Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Random Thoughts About Young Women And Relief Society

I grew up as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I love the church and it's programs. I love the teachings and blessings that obedience brings to my life. I have a testimony.

Don't forget any of that!

This post has some of my thoughts about what's wrong with Young Women and Relief Society. There. I said it. DON'T HATE ME!!!!

As I said, I have a testimony and I believe the programs of the church are inspired. But I have always seen a kind of flaw in the church programs for female members. I realize there are people out there who cry foul at everything that even suggests gender discrimination. I am not one of those people. I have been the beneficiary of many blessings because of Young Women and Relief Society. But I do see room for improvement. Here are my thoughts.

I grew up with 5 brothers. I was always jealous, or at least discouraged, by the constant recognition my brothers received in cub and boy scouts while I got nothing. I mean we both got experience. We both made crafts and sang songs and played games. But the boys had monthly pack meetings with pins and badges. They had day camps and camp outs.

Of course I went to Girl's Camp each year. I earned my Young Womanhood Recognition. I gained a testimony through participating in youth activities. I really did have a wonderful time.

During my teenage years my mom was called as Relief Society President. She taught me to love Relief Society. But as I watched my brothers go Home Teaching I wondered why I wasn't being given the same training as a Visiting Teacher. I still wonder this.

I have noticed that there are a lot of materials available for Young Women now. They still have medallions and Personal Progress. They have a Theme and symbols and mottos. They have constant reminders of the choices they should make and the values they should embrace. Here are a few of the 243 examples that came up in a simple search at

YW Values Magnet

Values Prints

Lip Balm?

Note cards



Charm Bracelet


Then they turn 18 and...nothing.  (76 hits at Deseret Book, most of them novels or manuals!) Oh, sure, Relief Society has a Declaration but I don't know it. We have a seal
Mormon Relief Society Seal
 but we don't talk about it.

Our motto "Charity Never Faileth" is the only thing we really carry around with us. We sing "As Sisters In Zion" ad nauseum because it reminds us of our purpose and we have nothing else to sing.

We don't have necklaces or journals. No bracelets or lip balm to remind us of who we are. After some creative searching I found a couple of rings at CTR Ring Shop. We don't have Relief Society Camp and our activities and conferences can be kind of...stuffy. Don't get me wrong, Relief Society is a haven and an inspiration for me. I have personally grown more than I ever imagined because of Relief Society. But for a young, single woman, fresh out of the "fun and hip" Young Women's program Relief Society is seriously a drag!

It takes a lot of maturity and patience to find your place at the grown-up table. It might come as a crash-course as you are suddenly Visiting Teacher to a mother with screaming kids or a an elderly sister who needs help. That young woman is likely ill-equipped to handle the sudden demand to serve. So she might shirk her duties and go off looking to be filled as she was in Young Women instead of filling up those in real need. If she is determined she will press through the awkward years and sooner or later arrive at the point of belonging among the other women. If she isn't so determined she will very likely walk away and might not return.

This is a serious problem. But what can be done?

I, for one, wish Relief Society were more like Young Women sometimes. I mean, why don't we have pretty jewelry? Why don't we have songbooks and posters? Why don't we embrace our own program as we did when we were young? I have heard many of my peers expressing longing to return to Young Women. They want to be leaders so they can live vicariously through those they lead. 

This always makes me sad. I realize that I am not the only one who feels bored to death in Relief Society from time to time. I realize that I am not the only one who feels something is missing. I also realize that Relief Society is what you make it. Each sister is responsible for making Relief Society great, not only for ourselves but for others.

I have been reading "Daughters In My Kingdom". Reading about the first Relief Society sisters has really inspired me. I see that they knew their purpose and were eager to serve. They were excited! I haven't felt that way in a long time. Why?

I have a theory. I think Young Women is often a passive program. It might not be designed that way but it seems that leaders work hard to inspire and entertain and forget to give the youth practical experience. After a few years they are now the adults. They go to adult classes and expect to be inspired and entertained as they were in Young Women. They (WE) don't always realize that it is time to do, to show what we learned.

Here is an example that I am sure applies to every ward on earth! Several years ago I was serving as what was then the Homemaking counselor in Relief Society. I planned and executed activities. Looking back I know I could have done things differently (like delegating!) but I worked hard and I learned a ton! I often asked sisters why they didn't come to activities. I then tried to plan activities I thought they would enjoy. For example, an activity that had nothing to do with kids or husbands since some sisters had neither. But they didn't come. There were always excuses but I couldn't seem to make the activities any more appealing, no matter what I did.

These were not inactive sisters. These were not those with weak testimonies. So why didn't they come? Some excuses were "I don't need it, I have friends and a strong testimony." Sometimes it was "I have lots of other interests and I don't need relief Society to entertain me and educate me." Each time I thought "Well, that's great but what about the sisters who need you?" It has been a huge disappointment to learn that many people, even in the church, can not seem to think outside themselves. They see only what they need or want and never consider how they might bless others.

Could it be that we adult sisters don't make Relief Society better because we haven't yet caught the vision? Are we hesitant to include new sisters because we don't want to be there either? Don't we know who we are? Don't we understand the Lord's plan for his daughters? Do we know the great plans he has for us in blessing lives and building his kingdom? Don't we know how amazing we really are?

Now, I have been accused of being arrogant for this kind of attitude. Who do I think I am?

I am a beloved spirit daughter of God.
My life has meaning, purpose and direction.
I am part of a worldwide sisterhood, united in my devotion to Jesus Christ, my Savior and Exemplar.
I am a woman of faith, vision, virtue and charity.
I increase my testimony of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study.
I seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
I dedicate myself to strengthening marriages, families, and homes.
I find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood.
I delight in service and good works.
I love life and learning.
I stand for truth and righteousness.
I sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth.
I rejoice in the blessings of the temple, understand my divine destiny, and strive for exaltation. 

I means more when you say "I" doesn't it? It is easy to make excuses but the truth is we are all aprt of the paln. It isn't just the Releif Society Presidnecy who needs to reach out to other sisters. We are "united in our devotion to Jesus Christ." In serving one another we serve him. Never, NEVER forget that!

Sister Julie B. Beck has some wonderful insights into this subject in this training video for new Relief Society sisters.


Wendy Williams said...

Wonderful post! I love Relief Society and have had some similar experiences to the ones you mention. Thank you for sharing! And for including the Relief Society theme.

Jennifer said...

Wow! I think you totally hit the nail on the head, Amy. As the new 2nd Counselor in RS, I too have the task of coming up with the activities. Something I've been sitting here on this computer doing for the past 2 days. Trying to come up with something that will pull these ladies to the RS Birthday Celebration. It's very discouraging to be putting every ounce of your being into planning an activity, and 5 people show up. We decided to go to quarterly meetings for that exact reason. I'm only 2 months into this calling, but already wondering if there is any hope for increasing the fun and attendance your referring to. I would gladly listen to any suggestions you have!! Thanks for sharing!

Tay said...

I, like Jennifer, have been trying so hard to plan well for our Additional Activities as RS 2nd couns. I wish and want so badly for the women of my ward's Relief Society to feel the same excitement and joy for the program that our predecessors had (and likely still DO have). So my current idea is to take a step back and do what they used to do: teach each other basic things everybody ought to know. Back in the day everybody already had a basic knowledge of sewing and the like, and you got together to help each other out with a quilt somebody was making for a loved one getting married, baby clothes for an expecting mother, or just helping others add to their knowledge to make beautiful things for their home or apparel, as well as making sure the poor were properly fed and clothed and that everybody was united in the cause of building God's kingdom. So my ward is going antique this year and we're going to learn things that are useful, practical and that everybody ought to know. Like how to sew on a button and other clothing repairs, how to host a simple meal, making bread without a mixer or breadmaker - maybe even a dinner where we re-learn proper table manners.

But at the same time we have to figure out good lessons for each of these self-reliant themes and make it oriented to the real purpose of uniting for the building up of the Kingdom.

Also - if you've got advice for dispelling petty quarrels amongst the ladies, I'm all ears. Ours are all pretty pathetic and I don't understand it. :)

Unknown said...

I wrote another post responding to the comments left here and on facebook. It is titled "More Random Thoughts:Easier Said Than Done."