Years ago my husband, then in the Elders’ Quorum, was in charge of a cowboy-themed ward dinner. He went over to the church building in the afternoon to get the cultural hall ready, and I showed up a couple of hours later. He had all the tables and chairs arranged, and announced that he was “done.”
I stared. I sputtered. This was so not what I knew the members would be expecting. Granted, not every event has to look like a wedding, but bare tables? And this was before the plastic rounds, back when the tables were battle-scarred wood ones with gouges and paint marks here and there. I offered to help. Soon we had red-and-white checkered paper on the tables, with centerpieces fashioned from cowboy boots, bandanas, and dried corn stalks. We finished just as the chili makers arrived.
Since then I’ve simply accepted that men and women have different design expectations. We women like to get out the table cloths, vases, flowers, and pretty china, perhaps even for our Relief Society lessons. We like visual aids, handouts, and treats. Okay, men also like treats. But that’s about the only place where our lists match up.
Today, however, I’m going to recommend a centerpiece that works for both men and women, young and old, and it belongs in every home. It’s something I’ve been using for a long time, and it works with any design style. It’s even inexpensive. It’s your scriptures.
Most of us have a central place where the family gathers, often the kitchen. But it could be the family room, too. Both will have a table or an island—some surface appropriate for a centerpiece. I say we display our scriptures, opened to wherever we are reading. You could even place them atop a pedestal plate to give them more emphasis (and free up space beneath). Use actual books, which are much more artistic looking than the cell phones so many of us use for study nowadays. Mark your spot with a satin ribbon, perhaps invite family members to underline, or jot their thoughts in the margins.
I started doing this as a way to infuse my day with scripture study. On my countless trips back and forth through the kitchen, I would pause at various times and read. Sometimes it would be while I was waiting for the oven timer to ring, or for pans to soak. It could be as I was heading out and realized I had a few extra minutes. But there they were, in plain view, open and ready. It was several weeks before I realized this was more than a convenient way to study; it actually looked pleasing, and gave the whole room new focus—like hanging a picture of Christ, or the temple, in your living room.
Sometimes I still clip some flowers from the garden, and place a vase nearby. But the scriptures are the emphasis, a constant reminder of what’s most important. One of my counselors asked if I was worried food might get on them, and I imagine future generations puzzling over the occasional stain (or rose petal?) that might get pressed into the pages. But I’d rather use them and even wear them out, than keep them pristine on a shelf, unread. It centers me. And shouldn’t that be why we call it a centerpiece?
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.