I get it-you’re all sick of metaphorically hearing my whiny voice. So I’ve decided to start doing some research on others’ viewpoints on topics that interest me, and share their responses with you. I am fortunate enough to know many diverse people from various backgrounds, so finding content was a snitch.
My first guest author is a young woman whom I’ve come to know, respect, and love as we endured our teens and early adulthood together. Without further ado, I now present her take on the YW program. Take it away, Sam.
How was my experience in the Mormon Young Women’s program? Thanks for asking.
To a budding pre-pubescent, the prospect of joining older girls in Young Women’s at the age of 12 made the misery of sharing Primary class with the 7-11 year olds…bearable. Once you reached that fortuitous age of 12, a few of the Young Women would sit in the back of Primary class until “announcements”, wherein the Primary leader would announce that this was, indeed, your time for that coveted rite of passage. BOOYAH.
I remember heaving nervous breaths through my A-cup chest (I’m still an A-cup, so that’s the only thing that never changed through puberty. Damn it.) I finally got to sit in the same room as 15, 16, even 17 year olds! My sister was already in the program, and I was more than ready to join the big leagues.
At the beginning of every Young Women’s meeting, we would simultaneously recite the Young Women’s Theme.
“WE ARE DAUGHTERS of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. WE WILL “STAND as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Faith • Divine Nature • Individual Worth • Knowledge • Choice and Accountability • Good Works • Integrity • and Virtue
WE BELIEVE as we come to accept and act upon these values, WE WILL BE PREPARED to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.”
(Virtue hadn’t been tacked on the end of the values until I was 14, so that was a pretty exciting change-up).
Basically, the first two or three years are bliss. You’re surrounded by peers, taught by beautiful women of God, and conditioned to giggle, flirt, and regurgitate sexist language verbatim. But then…the boys start getting cuter. You start your period. You are exposed to a greater pool of friends in school.
And…you start to pay attention to the words you are reciting.
“Strengthen home and family? Sacred covenants? What sacred covenants? What even is ‘divine nature’”?
Then, you hear the boys recite their theme:
“The purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood: become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live its teachings. Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices. Givemeaningful service. Prepare and live worthy to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances. Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission. Obtain as much education as possible. Prepare to become a worthy husband and father. Give proper respect to women, girls, and children.”
It doesn’t take a genius to see the reinforcement of traditional gender roles here.
Women: be a shining beacon of virtue and divinity. Be the kind of woman who supports your man in the home!
Men: don’t be a dick to women. Take the role of leadership in the home (priesthood). Get an education.
I’m not opposed to gender roles, but the roles of each gender in the church should not be predetermined by a panel of older men (the General Authorities). They are between the two partners. Girls shouldn’t be taught at a young age that they are meant to be the family support. Men shouldn’t be taught that they are to be the provider of the home, regardless.
And that was my experience in Young Women’s. Constant reinforcement of gender roles. We would be decorating scripture bags while the boys would be playing basketball in the gym, or mowing people’s lawns. For summer camping, we would stay in a condo while the boys would embark on a 5 day high-adventure trip into the mountains.
What upset me is that most of the girls bought into it! When I would help put away tables, people would chastise me for doing “boys’ work”. The boys were always required to clean put away chairs while we had the first go at the dessert (which was awesome, but totally not fair to them). I always felt very isolated with my blunt, “masculine” personality. The things I was told…I couldn’t believe it. They told me it was okay to be educated, but I was ultimately to support my husband’s Priesthood authority. I was to raise the kids in the light of the Gospel and be an example of chastity and virtue.
My initial aversion to the church wasn’t even an aversion to the Gospel itself. It was an aversion to the attitude of the Young Women’s program, and the expectations to which I was held.
If any Young Women are reading this right now, I ask you this: are you completely satisfied with the role that is required of you in life by the Mormon Church?
Interested in becoming a guest author at DownWithTheNorm? Head on over to the Contact Me page and fill out the form with your article and a quick bio so the rest of us can absorb your wisdom and insight.