I know this may be tempting the fates, but I have never yet served in the Young Women’s program. When I joined the church in college in Massachusetts, I joined a university ward that only had adult programs. I had all manner of wonderful role models – male and especially female. I had mentors of great wisdom, devotion, intelligence and commitment. Rather than saying I stand on the shoulders of giants, I like to think I was nurtured in the laps of sages.
There’s a gap for me, though. What is it like to grow up in the Young Women’s program? Would I view things differently if I had? What did I miss?
I was a devoted Christian of the Protestant stripe when I became a Mormon. I had been president of the youth group of my congregation. I wasn’t searching for anything new or better. Boys and girls were taught the same thing in the same classes, and those were all good things: how do we become better disciples? What does it mean to forgive and repent and love? What do the scriptures say and mean?
I’m also the youngest of three Midwestern daughters of an accomplished mom and a busy dad. I never knew any boy scouts well. I had friends who were boys and occasionally I had boyfriends, but gender differences weren’t a significant part of my life. I went to a women’s college – Wellesley College, one of the few that still exist – and it didn’t seem strange to me to be surrounded by and compete with competent, sometimes outspoken women. Even in coed classes I was never shy about voicing my opinions or taking the subject matter seriously. That’s just what people did.
These many years later I am bemused by how roles for men and women get parsed or pedestalled in LDS circles. I am surprised to still find myself one of the only female voices piping up in Sunday School class. Is that just because of where I live? While I was delighted to marry my husband, I had already decided that if I were going to live my life single, it would also be full of purpose and joy. When my husband and I married we were still in a singles’ ward which was also where most of our friends were. We chose to stay in the singles ward with them. Why would so many people assume we would want to change to a married ward?
If you went through the Young Women’s program – or have served in it – what are the fundamental messages you received or teach? What were some of your most foundational experiences shaping you as a young woman growing up in the church? (Good or bad, shared in a spirit of good will, of course.) If you, like I, never attended Young Women’s, what’s your take and perspective on the topic?