Deseret Book
Author Cynthia Defelice at Deseret Book "Ladies Night."

While the men are away, the women will play — Uno.

Mormon households will be without their priesthood holders this Saturday night when the priesthood session of LDS general conference convenes. And some women have those two hours already blocked out. Shopping, potlucks, games and quilting are among the activities that have become tradition within temporarily menless homes.

The women of the Thorstrom and Spilker families have their own longstanding tradition when their husbands, brothers and sons head to their local stake centers.

"We get together and go out and it encourages our husbands and brothers to go to priesthood session," Heidi Atkin said. "While they're at priesthood ... we get girls' time."

It's a semi-yearly tradition that goes back some 20 years and was started by sisters Peggy (now Thorstrom) and Deon (now Spilker) Johnstun.

"I look forward to it, because it's a time to hang out with my family, who I love," Atkin said.

The size of the group has changed some since 26-year-old Atkin was growing up, though, as several additions have been made to the family. What was once a more relaxed party for six or seven has turned into a party of 22, as sisters-in-law and some 11 children have been added to the mix. The women and children go out to eat en masse, then congregate for games at one of their homes afterward.

The tradition doesn't end with the session's closing prayer, though. When it's over, the men meet at the house and chat about the message that was taught.

"When the boys get home they tell us what good news they heard," she said.

With all the kids, it can get kind of hectic, Atkin said. That gives the General Relief Society session a more literal meaning when all the women attend, leaving the kids with their husbands. But the men have their own tradition for that day — going to the Training Table.

"We've started a thing where it's the reverse during the Relief Society (session), where the girls have a break and go to the Relief Society," Atkin said.

Many women also participate in more formal gatherings, like "Ladies' Night," which is put on by Deseret Book. About 30 years ago, Mormon Handicraft held quilting and craft demos, and now the event has expanded to include all 40 Deseret Book locations across the country. Many stores will feature musicians and book signings in addition to giveaways.

The first 100 store-goers receive a decorative, "home sweet home" plate set. A couple thousand women go through the downtown store in the space of two hours, said event coordinator Julie Edgin, who helps plan the events at the downtown Salt Lake store.

For the locations that don't have authors or musicians, Edgin said the mix of women and young women alike is probably enough.

"They probably have enough entertainment by the people in the stores," she said. "It's just kind of a yearly tradition where people get together and connect."

'Ladies' Night' schedule

Held at Deseret Book stores between 6 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 4:

Store: Downtown Salt Lake (in Empire Room of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building)

Authors: Emily Freeman, Kathryn Soper, Barbara Barrington Jones, Jill Stevens, Lori Woodland, Liz Lemon Swindle

Musicians: LOL, Jenny Oaks Baker, Hilary Weeks

Store: University Mall

Authors: Rachel Ann Nunes, Nancy Anderson, Lael Littke

Musician: Jenny Jordan Frogley

Store: Fort Union

Authors: GG Vandagriff, Kay Lynn Mangum, Jill Mckenzie

Musicians: Carmen Rasmusen, Jenny Phillips

Store: Layton

Authors: Josi Kilpack, Sharon Larsen

Musician: Mercy River

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