The 1996 Women’s Conference Committee extended a call for essays on a theme taken from an address by Relief Society General President Elaine Jack entitled “Relief Society: A Balm in Gilead.” The balm of Gilead was a salve used in ancient times to heal and soothe wounds. The healing properties of the balm seemed an appropriate metaphor “through which women could share perspectives on their own life experiences” (1) and define their paths to peace.
Essays poured in. This volume presents thirty of these essays, each having its own individual style and focus, yet uniting with the others in expressing the struggle to reap the benefits of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to find peace in a world of adversity. Whether she struggles with physical, mental, or spiritual aspects of her life, every woman can find hope in these stories, which bear testimony of the love and mercy of God, the truthfulness of his plan and the promises of salvation and happiness.
One essayist describes her balm of Gilead as “the sweetness of Christ and the gospel of service that has come into my life. It has helped to heal my heart and will continue to do so as long as I turn my eyes to him” (88). Another essay suggests that the balm of Gilead “is produced from the yield of the Tree of Life. . . . Balm has been abundantly available for me as the need has been manifested throughout my life. It has been supplied at times by my own effort, but often it comes through another’s compassion” (10–11). Through her struggles, another writer has realized peace and purpose in pain: “We will not be judged on what problems we have but how we handle them. And I’ve learned that every problem, if we look hard enough, has a silver lining” (97).
These essays encourage the joy-yielding traits of faith, hope, and charity. They promote learning and growth from experience and trials, and they testify of the purpose of life, and the love of the Savior.