Belle S. Spafford
Belle Smith Spafford was the ninth General President of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving from 1945-1974.
worked during the administrations of six presidents of the church and was the most traveled Relief Society general president to date.
time as president, the Relief Society
grew from an organization of 100,000 members, largely in the western United States, to nearly 1 million members in 65 countries.
Belle's thirty-year tenure makes her the longest serving Relief Society general president.
Belle S. Spafford, ninth president of the Relief Society of the Mormon Church
5Stories from the Life of Belle Spafford
Belle was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to John Gibson Smith and Hester Sims Smith on 8 October 1895, the youngest of their seven children.
Belle graduated from the Normal School (teacher education) at the University of Utah.
She later studied at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where she also worked as a special instructor in remedial work for disabled children.
Following her 1921 marriage to Willis Earl Spafford, recently returned from service in World War I, Belle continued working at BYU for some time.
This experience gave her a great sympathy for the less fortunate, and Belle used her talents to direct social service programs for the Relief Society in Utah, Arizona, and Nevada.
Among the services Belle
oversaw were programs for unwed mothers, adoptive services, care for neglected children, and youth guidance services.
also participated in the Church's Native American foster care program.
and Earl had two children, Mary and Earl, Jr.
After moving to Salt Lake City in 1935, Belle was named a member of the General Relief Society Board.
Not long afterwards, she became editor of The Relief Society Magazine.
served as counselor to President Amy Brown Lyman from 1942-1945, and upon Amy's release in 1945, Belle
was called as General President of the Relief Society
Belle retired from the Relief Society General Presidency in 1974 and died February 2, 1982, at age 86.
expanded and professionalized the delivery of social services by the Relief Society
in cooperation with the Church Welfare Program.
Social service programs were later moved to other departments, including LDS Family Services, during her
asked the 100,000 Relief Society members to each donate five dollars in order to begin construction of the new Relief Society Building in 1945.
After Relief Society donations surpassed the $500,000 dollar goal in a single year, matching funds were contributed by the Church, and a building lot was selected east of the Salt Lake Temple
Construction began in 1953, and the building was dedicated on 3 October 1956.
The building now houses the offices of the Relief Society, Young Women
, and Primary organizations
was called as president, women paid annual dues to be part of the Relief Society
Beginning in 1971, all Mormon women age 18 and older were considered members, and Relief Society operating funds were received from ward budgets.
Prior to this time, one of the duties of Visiting Teachers was the collection of dues.
Now, they were directed to provide service instead of gather money.
For years, each Church auxiliary had published its own magazine.
The Relief Society Magazine
, of which Belle
was editor for many years, was replaced by the Ensign in 1971.
This change was especially difficult for Belle
, but she
observed, "Adjustment is painful in changing an old pattern into a new one, but we must make the new patterns fit."
"If a thing is worth doing, I want to put all I've got into it."
Stories from the Life of Belle Spafford
once asked her
grandmother, Isabella M. Sims, if she
'd give Belle her
gold watch when she died.
Her grandmother answered, "I'll give you something else that I brought all the way from Scotland that will serve you in the eternities-I'll leave you my testimony of the gospel" (Janet Peterson and Connie Lewis, "Making a Difference for Women: Belle S. Spafford
," Ensign, Mar. 2006, 44).
In 1926, Belle was surprised when her bishop called her to be a counselor in the ward Relief Society presidency and responded, "That organization is for my mother, not for me." Belle asked for release after three weeks of service and again after an automobile accident, but her Bishop, after prayerful consideration, refused her request.
agreed to do her
observed, "we needed to enroll more young women and have programs a little more meaningful.
We needed to do something on the homemaking day besides quilting.... So I worked toward these goals along with my president and the other counselor" (Janet Peterson and Connie Lewis, "Making a Difference for Women: Belle S. Spafford
," Ensign, Mar. 2006, 44).
Elder Boyd K. Packer related the following story about Belle Spafford
In April of 1945 Belle Smith Spafford became the president of the Relief Society.
Only a week or two after she
had been sustained, a letter came from the National Council of Women
, announcing their annual meeting to be held in New York City.
Sister Spafford had attended those meetings before, and in view of her
previous experience, she
counselors carefully considered the invitation for several weeks.
Belle S. Spafford
received a number of recognitions and achievements during her
Janet Peterson and Connie Lewis, "Making a Difference for Women: Belle S. Spafford," Ensign, Mar. 2006, 44
Belle Spafford: Biographical Sketch, lds.org