With her 83rd birthday this week, Sister Barbara W. Winder’s, loving influence is being celebrated by her friends and family and we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continue to celebrate her influence as the 11th general president of the Relief Society to this day. In an Ensign article describing her life, the author says “Barbara Woodhead Winder is a woman amply blessed with “simple gifts”—a generous heart, a durable faith, and a deep goodness. Her gifts do not dazzle; they warm.”
Growing up, Barbara lived in a simple home with an encouraging and loving family with parents who worked hard to support their family in the post-depression years but always emphasized the importance of compassion and “the art of helping others” to their children, particularly Barbara. She gives much credit to friends, leaders and teachers for helping and promoting her spiritual growth as her parents were not active when she was young.
Her faith did not dwindle but remained steadfast and strong from childhood to adulthood and she was blessed to see her parents receive the gospel anew and be sealed when she was 25. Although Barabara, was adverse to going to college her father recognized its importance so she was determined to take advantage of every opportunity and felt “a providential hand always seemed to guide [her].”
She met Richard Winder at the beginning of her sophomore year and they were engaged 3 weeks later. Newly married life was difficult in being isolated from her family in a rural home with no phone. She became the foremost advocate of visiting teaching in her time because of the wonderfully faithful visiting teachers that continually came to help her when she was isolated and sick after the birth of her first baby.
Her husband, Richard attributes his continual activity in the church to the strength of his wife. Her loving nature contributed greatly to their strength in the church and their marriage. Barbara threw herself into her and her husbands calling to the San Diego mission presidency in digging into the scriptures and giving many many talks full of her personal concern for the missionaries. Richard saw in her the “fulfillment of the Lord’s promise that all things are possible to those who believe” in her expanded abilities in fulfilling her church callings including her role as General Relief Society President.
As she met with President Hinckley at the beginning of her call, he emphasized the need for all the sisters of the church to be unified with the first step being moving the Primary, Young Women and Relief Society auxiliaries into the same building preempting a spiritual change with a physical one.
She remembers the experience fondly as a wonderful experience of stringing together for the good of all to unite the leaders of the women’s auxiliaries. Barbara also saw a focus of her role as simplifying the Relief Society program and organization. With such a diverse group of women within the church, simplification was needed so there was latitude to solve problems according to each sister’s circumstances. She traveled the world over to see and implement the necessary changes and how it blessed the lives of sisters everywhere.
Her powerful testimony of Heavenly Father’s love for his daughters and how we can expand that love by showing love to our sisters is truly wonderful to hear. Barbara emphasized the importance and value of the direction and wonderful tools the Lord has given to us: scriptures, prayer and one another. She emphasized the enduring love and hope of Christ’s atonement and how it is regularly available to all of God’s children. She reminded Latter-day Saints of the importance of turning our love for our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ into stalwart powerful actions to help move the work of the Lord forward. She also emphasized the power of coming to our Father in heaven through obedience. Her teachings and talks could fill a room and they certainly filled me with gratitude and love for the gospel.
Barbara Winder’s wonderful teaching are as inspiring and thought provoking today as they were during her Presidency. Do some exploring and find more of her teachings and talks, go to churchofjesuschrist.org and speeches.byu.edu . We have much to learn from such a tender and loving heart as hers, so look her up and see the power of her testimony fill your day with the inspiration to do and be better.