Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Disappointing Response to an Important Question

My father told me a couple weeks ago that he was invited to a meeting of bishops, branch presidents, and stake presidents that would be attended by Elders L. Tom Perry, Quentin L. Cook (both of the Quorum of the Twelve), and Craig C. Christensen (of the Presidency of the Seventy).  Part of the meeting was to be a questions answer session, and my father asked if I had any ideas on questions that would be good questions to ask.  I recommended he ask the following question.

Our Young Men program has the benefit of the scouting program that includes leadership training for youth and adults through basic leadership training, National Youth Leadership Training, Woodbadge, and other resources.  Our young women and young women leaders have no comparable program to teach them these kinds of skills.  What would you recommend we do to provide this kind of training to the young women and their adult leaders?
On Monday evening, when I spoke to my father again, I was very excited to hear that he had the opportunity to ask the question.   I was extremely disappointed by the response1.  The question was deferred to Elder Christensen--as dad described it, the Apostles didn't want to touch this question.  Perhaps also tainting the response, it seemed like the answer assumed that the question was seeking for a program like Girl Scouts to supplement the Personal Progress program.

The answer given was that the young women don't need any other programs because the young women will face very different challenges in life than the young men will.  Young women don't know if they will be married, have a career, be full time mothers, become single mothers, etc.  Therefore, the Church's goal is to "transform the women from the inside out" using the Personal Progress Program.  Also, because of the unique problems young women will face, they won't need programs like what we offer our young men.

My dad admitted to me that this didn't actually answer the question, but he didn't press the issue in the meeting.  We instantly agreed, however, that the statement that women won't know if they will be married or not, or if they will be come single mothers, career women, etc is more of a reason to teach them leadership skills, not less.

I'm also confused about why we aren't concerned about transforming the young men from the inside out.  (To be fair, I think we are.  But using that phraseology to delineate between the different needs of young men and young women troubles me).

What frightens me the most is that we are expecting women to organize and run the Young Women program, the Relief Society program, and the Primary program, but we have absolutely no program in place to teach them how to be effective and inspiring leaders.  Based on the answer given, I feel like the Church is assuming that if young women just have strong testimonies, then they'll naturally become great leaders.  If you want the more cynical interpretation, denying women leadership training makes them dependent on the men who have had training to effectively run their organizations (nevermind that our male leaders are terribly under-trained).

While I like the Personal Progress program--it is a great tool for the growth and development of young women, their leaders, and their parents--I believe it is, as a stand-alone program, inadequate to prepare young women for the challenges and opportunities they will face in their lives.  At the moment, I can't tell you if our family will use some other program to supplement Personal Progress, or if we will use Personal Progress to supplement some other program.  I can tell you that we will be involving another program.  I won't be expecting the Church to take an interest in developing leadership skills in my daughters or their leaders.

I am focusing on one response to one question in this post. The two-hour question and answer session was, per my dad's description, uplifting and informative (although I will say that some of the proceedings spoke to the dearth of leadership training in our local leaders). Overall, the meeting was a net positive. I discuss my feelings on this one question because it is one that is important to me, and one that I think needs a better answer.


  1. It may have been a combination of my leaders and the old personal progress program but I felt like I was constantly being groomed to be a responsible, and inspired leader. The original personal progress was difficult to achieve requiring lots of prayer and thought.
    As I was graduating the program it changed to what it is now. I believe it is an inspired program but it is simpler and requires less long term commitment from the girls. In the new program an ambitious 12 year old can finish the program vs in the old days you had to be at least 16. And once the girl finishes the program there is no new goal for the girls to work for. In the Boy Scout program once you reach eagle you are still encouraged to participate in High Adventure and earn the palms.
    Yes the girls can use more leadership training, who doesn't. But we need to have something in place to help keep the girls learning and growing.

    1. The current program does have continuing options for after the medallion is earned, but it's not really anything new, unfortunately. They have the opportunity to start over and earn it again, or they can earn an Honor Bee (as many as they want, actually), which is achieved by reading the Book of Mormon completely through again, and giving 40 hours of service, which should include mentoring other young women as they work toward their medallions.

      It's pretty ambiguous, and I think the assumption is that a young women who achieves her medallion at a young enough age to go on to earn an Honor Bee is naturally self-motivate enough to self-direct. I don't think that's a universal truth, though, unfortunately.

  2. "Young women don't know if they will be married, have a career, be full time mothers, become single mothers, etc."

    Sorry -- did I miss something? Do young men have the ability to see the future? Do they know that they will get married? Have careers? Etc.?

    This is a complete non-answer, and a disappointing one. I understand that the Church views men's and women's roles as very distinct and different, and that's okay. But it shouldn't mean that young women deserve less than young men do. This actually sounds like a precursor to the ridiculous idea that men need the Priesthood to be as spiritual as women naturally are. Happy Fathers Day, suckers!

  3. I found the Young Womens program a complete disappointment growing up and, perhaps out of rebelliousness, I never achieved any thing. Activity nights were uninteresting, camp was safe and unadventurous. I wanted to do what the Scouts were doing; week-long camping trips, hiking, climbing, shooting...! Oh, how I longed for a mentor that would encourage love exercise and help me develop survival and leadership skills. That would give me something more to look forward to than...I'm not even sure how to say it. But with all my interest in things that ultimately lead me to want a career in the military, I grew up feeling entirely out of place among my peers and wondering if my personality could possibly have any place with my Heavenly Father.

    1. a love of exercise^

    2. I'm really sorry to hear that. I participated in Girl Scouts all through school, so I feel I had a relatively good balance, between scouts and Girls Camp.

      I was talking with a young man in my ward on Sunday, while out with my unruly toddler. He mentioned something about going shooting, and I told him I'd never fired (or even handled, for that matter) a gun of any kind. He was shocked! He asked me, incredulously, "you don't do shooting at Girls Camp??" Come to think of it, I can't even remember doing archery at Girls Camp. Girl Scouts yes, but not church-related.

      I don't know you (well, maybe I do...but I don't know if I know you, since you're anonymous :) ), but I feel confident in saying that there's no such thing as a personality that doesn't have a place with Heavenly Father.