“A Happy Gathering of Sisters,” Ensign, Jan. 2006, 62–64
In Lutsk, Ukraine, an oven warms the tiny kitchen where 16 sisters have gathered to make cookies and cakes. The oven sits on the floor and the sisters sit nearby, sharing not only the warmth of the oven but also the warmth of being together. This is what they call “sisters night,” a happy gathering you might know better as home, family, and personal enrichment meeting.
In this setting, there is a lot of laughter, hugging, and even dancing. Always, these sisters sing hymns together, demonstrating their love for the hymns of the Church. The singing continues as those who live far away board the bus for the three-hour ride home.
What a wonderful example of how enrichment meeting reinforces what President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, taught when he said Relief Society is a place of learning, serving, and socializing.1
It seems to fit the picture that Sister Bonnie D. Parkin, Relief Society general president, describes of home, family, and personal enrichment meeting as a place “where hearts and hands are joined together in a safe, relaxed, and enjoyable environment.”
Sister Parkin explains: “Women of all ages and stages of life can feel a sense of belonging as they participate in activities that build spiritual strength, develop personal skills, strengthen home and family, and exercise charity through service. In these meetings bonds of sisterhood are strengthened, new and less-active members are fellowshipped, and missionary opportunities abound.”
Through the flexibility of home, family, and personal enrichment meeting, sisters can share and learn together no matter what their situation or age.
In the rain forest of southeastern Nigeria, young women and Relief Society sisters dressed in brightly colored clothing and head ties gather outside the simple Church meetinghouse to learn how to make patterns for blouses and dresses. Using empty cement bags as drafting paper, the Relief Society sisters gather around the table, listening attentively to the young women who are teaching this new skill. After drafting their patterns, then cutting the material, they take turns using a treadle sewing machine to complete their outfits.
In the Juneau Second Ward, Juneau Alaska Stake, the sisters feel a sense of community even though they are separated by distance. On the first Sunday of the month, Relief Society presidency member Sandy Perkins asks, “How can we take the light of the gospel to the community?” She answers her own question by describing the upcoming enrichment meeting. The Relief Society presidency has invited a panel of local leaders, representing a handful of the services and charitable programs in the area, to share their needs with the sisters. “Our hope,” Sister Perkins explains, “is that we will increase our influence here, in our own town, as we reach out to share our light.”
Home, family, and personal enrichment meeting is a wonderful place to socialize and establish the sisterhood necessary to create a sense of belonging among members of Relief Society and visitors. This is exemplified in an enrichment meeting held in Benidorm, Spain—a resort town where travelers are constantly coming and going. One evening sisters from Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, England, Scotland, and Spain meet together for an enrichment meeting. On this particular night the sisters from Switzerland teach the others how to make greeting cards that can be used for various occasions. It is a simple design, easily mastered while the sisters visit and strengthen friendships.
As the sisters work together, their friendliness and sincerity soon overcome language barriers. The sister missionaries have brought some investigators who are chatting happily with the others. When these investigators visit the little branch again on Sunday, they already feel they belong to the group.
It is a simple activity, but this enrichment meeting accomplishes the goals of learning, serving, and socializing. Some of the sisters might have thought, “I don’t need to go. I have plenty of greeting cards.” But the greeting cards are only a small part of the benefit of attending enrichment meeting this night. Sometimes we attend to get something out of it. Other times we’re there to give to others, if only a listening ear, a word of encouragement, or a welcoming hand of friendship.
In today’s world, increasing numbers of women are employed. Other members of Relief Society face challenges that include the time commitment of single parenting, the necessity of traveling long distances to meet with the Saints, and the economic implications of traveling and participating. For some, attending enrichment meeting may be a difficult choice. When asked what would inspire her to attend enrichment meeting, a busy full-time student and single mother of seven replied, “I would have to be promised that my family would be blessed.”
Such a promise has been made. Sister Parkin said: “Come to Relief Society! It will fill your homes with love and charity; it will nurture and strengthen you and your families.”2
An invitation is open to you, as it is to all women.
Maria Jasmine Juan, living in Manila, Philippines, away from her family, is among those who choose to come to Relief Society. “I was very lonely and missed my mother,” she says. “I knew that if I would go to Relief Society, I would be all right. As the sisters welcomed me to enrichment meeting, I realized there was a whole room full of ‘mothers.’”
In Relief Society you’ll find a safe place where joys and sorrows can be shared, a place where visiting and laughing strengthen bonds of friendship, and a cordial place where visitors are welcome. Come and be a part of the Lord’s organization for women. Like the oven in that tiny kitchen in Ukraine, home, family, and personal enrichment meeting will warm your heart and then your home.
“I believe the four great enduring concepts of [Relief Society] are: First, it is a divinely established sisterhood. Second, it is a place of learning. Third, it is an organization whose basic charter is to serve others. Its motto is ‘Charity never faileth.’ Fourth, it is a place where women can socialize and establish eternal friendships.”
President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “You Are All Heaven Sent,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2002, 111.