Families, communities, and nations are strengthened by holding meaningful and fun family reunions. Family unity can develop and love for each other can grow by holding positive and enjoyable reunions.
I have gone to family reunions for as long as I can remember. My parents made great sacrifices in time and money to take their children and gather with their respective families once each year. My husband’s parents also took their children to family reunions.
It is time once again for the reunion of the posterity of my father and mother. We have been holding annual family reunions for nearly forty years. With twelve children and their spouses, seventy grandchildren and their spouses, and over two hundred great-grandchildren (some with spouses and children), we have a large family. We cannot all come to every reunion, but we usually number well over one hundred people in attendance. I could not attend the family reunion on numerous occasions. Oh! How I missed being there! Yet, I drew great strength from simple fact of knowing that my family was gathered together once again.
Alma Heaton wrote a wonderful article entitled “Really Getting Together: Your Family Reunion” and gave some great ideas about why reunions are important, how to organize a reunion, and even some games to play at a reunion.
“I suppose all of us have our own favorite reason for having family reunions. In a way, they are extensions of family home evenings. Family reunions are an opportunity to gather our larger, eternal families together to learn to understand and love one another, and to unite ourselves in the work of the Lord, just as we do in family home evenings.
“Having positive, enjoyable experiences together cements family relationships. Having fun together is a powerful and effective way to draw a family together. The lasting memories that are formed in well-planned family reunions will add to the respect and love that we hope to have for each other throughout eternity.
“In addition, family reunions provide an opportunity for the younger family members to become acquainted with their relatives and their heritage. Perhaps this heritage is part of the sealing force between the children and the fathers to which Elijah referred. Through this heritage everyone has a chance to tie himself to a family in a patriarchal order.
“Reunions are an excellent way to organize and gather genealogical information and to stimulate genealogical research. Often we spend a great deal of time researching our ancestors, while failing to record the marriages, new babies, temple endowments, and other information of our own family.”
Brother Heaton continued his article with an explanation of how to plan a family reunion. He said that the first step is to organize the family and to choose a chairman to direct the family. This chairman is usually the patriarch of the family. My father held this position in our family until his death; now my older brother holds the position. We all look to him with respect for counsel and guidance.
Brother Heaton suggests that a reunion director be chosen by the chairman. In our family the director of the reunion is one of the twelve children – the Big Twelve as we have been called. Since some of the twelve have passed away and others have ill health or other problems preventing them from carrying the load of directing the reunion, there are only five of us at the present time rotating the position of director. In previous years we have simply made sure all five have the opportunity before the responsibility returned to the first one. Last year we decided to go by age and thereby preventing confusion. Since I was the director last year, my younger sister is the director this year. Next year our baby sister will be the director followed the next year by our oldest sister.
The Big Twelve hold a business meeting at each reunion. At this meeting we make plans for the next reunion, including notifying the new director and choosing the date and place. The new director chooses the theme for the next reunion and makes assignments. My assignment for this year is games. Other assignments include planning a temple session, making food assignments, doing a silent auction, preparing a service project, setting up the tables, arranging for the park, etc. Everyone carries a small assignment but works with others to make the reunion a success.
Brother Heaton concluded his article: “A good way to learn to love our relatives is to spend time together in well-planned family reunions. A family reunion can be a very personal and privileged gathering. If you have never organized your family for a reunion, start now – you will receive joy far beyond your expectations. Yes, there will be discouragements. Some family members will say they don’t have time or that they are too busy. But the rewards more than compensate for the discouragements.
“It was our Father in heaven who first gathered us together in a great family reunion. Certainly we must have discussed our future, our leaders, and many other aspects of our life ahead. If our future families are to be together for eternity, why not start now to establish firm, loving, and powerful relationships in our own patriarchal orders through family reunions?”
It may be too late for you to plan a family reunion for this summer or even this year, but it is never too late to hold a family reunion. I encourage you to take some steps now to organize a reunion of your family – write some letters, make some telephone calls, etc. – and make your family stronger by doing so. I know that holding meaningful and fun family reunions can strengthen families, communities, and nations.