8 & Up

November 5, 2013 | 42 comments
By

The Church has announced that starting in 2014, there will be a General Women’s Meeting twice per year, with women, young women, and girls ages 8 and up invited to attend.

I suppose this is a victory for those who want to see more parity between the genders in the Church. (I consider myself part of that group, by the way.) But I can’t get past the “8 and up” part.

My kids are 9, 12.5, and 15.5. It is a regular occurrence that the older two will want to discuss some topic that they have heard about on the news (gay rights, abortion, etc.) and I’ll have to shape the conversation in a way appropriate for 9-year-old ears, often at the expense of a conversation that I’d very much like to have with the other two. There is a huge developmental difference between 9 and 12, and I think the Church has drawn the line between Primary and YM/YW just right.

Which I why I’m not thrilled that 8-year-olds will be at this General Women’s Meeting. There are many topics that might otherwise be discussed in this setting but that are not appropriate for their ears. There are things one might want to say about modesty or eating disorders or sexual abuse or chastity or sex or whatever to a 12-year-old that an 8-year-old should not be hearing. There are also topics of doctrinal depth that would bore an 8-year-old to tears, but that a 13-year-old might attempt to wrap her mind around. What I am afraid will happen is that the talks in this meeting will be very generic and simplistic in order to be appropriate for the young girls. I am also concerned that the rhetorical distance between the General Priesthood Meeting (where serious doctrine is taught, where the speakers are not afraid to call the audience to repentance, and where uncomfortable topics are addressed) and the General Women’s Meeting (where out of concern for the 2nd graders in attendance, the talks will probably be fluffy, simple, and sweet) will become a concern inasmuch as the difference is interpreted to mean something about the natures/roles of men and women. (I suspect that a fair number of men and women will watch the other gender’s meetings, since these will, I presume, continue to be broadcast. I wonder how many people of either gender will bother to gather in ward buildings to watch when they could be home in their jammies with snacks.) For a more positive view of the change, read this.

I heard through the rumor mill that the reason for this policy was that the Church was uncomfortable leaving 8-11 year old girls alone with “the men” since the YW would not be available to baby-sit. I sincerely hope that this was not the reason for this decision, given that, in most cases, those men would be their own fathers and brothers. Perhaps the goal here was to give the 8-11 year old girls some special thing that was theirs alone (given that they have to be witnesses to all of the things that their boy counterparts get to do, from scout day camps to priesthood preparation, etc.). I have no idea if that is correct, but it certainly seems a more palatable reason for their inclusion.

I’ll be curious to see how this change plays out. Inasmuch as it fits into a pattern of increased equity in the Church (recently manifested through the revamped YW curriculum, the lowered age for female missionaries, the broadcasting of the General Priesthood Meeting, the practice of having women pray in General Conference, and the creation of formal leadership roles for sister missionaries and the mission president’s wife), I’m very happy about it. But I wish they’d limited it to ages 12 and up.

42 Responses to 8 & Up

  1. Chadwick on November 5, 2013 at 4:22 pm

    “Perhaps the goal here was to give the 8-11 year old girls some special thing that was theirs alone (given that they have to be witnesses to all of the things that their boy counterparts get to do, from scout day camps to priesthood preparation, etc.). I have no idea if that is correct, but it certainly seems a more palatable reason for their inclusion.”

    I’m not sure how “special” a thing it is when it really isn’t theirs alone, given it’s for women 8-88, but sure. I also don’t think I would be placated knowing that my inability to participate in priesthood ordinances is made whole by my ability to attend a meeting that I would probably find boring, but maybe that’s just me. =)

    And, as a man, I’m extremely offended at the insinuation that I cannot/will not watch my own 8 year-old child for two hours. Especially since I own both a television and an iPad. But I’m easily offended. =)

  2. Sarah Familia on November 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    Yes, the age thing is just bizarre. Kind of like when they lowered the missionary age to 19 for YW–and then promptly lowered the missionary age to 18 for YM.

    I have heard several people say that their male relatives start going to the Priesthood session after they get baptized, so perhaps it is simply an acknowledgement of that.

    I agree with you that it’s somewhat problematic to create content for people ages 8 to adult. But it’s the same as the General Conference Sessions, when it comes to that. My husband and I watched the Priesthood and R.S. sessions together last Conference, so I guess we’ll just invite the kids to watch two MORE sessions of Conference with us.

    And frankly, if they decide to stop constantly beating the YW over the head with modesty/chastity talks because their younger sisters are listening, that will only be a good thing.

  3. Nathaniel Givens on November 5, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    The differing age gap was interesting to me, too. I don’t have any theories to explain it that I believe enough to propound.

    But I do think it’s a bit strange to hold up General Conference as the gold standard of tough talk and worry that this meeting will be fluffy based on age requirements. After all: General Conference has none whatsoever. If General Conference manages to be hard hitting despite the presence of 8-year olds (not to mention 6-year olds, etc.) in the audience, I imagine this meeting could as well.

    Don’t get me wrong: I think it probably will be slightly fluffier. I think Priesthood meetings are fluffier. If I hear one more talk that begins with “I want to speak to the young men…” The fluffiness just won’t be caused by the age disparity, either between General Conference (looser) or Priesthood (stricter).

  4. Cameron on November 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Perhaps exposure to such heavy concepts will be increasingly necessary at a younger age in the future. This seems like a long-term decision, although experimentation and adjustment has happened in the past with similar things.

  5. Cameron on November 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I love how simple the meeting has become though. That makes it much more powerful as an idea and gathering. Every woman who has been baptized on the earth will participate.

  6. Dave on November 5, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    The profferred reason doesn’t make much sense, as the 7-and-under kids have to stay home with those morally questionable “men” anyway. An alternative possibility (pure speculation) is that if you made it 12-and-up it would look too much like female priesthood meeting. Maybe they should do 13-and-up, keeping the young women one year older than the young men (as with missionary eligibility).

  7. Grant on November 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Perhaps the inclusion of 8-11 year-old girls was to be able to draw on more speakers from the general auxiliary presidencies. There are now nine potential speakers rather than six, which is still in striking contrast to the number of potential speakers at the priesthood session of conference.

  8. Tim J on November 5, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    I think Grant probably has it right. I think the age also reflects the age of those in attendance for the sessions of General Conference which are also 8 & up.

    http://www.lds.org/church/events/181st-general-conference-of-the-church

    “Tickets ensure the ticket holder of a seat in the Conference Center until 30 minutes before the session begins. During the last 30 minutes before a session begins, seats are made available to those in the standby line. Doors open 90 minutes before each session. Only those 8 years or older are admitted.”

  9. Dave K on November 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    I also vote “no” against the theory that men can’t be trusted with 8-11 year old girls. That makes no sense on any number of grounds, especially Grant’s (7).

    Better reasons IMO (in declining likelihood):
    (i) The announcements are not done. We will soon see announced that all men aged 8 and up will attend “Men’s Session.” The announcement will make clear that men are *not* “the priesthood.” Because all men are welcome to the session, it’s better to stop calling it the “priesthood session.” By making the sessions gender-specific rather than priesthood-specific, the church preemptively strikes a repeat petition by Ordain Women next April.
    (ii) adding primary girls gives a reason for including the General Primary Presidency as speakers/leaders. Of course, they also preside over boys so, still a little weird that they’re only addressing half their group. And we’re still left with the discrepancy that “girls get the Primary Presidency; boys get Apostles and 70s.” Contention abounds!
    (iii) expanding the age range will help to fill the session. I have no personal knowledge as to whether female sessions currently fill up. But my skepticism knows no bounds.
    (iv) wasatch ice-cream lobbyists

    On another note, this will have serious ramifications for attendance in the eastern time zone. In my home, it may tip the scales to mom/daughters watching at home rather than mom going to the chapel. So much for my halo tournament.

  10. Dave K on November 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    * Edit – 2nd line * I meant to say “especially Dave’s (6).”

  11. Geoff - A on November 5, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Might it just be that the decision was made by men and all these considerations, that women bring to the discussion, didn’t arise?

  12. Cameron on November 5, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    Geoff, are you genuinely suggesting that the auxiliary leaders involved weren’t consulted of something that more directly affects them, moreso even than the missionary age change, about which they were consulted?

  13. Tim on November 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    I was hoping they’d instead change the men’s meetings to conform to the women’s meetings (one time per year for adults, one time per year for boys 12-18).

    If it’s anything like the Priesthood meetings, women can expect the majority of the talks will be directed towards the children instead of the adults.

  14. Magpielovely on November 5, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Based on almost 20 years of experience in Primary and Young Women’s, I think we need to reach the 8-11 year olds about doctrinal topics that matter. By the time they are 12, many have already decided/chosen their path whether or not they have enough autonomy to express it. 12 years old is too late to give them the meat.

    Besides, I would be perfectly comfortable taking my 8, 11, and 15 year old to the RS and/or YW General Meeting as they stand now. I don’t think they currently tackle anything difficult or too sensitive for tender ears. I think all General Conference meetings are pretty bland (I mean, everyone was buzzing because Holland used the words “mental illness”).

  15. Ben S on November 5, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    “wasatch ice-cream lobbyists”

    Don’t underestimate Big Ice Cream, Dave. They’ll crush you under a ton of Almond Apple Crisp Swirl.

  16. John Taber on November 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm

    Through 1993, there was one combined women’s meeting, just in September – for ten and up. I’m not sure why I get the change to eight here.

  17. John Taber on November 5, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    I mean, I’m not sure I get the change to eight.

  18. Cameron on November 6, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Love this Magpie:
    “Based on almost 20 years of experience in Primary and Young Women’s, I think we need to reach the 8-11 year olds about doctrinal topics that matter. By the time they are 12, many have already decided/chosen their path whether or not they have enough autonomy to express it. 12 years old is too late to give them the meat.”

    As a teacher of 9 year olds, I heartily agree!
    Also, the ice cream comment was great.

  19. Cynthia L. on November 6, 2013 at 3:57 am

    “Geoff, are you genuinely suggesting that the auxiliary leaders involved weren’t consulted of something that more directly affects them, moreso even than the missionary age change, about which they were consulted?”

    Cameron, you are so cute how you think Geoff’s suggestion is implausible. (1) Word on the street is that they were not actually consulted about the missionary age change but found out at the press conference as everyone else did, (2) Women were not consulted about the Proclamation on the Family, which, if we believe the line that “men run the church but don’t worry, women, yours is to take care of the even more important thing–the family!!” women really ought to have been consulted on.

  20. Cynthia L. on November 6, 2013 at 4:02 am

    “But I do think it’s a bit strange to hold up General Conference as the gold standard of tough talk and worry that this meeting will be fluffy based on age requirements. After all: General Conference has none whatsoever. If General Conference manages to be hard hitting despite the presence of 8-year olds (not to mention 6-year olds, etc.) in the audience, I imagine this meeting could as well.”

    Nathaniel, it has been my observation that Saturday sessions (by far fewer young children watching) have somewhat more hard-hitting material than Sunday, and Priesthood has the most hard-hitting of all. It would be, as Julie rightly noted, a shame if this works out to be that all the hard-hitting things are done in Priesthood because that is the more age-selective meeting.

  21. LRC on November 6, 2013 at 6:00 am

    Now that we are combining all of the women’s auxiliaries into one space, will we ever hear from the whole presidencies any more? At least with the YW and RS meetings, we heard from the presidents and both counselors, plus someone from the 1st Presidency.

    I’m just guessing that we won’t be hearing from 10 speakers twice a year now, especially since there are a couple of slots for women to pray in general conference sessions.

    That feels to me like the auxiliary presidencies are being more distanced from those they lead (because there’s less opportunity to get to hear from them).

    And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if I were to hear that the Q12 and 1P came to the various presidencies and said, “We feel inspired to combine the YW and RS general meetings and include the Primary folks as well. Don’t you think this is a good idea, too?”

  22. WI_Member on November 6, 2013 at 7:15 am

    Could we potentially hear talks given by board members? I’ve heard rumors they exist, but have no idea what they actually do.

  23. Observer on November 6, 2013 at 7:28 am

    I’m cross posting this on the similar post on By Common Consent.

    From a membership perspective, there is no real difference between a 8-year-old girl, a 18-year-old young woman, and a 80-year-old woman. All three have the same membership status (that of being a baptized member), although the 80-year-old may or may not also be endowed. If you are doing a General Women’s Meeting for members of the Church, there’s no reason to exclude the female members aged 8-11. They are female members of the Church, after all.

    How is it any different than what is recommended for the other sessions of General Conference? Last I checked, they were for all members of the Church, including the 8-year-olds.

  24. J Town on November 6, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I’m leaning toward the explanation given by Observer. There really is no basis to exclude female members between 8 – 11 years old from a general women’s meeting. Why shouldn’t they be there?

    Also, I would just once like to hear some actual person cited when people claim that auxiliary leaders weren’t included in some large church policy change, rather than “the word on the street”. Maybe it’s the region of the US in which I live (Southeast), but we seem to have less exposure to people who make claims based on ” the word on the street” than I see/hear in the Western US and even Europe. No idea why that is, but I love it.

  25. Nathan Whilk on November 6, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Sarah Familia wrote: Kind of like when they lowered the missionary age to 19 for YW–and then promptly lowered the missionary age to 18 for YM.

    You’ve got the timing backwards. The age-lowering for males occurred one paragraph before the age-lowering for females.

    Sorry.

  26. WI_Member on November 6, 2013 at 10:34 am

    What if the church simply and candidly explained what prompted the change and what the desired outcome is? I would love to see that approach taken on many issues.

  27. Magpielovely on November 6, 2013 at 10:39 am

    22: I’d love to hear more from the board members, too. I have actually seen them in action and I thought I’d share. They run the auxiliary training meetings that are held just before conference. I think they are semi annual meetings. I have attended these meetings in the Tabernacle and the Joseph Smith Mem Bldg and most recently in the conference center. They stand in front of other women (usually presidencies of auxiliaries) and teach a well-rehearsed (memorized?) lesson.

    Plus they probably do other stuff too (travel?)

  28. Christih on November 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    This is from a comment left on http://zelophehadsdaughters.com/2013/02/19/who-wrote-the-proclamation-on-the-family/

    Although I don’t have a copy still, I too have read that article and interview. I am a big fan of President Okazaki.’s honesty.

    “In the Spring 2012 issue, Dialogue published an extensive interview from 2005 with Sr. Chieko Okazaki called “There Is Always a Struggle” in which she states that:
    “In 1995 when ‘The Family: a Proclamation to the World’ was written, the Relief Society presidency was asked to come to a meeting. We did, and they read this proclamation. It was all finished. The only question was whether they should present it at the priesthood meeting or at the Relief Society meeting. It didn’t matter to me where it was presented. What I wanted to know was, ‘How come we weren’t consulted?’
    “Greg Prince: You didn’t even know it was in the works?”
    “Chieko Okazaki: No. They just asked us which meeting to present it in, and we said, ‘Whatever President Hinckley decides is fine with us.’ He decided to do it at the Relief Society meeting. The apostle who was our liaison said, ‘Isn’t it wonderful that he made the choice to present it at the Relief Society meeting?’ Well, that was fine, but as I read it I thought that we could have made a few changes in it.” (page 136)”

  29. Christih on November 6, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Sorry, that should be in response to JTowns comment.

  30. Dave K on November 6, 2013 at 12:13 pm
  31. Cameron on November 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    (26) is that necessary? I suggested the idea to my wife 4-5 months ago. It’s just a wise and fruitful decision. When I was 12, I saw my destiny sitting all around me at priesthood meeting. Young girls and young women need to see their destiny.

  32. Old Man on November 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Cameron, I agree. The disconnect between RS and YM needs to end.

  33. WI_Member on November 6, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    I am not questioning the decision, only that making visible the process by which the decision was reached might serve as an example as to how church government/administration should function. A statement such as, “After counseling with the presidencies and boards of these organizations, we have concluded that a change of format is necessary to (insert desired outcome here).” Or perhaps, “Many members have expressed concern about the transition from the Young Women’s program to Relief Society.” Something that acknowledges the idea that our current structure is malleable, and that counseling with those who are affected by these decisions can result in positive changes.

  34. DW on November 6, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Maybe we’re just awaiting a decision to extend the priesthood session to 8-11 year old boys?

  35. Dave K on November 6, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    A very good and recent example of a church leader providing an explanation for a change is found in the case of Elder Christofferson’s deletion of the phrase “feminist thinkers” from his Oct. 2013 conference adddress. Rather than just delete the phase and allow members to speculate as to why, he provided a clear statement of his reason. (see http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/blogsfaithblog/56982696-180/conference-lds-feminist-thinkers.html.csp) In my view, this was very wise. The brewing tempest over the phrase quickly blew over. And debates as to whether one can be a mormon and feminist calmed down (for now).

    A clear statement for why 8-11 year old girls are now included in the Women’s Session, as well as an explanation for why 8-11 year old boys are not included in the Priesthood Session, is not only reasonable but inevitable. Without such guidance members will turn to their own speculations, the majority of which will turn out to be wrong. By the time April Conference is finished, thousands of 8-11 year old boys will have asked their parents/leaders for an explanation and hundreds, if not thousands, of different answers will have been given. Confusion is not the order of the Church. Direction will eventually be given. The sooner the better.

  36. D. Skeehan on November 6, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    I never supposed that creating a biannual general women’s meeting would cause such mixed emotions. I think that it will be exciting for women to have a more relaxed forum in which to have leaders, apostles, and the prophets address specific issues that are effecting women now and in the future. But I am a guy, so I already go to 4 more hours of general conference to hear talks directed to me, as a priesthood holder, male, and father, twice a year. This change makes me wonder what the future has in store for us where this change has occurred? What have the watchmen on the tower seen?

  37. Elsie Kleeman on November 6, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    (#30) Dave K, Thank you so much for that link. It is an amazing interview and exactly what I needed to read. It has lifted my spirits enormously.

  38. Shawn on November 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Don’t you love how some member postulates on the cause, it spreads like wildfire on the street, and somehow is used to reinforce the validity of a posture here on TS?

    Do we really need to waste time even pondering that nonsense? Should it even bear creedence? The person who is spreading the rumor that the cause was to avoid men staying at home with their children needs 1. Slapped. 2. Investigated for possible abuse occurring in their home right now OR 3. Given counseling for latent, longterm suffering for abuses incurred as a child.

    I also categorically reject the notion that this effort was in some way tied to equitable parity between the men and women. Why do some have to keep a checklist, and think that the list they have created, if equally checked means all things are “fair.” What silliness!

    There are probable valid reasons why men have had more hours of instruction at general conference, and women have only needed less. Perhaps we should be more concerned that the instruction must now occur more frequently for women, and must be engaged from the age 8 up. Even men don’t have to be engaged till 12.

    Maybe, the effort to hijack seats from the priesthood meeting, was the cause of this change – but not in the way the “equity checklist” holders think it is. Perhaps its to teach doctrine that will change behavior, to overt this trend. If thats the case, starting at 8 is probably worthwhile.

    Of course, mere conjecture on my part. At least this rhetoric would have more validity then the stupid rumor of 8YO girls avoiding abuse, so thus are invited.

  39. Shawn on November 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    .

  40. lyle on November 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Teapots, tempests, mountains, molehills. How about a “Thank You” and stop with the complaining?

  41. Cynthia L. on November 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I agree with Dave K that providing a reason would have been wise and there are self-evident advantages over not providing a reason. Perhaps the reason that no clear reason was given is that there is no clear reason, but rather this is the compromise outcome of a divided committee decision? What keeps coming to my mind is this classic cartoon about communication in software development: http://blog.thingsdesigner.com/uploads/id/tree_swing_development_requirements.jpg

    It seems to me there ample room for improvement of communication between different groups in the church. Feminists complain about something, then what gets mirrored back are mangled mischaracterizations of their complaints (“equal means same,” etc). Young people, local priesthood leaders, primary and Sunday school teachers, I think all these groups have things to say that aren’t necessarily being communicated well with other groups and with leadership. And I’m sure leadership has *plenty* of frustration with members not catching the vision of things and/or implementing their design incorrectly (as in the cartoon), because we don’t always understand it.

  42. jasonandtheargonauts on November 7, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Looks reactionary to me. Maybe the P.R. department demanded a quicker response to this one.

Leave a Reply

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.