering the scriptures he received what we have today as Section 138 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
In his own words he says, “On the third of October, in the year nineteen hundred and eighteen, I sat in my room pondering over the scriptures; And reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world.” 
He went on to say that he pondered the passage in first Peter that says Christ went to preach to the spirits in prison after he was crucified, and wondered how it was possible that Christ could have done all that in a matter of only a couple of days.
He said, “I marveled, for I understood that the Savior spent about three years in his ministry among the Jews and those of the house of Israel, endeavoring to teach them the everlasting gospel and call them unto repentance;
And yet, notwithstanding his mighty works, and miracles, and proclamation of the truth, in great power and authority, there were but few who hearkened to his voice, and rejoiced in his presence, and received salvation at his hands.”
“And,” he continued, “I wondered at the words of Peter—and how it was possible for him to preach to those spirits and perform the necessary labor among them in so short a time. And I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked…But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to all the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.”
“And importantly,” he continued, “among the great and mighty ones who were assembled in this vast congregation of the righteous were Father Adam, the Ancient of Days and father of all,
And our glorious Mother Eve, with many of her faithful daughters who had lived through the ages and worshiped the true and living God.”
Importantly, as viewed by President Smith, that visit by the Savior to the spirits of the dead represented the first organized effort of sharing the gospel with those outside the House of Israel. And from that time forward, the responsibility for carrying the gospel’s good news to all people was entrusted to us, disciples who love and follow Christ.
Timeline of Christ organizing missionary labors
Let’s continue with this timeline and the history of a grass-roots, mass effort of sharing the gospel. We’re familiar with Matt 28, where after his resurrection the Savior meets his disciples in the mountains of Galilee and tells them, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. 
Precisely what he had just organized with the righteous in the spirit world. And at the end of that 40 days, right before the ascension, his last words were calling them to be witnesses unto the world again “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
But it seemed difficult for these apostles to fully understand that this good news, was meant for all both Jew and Gentile.
In the end of Acts 8, we have this remarkable event of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch (the first gentile convert) riding along in a chariot together, with Philip sharing the gospel (how many of us find this easiest in taxis and on airplanes too) and the eunuch seeing water asking to be baptized. Philip halts the chariot and baptizes him and after coming out of the water Philip is miraculously carried away to another place. And the eunuch left rejoicing.
In Acts 10 Peter sitting on a rooftop has a vision where he is commanded to eat of the unclean animals and understands that the Lord is telling him to preach the gospel and baptize the uncircumcised.
We then see among other important events and throughout the rest of the New Testament the conversion and missionary labors of the Apostle Paul.
Then at some point in the 1st or 2nd century AD we believe there was a loss of priesthood power from the earth.
But, from this early Christian era with Rome in power to Constantine around 325AD through medieval history, we see fragments of religious symbols of preaching the gospel and it’s importance.
Much has been written about the sacred Kingship and Queenship and the medieval power struggle between church and state, between temporal and spiritual, as the source of sovereignty. Possibly only in England and France do you see full examples of claims made thru rituals, ceremonies and public declarations, where the monarch claims power and authority from God. Possibly no where more so than in the coronation ceremony.
During the coronation, after the creed, the monarch is vested in a simple white linen robe similar to an alb. It covers the jewel-encrusted coronation dress. The connection to the Kings of Israel and their divine power is made very clear in the prayer. Under a canopy she is anointed on the hands, breast and head. The oil is poured from an ampule shaped like an eagle. As she is anointed the choir sings a selection from I Kings recalling the anointing of Solomon by Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet. The act of Anointing is not filmed.
The ring is placed on her finger, symbolizing her wedding with the kingdom. And lastly the scepters passed like a pastoral staff, symbols of royal power to judge and to discipline, The ancient use of such instruments as symbols of power dates back to the pharaohs.
In all of this, I would like to go back to the orb. The Queen holds this in her hand signifying a responsibly to preach the gospel. Now certainly this power was misused by almost all monarchs, by my point is simply in how important it was in claiming authority and power from God.
Power From God
Clayton M. Christensen in his book, The Power of Everyday Missionaries, has two pages of scriptural promises for who try to engage in sharing the gospel. And the power that comes into one’s life . If you haven’t read this book I recommend it. I have a copy that you can borrow or Pres. Rollins has a number of copies in his office that I know you can borrow.
Elder Christiansen quotes the D&C saying, “He Himself [Christ] will go with you and be in your midst. Nothing shall prevail against you. Your words shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord shall be the mind of the Lord and shall be the voice of the Lord and the power of God unto Salvation. Your sins will be forgiven, you shall have blessings greater than the treasures of the earth, He will send you the comforter, and on and on.
The History of Women as Missionaries
Let’s go back to D&C Section 138 where we started. I love that the Lord showed President Smith in vision Eve and all her righteous daughters thru the ages, that were leaders in sharing this knowledge too.
And historically Latter-day Saint women have participated in missionary work since shortly after the Church was organized, sharing books, tracts, and testimonies with loved ones and strangers alike.
On lds.org it says that, “After the call of the first single ‘lady missionaries’ in 1898, the woman missionary force began to blossom. By the 1930s, it had grown in size and evolved in its duties to resemble today’s sister missionary program.”
“Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s mother, was among the first women to engage in what we might today call proselytizing. In June 1831, she arranged to journey with her son Hyrum to Pontiac, Michigan, to visit her brother’s family and introduce them to the gospel. Accompanied by her niece, Almira Mack, Lucy taught and helped at least three individuals toward conversion.
In the 1840s and 1850s, Latter-day Saint women in Great Britain began to participate more publicly in the Church’s missionary endeavor by participating in tract societies. Comprised of both men and women, these groups helped distribute pamphlets on various aspects of Latter-day Saint belief and invited recipients to meet and hear the preaching of authorized missionaries.
A confluence of circumstances enabled the expansion of female missionary work near the close of the nineteenth century. The woman suffrage movement had begun slowly to undermine long-held prejudices about women’s roles.
The practice and eventual discontinuance of polygamy also spurred women’s participation in public life. For nearly fifty years the Church had clashed with broader American society over the issue of plural marriage. Women organized themselves to write, speak, and visit national leaders in protest when authors, journalists, politicians, and artists portrayed them as enslaved and downtrodden victims.
In 1897, Elizabeth Claridge McCune, while traveling in England with her husband, was called upon to speak at a conference to counter scurrilous anti-Mormon claims about Latter-day Saint women. Her presence and impassioned speech led Elder Joseph W. McMurrin of the European Mission Presidency to write the First Presidency and request sister missionaries.”
I want to know, “WHAT DID SHE SAY?”
“In response to McMurrin’s request and similar appeals from other mission presidents, President Wilford Woodruff and his counselors called the first single, female proselytizing missionaries. Amanda Inez Knight and Lucy Jane Brimhall who accepted calls as full-time missionaries in April 1898 and served in England as examples of educated and capable Mormon women.
Female Leaders Today
Today, I stand in awe of the faithful pioneer women who have blazed the trail into public discourse about our faith and laid the foundation for women across the church. I also feel a great desire to rise up and build the kingdom with greater courage and faith.
When I was first called to lead this organization last February the thought began to persist in my mind that — while society around us is advocating individual rights and the drive for success in individual pursuits, which certainly can be good but can also leave us a little bit lonely sometimes, Relief Society offers a loving community, a circle of friends with a shared faith and belief and an opportunity to work together to accomplish common goals.
All last year I kept, returning to the parable of the pounds or talents. At first I thought RS women are not going to be interested in this parable. None of us want to gain another 5 lb. But if you call it the parable of the talents, we are more interested.
In the parable of the talents, in Matt 25 the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man traveling into a far country who called his own servants and delivered unto them his goods. And to one he gave 5 talents, unto another 2 and to a 3rd servant 1.The first two both double their talents but the servant with only 1 talent ends up hiding it and gaining no more. The Lord was not pleased with servant who didn’t work toward increase. And I realized that for RS, this talent doubling might best come from the synergistic energy of working together.
Sheri Dew in her new book Woman and the Priesthood quotes Eliza R Snow as saying, “Although the name RS may be of modern date, the institution is of ancient origin. We were told by our martyred prophet that the same organization existed in the church anciently. Organizing the women of the the church by establishing the RS, the Prophet JS signaled the restoration of an ancient pattern, a pattern in which women are vital to the on ward march of the kingdom of God.
Julie Beck, the previous General RS President, declared that RS was to increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes and seek out and help those in need. Faith, family and relief.
Relief Society in the Boston Stake
With that in mind, many of you know that we have tried to follow this charge.
As an initial step, Relief Society has taken on a stake-wide effort to coordinate the humanitarian service hours for missionaries serving in the stake in the Boston Mission. This has focused us, of course, on relief, which is an area where RS has always had an inherent stewardship and responsibility.
Our Relief Society manages the humanitarian service hours of our approximately 60 missionaries serving from inner-city Boston to Worcester and all the towns in between. The mission president, President Packard, has given each missionary up to 10 hours each week for serving organizations and people in need. Missionaries do not proselytize during these service hours but just care for the homeless, the hungry, the forgotten in society.
Relief Society coordinators in each ward meet with service organizations, establish contacts and organize and deploy missionaries according to community needs. With larger projects, coordinators will also enlist the help of members to serve. In just our one stake, we are on our way to managing 600 hours of community service each week for missionaries. That is pretty remarkable.
It is just doing the right thing. Though I am a strong supporter that this work must be reported in terms of how many meals were served, or ramps built etc. and not in terms of preaching. Missionaries are finding that just by being a light in the world and caring about others, people are curious about them. The world is full of people searching for truth and light and when they see it in action it affects them and they want to know where the light of our missionaries comes from.
This initiative that our stake is piloting is catching on. But we need members of our stake, both men and women, to keep your eyes and ears and hearts open for service opportunities for missionaries and members alike.
And we are thrilled to announce a new website. www.bostonmormonrs.org where you can go online and learn about happenings in our stake RS and submit a service idea to your ward coordinator. In fact our new website is helping us launch our two pieces of infrastructure that we are trying to put in place to help Hasten the Work of Salvation.
Stake Women’s Conference: A Gathering for Friends of all Faiths
The second initiative we are working on is coming up on Sat. May 3rd, our stake’s Women’s Conference. We are calling it a Friendraiser. I testify that there is a wonderful spirit helping to organize this conference this year. It is coming together in some remarkable ways and so many of you have generously volunteered time to help. As a preview, I’ll tell you that we are going to explore storytelling. Our keynote is Heather Sundahl, she is funny and witty and will also help to heal a few of the broken pieces of our hearts. We hope every woman in our stake can attend and that everyone will bring a friend or two or three friends. It will be a professional women’s conference, with a movie about the Boston Stake RS that we will view at lunch. Friends of all faiths will enjoy. Our new website will register women for this conference and be a place that we can invite friends to come. Pictures and bios of all the speakers are there plus a nice overview of the vision of the Boston Stake RS. We also have some social media links. And business card-size invitations for you to use. Please come, bring those you visit teach, work with in PTO, or run into in the grocery store.
I bear testimony of the joy that will come as RS works together to hasten the work of salvation. I’ll share one quick experience. Earlier this year I was really trying to share the gospel with someone and prayed about how best to open my mouth. Well, the person dismissed my invitation once I finally got it out. But that next Sunday I was standing in this left foyer and the hall phone rang. It was a fellow RS sister in Little Rock, Arkansas that had someone ask about her faith in an online nutrition class. She had referred the inquirer to our sacrament meeting and this online friend was in the chapel right now. I then made one of the dearest friends ever. The online friend has been on a spiritual journey for a very long time and has found the peace and love that she has been seeking in the Mormon church. And now she is my friend. What a gift.
My testimony is this, Sec 88 of the D&C says that the Lord will hasten His work in His time. I have met numerous people lately being prompted by the spirit and deciding to come back to church. The Lord is hastening his work. Maybe we just need to go home tonight and offer an honest prayer of willingness to help however we can and then go stand by the church hall phone.
And lastly I’ll tell one more story and close. I think during the 5th sunday presentations about our missionary humanitarian service I told you how I love interfaith work and had served on the leadership board of our Weston Wayland Interfaith Action group for 7 yrs. And this year signed my daughter up for a wonderful Jewish preschool and sent her to school the first day with a ham sandwich.
Well, I made another foolish faux pas. Around Thanksgiving I was taking this exercise class in town and was supposed to bring two canned goods for the workout that day as weights. I was running late of course had forgotten the cans, saw the food offerings bins in the Jewish temple and asked the secretary in a moment of brainless twit if I could borrow two cans and bring them back when I picked up my daughter from school.
She looked at me with big eyes, and said, “Well, I guess that is between you and God.” I decided I wasn’t sure how God felt about the green beans and went to class can-less. But I did continue to think about the seriousness of that green bean offering, holy even in the form of beans, not even fresh but canned. It really is between us and God.
May we all find a way the help in Hastening the work and offer our hearts and hands to Him and maybe a can of green beans. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Paul Kleber Monod, The Power of Kings: Monarchy and Religion in Europe, 1589-1715, Yale University Press (1999).
 Clayton M. Christensen, The Power of Everyday Missionaries, Deseret Book (2012), pg. 8-10.
 Julie B. Beck, “The Vision of Prophets regarding Relief Society: Faith, Family, Relief” (address given at General Conference April 2012).