SALT LAKE CITY—In reaction to “great concern” expressed by the general Relief Society board, the church has founded a new committee to regulate the centerpieces used in Relief Society lessons and “ensure that these centerpieces bring women closer to God,” according to Elder Milton P. Lamoreaux.
Sister Beverly R. Grumman, second counselor in the general Relief Society presidency, said, “Relief Society centerpieces are crucial to the success of women’s education in the church. Because of their importance, it is high time that these items fell within the jurisdiction of a priesthood-supervised committee.” She noted that too many women are creating “frivolous” centerpieces for their lessons and not adequately considering the effect of these items on the women in the class.
President Sharon Oakes agrees that the committee is a “dire necessity.” She has visited too many wards where Relief Society centerpiece creation has caused tension and despair, rather than a feeling of sisterhood. “Many sisters display inappropriate items and colors, such as bright purple silk irises or non-church-approved family photographs,” she says. “Not all sisters understand that their fake flowers should be pastel or pale colors, so as not to detract from the lesson. And carnations, for example, are much more decorous than irises.”
Failure to grasp the difference between appropriate and inappropriate centerpiece items is not the only problem the Relief Society presidency notices. Many other sisters feel “simply inadequate” when faced with overly elaborate centerpieces in their Relief Society room, according to Sister Grumman. “These sisters should see Relief Society as a haven from the world. Instead, if they are faced with a perfectly arranged two-foot bouquet of silk flowers and three Lladro statues of Christ, many of them experience self-esteem problems.”
The sisters of the Bonneville West Stake in Layton, Utah, are “relieved” that their centerpiece decisions will now be overseen by an official priesthood body. “Our centerpiece situation has been just awful this past year,” claims Denise Raymond, a twenty-five-year-old homemaker. “I mean, like, the women always work like crazy on them and spend tons of money. And that harms our self-esteem.”
Sister Raymond recalls a time last summer when her friend, Lara Beatton, spent twenty hours creating an elaborate three-foot-tall replica of the Salt Lake Temple out of toothpicks for her lesson on temples. “Ten women walked in that day and saw it and burst into tears,” she said. “They wouldn’t speak to Lara for months. Two of them had to go on Paxil. And I totally understand. How does she expect us to compete with that? How can we feel we are real women with something like that testifying to our inadequacy? How can anyone feel happy in Relief Society anymore? We so obviously need the priesthood to help us with our centerpiece problems.”
Sixty-seven-year-old Edna Gambel agrees. “These young girls don’t understand how to make appropriate centerpieces these days,” she said. “You wouldn’t believe the shockingly un-spiritual things I’ve seen. They’ve abandoned crewelwork for cross-stitched samplers. They don’t macramé anymore. And I haven’t seen a lovely frosted-glass grape since I don’t know how long. Instead, all I see these days are those distressed and painted boards with cute sayings on them. Did I mention those boards are distressed? What’s wrong with Precious Moments figurines, after all?”
Sister Gambel’s remarks underscore the danger of keeping centerpiece decisions uncorrelated, according to President Oakes. “The situation is so chaotic that these women don’t even know what’s appropriate anymore. Friendships are ending, and animosities are building. Thank heavens the priesthood has stepped in to help.”