I think ahead.
See, in two days it is the anniversary of the Relief Society, an organization to which I belong. It was founded in 1842 by a prophet of God and serves two main purposes: to provide relief to the needy and bring people to Christ.
It is an organization of women. The largest in the world.
There is a hymn - a theme song - for members of the Relief Society. Title, "As Sisters in Zion." It speaks of the power and roles of women. How we are to be ministering angels. How we are here to work. How we are here to love each other.
I was always annoyed by the song.
It always seemed so cheesy to me. It is a gentle, suave song. Soft. And I preferred rousing numbers that got my blood going and made me want to march around and shout, "Hallejua!" Like "Ye Elders of Israel." Much cooler hymn.
And then I moved here.
I remember well my first Sabbath in Brazil. I didn't speak a word of Portuguese when we first arrived in Sao Paulo in October 2004. I had a brand new baby in my arms and held My Man's hand tightly. All of my adventurism and courage failed me at the steps of our church building. My sweet husband kissed me at the door and wished me good luck.
He left me.
I walked hesitantly into the Relief Society room. Head down, feet shuffling, I hurried to grab a seat in the back. The VERY back.
I had timed it just right - I took my seat just as the Relief Society president began the meeting. Sweet. No time for introductions.
She said some things in some language to some people. Everyone was smiling, finishing up friendly conversations and opening books I couldn't read.
I began to cry.
I missed my family. My friends. My language. I knew that there was absolutely no way I could do this. Truly, what WAS I thinking?
As I sat pondering my stupidity and feeling extremely sorry for myself, the pianist began playing the first strains to a familiar tune.
"As Sisters in Zion."
I couldn't understand the words, but my heart did. It swelled in size and warmth and sent chills down my spine. It didn't matter that I couldn't speak the language or didn't have a friend for thousands of miles. I had SISTERS here. I have SISTERS everywhere.
Fast forward four years.
This week my Relief Society president asked me to speak today, during our Super Special Relief Society Presentation in sacrament meeting. We all wore blue blouses and chique gold scarves. We sang a song. We had some talks. And then it was my turn.
I bore my testimony about this inspired organization of women. How we can have family no matter where we go. How we truly are sisters in Zion. And how the Spirit speaks all languages.
And then I sang our hymn - in English.
I broke down after the first line.
Tears streaming down my face, I kept one hand on my mouth, trying to control myself. I stood at the pulpit in the sacrament meeting room. All eyes on me. My face was glowing red and the piano continued through the music written by Janice Kapp Perry.
And one by one, my sisters joined me.
Soon the entire congregation was singing softly the words written over a hundred years ago. And I wept. I stood before my sweet sisters, sharing in their spirit and celebrating their strength.
As sister in Zion, we'll all work together
The blessings of God on our labors we'll seek
We'll build up the kingdom with earnest endeavor
We'll comfort the weary and strengthen the weak
The errand of angels was given to women
And this is a gift that, as sisters, we claim
To do whatsoever is gentle and human
To cheer and to bless in humanity's name
How vast is our purpose, how broad is our mission
If we but fulfill it in spirit and deed
Oh, naught but the Spirit's divinest tuition
Can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.
Amen and amen.