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Bridging the Gap

By Marintha Miles

My daughter fidgeted with patches and pins, belt loops and neckerchief slides on visits to the Gold Dust Scout store. She wanted some.  “Why do they get some and I don’t?”

“It’s for Boys. You can join Girl Scouts. They have patches for girls.” I sighed.

Last spring we bought Thin Mints at the corner drugstore, and then joined the troop. She sings songs and completes goals every-other Thursday. She earns petals to sew around the flower on her blue vest, already adorned by a flag and troop numbers. At Christmas we ran and ducked after we placed candy cane reindeers, charm bracelets and lotion from the dollar store on the porch of her troop secret-sister. She sensed girlhood camaraderie, a new sisterhood she hasn’t felt before.

One night a month we pile in the car and join other families in the ward house gym for Cub Scout pack meeting. She asks me if she can sit with the Cub Scouts. I let her. She asks if she can do the flag ceremony. She can’t. “Why?” I change the subject. I remind her of Girl Scouts. We clap and cheer as each boy walks to the front to have his accomplishments praised, and tack fancy pins on mothers as cameras flash.

Each November boys pile into the car with other boys, shirts pressed and kerchiefs on and go from house to house, filling up brown paper bags with food for the poor.  She wants to go with them. She could ride in the car if I was driving, but often I’m not. Weeks ago she left notes in pockets and under pillows, made beds and tucked shoes away in closets. She loves to serve. She asks if she can go with the boys to gather food when she is older, a logical question to which so many times the answer is yes.  “No,” I say. She’s not used to being set apart from her brothers.

“Why not?” she asks.  I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s because she’s a girl. She is heartbroken, rejected by her own.

I grew up with seven sisters, a house full of estrogen. It wasn’t a surprise when my youngest brother wrote home from his mission and singled out his sisters as the biggest influence on his testimony and his desire to serve a mission. Five of us had served full-time missions before him. We felt like we had a place in the world, and in the Church. I never held notion that I was diminished, but I was keenly aware that men and women were different. As I turned twelve and entered the Church’s Young Women program, I saw new dividing lines that I hadn’t previously been aware of. As the only girl with three brothers, my daughter is aware of those dividing lines now, and they are painful for her.

Within the Church there is often an unnecessary dividing line between sisters, between those whose lives have been filled with good experiences within the Church, and those whose hearts have often times been injured within the Church as an institution. Often accusations  are made amongst sisters of the gospel, one accusing the other of lack of understanding of the gospel or lack of faith; another accusing her sisters of being blind sheep, lying in a field of oppression. Sometimes the only feelings are feelings of ambivalence and apathy toward one another. Recently the Mormon portal at Patheos.com has begun a brave new endeavor to close that gap in our sisterhood. I invite you to listen a series of roundtable discussions from sisters who have different experiences, and thus different viewpoints.

Surely the foundations of our faith are stronger than what divides us. It is the hope of all the participants in this ongoing series that sisters will understand that no matter how different our experiences, each is authentic; and our own experience profoundly affects our interpretation of our faith, and the way we live the gospel.

On the first day of first grade I took my daughter by the hand to lead her home. “Do you like your teacher?” I asked.  “I want shoes like Kristie’s. She had them and so did Vanessa. They’re called Twinkle Toes. Can I get some?”

“Sure, sometime you can.” I answered uncommitted.

She likes to brush her own hair, confident in her ability to make herself look nice. She lays out her clothes, mostly of pink and purple hues, and puts on gold shoes that shed glitter as she walks. I help her change her earrings to the rainbows studs she picked out for her birthday. My daughter just turned seven. I make sure plenty of Family Home Evening lessons will secure the story of Joseph Smith’s first vision, baptism, and the Holy Ghost into her young heart in mind.

In one year she will join the body of Saints in a new way. As she navigates the perils of girlhood to womanhood, I hope she continues to like herself, confident in her abilities and to be kind to others. I hope she finds a testimony of Jesus Christ within herself, and I hope she finds a place within His Church, bound to sisters who understand her experience is one partly of pain, even if theirs is different.

About Marintha Miles


37 thoughts on “Bridging the Gap”

  1. Very thought-provoking post. I'd like to respond in more depth when I have more time to think coherently.

    But I had to comment now because I also have 7 seven sisters. And I have four boys and one girl. It's certainly an interesting position, isn't it!

  2. Thanks for that insight. If nothing is, it's helped me to be more aware of the possible feelings of women in the church.

    Now, I have ZERO right to claim any sort of authority in the issue, and I accept that. However, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps the avoidance of actually dealing with the difference will make the discovery later on more difficult.

    I'm not a dad, I'm not married, and I'm generally an ignoramus, but I'd try and explain that the duties and responsibilities of men and women are sometimes different, but that there's absolutely no more value in what the boys get to do, than in what she gets to do. In our culture, some people may put more value in scouting and priesthood, but that's not what the gospel teaches. I'd try and convey that in a way where we could both discover, together, what some of the things peculiar to being a woman are, and make plans to magnify those in importance, just as we do the general male roles.

    Am I going to be a horrible parent?

  3. Gdub,
    Thanks for your comment. It's not a matter of duties for a seven-year-old. It's a matter of time and recognition. There is not a good answer that will make the obvious inequalities in that area feel better. And except for Church structure, there isn't a good reason for it.

  4. that's a profound point about time and recognition. That's definitely something each of us need to work on. We still have huge inequality in real recognition of women; especially young women and girls.

  5. I use to plead with my mom about doing scouts with my brother. I think I drive her crazy! Now I am the mother to only boys…4 of them. Guess what I get to do with them? SCOUTS! I am in HEAVEN!

  6. My daughter has asked me a couple times if God loves her less than he does boys because of these types of things. I try to reassure her that isn't the case but some times my words seem hollow. Lately, she asked me this when she found out that boys go on missions at 19 and girls not until 21.

    I am not sure how to help her with it becuase sometimes I have worried the same thing. And that is a horrible feeling. I try to think back to times when I have intensely felt God's love for me as an individual and I desperately cling to those but the self doubt makes it hard sometimes.

  7. I still feel bitter about all the European scouts who show up at the American National Scout Jamboree every four years . . . they have mixed-gender troops. No fair! I was the girl who wanted in on all of my dad's scout stuff. Luckily, I got to tag along now and then, but oh, the woes of never being able to attend the Scout activity of all Scout activities, the Jamboree . . . maybe some day I will go as a European Scout leader. Then I will laugh and get in on every activity I ever missed out on.

  8. Michelle Glauser,
    Did it ever affect how you felt about the Church, or your place as a girl and then woman in the Church? Did you ever wonder, as Heathermommy mentioned, that God loved girls less?

  9. I know I'm probably going to write something that may bug some people, but why in the world is Scouting part of the church? I know this post isn't about this, but I think that program is part of the reason things look unfair. The boys get a lot more money to spend, because of the scouting program, and girls feel left out. Sure, put your daughter in
    Girl Scouts. But it's not even close to the same, when your son is getting the scouting program through the YM program.

  10. anon,
    Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your perspective. You're right, it isn't even close to the same thing when my daughter's religious community is putting so much more into the boys. She sees this already. Girl Scouts has been good for her, but she still asks why she can't participate every time there is a Scouting function at the Church. It is really difficult for me as a mother to watch and be a party to. I don't have any good answers for her. It will be nice when she has Activity Days, but the disparities between that and Cub Scouting are not small.

  11. I have an 11 years old daughter, a 7 and a 13 years old son. My daughter loves dance and cheer, and she also loves Tae-kwon-do. Her big brother is a black belt and she will get her black belt in about a year (she started later since she is younger than him). Last summer, when her brother washed our neighbours' cars to make some cash, she washed cars side by side with him and they split the money up equally. Also last summer she went for the first time on all the big slides at the water-park (even I don't go on all of them because I'm scared). She loves her achievement days activities, and together with her friends from the ward, they often make cookies for elderly members of our ward, or rake leaves for them. At our house, we celebrate the things girls can do, and there are many things that girls can do! I don't like to dwell on things we cannot do, because I believe that girls and women are so important in the Lord's work, and that there are many things women can do that cannot be replaced by men. I guess I am lucky because my daughter never said that she wants to do all the things her brother does, in fact she says that she likes being a girl, and that boys cannot do all the things girls can. For example, boys can't paint their nails (my daughter loves to paint her nails). Talking from adult standpoint, I am very sad to hear that some girls think that God loves girls less, that is a concern that should not be dismissed. Girls should be made to feel loved and special maybe even more so than boys because they are more emotional than boys and need that affection expressed more openly and more frequently.
    Sorry for the long comment, I am a convert to the Church and I think that the gospel is perfect, and that each of us have a special role in our Heavenly Father's plan. Thank you for bringing up this subject.

  12. I don't want to get too far off topic here, but I want to point out that the Scouting program can also leave some boys feeling left out. I have a 14 year old boy who hates Scouts. He hasn't liked it since he was 8 years old. It is very difficult, practically impossible, to get him to go to any week night YM activities because all they are focusing on is passing off badges. The other boys don't really relate to him because he doesn't do any of the scouting activities. This disconnect between him and the other boys has also carried over to Sunday meetings and, at times, has caused some friction between my son and the other boys as the other boys make comments about my son not being active or really "Mormon."

    For me, it was so much easier to get my daughter to go to activities because they were so varied and were not 100% focused on passing off merit badges (and she never cared too much about what the boys were doing).

  13. Very interesting post. I have four boys (no girls) and would love it if I didn't have to do the Cub Scouting program. I'm doing a rather sad job of it frankly. I think the Cub Scouting program embraces many good values, but I just wish it didn't require so much parental involvement. And, before anyone throws stones at me for not wanting to be more involved in my son's life, I spend a good deal of time with my sons reading to them from both the scriptures and good books. I play board games with them and spend a fair bit of time hanging out with them in the kitchen. I just don't like having the specifics of what I do with them prescribed for me….as it is with the Cub Scouting program. And, during the past 5 years or so that I've had at least one son in the program, there has been a huge disparity in leaders and how much they accomplish with the boys so the burden on us has really varied. I am taking a really long time to say that I wish, wish, wish that the Church would come out with a program for the boys similar to the girls' Activity Days….something much less time demanding and less involved. I am not one who fancies awards and badges for recognition.

    I realize that you are more concerned with the larger issue of how women are treated and valued in the church rather than just the issue of Cub Scouts versus Activity Days. To be completely honest, I think a lot has changed during the last decade or so as far as how boys/men are valued in our society. Some of it is good as girls/women are excelling and getting more opportunities in the workforce and in school. BUT, I think boys/men are far more likely to be treated with contempt. I really think the role of men is becoming more and more unclear. If you look at stats, there are far more women than men enrolled in graduate programs now. Boys' reading scores have continued to decline. I do not think that the world is the same place for the two genders that it was even 20 years ago. I cannot believe the reactions I have gotten from people when I go anywhere with my four boys. Most often if someone says anything, it is a statement of pity or horror. Almost any friends I have spoken to over the last 10 years about which gender they'd prefer when they are pregnant, they almost always answer "girl". People want girls overall. They don't want boys. From my experience, I would say that young men are far more likely in our day to feel discouraged and deflated about their gender and their futures than the young women. Even in the church. More and more girls and young women are pursuing degrees and their interests. I realize that my experiences and opinions could be vastly different than others'. I just wanted to throw these thoughts out there.

  14. I wonder if we (as a Church)are simply experiencing the first ripples of the super-super-fast tides of cultural change and it's the traditional church programs (as well intentioned as they are)that are caught in the swirl? In many ways, the church is very slow moving. Sometimes I'm very grateful for this and sometimes I'm a little annoyed. When I was YW President I found the YW manuals very difficult to teach from since they seem to speak to a culture of girls that is far removed from today's culture of girls, so I found contemporary conference talks on the same topic and taught from them.

    I think the Mutual program sort of struggles in this area to, but I think the church's sharp and wise YW leaders can bridge this gap well. In our ward we had classes where the girls learned to change a car tire, jump a battery with cables, and build a fire (in the parking lot). But the girls still voiced their disappointment that they didn't get all the ceremony and attention for their achievements as the YM did with Scouts. They wanted to go on camping trips and build ice caves and shoot BB guns but instead they got the Virtue value to study. If I were still YW President I would find some clever ways to teach virtue while digging an ice cave….there are some great parallels to be drawn there….hahahaha

  15. Thanks for your comments and your perspectives. I can only speak for my daughter, but it has nothing to do with wanting to do "boy things". It has to do with being pushed to the sides and not being allowed to fully participate.

  16. I'm a Cub Scout leader and I have to admit I'm having fun with it. My dad was a scoutmaster and I was envious of the boys growing up. My brother hated Scouts and everything outdoorsy, go figure. My daughter is jealous of my son. She asks about girl scouts, but I can't afford it. If the church didn't pay for the boy scout program, we wouldn't be doing that either. I don't like that the activity day girls don't get as much of the ward budget as the cubs, but on the other hand there are a few of my cub scouts whose families are led by single moms and if it weren't for the church paying for scouts, their boys wouldn't have anything productive to do as an extra curricular activity. I have struggled with conflicting thoughts: "If the church pays for all this stuff in this country, why not in other countries? Why does the church spend so much money on this scouting stuff when we could do the same kind of activity day stuff with both boys and girls and do it for cheaper? Why can't the YW join the YM in co-ed Venturer Scouts like other non-LDS troops?" But then I do think in a world where families get torn apart by divorce so frequently, where else can some of these boys get some decent role models? Some boys are motivated by the badges and arrow points because its the only recognition they get.

    Sorry I'm rambling. The only thing that calms me about the whole situation is the thought that for all the imperfections in ourselves and in our church as an institution, that somehow, someway, in the eternities, all the inequities will be ironed out. Not much of a comfort to my daughter right now, but then there's a lot to this life that just isn't comfortable.

  17. Mormonhermitmom, I'm by no means an expert, but I remember when I looked into girl scouts it explicitly said that they didn't want anyone to not participate because they couldn't afford it. Just something to maybe look into.

  18. Girl Scouts here is $12 a year.

    I know this post pivoted someways around scouting, however, I am wondering, if you have daughters, have they expressed feeling left out? What do you say, how do you handle it? Growing up, did you feel this way?

  19. Growing up, I remember feeling very jealous of my five brothers and their scouting activities (not that all of them participated with enthusiasm – or for very long).

    My dad, who was also my bishop, told me that the focus needed to be on the quality of the Young Men program, and the Young Women would follow behind.

    REALLY hated that answer.

    It was not until I served as the Relief Society president in my student ward and felt the enormous love that Heavenly Father has for his daughters, that I truly understood my place in His plan.

    As for raising my own children, I am doing a happy dance that they're all girls. 🙂

  20. I think it's natural for children to want to do what looks fun. But they don't always get to do what looks fun. Whether it's joining Scouts, going on an expensive class trip, or being on the elite soccer team instead of the crummy neighborhood one.

    I don't really think it necessarily is an issue of gender equality in this case. If she doesn't actually care about doing boy things than maybe it's just being left out that is making her sad. Coming to terms with not being included is painful but it's something everyone has to deal with eventually. I would think that your daughter's age has more to do with her being left out than the fact that she's a girl.

    I'm Activity Day leader and we have a super program. Our budget is much bigger than the Cub Scouts and I think we do way more interesting things. It continues on to YW. My son who is in Scouts is always moaning and groaning about how the girls get to do the fun activities. Even Girl's camp is completely amazing compared to the pitiful camp the boys have to suffer through.

  21. I agree with Jennie. Our YW and Activity Days are substantially better organized and executed than any of the program for the boys. We celebrate achievements in personal progress with awards ceremonies 3x a year (New Beginnings, YW in Excellence, plus one our ward does in June). It's not as often as scouts, but our events are much (much) nicer and better attended. Plus, have you seen the stuff the YW get lately? It's not patches (those patches really are lovely) but they get bookmarks and stickers and necklaces. Too much stuff, in my opinion, for both the young women and young men.

    All that said. I grew up feeling that "less than" very keenly. I think the best thing we can do is train our boys to be men who are sensitive to this and train our girls to be strong enough to make the system work for them.

  22. To mom o'boys: AMEN! I have six sons, 3 daughters and I have LONG wondered how come the cubs HAVE to meet twice as much as the activity/achievement days girls. My feeling on this is that for children this age every other week is PERFECT, whether you are boy or a girl! The cubs and their poor parents are run practically ragged sometimes with as much as the cub scout program requires. As for the older scout age boys getting to do more and better–I think a lot of it depends on the leaders and the different activities that get chosen. We've had years in our ward in which the young men's program stank–and I lay the blame squarely on the leaders. The past four or five years however it has been wonderful and I credit the current leadership for that change. I would guess the same goes for the young women's program (my girls are just getting to that age so I haven't got as much experience with YW's as I do with YM's.) I just finished a stint of teaching beehives though and I have to agree about those lesson manuals that someone mentioned up above–they are the worst ones that I've ever had to teach out of. Thank goodness the powers that be are making new ones.

  23. Jennie and Red,
    You may be right. Right now she is happy in GS, but does notice that the boys have scouts every night, and she has it every other week. It's the same with AD isn't it? I expect she'll enjoy AD.
    I do think it's different than wanting to be on certain teams and in certain clubs, because there is a division with her own family members, not just the rest of the neighborhood.

    The thing I see (and she sees in some ways and can't articulate) is that in all honestly, more money and time is spent on the boys. This didn't bother me growing up, I was unaware because I had so many sisters. I also lived in a ward where they did a really great job making sure the YM/YW shared a lot of the same big activities, like boating and river rafting.She may be so lucky.

  24. THis is hard because everyone has such different experiences and even children in the same family might experience things differently. My father is not an active church member, so my experience growing up was with a mother who was heavily involved in Church activity. She was the Relief Society president more than once and she was the Young Women's president when I was in there. I generally felt like women were important and valued in the church because that's what I saw in my home. I also grew up in wards that had primarily military members, so there was definitely a slant towards the women's programs being well-staffed while the priesthood quoroums struggled with retention and activity because many men were deployed. I was actually glad that I got to serve a mission after getting a few years of college under my belt. I also served in a mission that was, frankly, struggling with disobedience. It's hard to feel like the elders are superior when they are the ones passing around naked pictures of themselves at district meeting.

    But, those are my experiences and others might have different ones. I do have one older brother and while I was sometimes jealous of his activity in scouts, I didn't usually feel left out because I was doing other stuff. When I was 9 my mom signed me up for 4-H and I learned how to sew; 4-H was a great program and I even took stuff to the county and state fairs. Our young women leaders had a pretty comprehensive program with good activities, and we lived in an area where there wasn't very much camping going for either girls or boys, so I don't remember perceiving much difference between girls and boys. As I think about it, I think we also did a lot of the 'bigger stuff' as joint activities because we had small youth groups.

    That said, I am sometimes troubled by some of the same issues people have raised about Scouts and Activity Days/Young Women's. As much as I would love to teach my kids that patches and ceremonies don't matter, the truth is that for kids they do. I know Activity Days is trying to cut back on the external rewards, but it means nothing when the boys are still getting so much more time and rewards.

    My daughter is seven-and-a-half and she hasn't expressed any perceptions of inequality. She is the oldest, however, so I think that makes a difference. Her only brother is 4, so he is the one feeling left out because she gets to do the cool stuff like playing soccer and going to school. I have no idea if this will be a problem for her in the future or not. We'll see.

  25. Heather (12)- you are not alone! I have a 16 year old son who rarely wants to attend weeknight meetings because the leaders focus primarily on scouting- however, in our ward, all of the priests either already have their Eagle, or are not interested, so as near as I can tell, all of their needs are being ignored, but hey.
    To the topic of the OP, yes when I was 14 I was mad that I couldn't be a boy scout. I've gotta be honest, though, I think I just mostly wanted to be with the boys. Less drama. And they were cute. Never felt "less than", particularly. I think leaders can have a huge effect here. Good leaders=Good program, imo, because a good leader looks at the needs of the youth and tries to meet them.

  26. FoxyJ,
    I also had a good experience as a missionary. I've never felt more equal in church service than as a missionary. I was surrounded by really great Elders and Sisters (a bit different than your mission), and knew we were all there to do the same thing.

  27. I agree there is a gap that could be bridged. I have 2 boys and 2 girls and think that the activity days program would be better for the boys then Cub Scouts. I have been a Primary Pres., a Councelor over Scouts and a Scout leader and still don't think the Cub Scout program relates to the primary program. However I also think there should be an intermediate program for 10 through 14 years olds in the church, who seem to be lost in primary and the youth programs.

  28. I'm with Jennie on this one. With the exception of my college experience, I've lived my entire life in "the mission field" and can say that the YW progam 8 times out of 10 is better organized and run than the YM/Scouts. As the only girl with 4 brothers, I never wanted to be a boy scout, because I did lots of cool things in YW. Plus, the wards I grew up in seemed to do a lot of fun co-ed activities (like the afore-mentioned river rafting), which tend to alleviate any organizational-envy. The YW in our current ward have much more elaborate camp fundraisers (and thus, raise more money) than the boys. I think it all depends on the leaders and their personal commitment and creativity. I know my daughter was disappointed in AD's at one point because of an uninvolved leader – but she loved her other AD leader (who planned lots of fun activities), and therefore, she loved AD. And the suggestion that cub scouts be only twice a month? Can I just add a witness and an amen! When my younger son moved into YM I cried great tears of relief and joy! No more cub scouts!

  29. I hope she finds a place within His Church, bound to sisters who understand her experience is one partly of pain, even if theirs is different.

    I feel like no one is addressing the second half of your post, which is about women talking to women about their experiences, so I thought I'd chime in. I have been thinking about this a lot, all the more so since listening to the round table discussion you mentioned.

    I think having compassion for each other and our individual perspectives and experiences — and yes, even pain where it exists — is so very important. But there is something about this dialogue that I doesn't settle with me. see as problematic. Once it goes from personal feeling to criticism of the Church or activism to try to change it, I think it becomes really difficult to communicate.

    I think if we are to sort through all of this, we have to be able to come together on common ground of our doctrine and our desire to serve together, rather than argue about whether or not the Church should change. The opinions there are so different that I think they become a serious barrier to sisterhood. There is much of common ground we can build on to help bridge the gap when it may exist.

  30. michelle, Thanks for your thoughts.

    "Once it goes from personal feeling to criticism of the Church or activism to try to change it, I think it becomes really difficult to communicate."

    I think often times people interpret a person relaying an experience as criticism. I, for one, didn't hear any criticism or activism in the Roundtable. I think it is only difficult to communicate if we start accusing each other of these things.

  31. I joined the Church when I was 16. I'd been a martial arts instructor since I was 12, and I struggled a lot more to be treated as an equal because of my age, not because I was a woman. I've experienced them both enough to know the difference.

    When I came into the Church, I didn't see inequality between men and women. I still don't. That isn't what the Church teaches, and people who believe this are misinformed.

    What I saw in YW was that local and stake leaders did the best they could with their perceptions of what girls and boys are supposed to be. Young ladies get quilting projects, cooking assignments, and the home economics parade. Young boys get to do scout camp, where they learned to do archery and shoot guns, and do the manual labor side of things. I've seen girls stand around and wait to be catered to by the young men because this is what they're taught to do. They have good ideas about how to make things more engaging, how to make a YW program they actually want to be a part of, but because they have almost no say in the planning or running of their own organization, those ideas go unheard, and dated expectations continue, and get passed down again and again.

    That isn't something that is mandated in the Church. That isn't a pattern of the priesthood. Read Moses 5:1. Eve worked with Adam–WORKED with him. She got her hands dirty, she pulled her weight, and didn't ask to stand on the sidelines because she might get dirty planting crops and carrying firewood.

    The only reason that girls camp isn't like scout camp, the only reason that girls are treated differently than boys in the Church, is because the women in charge of YW don't make the effort to let the girls experience "boyish" things. If you take them camping, actually let them light their own fires for crying out loud (sorry, bad girls camp experience), and treat them no differently than you treat the boys, they won't have those expectations of themselves to be something they aren't. Then maybe the girls I meet could actually take themselves seriously because they know how strong they are.

    This problem is because of a lack of willingness and imagination–not the Church's organization or its teachings. If I could tell the difference at 16 years old as a totally new convert, I don't see how others could miss it. But at this point, it doesn't matter who started it. What matters is how we–each of us, every day–choose to end it. Because of my experience in YW, my girls will get the best of both worlds–dresses when it's time to be feminine, and the permission from me to get dirty and beat-up when it's not.

    I guess I just don't see why it has to be an either-or choice–and I'm not going teach it to my daughters and call it doctrine, because I know it never was and never will be.

    There's nothing more liberating to a young woman than to realize that she doesn't need permission to be strong, or to contribute–that the only thing stopping her is herself. When her experience finally matches up with what Heavenly Father has been trying very hard to tell us all for thousands of years now, it's much easier for her to feel His love and to feel her value as a woman.

  32. I was speaking generally, not only to the roundtable. And generally speaking, it's my observation that there is quite a bit of both criticism and activism going on related to women's issues. My experience is that when it gets to that point, it's a lot harder to have dialogue and it becomes more divisive. I'm not sure that that will change, but it is a thought I have had on many occasions and it is something that leaves me feeling sad.

  33. FWIW, here's something I try to do to reach across that divide.

    In classes on Sunday, I always remind myself that there might be someone in my midst who is struggling. When some of the topics come up that I have seen some women struggle with, I'll often raise my hand to acknowledge such concerns and offer thoughts or encouragement in that struggle. I think when we don't assume that everyone is in the same place as we are in their journey of faith, it can help. At least I hope it can.

  34. Paradox,

    In principle, I agree with you that inequality isn't what the church teaches, but one day I'd love to see the church put its money where its mouth is. I have been horrified to see how much money goes to the boys programs (scouts) in comparison with money for the girls. In our Primary we spend 15 times more per boy than we do per girl. This does not sit well with me. Activity Days and the Young Women's program are not of equal scope. I do believe that scouting is a good program for the boys but am appalled that there is not something of equal magnitude for the girls. This has bothered me for years and years and I have yet to hear an explanation why that I can stomach.

    I have felt inequality in the church – mostly as a Young Woman but also as an adult. Some doctrines I take with a grain of salt because I don't see them as accurate in defining a woman's role. I have to take what works for me and put the rest on the back burner.

    Sorry that I've focused on something a bit different than was asked for but the issue of boy activities and girl activities in the church is a sore spot. I was digging latrines up at Old Folk's Flat for my camp while my brother was going to Lake Powell and to Canada. Absurd!

  35. Paradox,

    I loved your comment and the thoughts you presented and agree that women need a chance to learn that they can be strong.

    As a former YW's president, I struggled with a couple of the issues you mentioned. The program is designed to elicit ideas and leadership from the YW. Class presidencies are supposed to plan and carry out activities. The conflict, as a leader who reads manuals and wants to follow the program, comes when the girls won't. When they are unwilling to have presidency meetings, when they have little parental support in staying after church for those meetings or coming during the week, when they want to plan a joint activity with them providing activities for Primary kids and not a single one shows up to perform their responsibilities until 15-20 minutes after the activity begins, it is difficult as a leader to persist.

    Hiking activities? We left a paved trail and ventured into the woods. Tame woods, in a forest preserve in Chicago. The girls started shrieking and ducking away from the trees, terrified of spiders. We planned another hike–this one to slightly more authentic wilderness (it doesn't abound in IL), jointly with the YM. Not one of our regular girls attended. We had one 14 year old non member, brought by one of the YM, and one 11 year old who was daughter to a YM leader.

    Sometimes the program gets shaped by the personalities of the preceding YW and what they were willing to do. I went in with a lot of hope but things failed a lot. I was even willing to deal with some failure, reasoning that failure is a great teaching tool. But I came to realize, that for our YW and their parents (though not all), church activities were less important than school activities. It was sad. I told them they had power to make the program what they wanted. They could choose how to spend funds, etc. A good chunk of their funds went to pay for tickets to a cheap concert of the Chicago Symphony. I bought tickets after having secured commitments to attend from the interested YW. None of them came. One of them thought far enough ahead to secure a replacement to take her ticket.

    I loved the YW and they had strengths not reflected in this story. One was responsible for her family's activity in the church. Another was a wonderful example who would have tried to carry all the others on her responsible shoulders, but that wasn't healthy either. They didn't gossip or backbite. Our ward was very large geographically and traveling to and from church took a larger commitment. We did have a fair number of successes.

    I suppose my question for you to answer, if you can, is what you think leaders should do when the majority of the YW don't want to lead or seemingly want to learn to be strong–at least in the context of church activities.

  36. When I was YW president, we insisted that the girls plan their own activities. We trained and encouraged them regularly and got the parents on board. We had a good group of YW, and it worked. (I know that some personalities are harder to train as leaders than others, but it's worth the extra effort.)

    I have always felt that the YW personal progress program is superior in every way to the Scouting program. When our girls graduated as seniors, we gave them a big luncheon called "Laurels of Honor" and paid tribute to their accomplishments. It was every bit as meaningful and memorable as an Eagle Court of Honor, and the parents all attended.

    A lot can be accomplished by getting creative as leaders, seeing where the disparities are in our particular wards, and then addressing them.



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