If she wants to…

October 17, 2012 | 38 comments
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Women can go on missions, if they want to.  Now that they can go at 19, some will go who may not have wanted it quite enough to wait until they turned 21. But it is still not the same as for men, who have a clear expectation and strong social pressure to serve missions sometime after they turn 18.

Girls in the church hit this idea, “they can do it if they want to” quite often. Starting at age 8, when American boys enter the officially sanctioned Church version of Cub Scouts, the segregation begins. The boys meet weekly, with a well-developed program and the mandatory 2-deep leadership to do projects, play games and earn little trinkets of awards. The girls are given the Activity Days program, sometimes called Achievement Days, where they meet twice a month with a generally much lower ratio of adults to children. They are not given a well developed program with a full curriculum of activities and games. There are no set awards to earn. There is no committee analogous to the Cub Scout Committee that meets to review the girls’ progress and advancement (there is no standard of advancement for girls) and to plan large monthly recognition meetings to which families are invited (Pack Meetings).

Whenever these inequities are pointed out, the response is that the girls can do the same activities that the boys do, if they want to. This ignores the vast difference in the structure of the programs (Scouts is structured, there is no structure for the Activity Days girls), the training of the leaders (mandatory training and background checks required for Cub leaders before they should be sustained by the congregation, nothing for the women leaders of the girls), and the curriculum and resources (a book of information and activities for each year the boys are in Cub Scouts–Wolves at 8, Bears at 9, Webelos at 10, and the Boy Scout Handbook for 11-year old Scouts compared to the Faith in God pamphlet for the girls, of which there is an equivalent pamphlet for the boys). Starting with the 11-year old Scouts, there are monthly outings including hikes and quarterly campouts. There is no similar program for the girls to prepare them for Girls’ Camp.

This is not to denigrate the women who serve as leaders for the Activity Days girls. They do very well, given how little support and materials they are given by the Church. They care for their girls deeply. They do the best they can. And of course, they could do more if they wanted to.

As youth, the young men continue with the Boy Scouts’ structured program. They have frequent trips and campouts (ideally once a month). They have high adventure camps to look forward to.

And the young women? They have one week of Girls’ Camp (often just 3-4 days depending on where they live) per year. It is generally shorter than the boys’ week of Scout Camp. And they don’t get the extra campouts during the year.

Whenever I’ve pointed this out, the leaders say, “Well, the girls could do those activities if they wanted to.” Really? Without the expectation, structure and support that the boys have? And do all of the boys really want to do the Scout activities? No, of course not. But it is still there for them. But if some of the girls in a ward wanted to go on regular campouts, while others didn’t, I feel confident that the activities would not occur. I’ve lived it.

There is a world of difference between telling a girl she can do something if she wants to while giving her little to no institutional support and expecting a boy to do it whether he wants to or not because the structure of the organization and social pressure requires him to do so.

And of course, there are many things in the church that girls cannot do even if they wanted to and are otherwise worthy. They are girls, after all, a physical difference that makes them fundamentally unsuited for certain roles and responsibilities in the kingdom of God. It must be the physical difference and attributes and capacities derived from that physicality; we’ve been told so often by our leaders how great and spiritual our women are that we cannot imagine that they are deficient in spiritual worthiness.

And now we’re back to the topic of missions. The Scouting program is praised as preparing our young men to be leaders, to be missionaries, to use their priesthood in the service of others. Will the emphasis of the Young Women’s program be changed as well, to encourage the young women to become leaders, missionaries, to use their self-developed talents in the service of others? Will both be prepared and encouraged to serve in the same capacity? Will the young men be encouraged to strengthen and support home and family? Or will the preparation of women to be leaders in the Church remain on their own heads, something they can do if they want to?

38 Responses to If she wants to…

  1. stephen hardy on October 17, 2012 at 8:09 am

    The youth leaders, the bishop, and the stake president who work in my own ward have all told me that they expect that YWs will be working now with a major emphasis towards preparation for missions, which is the main focus of the YMs program here. Leadership, testimony, living skills, etc, all with the goal of being ready to serve in St Louis, St Petersburg, Taipei, etc.

    The new curriculum seems to fit well for this as well. I think that over time, all of our youth will be preparing for missions.

  2. Adam G. on October 17, 2012 at 8:45 am

    I don’t really care if there are these ‘inequities’ or not.

    But if I did, I would soon throw up my hands and despair. Because we have often been told that the Church has crippling expectations for women and needs to do more to embrace their rich diversity and independent life choices, etc. The real lesson, as always, is that trying to placate people who have an adversarial stance towards the kingdom is a mug’s game.

  3. lyle on October 17, 2012 at 8:56 am

    “they can do it if they want to”. So, in other words, women are given more room within which to exercise their agency.

  4. dangermom on October 17, 2012 at 9:05 am

    From a different perspective, you could say that Boy Scouts is a ridiculous amount of work put in (often by leaders who don’t really have a personal commitment to Scouts) to goals that aren’t necessarily spiritual, and that the YW program is designed specifically for our girls and wouldn’t it be nice if the boys had something like that? Some of us would be more than happy to see Boy Scouts go and the YM get a program more like what the YW have.

    I have a set of brothers and a husband who disliked Scouting and didn’t fit into its mold. But YW was a different story for me.

  5. Lisa B on October 17, 2012 at 9:06 am

    The young men and young women in our stake have long been taught that their primary responsibilities are to God and family, and that everyone needs to get all the education (in the gospel and in the world) that they can. When I served in cub scouts, all the materials and training from SL continually taught to emphasize the spiritual values of scouting, but so many steeped in Boy Scout tradition had a hard time giving credence to church instruction over boy scout tradition. I don’t blame them, or the church. Change is hard and our lives are busy.
    I continue to support additional activities for my daughter and her friends, and try to emphasize the spiritual over the temporal activities of scouting with our son who is scouting age. And I think recent changes are definitely in the right direction.

    I felt overjoyed at the announcement that YW can serve at 19. I am glad it is not deemed a “responsibility” for them as it is with the young men, but am preparing my daughter for church, home, and temple service as well as a vocation just as I am my sons. Bravo, President Monson. The announcement was a happy and unexpectedly wonderful surprise to me.

  6. David Johnson on October 17, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Ladies, Have a little compassion. Men provide boys more structure and training because they need it. Somehow girls learn to talk to each other as children, to share feelings, to share leadership, and this isn’t just “niceness.” Boys compete. They speechify rather than discuss. The strongest gets his way and the rest follow or they’re left behind. So, only the leader gets the socialization skills. The rest are sheep, sheep who have learned what domination is and how to get along without speaking up. Most learn they can’t dominate other males, so guess who’s left to try to dominate, mainly by posing and aping his male idol. So, men recognize that their boys need help, but they provide the only help they understand, man-stuff, back-to-nature, competitive sports, and the ultimate pursuit, military prowess.

    There doesn’t seem to be any way out of this mess, so do have a little compassion, ladies.

  7. Daniel on October 17, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Rachel, your assessment of social expectation and youth programs is entirely too US-centric. Scouting is not a functional program of the church in any part of the world other than America (as far as I know). The rest of the Kingdom of God on Earth stumps along quite nicely with the Duty to God program (for both YM and Primary children) and Personal Progress (all of which are specially designed for spiritual development.)
    Anyway, as of the recent announcement about youth curriculum, both the YM and YW pograms will be focussing on preparing youth to not only deeply live but to openly share the gospel. I actually wonder what role, if any, Scouting can have in this newly refocussed program. Perhaps this will be a catalyst for altering the Church’s engagement with the programs of the BSA.

    a physical difference that makes them fundamentally unsuited for certain roles and responsibilities in the kingdom of God.

    Again, your point of view is declaring something I can not agree with. Our doctrine and the general direction from GAs, suggest noting to indicate this is an issue of suitability as opposed to an issue of role. As to why these roles have been allocated as such is open for debate and will be the place of much speculation until such time as we receive new revelation on the matter,

  8. Ziff on October 17, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Great points, Rachel. I particularly like this point:

    There is a world of difference between telling a girl she can do something if she wants to while giving her little to no institutional support and expecting a boy to do it whether he wants to or not because the structure of the organization and social pressure requires him to do so.

    I’m speculating, of course, but I wonder if the “if she wants to” approach is taken in Church programs to be a step forward from “she is forbidden,” while at the same time maintaining some separation from the men. Like Elder Holland said about the missionary ages, they feel like there needs to be some separation.

  9. Jacob on October 17, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Rachel, excellent thoughts here. There is no doubt in my mind that certain (unfounded, in my opinion) metaphysical preconceptions we have about girls and women (as well as assumptions about boys and men) lead us to collectively offer structure and strict institutional expectations of boys that do not exist for girls. There’s a reason why many girls in the midst of this and many women looking back on their experiences felt that the different kinds of value that this dynamic produces made them feel less valued than their male counterparts. Of course, others don’t claim to have this kind of experience but in a large and diverse church that should be expected.

  10. Tom Johnson on October 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I really enjoyed this post. You express a lot of frustrations I’ve felt lately with the scouts program versus the activity day program. As an 11-yr-old scout leader, I recently proposed reducing our meetings to twice a month to be on par with the 11-yr-old girls’ twice a month activity day meetings. I could find nothing in the handbook or BSA program stipulating a weekly scout meeting for 11-yr-olds, yet when I proposed the issue to my ward, it felt like I was trying to launch World Ward III. I’m wondering what the right forum would be to escalate the issue to someone who might be able to take action at a policy level.

  11. Manuel on October 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

    Rachel,

    I see your points, but I fail to see if you think that what we do with boys is the ultimate ideal. Is that what you think? And, should this be a mirror image for girls?

    Some of us don’t necessarily think the ultra structured program for boys is the most ideal.

    Some of us have seen first hand the problems caused by having missionaries in the field who never wanted to be there in the first place but who were there because of the social pressures of their highly structured Mormon environments. Since in LDS culture, men who opt not to go on missions are seen as some sort of pariahs and women are told not to consider them for marriage. To me, this is a bit of a fanatical stance on the issue, and not exactly healthy. Some aspects of the ultra structured program seem actually rather toxic.

    Is this what you would want for women too? Church sanctioned methods to pressure women to go on missions, so that they could be dismissed as lesser marriage material if they opt not to, etc etc etc? Don’t you think there is enough of that in the Church and in society in general?

    I grew up in Mexico, where we don’t have the Church of the Boy Scouts of America governing every aspect of the male youth programs, and I thank God it is that way.

    I know the significant differences in the young men’s and young women’s programs may seem unfair, but not everything is ideal in either side of the fence. Therefore, just be careful what you ask for since there are usually two faces to the same coin. Just a thought.

  12. JimD on October 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    FWIW, when I was an 11-year-old scout leader, I found the BSA’s “support system” to be a hindrance more than a help – interminable nonproductive meetings taking my time away from the kids (not to mention my own family); and so much red tape (“tour permits?” Gag me, please) that campouts were generally done in spite of, not because of, the local Council.

    I think the core truth is that Scouting, like Young Women, is what the local leadership chooses to make it. Scouting has uniform manuals with “correlated” content–so do the YM/YW programs. It has rank advancements and cool patches that can be displayed on one’s clothing – a version of that could easily be, and at one time was, incorporated in the YW program (bandolos, anyone?) There is, I think, a HUGE financial disparity between Scouting and Young Women’s which can and must be addressed. But from a content/implementation standpoint, I’m not sure Scouting really has as much of an inherent advantage as many people seem to think that it does.

    Judging by my wife’s anecdotal experience, one of the major challenges to a quality young women’s program on par with Scouting is that a critical mass of YW leadership–at the ward, stake, and perhaps general levels–simply don’t view camping, hiking, and the outdoors as sufficiently “feminine” and they eschew those activities for the programs they manage.

  13. MC on October 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    No mention of the fact that the Church has a harder time holding onto boys and men than it does women? Doesn’t that have anything to do with resource allocation?

  14. Suleiman on October 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Never in my wildest dreams would I describe Scouting as “structured.” In theory, it is. In reality, it is slightly organized chaos.

  15. IDIAT on October 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    #10 – I think the “old” Scouting Handbook for the church actually said “Blazers” (now 11 year old scouts) were only to meet twice a month, and when I was Blazer leader years ago, that’s all we met, and we easily were able to advance boys from Scout through First Class, got in the three nights of camping, and so forth. I’m not aware of anything in the current Scouting Handbook that says you have to meet once a week. Certainly, the YM 12 and up don’t work on scouts once a week given DTG, combined YW/YM activities, temple baptisms, sports, and so forth. Stand up and tell your leaders that twice a month is how you think things ought to be run, and presuming you stick to a schedule, you should be fine. I’m sure you’ll get some push back, but you know what they say — If they don’t like they can always release you.

  16. Crystal on October 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    I would rather see the church get rid of scouts and focus more on Duty to God than add a scout like program for girls..at least in the those areas where scouting is practiced.

  17. Manuel on October 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    “No mention of the fact that the Church has a harder time holding onto boys and men than it does women? Doesn’t that have anything to do with resource allocation?”

    Yeah, that’s the other thing… can it be also that the programs and social pressures are back-firing? Could it be that shoving the idea of going on a mission down the throats of 8 year olds and programming their minds to that end, is in the end not producing strong leaders and spiritually committed men?

  18. Julie M. Smith on October 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    ““No mention of the fact that the Church has a harder time holding onto boys and men than it does women? Doesn’t that have anything to do with resource allocation?””

    The current resource allocation may be feeding the problem: boys who don’t dig scouting end up inactive; girls who don’t dig a smaller portion of the pie end up inactive. I can’t prove that–I don’t even know if it is true–but it is worth thinking about. My guess is that the current set up doesn’t have anything to do with a deliberate decision to allocate resources to maximize retention, but rather the historical accident that YMs couldn’t be nearly correlated out of existence the way the YW have been, because BSA has its own requirements that correlation couldn’t/didn’t completely over-ride.

  19. Suleiman on October 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm

    Manuel,

    In my opinion, if we build it (a quality program), they will come.

    Youth of both genders respond favorably when the activity and service are real. Don’t lecture them, play with them or horse around. Show them how to perform well and help other people. Intrinsically the kids will know and feel they are doing something of value. The Spirit will do the rest.

    Years ago, when I was in the YM Presidency, I was also a volunteer with the Special Olympics. I suggested that the our entire YM’s program volunteer for a Special Olympic event. The Bishop was nervous (for reasons not worth discussing) and turned me down. I asked if I could request volunteers from the YM, as a community service opportunity. He was good with that.

    I wasn’t expecting anyone to show up. But every young man in our ward showed. They had to drive over 20 miles to the event, and the Priests had organized themselves to pick up the deacons. Even the Bishop’s sons showed up, when he had discouraged participation. They had an incredible experience. I’ll never forget that 80 lb. deacon on the receiving end of a hug from a 200 lb. lady.

    The next Sunday was Fast Sunday. The boys raved about their experience. One boy said that it was more spiritual than earning his
    Eagle advancement. I was released the following Sunday.

  20. Rachel Whipple on October 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks for the discussion, everyone. Now to respond:
    Stephen Hardy-I am excited about the new curriculum. I think it a good move and a long overdue update.
    Adam G.- I would prefer to think of myself as lamenting rather than being adversarial, but I see how what is essentially a complaint can come off as antagonistic. My mom gave me the advice before I got married that when your spouse complains, look at it as a plea for help, not a criticism.
    lyle-I like the perspective that women are given opportunity to exercise agency. That is a nice, positive spin. Thank you.
    Lisa B-I like your approach. And like you, I am very pleased about the changes in the minimum age for missionary service. I had some desire to serve a mission, but I got married before I turned 21.
    David Johnson-It seems like you’re harder on the boys than I am inclined to be. But there is historical justification for your point of view. Primary was originally envisioned as a socializing tool for boys. Before it was started, it had been expanded to include the girls as well, but the desire to settle down those wild boys and teach them the gospel has been with the church since pioneer days.
    Daniel-I am aware that my experience, and thus my criticism is US centric. I know that outside of the US, boys and girls have the twice monthly Activity Days meetings together. I would be interested to see in what ways, if any, the Church changes it’s relationship with the Scout program. As for “a physical difference that makes them fundamentally unsuited for certain roles and responsibilities in the kingdom of God.” I don’t actually agree with that, and I’m glad you don’t either. I think I need a sarcasm font.
    Ziff-The idea of a forbidden-permitted (if she wants to)-encouraged-required spectrum is appropriate. It allows us to be pleased with our progressiveness while still maintaining traditional roles and expectations.
    Jacob-So the expectations of the institution make us feel valued and needed within the institution. My work as a wife and mother make me needed and give me some sense of gratification within the home, but it doesn’t often make me feel as though I’m contributing to the church at large, even though that work is praised by the church. On the other hand, meaningful service in the church does make me feel a part of it and motivates me to continue to serve more. It strengthens my sense of purpose as a church member and holds me close to the community.
    Tom Johnson-I’m not surprised you ran into problems with your proposal to reduce the number of 11 year old scout meetings. Our church version of scouting changes the Webelos into a 1 year program instead of the 2 year program Scouts has intended it to be. The 11 year old category doesn’t exist outside of the church. In our stake, the 11 year old leaders are expected to run a tight program that get the boys advanced to First Class Scout by the time they reach their 12th birthday so that they can work on merit badges and advance up through the ranks to Eagle by the time they are 14. It can be pretty high pressure, and it’s hard on those boys who are not interested in scouting but who are dragged through the programs because it it is the activity arm of the Aaronic priesthood (or some other such justification).
    Manuel-You bring up many good points. Part of me is selfishly relieved that missionary service is not mandatory for women; I fear I would be marked as deficient for having not served, even though that was not the standard at the time. I don’t think that what we do with the boys is the ultimate ideal. I don’t think the Church does either, because the program for boys differs so much when you leave the US. In fact, if there is any valid argument against the Church’s association with the BSA, it could be that they don’t consider it mandatory or essential to use throughout the world, so why must the boys in the US be compelled to participate in it?
    JimD-Ah, yes, the meetings. What is it about our culture that makes us love meetings? Or rather, that makes us hate meetings, but feel compelled to hold them, many of them, anyway? As for money, Boy Scouts is an expensive program. The awards are expensive and we give them out like candy. I’m still not sure what to do with all of the belt loops my son earned while he was in Cub Scouts.
    MC-Is the Church having a harder time keeping men than women? Or is it that we require a certain number of priesthood holders to fill leadership roles in the Church.
    Suleiman-”Never in my wildest dreams would I describe Scouting as “structured.” In theory, it is. In reality, it is slightly organized chaos.” I love it. Perhaps I should say structured in theory. There is curriculum and training. But all of that can break down pretty quickly in the reality of a bunch of little boys and all their energy, vitality, and lack of focus. And sometimes, the leaders are just as wild. I can’t say that I blame them; it can be fun, but it can also be a very difficult, draining calling.

  21. Suleiman on October 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    My point is this: When we get caught up in structure and “official” programs, we may miss the opportunites for service and spiritual growth that our kids need. It doesn’t take a huge amount of money and structure in a bureaucratic sense. It takes vision and passion on the part of our local youth leaders. Help the kids feel the Spirit, then sit back and watch them work miracles.

    And I love that Bishop that was threatened by a community service approach and released me. He passed away a few years ago.

  22. Manuel on October 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    That sounds great, but was this the result of a structured program, of social expectation, of a larger financial budget, of the Boy Scouts of America, or of a creative leader who took advantage of a great opportunity? That’s the point. Do you think the YW would not have had this opportunity to serve?

  23. Lisa B on October 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    There has been recent attention in the church (a long-standing video on the main church website as one example, but I think this has also been addressed repeatedly in the “raise the bar” type messages as well) to other church service opportunities for YM who cannot serve missions for medical (including physical and mental health) reasons. I think this is a good move, too. It doesn’t entirely remove the stigma for those who don’t serve, but it at least indicates that there are honorable exceptions. Elder Holland even spoke directly to these exceptions in conference. I believe he expressed his such exceptions are heart-rending to them as leaders, and affirmed that those young men who are worthy but unable to serve are “on the team, too.”

  24. Lisa B on October 17, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    *expressed his empathy, saying that such exceptions are heart-rending to them as leaders*

  25. MC on October 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    “MC-Is the Church having a harder time keeping men than women? Or is it that we require a certain number of priesthood holders to fill leadership roles in the Church.”

    Look at the composition of singles wards in the 24-30 age range and above, after all the available men have married off. It’s a stark difference.

    “The current resource allocation may be feeding the problem: boys who don’t dig scouting end up inactive; girls who don’t dig a smaller portion of the pie end up inactive. I can’t prove that–I don’t even know if it is true–but it is worth thinking about.”

    Worth thinking about, certainly, which is why I brought it up. But since neither of us really knows what the best allocation is, doesn’t it seem wise to defer to those who are anointed to receive inspiration to make such decisions?

  26. h_nu on October 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    MC.
    I like the sentiment…
    “But since neither of us really knows what the best allocation is, doesn’t it seem wise to defer to those who are anointed to receive inspiration to make such decisions?”
    But here in the bloggernacle, the intellectuals don’t like such answers. In fact, one of their assumptions is that such answers aren’t answers at all…

  27. Manuel on October 17, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    H-nu,

    I think it’s not that the intellectuals in the bloggernacle “don’t like” such answers. I think they have researched enough to know some of that “inspiration” came thanks to members of the Church speaking up or in some cases “acting up.”

    The “anointed making those decisions” is already the way the system works. It is also OK for the rest of us to express what we think and feel, and share positive and negative experiences.

    (sorry about my overuse of quotation marks, as I go back and read my posts, I also find it kind of annoying.)

  28. Ben H on October 17, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Great post, Rachel! I see this change in missionary age as a major step toward greater equity, and I am very excited about it. I think you’re absolutely right that structure empowers, and individuals can only get so far without it. Fortunately, the institutional support for sister missionaries is pretty strong, and the differences are minor by comparison with the similarities. The training is essentially the same. Obviously there are significant differences in terms of the leadership structure; we’ll see how those evolve with presumably increased numbers of women serving missions. I welcome this change. I don’t know how much the same our programs should be, all told. But you’ve given us an important point to think about.

  29. Eric on October 18, 2012 at 10:41 am

    God does not begin by asking us about our ability but only about our availability and if we then prove our dependability he will increase our capability!
    Neal A. Maxwell

  30. Researcher on October 18, 2012 at 11:06 am

    That’s interesting, Eric, but what does it have to do with this discussion?

  31. E.D. on October 18, 2012 at 11:17 am

    Suleiman: I had a similar experience after we had more than one Fifth Sunday meeting on getting more involved in the community. I offered to set something up with the local food bank (packing coolers for Head Start) or Habitat, and the bishop looked at me like I had three heads. Maybe “community involvement” is still “rake up the elderly neighbor’s leaves”.

    I thought about having my husband make the same suggestion a few months later as an experiment, but just let it go. My workplace has an excellent service program, so I stick with that.

  32. Tatiana on October 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I was a girls achievement day leader, and the girls wanted to meet every week, so we did, but then I was overruled. The girls wanted to do activities that cost more than the budget, and I had plenty of money then so I subsidized it myself, only I was told our projects were too much fun and they made the boys jealous, so I was not allowed to spend my own money anymore. Then we found ways to do fun projects without spending any money, and that was vetoed too. So I completely disagree with the idea that if the girls want it badly enough they can have it. Not only is that insufficient, as the OP points out, but it’s also untrue.

  33. Julia Taylor on October 19, 2012 at 5:35 am

    I addressed the subject of the change in YW/YM curriculum in this post,
    (http://www.poetrysansonions.com/2012/10/mormon-moment-series-part-seven-come.html?m=0)
    and just want to pull out the last part that deals with how the church sees the curriculum changes impacting the youth programs.

    “LEAD TO CONVERSION
    The way you befriend, encourage, and support the youth in their personal spiritual devotion—and the way you teach and learn with them in meetings, classes, and activities—will help them stay on the path and progress toward personal, lifelong conversion.
    PREPARE SPIRITUALLY
    The most important part of your service to the youth is your own daily spiritual preparation. As you dedicate yourself to living the gospel, the Spirit will teach you how to help youth learn the gospel by their own study and faith.
    FOCUS ON THE YOUTH
    As you plan what to teach, prayerfully think about the youth in your class or quorum. What are their needs? Be sure to make your plan flexible enough that you can adapt it as new needs or questions arise. Let the needs of the youth guide your teaching
    LEARN TOGETHER
    Prepare learning activities that help the youth discover the truths of the gospel for themselves. Encourage them to strengthen each other by sharing what they learn.”

    I hope that these will be the focus when it comes to the activities for youth too. I think that in Cub Scouts, achievement days, Boy Scouts and Young Women’s activities, the adults who lead the program ALWAYS make or break the program. I have held callings in all four programs, in more than one ward, and the vision of the leaders directly working with the youth, and the Bishopbric members willingness to be flexible, always determines whether a program succeeds or fails. Certainly the youth can contribute to how much effort it takes to control chaos, but how the leaders respond to inappropriate behavior will decide whether it continues.

    I have twin daughters in Achievement Days, and a son who just advanced into Boy Scouts. Between the time my son turned 8 and now, they have been in 5 different wards’ programs. (Some changes came from us moving, two came from ward boundaries changing.) No matter which programs, or what their budgets were, the biggest factor in my kids wanting to participate in the activities came from whether the activities were planned ahead, advertised so that everyone (leaders, kids and parents) knew what to expect, and everyone (leaders, parents and kids) were held responsible for being an active part of the program.

    I find a lot to be hopeful about in the new curriculum. The quotes in my post from leaders that have been using it, and current YW and YM leaders getting ready to use it, show that enthusiasm for the new tools they have. I don’t think everything will change overnight, but some things will.

    This email was sent to me by a friend who lives in a stake where I lived when I was newly married. It was sent out to stake and ward YM and YW leaders, and bishoprics, about the next missionary prep class, was another hopeful sign to me.

    “The next Missionary Preparation class, which will start in mid-January, will now be open to any person over 18, as well as any young men who are 17 and have completed completed their Duty to God and Eagle Scout Requirements, and young women who are 17 and have completed the Personal Progress program. The classes will continue to be held on Tuesdays at the Institute Building, and should not be seen as a replacement for YM/YW activities.

    If enrolling in the missionary prep class, before high school graduation, would negatively impact the ability to successfully complete required coursework, we encourage youth to focus on their high school studies. All students currently enrolled in high school, but who meet the other qualifications, will need a recommendation from their bishop. Since we expect the number of students to more than double, in January, and we will be expanding the program. There will be three teachers called, who will each teach a section of the class curriculum. Students will rotate through all three teachers, in groups of 20, so that all students will study all three sections, with the same cohort of students.”

    I suspect that by the time my son turns 18, in about 5 1/2 years, the YM and YW programs will be drastically different, and that the primary program will also have had significant changes made. In 25 years, when my 10 year-old twins are my age, I think that most of the programs of the church will have been significantly changed. I suspect we will look back to 2012 and barely remember Mitt Romney, but we will all remember where we were when we heard about this change, because it will impact the lives of LDS members as much as the lifting of the priesthood ban, or the ending of polygamy.

  34. John Hamilton on October 19, 2012 at 11:20 am

    I didn’t read all the comments here, so I apologize if this was already brought up. My wife tried to implement a reward system and well-defined structure for the girls in our ward for Activity days. She only met apathy and resistance — from the girls themselves. It finally dawned on her that making things “equal” was not what was wanted. The girls enjoyed their freedom from structure (boys crave it, even if they don’t admit it) and could care less about medals and badges as rewards. Girls don’t normally strut around showing off their accomplishments as boys desire to do. They have nothing to prove in that area.

    The Church treats the genders differently because they are different, not because one or the other is “inferior” or anything. In today’s highly specialized culture where opportunities for men to “prove” themselves (an innate male desire) are quite limited, the Boy Scout program fills that developmental need. Women generally don’t need to prove themselves in this way to feel of worth. Getting together and socializing and sharing fills their developmental needs and sense of worth.

    Similarly, missions serve as a sort of “right of passage” for young men to establish their value as real men. For young women a mission serves more for converting people to the gospel (shocker!). It’s too bad, really, that there are ulterior motives (or maybe just a really big side effect) for expecting men to go on missions, but they just really need the help. And bringing people to Christ in the process is the only real mission of the Church anyway.

  35. Rachel Whipple on October 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    John Hamilton-I’m sorry your wife’s efforts were not well received. Children, boys and girls both, are often ungrateful little wretches and it can be incredibly frustrating working with them. But that can make it commensurately rewarding when you do get through to them.

    I think women feel the need to “prove” themselves just as much as men do, even if it is considered unladylike to explicitly state such a need or to draw attention to themselves or their accomplishments.

    Perhaps I am an atypical woman, but I cannot agree with your statement “Women generally don’t need to prove themselves in this way to feel of worth. Getting together and socializing and sharing fills their developmental needs and sense of worth.” I may be misreading you, but I think that women and girls do need to be engaged in meaningful activities, activities that they feel have real purpose and value, and they require recognition for their accomplishments. Talking with other women is not sufficient for me to feel I have self worth.

  36. John Hamilton on October 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    You’re certainly right, Rachel, women need recognition too. It seems, however, that the forms of recognition they value most may be different. However, specific, definite, shinny-metal-on-the-chest, recognition is a particularly strong motivation in boys (and men, since we never really do grow up). Girls take it at full faith when they are given verbal assurance and recognition. They are quite satisfied with heart-felt praise from the pulpit. Men, however, must have it in writing — preferably with a defeated foe on the ground before them.

    For boys the value of the task or accomplishment is less important than the need to finish or defeat it. (Believe me, the Bookbinding Merit Badge is of very little practical value.) Women, however, seem to take complete satisfaction in the process instead when it is seen as valuable (such as raising children).

    I’m speaking in very general terms here, of course. Many men could care less about badges and ranks (yours truly) and rarely see anything through (yours again), and many women highly value ribbons and medals and the feeling of accomplishment that goes with them. Really, I am jealous of the freedom girls and women have in our culture. If they want to do something out of the ordinary for their sex they are praised and encouraged. If a boy thinks Scouts is stupid, or does not want to go on a mission, he is branded as weird or unfaithful, or worse.

    I’m sure the Church could do more to encourage girls, but keep in mind that boys are hard-wired with the need to provide, protect and to lead and hence require avenues to express all that. Putting girls in the exact same program as the Boy Scouts would be perceived as a challenge to the boys and would probably just turn ugly. Does that make the boys a bunch of unenlightened ignoramuses? Probably. We just require more maintenance in some areas (we are missing about half a chromosome, you know).

  37. Brian on October 19, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Yes, what a shame that you weren’t pushed into poorly organized and even more poorly executed “activities.” What a shame your identity wasn’t constantly ridiculed in locker-room style on campouts where untold terrible things took place. Too bad you weren’t coerced into attending mindless, pig-headed, egocentric and ridiculously over-ritualistic facades supported by an organization now stammering to explain how so many child molestors managed to stay in contact with its youth. You want the BSA (emphasis on the BS)? You can have it. I’llgladly take “if I want to.”

  38. Brian on October 19, 2012 at 9:06 pm

    On second thought, you can’t have it, because it’ll be a cold day in Provo before anyone inflicts anything like that on my little girl.