Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Relief Society Question

This is a question for those of you in Relief Society (the women's organization at our church).

There have been a lot of changes to RS meetings (the weeknight meetings, not the Sunday ones) in regards to what is and is not appropriate. I completely support those changes, but I had a question for you guys.

Yesterday in a meeting, I learned that crafts are no longer appropriate because they do not fit the purpose of RS. There are several of us in our ward who enjoy crafts** and think they help us make our home a nicer place to live and therefore they do fit into the purpose of RS. So here is my question:

How has your ward, if at all, incorporated crafts into your RS meetings so that it is edifying to the sisters? Or, do you no longer do any crafts at all?

And here's a bonus question for you: Do you have any ideas for RS meetings of things your ward has done that you thought was so awesome every ward should do it? If so, please share!

Thanks in advance for your ideas and suggestions!!!!

**This is not a debate about whether or not you like crafts- some people do, some people don't. I am simply curious to know if other wards have figured out how to do crafts in a way that still fits the purpose of RS.


  1. I think it's because I live in a very urban ward, who knows, but we have never done crafts in the 6.5 years I lived here. I don't know if there is a specific reason or not, we have just never done them. Since I'm not into crafts (of the RS kind specifically), I do not mind.
    The activity that I think EVERY ward should hold ever 6 months is some sort of exchange: household items, clothes, toys, all of the above together, etc. We are supposed to be thrifty and I believe also we are supposed to take car of the earth which we have stewardship over, so why not do a little bit more reuse/recycling? In my experience (3 years of toy exchanges), people LOVE this activity, save a lot of money and get to stand around and chat like women love to do. :)
    Good luck!

  2. I am not sure what part of crafts doesn't fit in to your ward's vision of Relief Society, but my ward has a craft group that meets monthly to do a craft, and we regularly have craft meetings at our quarterly activities, especially around Christmas so we can make gifts to give to others. Just last month we learned glass etching so we could etch our names into glass pyrex baking ware so that when someone is sick and we give them a meal, we can be sure to get our pan back. I made one for mom and two for myself.

    We don't always do crafts that are service oriented, we do all sorts of things that help us sit and talk and learn skills such as sewing, quilting, pillow making, or even ornament making. We use it as one of many classes so that people can do a craft if they like to (usually for a small fee which may be an issue for other wards) while at least two other classes are done. Hope this helps.

  3. Hey, Christina! I like the saying at the top of your blog.... hmm.... I give your blog an A+. :)
    I like Danielle's idea of an exchange, and I also agree with MommyHale about how crafts fit in with different themes. The pyrex thing for service, or some representation of Jesus to give to neighbors for Christmas as a missionary idea, or fhe boards to use for fhe.... Crafts are awesome. I decided after we got off the phone to officially host a ladies' craft night. If it goes well maybe we can do it every 3 months or something. Got any good ideas?

  4. Ok, I have to say that after stewing about this for a while, I have to say.... not wanting to do crafts is one thing, but not doing them under the guise of them "not fitting into the purpose of RS" is ridiculous! They can fit into any category in every aspect of the gospel. Not wanting to do them at the RS meetings is SOLELY a matter of preference.
    I feel better.

  5. Dani- LOVE the swap idea- I may ask you more questions about how it worked later.

    Liss- I was thinking along the same lines- maybe offer it as one of a variety of activities, so that if one doesn't like crafts, they don't have to go, but if they do, they can.

    Jen- I TOTALLY know where your frustration comes from!!! It's funny, I had that EXACT same thought- that it was an excuse to say it didn't "fit in with RS" because it TOTALLY does! Personally, I think there is a group of sisters in the ward who way back when- probabaly 10-15 years ago before the ward was even in existence- decided that crafts were of the devil and anybody who likes them are spawns of Satan. I think they have tried mercilessly to preach to everybody who moves into the ward that they are sinners if they own crafts, enjoy crafts, or ever have evil thoughts of crafts, and that is why we never do crafts. It's time to change- let the underground movement begin!!! Perhaps I'll make t-shirts that say, "Crafts Are In the Celestial Kingdom" or something along those lines:)

  6. Thinking more about this...
    My mom is the RS president in her ward and has been for like 4 years now. They have done many useful service-oriented crafts, including the etching that Melissa mentioned which not only helps when bringing meals to the sick, but also helps in bringing food to WARD POTLUCKS (isn't that part of what the relief society does???). They also have done many quilt-tying projects that have specifically benefited local people in need. Did you know that FW's local DI was actually short on quilts and blankets this Christmas? That alone should be reason to jump on the crafty bandwagon. :)
    There are many ways that the RS can have an impact on the local community, which would definitely fulfill the motto of "charity never faileth" - some might include creativity, some might include just straight man-hours. Another awesome activity I participated in a few years ago was making fleece baby/kid hats for a local shelter. Easy sewing and we felt good helping people.
    I think I know what you are getting at here: do you have a bunch of people who want activities to be like lectures about gospel topics and stuff like that? My answer to that would be that lack of action would not be fulfilling the mission of relief society, no matter how much talking and learning would go on.

  7. After the previous three comments, I'm a little afraid to make my own comment, but I think it better if I go ahead.

    Background information:
    1. I LOVE crafts!! Especially when other people prepare things and I get to put them together. I don't so much know what to do with them once I've made them, but I do love doing them.
    2. I have been a Relief Society President for the past year, through much of this "change of policy"/realignment, so I know where the confusion and discussion comes from and a little bit of what some of my research to find the answers.

    Those two things aside, there are two principles at work here. The first is that Relief Society is the work of salvation. No one is anti-crafts; it is simply that there is not as much time to do crafts. It is not the focus. The new Relief Society section on the lds.org website is an awesome resource for finding the specific topics for those non-Sunday meetings. Also, it states that the purposes for Relief Society are to [essentially] "help [the sisters] increase faith and personal righteousness, strengthen families and homes, and seek out and help those in need." How do you do a craft to help those in need? Whereas several ideas could be squished in to fit the purposes, when we are doing the work of salvation, should we really be painting snowmen that say Merry Christmas?

    Now, this may come out rather strongly (as I feel it, but remember I do like crafts), but I do feel that it coincides with the spirit of the recent changes. Especially if the dollar does fall, or something else catastrophic happens. Will we prefer our beautifully hand-stitched scarecrows to our year supply and careful budget and lovingly marked scriptures?

    The second principle at work here is related to the first: Relief Society meetings should be places where we can be taught by the Spirit. Not that you can't be taught by the Spirit while doing crafts, but at a time when we have to search hard enough for it, why create our own struggle? Marriage and family, temples and family history, sharing the gospel, are all topics that they have asked us to focus those non-Sunday meetings on. Homemaking is included there, and beautifying the home is important, but it is only a part of the whole.

    Why not start your own crafts club? (Not you necessarily, Christina, but anyone.) With the friendships made through serving in Relief Society and attending meetings, etc., it is perfectly fine to develop those friendships in such an uplifting way. Simply, it is not the Relief Society's role to provide those ancillary opportunities.

    That being said (as my novel waxeth longer and longer), a few ideas:
    -a scripture marking workshop
    -discussing learning how to deep clean different surfaces in your house
    -a budget/monopoly evening
    -a class on communication in relationships
    -a panel discussion on teaching the importance of the temple to your family and then creating some FHE lessons (see: crafts, but not crafts--get it?)
    -meal planning with taste-testing
    -learning to cut and care for hair
    -service! You are the queen of this one, Christina.

    Anyhow, I hope this helps. The novel is truly intended to share what I have learned in my journey, and not to criticize anyone's opinions.

  8. We don't really do crafts either--but we will be having a super saturday this year that will be a mix of crafts and things like "baking bread" "food storage" "family finances" etc. We have people in the ward that like to craft so there are craft groups that we will announce but it is up to the sister's on their own to put these classes together. We, as a presidency, don't want to spend our time overseeing things like that, so we just support by announcing the craft group that women in the ward hold.

  9. First and foremost, I really think crafts/making things from scratch completley fit into provident living. Spencer W. Kimball once said that we rely on going to stores, but "the time will come when there are no stores." Being able to make gifts for Christmas, Birthdays, or any other function is a HUGE money saver. Knowing how to sew is now a lost art- but making curtains has saved me hundreds of dollars. So crafts can fit 100% into the purpose of RS. Not all crafts, but certainly a night on provident living and budgeting could include how to make hair bows for little girls- that could save so much money for people like me who have little girls.

    Secondly, as has been mentioned here, crafts are great service projects.

    I am not saying that every RS meeting needs to have a craft- just like every RS meeting doesn't need to have food. But to include a craft once or twice a year to teach women viable skills that will save them money definitely fits into the purpose of RS- in my understanding of what we should be doing.

    One of the first things I was told when I moved into our ward over two years ago- before the changes- was "we do NOT do crafts in this ward!" as if some of the sisters wore that as a badge of pride. However, as mentioned earlier, now many skills that are acquired by crafts (sewing, knitting, etc) are being completely lost. What happens then when your huband loses his job and you can't afford gifts? Knowing how to make something could provide Christmas to your children in that situation.

    Like I said, I am not advocating crafts at every activity. But to completely do away with them by saying that crafts have no place in RS is false in my opinion.

    One last thing...many of the crafts that I have made at previous activities have completely brought the spirit into my home. Pictures of Christ, the temple, quotes hung on the wall, etc. help make my house a home and help me and my family to feel the spirit on a daily basis. How does that not fit into RS?

  10. Christina,

    I appreciate your comments in response to mine--they helped me better understand the principles and better understand what I was trying to say. I think you're right on the money.

    The thing to avoid (generally, I think) is to do things that all the other wards are doing just because they are doing it. As in, I think the idea is to cater to the needs of your ward and to follow the counsel of the Bishop and the Spirit.

    Just like teaching: WHAT are we going to teach, then HOW do we teach it. Instead of oh, we could make this, but I'm not sure why...

    Good luck to you in apply these ideas share.d

  11. Also, at risk of saying too much, I do live in a very small, transient ward with most of the ward either being transplants from the west or recently converted. Maybe that has something to do with what we have learned of the needs in our ward.

  12. I am really grateful for everybody's comments- they have really caused me to think and ponder about a lot of different things- so thank you all!!!!

    Ben also had a good point yesterday. He suggested that some wards ONLY do crafts and that people can go way overboard on crafts. I think we can all see that would be inappropriate. Perhaps there are two extremes- always do crafts, or never do them, both of which would not be right. Perhaps the trick is following the spirit to determine what is appropriate.

    Another thought I had is to not think of crafts so much as crafts as "skills." What skills would be useful for sisters to know? Perhaps, as Becky pointed out, toll painting snowmen would not be so useful, but other skills such as sewing, making homemade gifts, etc. would be useful.

    Now that I am thinking in terms of how crafts, or skills, can benefit the home and make us more provident, my mind is buzzing with ideas!!!! I completely agree with Becky that things that are taught in RS meetings need to bring the spirit, be guided by the spirit, and make us better mothers and sisters in Zion.

    What about instead of Super Saturday having a "Homemade Christmas" theme? At that activity you could make a homemade toy, learn to make homemade bread and/or cream puffs, and how to sew baby hats? Or something along those lines.

    Or, what if you had a night on the importance of FHE and as part of that you made FHE kits and/or a FHE job chart thingy...

    These are just some ideas that are coming to me, but I think those would fit in with the spirit of making sure to have the spirit at activites.

    Hmm...lots to think about! Any more ideas and/or thougths????? I am really enjoying this- I feel like I am learning a lot from you guys!!!!

  13. I asked my mom about this directly. She says she thinks a lot of people are making way too big a deal of any kind of "new direction" in relief society and if you read what Julie Beck has said, it is vague leaving it very much up to the wards for interpretation. I think there is no "the church says we have to stop doing x,y,z" going on here, but more "let's make whatever we do count so that we're not wasting the time of the women away from their families." Homemaking is still a relevant and necessary skill that should be taught in relief society. Perhaps you need to include cooking/baking in your activity ideas. You should be a master of cooking out of your food storage, after all, right?

  14. Dani,
    I totally agree with you. In studying the talk, I thought of three things:

    1. Meetings are now called "Relief Society Meetings"- which makes things really confusing

    2. A member of the presidency has to be at all meetings

    3. Meetings can be held as often as you like, but no less than quarterly

    I didn't get too much else out of that, but our stake presidency sure did!!! We can't even announce play groups any more- even though I would be attending them, so a member of the presidency would be there- or any other groups. Everything is super strict, and it leaves less room for the Spirit to guide when that happens- maybe that is too harsh. I understand the change- having all the small groups probably made for a less unified RS overall. I really do get that. But now not having the small groups I think leaves room for sisters to slip through the cracks, so I guess there are pros and cons for both.
    I really do support our president and the stake RS presidency, but I wish they wouldn't be so letter of the law and focus more on the Spirit sometimes. But, alas, at any rate- I am very very very glad that I am not the RS president and the one making all the decisions, so I will say my two cents, but in the end I will support whatever is decided.

  15. Sorry, but I would never in a million years go to a "Homemade Christmas" activity. I don't begrudge anyone who wants to do that or values crafts, but they just aren't for me. It may be that your leadership is trying to focus solely on things that are not in the "like" or "don't like" camps. If you focus on Jesus. theoretically that should be something that everyone can agree on and enjoy.

    That being said, no matter what you do some people will like it and some won't. I think the key is variety so that even if I know there is an activity I would rather eat rocks than go to this week, if there is one I will love in the future, I might be more likely to go to both.

    And I agree with all the comments that the changes are probably being driven by bishoprics, RS presidents or Stake Presidents and their individual beliefs or preferences, not the Church. Maybe your RS president is inspired and if you follow for a while you might see why the changes were made and can introduce crafts back in later.

    That's the optimism in me and my two cents.

  16. Shells,
    People don't go to our activities anyway. Of 90 sisters in the ward, about 25 show up unless we're doing a huge dinner and program night. We actually had a sister in RS last week say, "but we only have activities quarterly" and our RS president did a good job of not flipping a lid and of nicely replying, "we have activities every month and have had them every month for over a year."

    I think variety is the key- you can never please everyone- ever. Especially in our ward where everyone complains about everything. The bishop asked me the other day how I enjoyed being in the RS presidency and I said I loved it, which I do, but that I never need another leadership position again- EVER!!!

    We really have great RS meetings- but as we plan our meetings for the next year, I wanted to get some more ideas of what others are doing that worked for them. A lot of wards are doing a lot of great things, and it is nice to steal ideas:)

  17. Weird. They have made play group a calling in our ward and we now have 2 play group leaders. (alas, I still never attend, but...)