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HOMEMAKING CAN BE MORE THAN CRAFTS

Many members of the Church think of homemaking meeting as crafts or quilting, but what homemaking really is is a chance for sisters to come together to meet their own needs or to help them meet the needs of others, said Aileen H. Clyde, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.

"We are hoping that homemaking meetings will become much more relevant to the lives of members of local units," she explained. "We are concerned that there has been a perception develop that homemaking meeting is for doing crafts and other kinds of conventional and predictable activities."There is certainly nothing wrong with crafts and quilting. That just isn't a central interest for most women today. The homemaking meeting should be open to meet the interests and needs of all.

"We are hopeful that local leaders will see the homemaking meeting as a place where women can come together to plan activities that would help them help others, as well as to participate in projects that would enrich their lives and permit them to be a support to one another."

The Relief Society general presidency also expects the sesquicentennial service projects to renew interest in homemaking meetings as a place where women can come together to plan and carry out charitable service and other activities that are motivated by gospel principles.

Sister Clyde noted that a Church-wide survey in 1985 indicated that a majority of LDS women who attend Relief Society regularly do not enjoy doing crafts.

As a result, the Relief Society general presidency and board emphasizes in its leadership training the importance of gathering information about the interests and needs of the sisters in their own local units.

"We are members of a worldwide Church where the gospel of Jesus Christ brings together many cultures, women in many stages of life, and women with various personal descriptions," Sister Clyde remarked.

"It is essential that decisions about this monthly flexible meeting be made by the local leaders who seek inspiration from the Lord, and who spend time carefully analyzing what would be most effective and most acceptable in promoting happiness in the lives of the women in their families, and in aiding them to be of service to those near them and to those in their communities."

According to the Relief Society Handbook, activities should focus on the application of gospel principles taught in Relief Society lessons in order to strengthen sisters in meeting daily challenges and living the gospel in the home.

Homemaking activities should help to teach principles of the gospel; principles and skills of homemaking and nurturing, emotional and mental well-being, provident living, self-reliance, and emergency preparedness; and to use in family history and temple work, family home evenings and family reunions.

In addition to strengthening individuals and families, one of the greatest benefits of homemaking meeting comes when the bonds of sisterhood are strengthened, Sister Clyde added.

A Church-wide survey in 1987 indicated that the main reason women regularly attend Relief Society and homemaking meetings is for the sisterhood and spiritual uplift they feel, she said.

"Homemaking meeting should be a place where women come to get relief, to be refreshed, to be aided and motivated in giving service - if that's appropriate for them, and a place where they can feel supported and restored."

The 1987 survey also found that women want help with day-to-day life decisions and challenges. "Those are the kinds of things we need to begin focusing on in our homemaking meetings," Sister Clyde said.

The following stories give a glimpse of how homemaking has strengthened Relief Society sisters, their families and those around them:

POTOMAC, MD.

For Jeannette Clawson of the Potomac South Ward, Washington D.C. Stake, homemaking activities have given her confidence to tackle whatever comes before her.

"I didn't start out this way, but as I have gained knowledge at homemaking meetings I have gained confidence to do many things. Homemaking has helped me organize myself for what's down the road."

Through homemaking, she has gained the confidence to host diplomats (as part of her husband's work), has learned to manage her home and in turn her own business, and has learned how to live a healthful life.

A longtime leader and participant of homemaking meetings, Sister Clawson said she has also witnessed many friendships being formed at homemaking that would have never been made without such an activity.

"Homemaking gives sisters a chance to know each other in a wonderful setting," she remarked. "We have 10 minutes between Sunday School, Relief Society and sacrament meeting. We don't have the opportunity to get to know people in-depth except for in homemaking meetings. In that informal atmosphere we come to love them for how they enrich our lives.

"There are so many people who want to share their talents and this gives them a chance to share something and feel important. It also helps the other sisters get to know them better."

AURORA, COLO.

Homemaking meetings in the Aurora Colorado Stake not only give women a chance to come together as sisters, friends and neighbors, but can, it is hoped, be an outlet for them as they serve others, remarked Carla Nelson, stake Relief Society president.

"Homemaking is very service-centered already, but I think we can become much more aware of the people around us," she said. "I don't think we realize that we are serving one another even as we prepare dinners.

"We hope service will become a part of homemaking meetings in our stake. We have got to find ways to serve and hopefully that can be organized through homemaking. Through service we can come closer to the Savior."

Sister Nelson anticipates the change to come this year as wards participate in Relief Society sesquicentennial service projects and learn more about service. She hopes that service-related mini-classes can become a permanent part of homemaking.

Sometimes members don't give service because they don't know how, she continued. "Maybe that is something we need to reteach, and then on their own they can find more opportunities to serve.

"Wouldn't it be neat if service didn't have to be structured and was something more spontaneous? Organized service is really neat, but I think we have to learn to serve spontaneously. Ultimately I think that is what we will do if we are teaching sisters how in homemaking."

ARDEN, N.C.

Michelle Palmer of the Asheville Ward, Asheville North Carolina Stake, finds a sense of renewal and rejuvenation by attending homemaking meetings.

"I am a stay-at-home mom and I love that, but I enjoy being able to get out and be with friends and sisters in the ward," she commented. "My [extendedT family lives far away and I don't have any sisters close, so I have adopted sisters in our ward and that helps me feel like I have family here."

Sister Palmer is the mother of three children ages 4, 21/2, and 4 months. She said her husband always keeps homemaking nights open so he can take care of the children while she attends the meeting.

"He encourages me to go because he knows I always come back happier and refreshed. He's seen a difference in me.

"Every time I go to homemaking I learn something no matter if it is a lesson on financing, positive discipline or Christmas traditions. I not only learn, but I also get enthusiastic about different things as I receive new ideas to help make our family stronger."