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'Homemaking' gets makeover

Changes in the name and focus of the LDS Relief Society's monthly "homemaking meeting" were announced by leaders of the women's organization Saturday night during the church's annual General Relief Society Meeting, along with a declaration that "reaffirms who LDS women are and what we stand for."

Effective Jan. 1, a program of "Home, Family and Personal Enrichment" will direct LDS women to focus on "spiritual strength and practical skills" during a monthly female gathering has been known for decades as "homemaking meeting." Earlier this century, when most church members lived within the confines of the United States and were full-time mothers and homemakers, the meeting was held on a weekday afternoon and frequently included quilting and other home-based activities.As the church has spread worldwide and women began to enter the work force in larger numbers, the meeting in most areas was moved to a week night. While service has always been a hallmark of the Relief Society's larger mission, homemaking meeting in recent years has included more leisure activities, including a wide array of handicraft projects in many areas.

"We no longer have the luxury of spending our energy on anything that does not lead us and our families to Christ," said Sister Sheri L. Dew, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. "That is the litmus test for Relief Society, as well as for our lives. In the days ahead, a casual commitment to Christ will not carry us through."

The meeting's name change "sends a clear signal about the purpose of Relief Society," according to a statement issued by the general presidency.

The new name will help redirect LDS women to invest their time and resources in self-improvement so they can better serve their families, friends and community, said Sister Virginia Jensen, first counselor in the general presidency. The format for the meeting includes a 15-minute lesson on a spiritual topic, with a 60- to 90-minute activity to learn practical skills associated with the topic. Home maintenance and repair, gardening, quilting and service are some of the activities that could be included, she said.

Emphasizing that LDS women must continue to stand separate from the world, leaders also introduced a Relief Society Declaration, which emphasizes a devotion to Jesus Christ and support for the traditional family structure and priesthood authority. Spiritual attributes, including faith, virtue, vision, charity and prayer, are also emphasized in the declaration.

Greater devotion to such principles will attract the attention of good women everywhere, said Sister Mary Ellen Smoot, general president of the Relief Society. "We declare to the world that it is not by chance that we have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. . . . Sisters who know right from wrong and stand firm on the Lord's side make choices that set them apart from the rest of the world" in the entertainment they and their families watch and in how they dress.

Former church President Spencer W. Kimball told LDS women 20 years ago that as they "reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives" and are "seen as distinct and different -- in happy ways -- from the women of the world," the church would see major growth in the future.

"We can no longer be content to just quote President Kimball," Sister Dew said. "We are the sisters who must and will make this prophecy a reality. We can do it. I know we can."