We Are Daughters and Sons of Heavenly Parents

Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Changes, Gender roles, Heavenly Mother, women, Young Women | 16 comments

We’ve recently had some discussion here at The-Exponent about the potential benefit of revising the young women’s theme to include reference to Heavenly Mother. If you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to visit this blog post and read the beautiful letter written by a currently-serving ward young women’s president. This small change could have far-reaching impact in terms of affirming the value of all women in the church, young and old, simply by including (not even by name) the God who looks like us, a God who is a woman. I fully support this suggested change.

Having said that, if I were in a position to institute church-wide change in the youth programs I would prefer something else entirely.

First of all, I would likely do-away with Boy Scouts of America as the young men’s program. (I can hear the gasps now. But I’m serious about this.) I understand this program applies primarily to youth in North America and is not a global program. I also realize that BSA has a wonderful structure and is beneficial for many young men. But I would prefer that both the Young Women’s and Young Men’s program center on Christian discipleship. Personally, I would prefer that no one stood to recite a theme. But if young women are reciting the YW theme each week, then why aren’t young men reciting the Scout Motto? If there is value in ritual recitation of a list of virtues, then wouldn’t we want our young men to share in that benefit?

I believe that girls and boys are inherently, biologically different. Women and men seem to have interests and ways of responding to the world which are influenced by their biological make-up, specifically via chromosomes and hormones that make us into one sex or the other. I celebrate the differences of the sexes. I also acknowledge the wide range of expression of gender in the world.

yellow doorHowever, when it comes to living a gospel-centered life, there is no difference between us. All are alike unto God. We are all asked to bring the same thing with us when we approach the door of discipleship: a broken heart and contrite spirit. Jesus doesn’t ask for a list of values. He only wants our will, our desire to follow Him. When we surrender our will to Him, we become One in Christ and with each other. After that, His grace is sufficient to transform us into our best, most unique selves–women and men, boys and girls–with or without recitations.

If I had the power to change the weekly practice of reciting a theme, I would encourage Young Women and Young Men (grown men and women too) to share a common theme. It would go something like this:

We are daughters [sons] of heavenly parents who love us – and we love them. We stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places as we strive to live the Doctrine of Christ, which is: Faith in Him, repentance, baptism by immersion for remission of sins, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost and serving our neighbors. We will answer the Savior’s call to love one another as He loves us – today and every day.

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16 Comments

  1. Section 8.1.3 of the Handbook sets for a list of purposes for the Aaronic Priesthood Quorums. I’ve seen this recited on Sundays before as a sort of “theme,” though the handbook specifically counsels against it being recited.

    The scout oath, motto, and law are all routinely repeated by the YM in their boy scout activities.

    For our YM/YW activity nights all the youth recite together the yearly theme – currently a scripture from D&C.

    • Thanks for that information, Dave K. Becuase I’ve worked in scouting, I am aware that Scouts recite the motto routinely. (I also like that YW and YM recite the yearly theme together in many wards.) Because I wanted to keep this post short and sweet, I didn’t go into what I feel is a history of YW programs apparently being “patterned after” LDS-adopted BSA programs.

      In my ideal world, the YM and YW programs would be developed side-by side by the church itself, not borrowed from BSA or the UK’s Scout Association. Robert Baden-Powell was awesome for what he did. I think we could be equally awesome if we took time to create programs that focus on discipleship the way BSA focuses on citizenship, camping, life skills, etc.

  2. Absolutely beautiful, Melody. I serve as the first counselor in the YW presidency of my ward, and each week I fight tears as I stand with the girls to recite the current theme, especially with the addition of “virtue.” That theme represents all of the frustrations I have felt my entire life, being expected to fit neatly into a box that I just don’t fit. It saddens me so much to take part as a leader in trying to stuff those girls in, too. That is not who I am.

    I love your theme suggestion. I long to belong to a church that focuses on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Period. What a wonderful church that could be.

    • Thanks for sharing your feelings and insights, Michelle. It hurt my heart too when “virtue” was added as a YW value. We could have a long discussion on the definition of value and/or virtue . . . I don’t know what else to say, but, I hear you, sister.

  3. My daughter regularly bemoans the addition of virtue on the grounds that it is a misuse of the word. Many of the values are virtues, she says, and is determined that adding virtue as a value makes no sense, if they mean chastity then for goodness sake use the word! I agree with her.

    I’d also favour dropping recitation of the YW theme every week. I was halfway through YW when it was introduced, and for me it felt so patronising. I hated it.

    • Interesting historical note. Originally the scout law only had 9 points. Sometime (I think in the 60s) they added “brave, clean and reverent.” At our scout camp the boys yell out a 13th point at the end – “and HUNGRY.”

  4. Virtue? What’s that? LOL I am a daughter of God, a woman of infinite worth;)

    • Indeed, Michelle!

  5. Melody,

    I endorse your proposed changes! One of my tried and true mantras when I’m having a miserable moment is, “I am a daughter of Heavenly Parents who love me and I love them.” I am not certain when I edited the YW motto to this truncated form, but it’s been lifting me out of misery for over a decade.

    I love your changes as to what should be recited. The point for me of recitation is inculcation. Deeply good brainwashing that steers me in the right direction when I am lost. If recitation is a good thing at church, then both young women and young men should be doing it.

    What is going on with YM/BSA collaboration in an international church? YM collaboration with BSA baffles me for several reasons.

    1. The focus on secular and civic goals promotes an attitude where young men can wait until their missions to learn spiritual goal setting. Eagle Scout now, then mission. This upside down prioritization ultimately impairs and impedes the missionary work of the church. Why are the YM expected to serve missions postponing structured spiritual goal setting until they are called to be missionaries? YW in contrast are focused on spiritual goal setting in their program with no expectation they will serve missions. Maybe LDS men believe they are less spiritual than women because we treat them that way.

    2. YM collaborate with a secular organization that allows them to experience responsibility outside of their church community and interact with others who are not members of the church. But they also have highly visible opportunities for responsibility at church collecting fast offerings, passing the sacrament, and blessing the sacrament. YW who do not have these church experiences as avenues of empowerment. They desperately need opportunities to lead and serve in the secular community where gender does not limit their leadership opportunities. YW are in far greater need of a secular program to support personal growth.

    Why are we doubling down on secular personal growth opportunities for YM while neglecting their spiritual growth?

    While we continue to deny women priesthood ordination, why don’t we give our YW organized secular opportunities for leadership that are recognized and celebrated at church?

    We can also adapt the YW spiritual progress program for the YM and start them working towards their YM Recognition lapel pin (NOT a tie pin or clip. Ties point to the male sex organ and are immodest!)

    Seriously great ideas Melody!

    • Well said, April. All of it. I agree, we have a lopsided program that could become a more enriching environment for both YW and YM with a few changes. Thanks for this thoughtful comment.

  6. I want to add that I feel the leaders who care for our younger brothers and sisters in YW and YM are disciples. Saints, honestly. YW has always been the most demanding calling for me personally. (yes, I just called myself a saint for the years I spent working in YW.) It required more emotional and physical energy than any other calling. I’m not alone, either. I’ve heard many youth leaders express this sentiment. And they give willingly.

    Examples of exhaustive planning and implementation of the current YW and YM program are everywhere – all over the world. Opportunities to serve and uplift each other within these organizations make the programs dynamic in terms of pure sacrifice, compassion and joyful connections. My ideal, and April’s analysis in no way diminish the good that is done in these programs. Love is here. God is here – in the hearts of youth and leaders. That will never change.

    • Lately, I’m becoming increasingly concerned about what we teach our youth on Sunday and in mid-week meetings. We have so much to help prepare them for, and I can’t help but wonder if we as a church are placing our youth as one of our top priorities.

      I love your insightful theme, Melody, and think it could really help leaders and youth think of new ways to explore and grow one’s spiritual development.

  7. This article seems to attack on various fronts the current curriculum for male and female programs in the church. The growing concern of unequal numbers of active male members and female members of the church brings these questions to mind regarding male participation in the church.
    Questions:
    1. How can the Primary curriculum encourage male church participation?
    2. How can the YM curriculum encourage male participation?
    3. How do we encourage through activities our Primary and YM age males, so they are attending church and associating with male role models who have testimonies?
    4. What kind of activities will attract non-members or less active Primary and YM age males to come to church and learn about Christ?
    5. What kind of programs can we encourage to help males refrain or recover from the inevitable exposure to pornography?
    6. How can we build immunity to the anti-Mormon material available on the internet?
    7. How do we retain our male returned missionaries who are disillusioned with the gospel because of rejection in the mission field?
    8. What church callings, activities or curriculum encourages or helps maintain activity in men older than mission age?
    9. How does a man relate spiritually to God that is different than a woman and how can this be reflected in our activities, curriculum and organizations?
    10. How do we build resilience in the male members of the church amid social criticism, uncertainty about their value in the church, and continuous references to their inept performance as men toward women and the family in literature, media, and on the internet, etc.?

    • Thanks for these questions, Roxanna. Very good questions. You have always been thoughtful and perceptive. Like you, I’m concerned about YM and YW remaining connected to the church and to the gospel.

      Since you and I are close friends and you know me well, attack seems like a strong word for you to use. Did you read my comment above? For me, this post came from my personal observations and experiences over many years of devoted service in the church, specifically, my years in scouting and in the young women’s program. It’s a personal wish-list for me. As good and inspired as these programs are, with all the souls who are nurtured and “gathered in” via YW and YM, there is still room for people like me to offer ideas that speak to my soul. That’s what this post is about. I love you. Thanks again for reading and for offering concrete questions to consider regarding YM.

    • Roxanna, I think these are fantastic questions and as the mother of two Primary boys, are questions I think about often. I hope you’ll share your thoughts on these. But, I’m a little troubled by the presupposition that perhaps I’m unfairly placing on your comment. It seems to me that we want every soul to come to Christ regardless of his or gender, and this post was meant toimagine what might happen if a more unified front in YM and YW programming were to happen.

  8. Melody, the breath caught in my throat as I read your proposed YW/YM theme. It’s beautiful, and captures the commonality of what the Latter-day Saint experience should be. It’s beautiful.

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