My daughter just turned 12, and her new Young Women’s advisor and the one other Beehive in the ward came over to introduce her to the program, give her a slew of pamphlets, and welcome her to Young Women.
After they left, I read through the Guidebook for Parents and Leaders of Youth that they had left for me. It is a nice little booklet. In the section “Role of Parents” it states:
“Your sons and daughters are children of God who have great potential. Although the Church has many leaders and resources to help them, you as their parents have the primary responsibility to help them succeed. the Church’s programs and materials for youth, described in this guidebook, are designed to assist you as you help your children develop the skills and attributes needed for success in life.”
And that sounds good. But remembering Craig’s piece Bo Knows Heaven, I have to admit that I don’t know what success in life looks like, or if success if life is what God wants most for us.
For the Young Men, there is the Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God Program.
“The Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God program helps young men accomplish the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. It helps them develop skills and attributes that are needed to succeed in life.”
This sounds good, but it is vague in that it relies on the unstated purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and the formulation “to succeed in life.” A bit of clarification comes in the listing of personal goals:
“The young men set personal goals in the following four areas of development: Spiritual Development; Physical Development; Educational, Personal, and Career Development; and Citizenship and Social Development.”
I like that there are two main points of focus here: the self (spiritual, physical, educational, personal and career) and the larger community (citizenship and social).
The overview for Young Women is different.
“The Young Women Personal Progress program helps each young woman understand God’s will for her, encourages her to keep His commandments, and prepares her to make and keep sacred temple covenants. It provides ways for her to contribute to her home now and prepare for future responsibilities as a faithful woman, wife, mother, and Church leader. It prepares her to receive her Young Womanhood Recognition.”
What struck me was how much more specific the young woman’s overview was than the young man’s. It lists specific roles that she is preparing for, speaks of her relationship to God, and points her to the temple. It grounds her in her home and in the Church. Instead of the boys’ dual focus on self and community, we have for the girls three areas of emphasis: the self, family and church. The vague “succeed in life” phrase does not resurface for the girls only group.
I don’t know that one approach is better than another. The nebulous “success in life” desired for our boys may give them the flexibility to find success or it may overwhelm them as a perfect success seems unattainable. I don’t know why contributing to the home and preparing for the role of father is not included in the young men’s list. It seems that a great deal of care has gone into crafting the young women’s list. And while that speaks to the care and concern our leaders have for our young women, that specificity may feel restrictive to some. (Cue Nathaniel’s discussion on gender roles).
So like I say, I don’t know if it is better to be vague or specific in setting out these goals for our youth. I think the best approach will vary from one youth to another, and we must rely on the parents and youth leaders to address each youth individually, as a child of God.
Note: For some reason, I could not find an online copy of this guidebook, even though the title automatically popped up in the search engine. The hard copy I quote here has a copyright of 2001.