AnnMaris Osime was raised in Nigeria. Nicole Erickson is a single graphic designer in Utah. Barbara Rockwood is busy raising five young children in Washington. At first glance, these women may not have much in common. But as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they are connected to each other and to millions of other women through the Relief Society organization.
All Mormon women over the age of 18 belong to Relief Society, which helps women in their efforts to follow Jesus Christ, increase their personal faith, strengthen families and serve others. This work and Relief Society women both past and present are the focus of a new book soon to be released by the Church, Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society.
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As the Church’s general Relief Society president, Julie B. Beck has met women from all over the world and says the new book will provide perspective and strength for the 21st-century woman.
“This story that the Church is releasing now is very important, I think, for our time now and I can’t think of a time when it’s been needed more than it’s needed today,” President Beck said.
Copies of Daughters in My Kingdom will be distributed to women around the world to be used as a resource for personal study and for teaching in the Church and in the home. The book will be mailed next week to all English-speaking Church congregations and will be printed in 25 other languages in the next few months. With this diversity of cultures among the 14 million Church members, President Beck said the book needed to have broad appeal.
“We needed something that would have global application and be applicable into the future, something that would appeal across cultures and languages, so it needed to be more message based rather than a typical chronological historian’s history,” President Beck said.
AnnMaris Osime thinks the book will have great meaning for the women in her native Nigeria.
“I think of thousands of women back home in Africa, this book is really going to inspire them,” she said. “It’s really going to inspire a lot of women. It will help give them a sense of belonging.”
The 208-page book is organized by themes such as family, sisterhood and charity. Each chapter includes stories of Latter-day Saint women throughout history and around the world today. President Beck said the book is designed to be user-friendly for readers with varying literacy levels. It is also visually inviting, with every page featuring colorful photographs and beautiful artwork.
That accessible approach is appreciated by Barbara Rockwood of Kirkland, Washington. As a busy mother with five young children, Rockwood does not have a lot of time to read. But flipping through Daughters in My Kingdom for the first time, she said it is the kind of book she could pick up even if she only had a few minutes.
“I love the feel of the book,” Rockwood said. “The photographs are beautiful, and I like the fact that you don’t necessarily have to pick it up and read it cover to cover. It seems like I could just turn to any page and find something that would strengthen and inspire me.”
The inspiring stories in the book are beneficial to the modern reader, said Nicole Erickson of Salt Lake City.
“Although our circumstances today might be different from 170 years ago, the principles used in those circumstances are the same,” Erickson said. “Reading the historical accounts and seeing what women in the past did helps me know how I might handle situations in my own life.”
This historical understanding will be a useful tool in a Church where the majority of members are converts, President Beck said.
“As the Church itself grows exponentially over the years, I think there will be great value in this book for the women who join the Church to say, here’s who I am, this is what I’ve become part of, this is my specific identity in this Church, that I am not homogenized but I am a living, breathing, contributing individual and I’m needed,” she said.
Erickson said the book helps explain the important role women have always played in the Church of Jesus Christ.
“This book makes it clear that an organization of women existed in ancient times, which I had never really thought about before,” she said. “It talks about how the Savior treated women when He was on the earth, how He taught, celebrated, and traveled with women and how He reveres women.”
AnnMaris Osime said the book reinforces the important lessons she has learned from participating in Relief Society.
“In my part of the world, Relief Society helps people to understand what it really means to have the pure love of Christ, because it has taught me that,” she said. “Even though I have always enjoyed being in the service of others all my life, it [Relief Society] has taught me more to make myself available to be able to find time for the things of God.”
Daughters in My Kingdom is unique within the Church because it was written by an individual woman rather than a committee. The writer is former general Young Women president Susan W. Tanner, who is now serving a mission in Brazil with her husband.
“This assignment came as a surprise to me because I don’t think of myself as either a writer or a historian, but I do have a strong testimony of the role of women in our Father’s plan. At the beginning that was my only qualification,” Tanner said.
Tanner drew heavily on previous historical research and original documents for the book.
“This book is not necessarily meant to be a conclusive history; there are already historians who are doing that,” Tanner said. “The Relief Society presidency wanted a volume that would be accessible to the whole world, to sisters everywhere. I did have perspective on that, having seen sisters in so many circumstances and situations. The book needed to be something that every woman could read and understand and be invited into this work no matter where they are coming from.”
President Beck worked closely with Tanner on the book and said the approach of a single author resulted in a book that is different from previously created materials.
“We’ve had stories written for the historians. We’ve had stories written for the scholars. We’ve had stories written for the press. But we’ve never had the story written for the women themselves,” Beck said.