Is the Relief Society one of the oldest and largest global women's organizations functioning in today's world? and what exactly is the LDS Relief Society?
Answer: YES the LDS relief society was founded in 1842
As of today there are over 5.5 million women who belong to the Relief Society spread throughout 170 countries across the world.
Any woman who is a member of the LDS church and is 18 years of age is a part of the Relief Society Organization. Women with or without children, married or not married, young (18) or old, employed or unemployed. We meet together to learn from and strengthen each other, we serve each other. The purpose of the Relief Society "is to build faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and to help those in need"
The Relief Society meets once a week in a class during Sunday meetings where we teach other the doctrines and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are time we meet during the week for activities, usually at these activities we learn new skills or ways to help strengthen our faith, our families or do some type of compassionate service for an organization or family in need.
The Relief Society in each ward (I haven't been asked about wards or stakes yet) stake and the general Relief Society are all run by women, this is called the Relief Society Presidency--it consists of a President, 2 counselors and a secretary. The RS president meets on a regular basis with the Bishop and the other ward leaders to discuss issues that may come up within their boundaries, ways they can help or serve someone who is in need of special attention. Someone like me, when I was going through my chemo treatments, the RS brought meals to my home, offered to clean my house, do laundry and help in anyway that we needed until I could do it myself.
In addition to the service they give to one another and their neighbors who may not be members of the same faith, we as sisters of the LDS church watch over each other by visiting monthly in the homes with assigned partners, to help provide countless hours of service, sometimes just a listening ear, to a mother who is exhausted from the daily trials that life sometimes brings. This Visiting Teaching calling is said to be the most important calling a woman can hold in the church, I know this to be true, when I was so sick from chemo the ladies from my ward and the stakes surrounding where I live brought food, they put up my Christmas tree and decorated it, and I know they did and still do pray for me daily, as I do for so many of them.
In a survey taken about 40% of LDS women surveyed said that the role and influence of women in the church was the "right amount" The next closest faith measured was Evangelical Protestants, with only about 15% saying women had the "right amount" of leadership and influence in their church, followed by 10% of Anglo-Catholics and about 8% Jews.
In the LDS church women sit side by side and vote to sustain members and leaders in their church callings, (both men and women's callings) They regularly pray and give talks or sermons in meetings. Women teach adult gospel doctrine classes and other Sunday School classes. The women of the church are fully involved in all aspects of the work of the LDS church, from full time missionary work to member missionary work, temple and family history work and to their serving the needy.
Are the women demanded to follow the rules of the husband? and is it a hidden secret that men rule their wives?
ANSWER: A BIG FAT NO AND NO
One time I was at work and was approached by a woman who said in a very whispered voice "hey, if you need help getting away from your husband, I can help you, we can get you to a shelter" I remember looking at her and laughing, I thought she was joking, she wasn't. To the LDS member, FAMILY is the most important calling of all, and we serve as equals to our husbands in making decisions, spiritually, physically, financially, educationally, actually if you want to know the truth about Eric and I ask him who makes most family decisions around here? ha ha sadly he would probably say "go ask Monya" He and I have always made decisions together, we don't always agree on the way a situation should be dealt with but we always come to an even ground together. I have not once felt like I was threatened or looked down upon in my marriage, and in the LDS church this is how the Lord designed marriage to be, equal, not one gender is better than the other. Many people may not know this but the LDS women were involved in, and in some ways led, the US women's suffrage movement. In 1870, Utah was the second territory (behind Wyoming) to grant women the right to vote under law, and after gaining statehood, Utah became the third state in the Union to give women equality.
In Genesis 1:26 God said equally to both Adam and Eve "let them have dominion, over all the earth"
The 1st presidency of the LDS church has stated that that men and women are equal partners in a marriage and family relationship. There is no where in LDS scripture or official doctrine of the LDS church that it indicates or teaches anything other than God seeing both genders as equal to each other. The LDS church does not embrace any type of doctrine which suggests otherwise.
Do LDS members believe there is a Heavenly Mother?
The LDS theology holds women in very spiritual high regard. We believe there is a Heavenly Father, so logically we believe there is a Heavenly Mother. One of my favorite LDS Hymns asks:
In the heav'ns are parents single?
No, the thought makes reason stare
Truth is reason; truth eternal
Tells me I've a mother there
We believe we are all children of heavenly parents, and although we don't know much about our Heavenly Mother, she is evident in Mormon thought and theology. One of the prophets of the church said this "You women, are daughters of God. You are precious. You are made in the image of our Heavenly Mother"
LDS people theology is not saying that Eve was not the 1st mother of the earth but we praise her as the "glorious mother" of humanity and we celebrate her decision in the Garden of Eden. We believe that Eve chose to move God's plan of salvation forward by partaking of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Eve along with Adam acted in a manner pleasing to God and did exactly what they were ordained to do. The Mormon religion believes also that women can receive personal revelation and be filled with the spiritual knowledge that Jesus Christ wants them to have.
I believe, as most mormons do, of all the creations on earth, women are God's crowning creation, His signature stroke in the masterpiece of the universe.
Hopefully I have answered all the questions about women in the LDS church.