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promote greater understanding

By Michelle Lehnardt

We suffered a maelstrom last week. Many of you witnessed the chaos. And this time around I think both definitions apply:

mael·strom

noun mal-strem, -sträm

: a situation in which there are a lot of confused activities, emotions, etc.

: a very powerful whirlpool; a large, swirling body of water. A free vortex with  considerable downdraft.

I’m sure many of you felt the confusion and the downdraft last week as we sought to make sense of Kate Kelly’s excommunication. After taking a few days to let emotions settle, we want to strengthen and rebuild our relationships with each other.

We know some readers have vowed to remove Segullah from their reading list. And we want to apologize and explain and possibly, hopefully, promote greater understanding among Segullah readers, LDS women and our beloved friends of other faiths.

I believe we have an incredible opportunity to increase love, understanding and communication among women. I also believe we can strengthen each others’ faith and promote positive changes in our own families and congregations.

First, a little more transparency. For years, Segullah has been known as a haven for faithful and intelligent LDS women. Our mission statement reads:

The mission of Segullah is to encourage literary and artistic talent, provoke thought and promote greater understanding and faith among Latter-day Saint women. We encourage insightful writings which explore life’s richness and complexity while reflecting faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our aim is to highlight a variety of women’s perspectives within a framework of shared beliefs and values.

We’ve discussed many difficult topics and you have certainly strengthened my faith.  I’ve appreciated the opportunity to discuss sensitive subjects and learn different viewpoints.

Our staff and our readers represent a wide range “within a framework of shared beliefs and values.” Segullah has been a unique place where women strive to understand each other rather than divide into factions.

I think you’ve given me a 3D view of the gospel—I used to look at the gospel like a flat surface and now it’s more like a prism. I can turn it in all directions and admire the way different people see the light.

Wait— I just made myself sound incredibly serene and tolerant. I’m not. But it felt lovely to pretend for a moment. Just last week offended one of my friends in the grand maelstrom. I’ve said more than my fair share of foolish words. But I do want to improve.

We are not a church who believes in a limited number of spots in heaven. We believe God wants every one of His children to return home. We don’t need to keep a scoresheet of our virtues and point out the faults of everyone else. Rather, our primary task on this earth is loving our neighbor, gathering everyone in, helping all of God’s children to feel his love.

Because we abide by so many rules (and I love rules, how I love rules!), we sometimes measure our progress by checking the box, by congratulating ourselves, “I don’t struggle with that.”

But I know, I know, God doesn’t want us to bury our questions and especially not our questioners. Together we can often make sense of hard doctrines or simply offer support. A few years ago, I wrote a post called, “When Faith Makes it Harder” while navigating a crisis. my post isn’t much, but the comments! The comments. I’ve rarely received so much love, grace and understanding. The words of many wise women offered me a not just a lifeline when I was slipping under, but hands pulling me into the boat.

We want Segullah to offer that kind of support to every reader.

But sometimes we’re going to disagree.

Conflict is natural and not always negative. There’s room for constructive conflict among sisters in the gospel. Just because I disagree with my husband doesn’t mean our marriage is over. And on some topics—my darling hubby and I will never agree, but we still love each other.

When making bread, we can’t simply place ingredients in a bowl and hope they form dough. A certain amount of mixing and kneading is required to form a loaf. Likewise, our sisterhood can benefit from a bit of mixing and kneading. Asking questions aids in developing faith.

At Segullah, we do want to remain in shared framework. We can ask questions and discuss concerns without recruiting others to agree. We want to avoid labels and increase understanding. We’re navigating rough waters, but I believe we can discuss difficult issues while remaining respectful of each other and our varied opinions.

I also believe we can create positive change in the church. Our Editor-in-Chief, Shelah Miner, was recently invited to meet with the church PR department. My friend Rachel Herrscher attended a separate gathering where church leaders asked for input on how the church can make women feel more valued and loved in their congregations. Both were told (and I’m paraphrasing), “We read your blogs, we listen to your opinions. We are happy to take suggestions where they might be applicable.”

We CAN speak up and be heard. And if we discuss matters with kindness and civility we will be heard.

Here’s my idea for improvement in the church (and I hope you’ll contribute some of yours in the comments): When a bishopric is released they are given some sort of notice or timeline when change is coming. I think it would be respectful to offer that courtesy to women in the Primary, Young Women and Relief Society presidencies. I’ve seen women plan six months of Young Women activities only to be released the following week and have all their plans discarded much to the distress of the leaders and the girls. I believe we could facilitate easier and less emotional transitions and I believe prior notice conveys respect for womens’ time and efforts.

What are your ideas?

Can we build greater trust and faith? Can we make this a safe haven? Can we be gentle with each other in our thoughts and comments? Can we help each other, support each other through rocky terrain and perilous waters on our way back to God?

 

 

 

 

About Michelle Lehnardt

(Blog Team) I'm the kind of mom who drives through mud puddles, throws pumpkins off the roof and lets the kids move the ping-pong table into the kitchen for the summer. Despite (or probably, because of) my immaturity, my five sons and one daughter are happy, thriving, funny people. I'll climb a mountain with you, jump into a freezing lake hand-in-hand or just sit with you while you cry. I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will heal the earth. Founder of buildyourteenager.com, scenesfromthewild.net and rubygirl.org.

67 thoughts on “promote greater understanding”

  1. I am a long-time lurker here and haven't ever commented. I'm sorry that you are feeling fallout from the blog readers, but I just wanted to say that I love the blog and especially loved this post. As I try to recover from the gut punch that the excommunication mess felt like I'm glad to see that people are going forward and continuing to try to bring about change. Keep up the good work and please continue being a support to all women in the church. And my idea? Bring the activity days and young women's programs up to a level equal with scouting (or ditch scouting to make the programs and budgets equal). It is incredibly damaging to our girls to teach them they are not worth our time, money, resources, or recognition the way their brothers in the gospel are.

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  2. I was a bit surprised to read that in other wards women do not have any idea that they will be released from a calling, particularly one of the more time consuming callings like the women's presidencies. In most of the wards I have been in, if one is called to one of those callings, I have been told in advance that this will be for three years, or whatever. This happened to me when I was both Young Women's President and Primary President. Thus, around the three year mark, I discussed that the time was coming up to be released with the Bishop and did not make a lot of future plans. I have never been in a Utah ward, so maybe it is different in the "mission field"?

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  3. Having served in wards in 4 geographical areas, and as primary, yw, and rs president under 3 separate bishops (make that 5), releases are incredibly varied depending on circumstances. This is not a gender issue though. It is true for men as well as women. There is a general guideline that bishops serve for 5ish years and stake presidents for 10ish (I don't have the manual in front of me–hence the "ish") but this is only a guideline to balance the need to not burn their families out with the need to serve long enough that they figure out what they're doing. All other callings, if I understand correctly, are totally fluid.
    I think that the solution to the problem you cite is communication. If there are regular sit downs with the bishop, then the rs/primary/yw president will know the bishop's mind and he hers. In my case, at least, a release was never a surprise. I think there's a misconception in the church about how often auxiliary presidents can grab the bishop's ear and have a good heart-to-heart talk about the state of things. Women can really benefit from being proactive about setting up those conversations instead of waiting for the bishop to call her in. When I was called as rs president, we agreed it'd be for 1 year because we were planning on moving. A year came, we didn't move, so I went to the bishop and said essentially "I'm willing to keep serving if you're willing to have me. What's your plan?" He was happy with the status quo, so one year turned into three and we finally moved.
    Anyway, communication communication communication. Elder Ballard's book "Counceling with our Councils" addresses a lot of similar issues with that mantra. We do not need to sit silently by waiting for the men to tell us what they are going to do.
    Loved your post, by the way. I love that Segullah is such a safe place to discuss the hard questions of faith and doubt. Thank you for that.

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  4. I am not aware that bishops get a timeline for release…for my husband it was very sudden.

    I am much more positive toward this blog because of the recent open discussions on inclusion.

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  5. I saw the post last week and the comments made me so sad. In a moment of trauma for everybody in the church, on both sides of the issue, it was disheartening see the anger and hurt being thrown around in this space meant to promote sisterhood. I hope that as time heals this wound it will also soften our hearts to one another. I hope we will learn to love each other better, no matter our differences. I appreciate that you tried to do this, it is one of the many reasons Segullah has my respect. Good luck in navigating this tricky path in the future.

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  6. I would love to see greater equality in the activities of the YM/YW organizations as well. I remember as a youth being annoyed at all the fun things the boys got to do while every year the girls went to the same camp for the same amount of days doing the exact same thing every year (tubing down a river that was usually nearly dried up and…nothing else really).

    And I would also love to see the church ditch scouting and head up their own program. I feel that we already have the resources to do such a better job of it with half the cost and liability. Just my two cents.

    And just to throw it out there, Segullah has definitely made me think outside the box, having a more broader and deeper sensitivities to others heartaches, trials and viewpoints. I didn't love the direction it was going with the Kate Kelly saga, but am glad to know you guys are working on it.

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  7. I so appreciate that suggestion. I carry scars in my heart over the way I was released as an aux. president. Notice would have helped, but more so, an understanding that women are emotional and because of that we grieve loss in all forms. For some, like me, being released was sorrowful because of the love I had for those I served. I knew it would take time to recover. Each member of the bishopric told me, literally, "to get over it" over the course of a few days. I think (my own opinion here!) that the process is different for each individual and callus comments like those I received are not necessary and may hinder the ability to move on. I believe now, that as men, they just don't get it, and that's ok…just don't say anything!! I have also attended bishopric training as a spouse, and that is a great forum to present the idea of how to tactfully and lovingly extend a release, knowing each person will deal with the news how they can, on their own, and there is nothing wrong with that.

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  8. Thank you for this post. I love the ideas to make sure women get advance notice about releases and to put more resources, time, and effort into the programs for girls and young women. I've seen a lot of good suggestions in many places about ways to help young women in particular have a more active role at church, especially during sacrament.

    My ideas are mostly about things we can do for people who aren't in regular wards. I've spent all of my adult years moving frequently and often being very isolated, both geographically and linguistically. I worry about members, particularly women, who can't have the sacrament, who have no contact with their priesthood leaders, and sometimes have no contact at all with other members. I understand that sometimes there are serious political reasons why the Church has no official contact with women in these situations, but even if an isolated woman does have some contact with her priesthood leader, he is still likely to be very far away, and usually has tremendous responsibilities and is not like a bishop.

    It is also hard for me to feel like I'm really part of the church when I'm isolated, either because I don't speak the language or my location; moving frequently also keeps me from integrating with any ward. It is a little different for my husband because he can still exercise his priesthood even if we are isolated.

    So I would love to have some sort of long-distance Relief Society sisterhood. It would be lovely to have Relief Society leaders and sisters who could encourage each other. I think that women could be called as long-distance visiting teachers, either through the mail, over the phone, or online. Isolated members in different areas could benefit from knowing each other, even long-distance, or from having some sort of interaction with women who are not isolated.

    I know we can set this up informally, and I do have a good network of sisters who have been wonderful, but not all LDS women are able to do that, and some are hesitant to do it without church approval.

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  9. "Maelstrom" is a good word for this whole mess.

    I appreciate the call for open hearts and understanding. I've been frankly alarmed at how vitriolic this situation has become. It seems like things are calming down somewhat, and I'm optimistic for continued increased love and compassion on all sides.

    I have a [very long and unpublished] list of changes I would love to see the church make (most of them matters of culture and policy). Here are just a few (and I agree with the ones already mentioned):
    – Open callings to women that have been traditionally held by men but aren't part of the priesthood hierarchy (Sunday School presidencies, financial/clerk positions, ward mission leaders, mission field leadership positions, etc)
    – Increased symmetry in the covenants men and women make in the temple
    – Women's voices to be included on decision making boards in all levels of the church
    – Make it standard practice for the YW president (or another woman) to accompany YW to morality interviews with the bishop to lend support and also (sadly) to ensure the conversation doesn't take a voyeuristic or inappropriate turn.
    – Include women in disciplinary bodies for other women.

    Anyway. There are so many beautiful things about LDS history and culture and policy. I believe things are gradually changing for the better. I have faith that the leaders of our church will continue to prayerfully consider what direction the church needs to move in in terms of utilizing and listening to women.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. And thank you for sharing that Shelah and someone else you know have been approached for input–that makes a difference.

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  10. I would really like to know more about the General Boards for the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. I don't know who are on the boards, how those people are chosen, how long they stay on the boards, or even what the boards even do! I think they should make visits for stake conferences or area meetings just like other GAs do.

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  11. First, can we all agree that "in the mission field" is outdated and useless? Moving on.
    Some of the frustrations are purely cultural and "we've always done it this way" but once they are brought up to the Bishopric, they may change, such as only having the women give the closing prayer. It does kind of bug me that the women always have the first talk; it makes me feel like the man has to come clean up an misconceptions that the sister may have said.
    Separating Scouts from YM would be nice, if we had our own system set up. Right now, though, everyone knows Eagle, but nobody knows anything else. The amount of work a young woman has to do to get her award is insane, yet there's no Court of Honor for her.
    My biggest concerns right now are the budget differences and the Girls Camp vs. Scout Camp. Like another person said, the Girls Camp is the same, year after year. Can we invite the older YW on the High Adventure? When I was 14, I ran the Colorado River with the YW/ YM in my ward. I have no idea how we managed that, I just know I had a great time.
    Amira, long distance or written VT should be possible! One of my VT routes was just writing letters to some of the inactive or less active. People may not have tried it because it has never been done in that area.
    I have a few of these thoughts on my blog as well.

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  12. Thank you for his post. I was discouraged after the "maelstrom" because I have always thought of Segullah as a space where we could be honest with each other and could practice lovingly listening to the experiences and feelings of our sisters, even when – especially when – they might be different than our own.

    I am grateful that Segullah has always seemed like a community where women could share, through their literary talents, what is actually happening in their lives and how they are really feeling. Many of the talented writers who post here have given words to things I have experienced or felt, but haven't been able to articulate on my own. I rarely comment here, but have been greatly enriched by the different perspectives and the always beautiful writing.

    I think we need more spaces where we can lovingly listen to others. We need more spaces where women feel safe enough to be honest. I believe this is what Zion is.

    As for changes I wish for, I wish with all my heart that my daughter could take seminary, just once, from a woman. In the Seattle area I had the blessing of teaching early morning seminary. I loved it. Now that we live in Utah my children have to take release-time seminary. All of the seminary teachers are very conservative men. My daughter says that when she leaves her high school with a female principal, and competent male and female teachers, and enters the seminary building, with all male teachers and only pictures of men on the walls, and they only quote scriptures written by men she wonders where she fits into this organization. The fact that at least one of her teachers was flat out misogynistic didn't help.
    I don't think we do a good job of understanding what it feels like for women to have 99% of their religious instruction come from men. Even the majority of Relief Society lessons are from talks written by men.
    I would like more religious instruction for young women and adult women to come from the experiences and ideas of women.

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  13. The reason I love Segullah is because I can come here to read thoughtful, intelligent, and unique perspectives on life and gospel topics without having to sift through content that offends my spirit and questions my faith.

    One thing I would love to see in the church is more gender equality in the pre-12 sector. I am a Cub Scout leader right now and am concerned at the amount of money spent on the scouting program when the girls of the same ago have very little budget and almost no activities centered around outdoor fun. I want my daughter to have fun (beyond crafts!) too!

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  14. Thanks for your kinds words, Christi. And point well-taken, equalizing the programs for boys and girls would be beneficial. Personal Progress is such an amazing program– I love everything about it– but I want to take the girls on river rafting trips too. But the winter camps– I'm happy to skip those.

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  15. It's probably different in every ward, but I think it would be fabulous to make prior notice standard procedure. It's not just women who feel distress in these situations. I know a YM Pres and Scout Master who were equally shocked by a sudden release– and just after the Scout Master bought a pickup truck for all those campouts….

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  16. I was shocked when I was put in a Primary presidency that the cub scout budget was literally 8 time the budget of activity days! Something needs to be done!

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  17. "I think you’ve given me a 3D view of the gospel—I used to look at the gospel like a flat surface and now it’s more like a prism. I can turn it in all directions and admire the way different people see the light."

    Amen. Beautifully put.

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  18. I'm a lurker by nature and have only started commenting in the last few weeks. A big factor that went into that decision was that Segullah *is* a loving, constructive place to discuss ideas about the Church. There's room for people to disagree without getting attacked or hyperdefensive.

    Y'all are my favorite Mormon blog. Keep doing what you're doing.

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  19. I've always felt heard, valued, and validated at church, and so have my daughters. But when they turned 8, they each came to me asking why the boys get tons of awards, meet every week, and get to do cool stuff, while the girls make cute headbands. In my family, we have 2 boys and 2 girls, all teens and young adults now. I've seen how a well-run scouting program can help young men grow up. I served in YW and watched a generation grow up through its programs too. But I'm still uncomfortable with the difference in resources and attention given to the two. I'm not sure of the best solution. Part of me wants the church to unhitch itself from scouting, but part of me recognizes the important ways it changed my oldest son.

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  20. I have followed Segullah for a few years and have gained quite a bit from it, including book recommendations (Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle among others) and friendships–Handsfullmom in particular. What drew me to Segullah in the first place was the fact that it was a place that affirmed and strengthened my faith from a faithful, articulate LDS woman's point of view. I appreciated the well written articles on all sorts of subjects, particularly those having to do with motherhood and marriage, but it was the perspective of faithful LDS womanhood that the articles were written FROM that most appealed to me. I liked hearing how other faithful Latter-day Saint women managed things. I enjoy asking questions (and having them answered) but only if it leads to a stronger faith. The recent Kate Kelly articles that were run here were very frustrating to me because I don't feel that they accomplished that. Bottom line–if Segullah continues to be a place where I feel strengthened and uplifted in my faith I am happy to be a part of it.

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  21. Shantell-
    Perhaps the term "in the mission field" is " outdated and useless" but I was under the impression that Utah wards can be differently run then wards outside Utah. Not that the doctrine is different, but just some of the customs. My ward is particularly liberal and diverse. I know we do things a bit differently than other wards I have attended. I did not mean any offense using that term.

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  22. Two weeks ago Sister Carol Stephens (sp?), First Counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency, visited our Eastern Washington ward. I found her delightful and engaging. She spoke in sacrament meeting and then had about 15 minutes at the end of Relief Society. Both times she spoke of extending love and understanding to all, no matter what differences might separate us.

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  23. I agree with so many of the above comments. I also mostly lurk but really appreciate the thoughtful and inspiring posts at Segullah.

    I'm also concerned about the difference in time, support, and resources given to our boys vs girls and YM vs YW. I have two boys and two girls and am worried about how my daughters will feel when they see they don't get nearly the experience at church that their brothers do. One thing that I think a lot about is the fact that our young men have ample opportunity for structured responsibility and service through their Aaronic priesthood duties but our young women really don't. Recently I was sitting during the sacrament talking quietly to my oldest son and pointing out the young men administering the sacrament and told him that in a few years he will be able to do that. My daughter piped up with "Me too?" I explained that only boys did this because they were ordained to the priesthood and that girls got to do different things. She asked "like what?" And I realized that young women really don't have any responsibilities in the ward. I love that my sons will start to learn about priesthood responsibilities at such a young age and I wish my daughters would have opportunities to have formal ward responsibilities to help prepare them for relief society and other service on the church throughout their lives.

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  24. I haven't lived in a Utah ward for 22 years, but I did grow up there. More members now live outside Utah than in it. Utah wards can be different — many changes made from church headquarters came from the way Utah wards were running things, although outside of Utah, they were filling a need. Activities chairperson? Gone, because in Utah it was too much of keeping up with the Joneses, yet outside of Utah, many people looked forward to ward activities because they had no immediate family.

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  25. I agree completely: young women need real responsibility at church, too. It doesn't require the priesthood to do it, but it would be good for them to SEE they are needed.

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  26. One thing I've been thinking a lot about is how good it would be if the General Women's meeting (all ages together was a great change) were an official session of General Conference. I think it would encourage more men to read or listen to the talks, just like many women learn from the Priesthood session talks. We can learn a lot from each other. In the same vein, having women occasionally speak in the Priesthood session would be great. I don't see any doctrinal reason why those couldn't happen, and I think some small shifts in policy like that would filter down to create a different perception and would fix a lot of cultural issues that some areas/wards have.

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  27. I was just called as Primary President two months ago, and I was also shocked at the difference. Our cub+11 year old scouts have 19 times (!!!) the budget of Activity Days. I understand they have more expenses due to the way scouting is set up, but that's crazy. We're working to fix that. 🙂

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  28. Thank you for this discussion! I love the church, but there are some changes that I would like to see. I agree with the previous comments that there needs to be a more equal distribution in funds and activities for the boys and girls and ym/yw. I was the only girl in my family and I watched my brothers get to go out and do all kinds of things that I never had the opportunity to do. It doesn't seem right.
    Also, I am really not a fan of the way modesty is sometimes taught. I NEVER want my daughter to be taught that she is responsible for someone else's thoughts because of the way she dresses, or that she is the "guardian" of someone else's virtue. These are things I heard growing up, and I heard it recently in YW's in a ward I was in. I don't know that these ideas are necessarily in any lesson manual, but I think it is a common mentality that is harmful, and it needs to stop.

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  29. "many changes made from church headquarters came from the way Utah wards were running things, although outside of Utah, they were filling a need."

    Hm. I'm not sure I agree with this (perhaps you know something I don't, though). I see the change with activities chairperson as leveraging more of the council system, and that is something that can and should be happening everywhere and can be done regardless of size of the ward, etc. If anything, in my mind it should help wards that don't have as many people to staff them because they don't need another person to fill the need for meaningful ward activities.

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  30. Thanks for this post, Michelle.

    Just to bring a little different perspective into the Activity Days thing fwiw. I'm personally not a fan of using budget as a measure for change. When I was AD leader, I did feel some frustration with the budget (I think we only had about $120 for the whole year which felt really slim to me), but I also felt there was a LOT as a leader that my partner and I could work on to make AD purposeful and varied and we worked hard to do so. At the end of the day, in general I think there is so much we can do without a lot of budget (and I think kids should learn how to do this!). If girls are "just doing crafts" that is as much about planning and leadership than anything in my mind.

    Also, maybe I am in the minority, but I'm one who couldn't care less if my girls don't go river rafting or do high adventure stuff. I was relieved when my son got his camping merit badge and didn't have to do so much of that. In general, if anything, I wish there was less outdoorsy and big high adventure stuff for the boys. Sometimes it feels like a "bigger and better" game to me, especially where there are LDS leaders for whom Scouting is a passion. I watch distances and budgets continue to be pushed where I live. I really don't want to see that approach applied to the girls as well. I do understand the value of getting kids outdoors, but I would rather see a toning down of the intensity of what boys do and keep things simpler, which is what I understand the Handbooks to be encouraging anyway. Less travel, less expense, less intensity, more simply enjoying closer beauty and opportunities and resources that could be available to girls, too, if the girls and their leaders feel so inclined — with less need for more budget.

    Lastly, I firmly believe that the Church is in Scouting not just for the boys in the Church. I think the Church's support of Scouting has a great influence of thousands upon thousands of young men who might otherwise not have any other good, values-based program to help them have mentors and some grounding. In my mind, I don't think there is reason to expect budgets to be the same because there are different things going on. I will be honest and say I have never been a fan of Scouting as a mom, but I support the Church's decision to stay involved in it because I suspect there is more to it than we can see or understand.

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  31. I would agree with the thought that some changes came because of Utah wards. Such as no longer doing missionary farewells and homecomings. I can understand how that may be an issue in places of Utah where you have countless missionaries coming and going. However, where we live it's not as common and we want to make a big deal in order to show other youth and hopefully set an example.

    Also, I would say "in the mission field" isn't too outdated simply from reading the recent comments here. One sister in Utah only has male seminary teachers for her children. Where I am, we have only had female seminary teachers for the past 10 years. Maybe it has become less of a difference over the years though?

    I love the comment a sister wrote on a previous post about the focus we should have is how to better OURSELVES. I imagine if we do our callings to our best ability and support others in their calling we are then bettering the church.

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  32. I often read and hear people saying that they think Utah wards are different from wards in other places, but I'm not sure that being in or out of Utah is what makes a ward so different. I grew up in Utah and have lived in Utah wards for three of my sixteen years of married life, most recently in 2009. The other thirteen years have been in wards in New Jersey, Seattle, five in Idaho (only one in SE Idaho), two in Virginia, one in Mexico, and several wardless years in Asia.

    My experience has been that there are a lot of different dynamics that go into the feeling the ward gives. I have been in wards a long way from Utah that are stereotypically Utah, and wards in Utah that are not at all what people expect from a Utah ward. The bishop makes a huge difference, as does the size of the ward and the number of active priesthood holders (this is one reason I would like to see women have more callings open to us since it does have a major effect on the culture of the ward). The cultural backgrounds of the members matter too, whether the ward has a lot of people moving in and out, and the percentage of recent converts in the ward.

    Some wards I've lived in, both in and out of Utah, have been amazing at including women; at remembering to call me by my last name instead of my husband's; at listening to me; at encouraging me in my calling; at making the budgets more equal; and in focusing on the Young Women themselves rather than their clothes. Other wards, again both in and out of Utah, have made me feel like women in the church are going nowhere.

    So I'm uncomfortable with the idea that there is something about Utah wards that is a problem, and wards outside of Utah are somehow better. There's so much more that can make a ward work, or not. I'm loving the ideas here that can help anywhere.

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  33. I would also like to see more parity in the resources devoted to the young men and young women/boys and girls. As parents we may not be able to change how things are done in our wards but we can look for other opportunities to build our girls. In my ward the resources for the Activity Days program for the entire year is probably comparable to just a week or (maybe!) two of cub scouts. I know that only a minority of parents could do this but just in case anyone might be helped: we have sent our tweens/young teens to this conference http://www.retreatforgirls.com/ and it has been wonderful.

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  34. Amira, I love your suggestions about official connections between sisters isolated from their peers (by whatever boundaries may exist). Sometimes even in "regular" wards sensitive Priesthood and Relief Society leaders find ways to meet such needs, ideally based on inspiration. I live within a seven-minute drive from our Stake Center, but I've spent multiple extended periods (ranging from two to twenty-four months at a time, sometimes one right after another) unable to attend regularly while tending the physical needs of four generations of family. During some of those periods I was physically and/or emotionally incapable of reaching out from my side to initiate connections. I will always be grateful for the times when sisters reached out to me.

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  35. I always hesitate to comment, but I am genuinely interested in a topic that has been mentioned several times here: could someone please explain to me where the difference between funding for YM/YW programs comes from? I realize that this was a real issue when I was growing up, but I think that things have evened out considerably over the past 10 to 20 years. When I served in a bishopric a couple of years ago, the Young Men and Young Women had equal access to ward funds. In general, the YM and YW presidents got whatever they asked for (within reason). Funding for all of the Scouting activities and awards came straight from the YM budget. Both YM and YW could do one fundraiser per year, and that fundraiser was to be used solely for the week-long summer camp and related equipment. The Handbook instructs that week-to-week activities for both YM and YW come from the ward budget. My point being that there was no one stopping the YW from going rappelling or visiting an auto body shop; the leaders planned the activities they wanted to plan. Obviously the differing purposes, goals, and interests of YM and YW may lead to different activities, but I'm not aware of any part of the Handbook that says, "boys never do this, girls never do that."

    Now, this may vary from ward to ward, but from a procedural or funding perspective, is there still a church-wide change that needs to be made?

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  36. I agree with many of the suggestions, and I do think that the financial disparity between what we give our girls and what we give our boys is pretty…uncomfortable. While many girls might not like doing adventurous outdoor things, my daughter would adore it. We started my son as a tiger scout this past year in a homeschooling troop because he needed something for himself, and the church doesn't offer it, and my daughter (almost 11) has been truly heartbroken over the activities (and badges) her little brother gets to do–and it's hard for me to know she has a years of disappointment as he remains involved in scouting, and she continues to tie-dye t-shirts and learn how to babysit. She enjoys those activities too, and a lot of those skills are important, but the girls' programs seem really under-rounded, and a good portion of that has to do with the budget–they just can't afford it, and the boys pretty much always can.

    Another change I would like to see is how RS and YW are integrated. From the time they are twelve, boys are included every week in the opening exercises of priesthood. To many of the girls, RS is old and scary 🙂 Additionally, as needed the YM are junior companions for home teaching! For girls, they turn 18 and bam! VT, RS (sorry for all the acronyms), goodbye everything they have known for the last 6+ years. We have maybe 3 times a year we see the young women in RS. I really feel like this is…not good. Especially since they changed the general women's meeting. I do like that to some extent…but it's also very odd to have 8-year-olds at a meeting for for women (to me), when there is no other place in the church where these age groups mix…if we're all going to be lumped, I think it needs to be more than in just these meetings. I think I would have preferred to have them add the younger girls to the YW meeting than making it all one; I worry that complex topics that adult women need to hear about will now not be spoken of at all in general meetings, and that is something I will miss. Sorry for the tangent 🙂 Just a couple of things that are on my mind.

    Thanks for the awesome, Michelle!

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  37. Matt, I've seen our ward budget, and as several others have mentioned, there are a heck of a lot of places where the two budgets do *not* match. Here, boys programs= Scouts, and that budget is anywhere from double to ten times or more from the equal age programs the church provides for the girls. If rappelling costs $12 per kid you have 8 kids and two adults, and your budget for the year is $120 (like for the Activity Day girls), then that would be a no. Yet if scouts of the same age, have a budget of $800…it's sort of a no brainer that sure, the boys will get to go. It would be lovely to be somewhere that this is not the case, but it sure isn't my ward.

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  38. Hi Lara! For at least the past couple of years, the YW in our ward join the RS opening exercises every fast Sunday. The RS opens the meeting with a welcome and RS announcements, and a YW conducts the rest of it, which includes hymn, prayer, YW announcements, and YW theme. At that point, the YW are thanked and excused for their classes. The stated reasons for the change were Integration, preparation for RS and greater familiarity and awareness of one another, and my two YW daughters report enjoying it.

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  39. It's interesting to hear this because my husband was suddenly released from his YM calling IN SACRAMENT MEETING. They didn't even tell him beforehand. It was his favorite calling he'd ever had and he was left to wonder if he had done something wrong. Even more frustrating, he felt like he was never able to properly say goodbye to the boys. He said to me "if I didn't have a strong testimony, that poorly handled situation could easily have sent me packing". We need to be aware of how those transitions feel to people. Yes, they are necessary. But handling them poorly could cause a lot of avoidable problems.

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  40. I like the idea of having some more crossover between YW and RS so the transition is less stark. When I was a Laurel, many of my YW leaders would talk about how happy they were to be in YW and not have to attend Relief Society–hardly encouraging. It would also be very helpful to have YW as junior companions in visiting teaching so they could learn how to be effective visiting teachers before having to do so on their own. It would certainly improve the visiting teaching programs in YSA wards.

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  41. I am also a little sad that the topics adult women need to hear will probably no longer be addressed in the relief society broadcast. I feel like we were just getting somewhere with that. It seems when I first started attending the RS Broadcast it was almost always based around Visiting Teaching, which of course is good, but honestly it felt like it was beating a dead horse over and over. I learned to seriously dislike them and RS in general because it seemed to me we just always talked about VT. It seems in recent years they have expounded on the really difficult issues we as women experience–we are so much more than *just* visiting teachers! But now that the young girls have joined in with us, I feel that these issues (Sister Reeves talk in October 2013 Conference about the covenant breaking of our loved ones comes to mind) might not be addressed which really is a shame because with the outline of RS meetings already being designated we probably won't hear many leaders addressing and thus recognizing some of the very difficult trials and tasks we face. Anyway, I took a tangent on your tangent.
    🙂

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  42. Have you considered Girl Scouts? My daughters were all Girl Scouts and did a lot of activities that were not done in YW. It happened that our Bishop's wife was the Girl Scout leader and it was a wonderful troop.

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  43. Frankly, I have to say that I was shocked to read such emotional, antagonistic comments on the previous post. I didn't feel at all like Segullah felt negative towards the Church or leaders in it, and I was very surprised people were declaring their intentions to stop reading this blog. I have stopped reading a number of so-called Mormon blogs over the years because of their negative impact on me, and Segullah has never been anything but uplifting for me.

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  44. I can't speak for YM/YW, but I was primary president for 2.5 years and yes, the cub scout budget was significantly higher than the activity days budget… when broken down a significant part of the scout budget went to pay for awards, camps, the pinewood derby, and the Blue and Gold Banquet. The den leaders and activity days leaders received similar amounts (with the AD leaders getting a bit more) for "regular" activities. I would have loved to make the two budgets completely equal, but there was no way to do so and run the two programs I was obligated to run. I would not want to do away with scouts because I feel it is a wonderful program and one that my son loved. I would love to be able to make Activity Days more like scouts in its scope, but not sure where that money would come from. We actually just moved to a branch where there is no scouts (either Boy or Cub), and I am very sad about that. The reason I've been given is that they don't have the budget to pay for scouts. All the children do activity days, but that doesn't really seem to be happening either.

    As far as changes I would love to see in the Church–having more talks by women represented in our lessons. When I taught RS the lesson was rarely based on a talk from a woman. And if it was, then the priesthood had a talk from the priesthood session while we women had a talk from the general women's meeting. I think the priesthood brothers should be taught from talks by women as well.

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  45. I agree with the thoughts about the combining of the 8-12 year-olds in the general women's meeting. I would prefer it just be 12 and up. The 8-12 yo boys are not invited to the priesthood meeting, and I fear, like others have mentioned, that we will lose much of the content that could be applicable to the women of the church by having the young girls there.
    Also, we have started combining the YW/RS on Fast Sunday for the entire 3rd hour. We teach from the youth curriculum, and it has been a great success in our ward.

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  46. I have to agree with the earlier comment about scouting in that the church's support of it is an important outreach for boys in the USA. It is a tough, tough world out there for boys and positive programs which look for positive ways to mentor boys and young men with ethics and values are definitely important. I just wish that a stronger program for girls would be utilized and that the leaders called to that position would be carefully chosen so that it would benefit our girls.

    As a woman, I think it would be helpful for a more specific breakdown of what women's responsibilities actually are and how they differ from men's. I thought Elder Oaks quote about men and women having different but equal responsibilities hasn't really been elaborated on to my satisfaction. And believe me, I have been studying this. It would be helpful to know in which ways they really differ and why those differences are relevant and valuable.

    I would also like the scripture references used in relation to the YW value Virtue to be revisited. I am very uncomfortable that a verse that discusses the rape of women is being used in Personal Progress to understand virtue. I worry that our YW who are so vulnerable to abuse and rape might not be able to decipher the verse and incorrectly believe that they have lost their worth or value. If nothing else, I would like to see that YW are directed to study that with their mothers or leaders who can provide context and meaning, as opposed to a solitary reading without guidance.

    Also, I am tired of teenagers and children being invited to meetings that were formally adult meetings such as stake conference and The Relief Society meeting. I love my children and I understand and appreciate how the gospel needs to be taught to families. I just feel like the meetings are getting watered down to meet the needs of the younger ages when I am craving something of weighty substance.

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  47. Yes! I completely agree. I've long wondered why the Women's Meeting isn't considered a "session" of GC, but I never even thought about having a woman speak in the Priesthood session. That would be amazing.

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  48. Thank you, Michelle. I love your perspective.

    I am in agreement with others: the disparity in youth activities is problematic to me and I also think it is a little icky to have a teenager confess sexual sin to a man behind closed doors.

    That being said, as a mother of a teenage son, I am so grateful for the experiences he has had with Scouting and with his wonderful leaders. I would like my teenage daughter to have the same kind of experiences.

    I adore Segullah. I don't seem to comment as much as I used to, but I love this space.

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  49. I'm referring specifically to the Relief Society General Board, not the General Presidency. I know they make visits- but what does the Board do?

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  50. Amen to paragraph three, Tiffany W., and thanks for the heads up with paragraph two–my daughter will be 12 next year and I had no idea.

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  51. This is my first time commenting.
    I had an incredible experience with my eight year old daughter attending the women's broadcast with me this spring and I am looking forward to going wih her to the next one. Seeing a need to represent my view here is the reason I felt compelled to comment.I also think it would be a great idea to have "junior" visiting teaching companions, and to have the YW meet with the RS every week for opening exercises, similar to what the men and YM do.

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  52. Michelle, I am late to the discussion, but thank you, thank you for bridging the gap and mending hurt feelings here with your reminders of love and compassion. It was also helpful to restate our mission. I know our writers are committed to those words.

    I absolutely believe our church leaders (both men and women) are listening. I know they care deeply about the women of the church and want to know how they feel, hear their ideas. This is a brilliant way to bring many of those ideas into one place.

    I have loved reading through the comments. Lots of wise and thoughtful suggestions.

    Re: budget, I actually don't think equity across the board is necessary. Our YM and YW programs have different needs, different activities, that necessitate different costs. If the girls wanted to run a river, or do a high adventure camp, I have no doubt our ward would find a way to allot them those funds. But I think it is only prudent in utilizing the church's sacred funds, to assess needs, wants, and plans and allot from there, rather than trying to even everything up.

    Two years ago, the young girls in our ward wondered why they couldn't have a Fathers and Daughters camp-out similar to the boys. This desire was voiced to our bishopric and that year they planned the first Fathers-Daughters camp-out. It has been a huge success and a favorite for my three girls.

    Our ward also has the YW meet weekly for opening exercises with the RS. This has fostered better relationships and familiarity between the generations of women in our ward. All RS and YW sisters say the YW theme together, and bless our older sisters, they have it memorized now. (Note: I like the idea of saying we are daughters of Heavenly Parents.)

    I think it would be a great comfort to YW to know they could be accompanied (if they wished) by a YW leader or parent when meeting with a bishop to confess sexual sins. Has this been prohibited in the past?

    I also have some concern about our young girls 8-12 attending adult meetings. I do not want to see certain topics of sensitivity or importance neglected. (Although I loved having my 8 yr old with me at the first general meeting for all women. Sister Wixom had me in tears as we sang Teach Me to Walk.) On our Stake level, however, trusting our leaders, I took my 8 yr old daughter to a joint women's meeting and ended up frustrated. I debated taking her when I learned the topic, but 8 and up were encouraged to go, so I brought her. The topic was body image, and the role of media. Astounding statistics and information were shared. It was a great presentation. But not for my 8 yr old daughter who has no idea what anorexia is, nor do I want her to even be aware at this point of how she looks in a swimsuit.

    Bottom line, I trust the age-change was inspired, possibly for reasons we do not yet understand.

    And I was always under the impression that the General Board members did travel around the church for visits, meetings, and speaking. I know my grandmother did when she was on the RS General Board, back in the 70s. But point made, I am not aware if they do. Maybe that has changed?

    Thank you again Michelle. Bless you for braving this post. You handled it perfectly.

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  53. After reading these comments I have to say that they come across as whiny to me.
    If you aren't happy with the lack of adventure or budget within activity days, then take your daughter on a fun, outdoor trip. Take her camping. Take her on a bike ride. Take her 4 wheeling or river rafting depending on your budget. And if you are still bent out of shape over it, then by golly invite all of the activity days girls on a camp out with their moms or dads.
    Why do we expect the church to supplement all of this for our children? We are capable. We are creative.
    If you want visiting teaching to reach across the globe then be a friend to those who aren't in your route or ward by messaging them on a regular basis.
    If you are disappointed that the women's meeting is going to be watered down and you want to hear about more "grown up" issues then do a search on LDS topics and read articles on a heavy topic.
    If you think that young women should be visiting teachers then talk to your YW president and RS president about seeing if you can arrange something within your own ward between the groups.
    If you aren't happy with the way modesty is being taught in the church then teach your son and daughter about modesty the way you think it should be taught.
    If you aren't happy with the way virtue is taught in church then teach your child the way you think it should be taught to them.
    The bottom line is, don't complain about stuff. Find a way to make it work. Why does the Church have to be responsible for the outcomes of our youth and whether or not they have a good experience in scouting/personal progress/activity days/cub scouts ? If these programs didn't exist in the first place wouldn't you as a parent try to give your child as many good experiences in their life as possible and within financial reason?
    We are the parents. We see that our children have their needs met. If you aren't happy with the way the church is doing that then supplement with your own activities. It doesn't have to be expensive. It doesn't have to cost money. It's all about the planning and what you make of it.

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