August Young Women Lesson: How do the Roles of Men and Women Complement Each Other in Families?

Gordon B. Hinckley and Majorie Pay Hinckley

I have really struggled to prepare an outline for the August lesson.  Like Rachel, I decided to challenge myself to prepare an outline on a topic that I felt was difficult or uncomfortable.  I am in the Laurels advisor in my ward and I will say that in all likelihood I will avoid using this lesson topic and will gravitate toward something else.  However, readers might find it useful to tackle this in order to be mentally prepared to contribute in a joint first Sunday lesson, or perhaps you feel strongly that this is the right topic for your girls.  Because I have struggled I ask that commenters offer whatever suggestions they can think of to enrich this lesson and provide alternative approaches. I am particularly hoping for meaningful quotes or scriptures that would help teach true principles.


The topic I chose was “How do the roles of men and women complement each other in families?”  The lesson plan on the church website puts heavy emphasis on the Family Proclamation, the eternal nature of gender, and pulls from such resources as Julie B. Beck’s talk “Mothers Who Know.”  I wanted to create a forum for discussion in my class about the work that makes a family run and how to decide how to divide that work, without a particular emphasis on gender.


Work that makes families run

Begin the lesson by brainstorming on the board a list of all the things that need to happen to make a home run well.  Here are some ideas I came up with, by no means  a comprehensive list: cooking, cleaning, driving, shopping, having paid employment, nurturing children, doing the taxes, gardening, caring for the sick, home repairs, plumbing, pet care, planning family outings, organizing a schedule, being good with money, being responsible with bills and other financial obligations, being funny, being able to organize and present spiritual lessons etc.


I would modify some of these to make them so they all potentially could apply to young women, for example the jobs could also be characterized for them as schoolwork, or after school employment.


Which of these jobs do you feel you do well? Which jobs does mom/dad/sister/brother do well?

-Emphasize that we all have some natural aptitudes that grow both from experiences and our personal tastes.


Which of these jobs do you feel you do poorly, or do not enjoy?

-Discuss how some jobs are probably unenjoyable for everyone (cleaning the toilet…)

Why do you still do them?

-Doing work that we don’t necessarily enjoy is part of life and is an important growth opportunity.  Everyone in the family should share the burden of the unenjoyable jobs.


Dividing Responsibilities

Note that few jobs have to be gender specific (basically giving birth is the only one I could think of). How do you think family jobs should get divided up? What system do you think would work to make that decision?


Share Doctrine & Covenants 121:41-42

41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

How does this verse relate to dividing up home responsibilities? How can these qualities help to make a fair division of labor?

How have your responsibilities in your family changed over time?

Learning new skills

How can you prepare yourself to perform the jobs you cannot currently do? (refer to list on board) Emphasize that you cannot plan on a spouse taking on the roles your father did, not only because you may not marry but also because your spouse may not in fact be good at or enjoy those jobs.  What is one job you would be interested in learning how to do better? What can you do this week to practice that skill?

Have special circumstances ever changed your responsibilities within your family?
 (I would share an experience I had as a teenager when I began to cook dinner more as my mother worked outside the home.) How has taking on unexpected tasks blessed your life?


Church service and family responsibilities

How should church callings fit in with all the work that happens to sustain a family?

Share Doctrine and Covenants 25:9 And thou needest not fear, for thy husband shall support thee in the church…

-Emphasize that support in families goes both ways, and church service is only possible in families because of the sacrifice and work of other family members.

How have you helped your family members to fulfill their callings? Has it ever been hard for you to have a parent give lots of time to the church? How can we cope with those feelings?


Preparing for adulthood and independence

What fears or concerns do you have about having adult responsibilities in your home? What are you excited about?


I would close with a quote from Majorie Pay Hinckley about her relationship with President Gordon B. Hinckley

“I am very grateful for a husband who always lets me do my own thing. . . He never insists that I do anything his way, or any way for that matter.  From the very beginning he gave me space and let me fly.  What a man!”   President Hinckley added “If there’s anyting that irritates me it’s these men who try to run their wives’ lives and tell them everything they ought to do and so on and so on.”


-The foundation of a happy home is mutual respect and a mutual willingness to work and be fair.  These are gospel principles and are the way Christ has asked us to treat one another.


How would you teach family roles to the Young Women? What do you think should be added to these lesson suggestions?

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14 Responses

  1. April says:

    Great lesson, Em! How brave of you to tackle such a difficult topic. When you mentioned jobs that have to be gender-specific, here is what I thought of in my household: I am a nursing mother, so I have to be the one to do that, and I need my husband to support me by giving me time and space to nurse and by correctly heating and storing breastmilk when I am away. My husband is about twice my size, so he is stronger than I am and I need him to do certain tasks that require heavy lifting, like carrying the huge bags of water softener, and it is certainly easier for me if he does tasks that require reaching high, like removing icicles. My husband is the only parent qualified to teach my sons how to pee standing up. Overall, it is quite a minority of tasks that are gender-specific. I think your emphasis on dividing responsibilities based on preference, aptitude and fairness makes more sense. i am glad you took up this challenge. This lesson gives people ideas for more reasonable options than dividing work along strict gender lines.

  2. Em says:

    I like the idea of consciously dividing responsibilities instead of just letting the chips fall. In Mormonland, the chips are not likely to fall in an equitable manner.

  3. Caroline says:

    Brilliant, Em. I love how open-ended and thoughtful these questions are.

  4. Dave K says:

    This is a very good lesson plan. My suggestion is to not shy away from discussing the “loaded” terms found in the proclamation. Too often we avoid terms such as preside, provide, and nurture because the proclamation only uses those terms in reference to one gender. We worry that discussing the terms will lead to conflict. But if we exclude these terms from the discussion we will leave a lot of good out of the lesson. The terms themselves should be seen by the youth as good and something to aspire to, not something that divides us into exclusive roles.

    Start with nurturing. Women nurture very well. Ask for examples. Men also nurture very well. Ask for examples. Some men nurture in different ways from some women, but it is difficult to find any means of nurturing that are exclusive to one gender.

    Turn to providing. Fathers and mothers should provide for their children. Providing means many things. For example, providing nurishment could entail actually growing the food (gardens are great), working a job to pay for others to grow the food, and cooking and preparing and the food for consumption. Fathers and mothers work together in providing for their children. The actual work they do may vary with time and circumstance, but both share this important role.

    Also discuss presiding – perhaps the most loaded term. Use the dictionary definition. Presiding means to provide leadership and direction to those under your trust. Both men and women preside in the church. Discuss examples of good presidents – perhaps the deacon’s quorum president, laurel class president, primary president, or sunday school president. What makes a good presider? How should fathers and mothers work together in providing direction to their children?

    • Rachel says:

      I love these suggestions.

    • Em says:

      I love these suggestions. Maybe if we change the conversation at an earlier age it will be easier to have it again when they are older.

      • DAS says:

        I am 70. I am a counselor in YW (we old geezers have lots of wisdom in us, give us a try sometime). 🙂 I am one of 5 girls in my family. My father relied on us to help him with carpentry, car repair, lawn mowing, snow shoveling, lifting, roof repair, etc. My father often cooked meals, washed, put on an apron especially during canning season and on and on. Often when coming home from school it may have been my turn to sweep the floor after dinner and he would say, “Go do your homework, I can do the cleaning.” The POINT IS: If you observe and absorb it as a child, you play it out as an adult. The conversation isn’t even necessary, they understand by their OWN hard work around the house that it takes a family to keep the house going.

  5. Emily U says:

    “How do the roles of women and men complement each other” is such a leading question. And not leading in any direction I like. But if the lessons is taught through open-ended questions like this, I think it will be a great one. You’re so right that there aren’t any tasks (other than birth and breastfeeding) that both women and men can’t do. These decisions are really individual, and this lesson acknowledges that.

  6. Rachel says:

    I genuinely think this topic is even trickier than one on chastity. And, that it is extremely important, as its message is so constant. All of us need ways to look at this issue more clearly, as well as more in line with our lived experiences, as women or men who both provide AND nurture.

  7. EmilyCC says:

    This lesson is fabulous! I haven’t been in YW for years, but I wonder how likely it would be to have a joint lesson here with the YM. It seems like a great opportunity for young women and men to discuss how they want to run their future households.

  8. Em says:

    Thank you all for your great suggestions and feedback. At the outset I thought there was no way I would actually teach this lesson. Now I’m thinking maybe I will. Not only is it an important topic, but I have a lesson all planned out already!

  9. Joseph M says:

    One of the issues with the Proclamation is that it covers so many subjects in such a short space that there is not a whole lot of room for nuance.
    I’ve become more and more convinced that we don’t have a sufficiently deep understanding of the council as the model of divine governance. Agenda responsibility often gets conflated with task responsibility. We confuse the responsibility to make sure counseling happens, decisions are made and task allocated (presiding) with actually making decisions and allocating tasks (counselling) (See Ballard Counseling with our Councils). As a ward mission leader I find in council that while the Bishop holds the keys of mission work in the ward, I have the responsibility for making sure issues needs get brought up in the meeting and the tasks often get assigned to other people. As another example a need seen by the RS may need to be addressed by the HP or Youth leadership.

    Compliment, in this context isn’t so much about what we can do (tasks) but what we see, understand and prioritize.

    Some thing else that comes to mind is that ability and effect aren’t the same I know that me and my wife can say the exact same things and get completely different responses from our children.
    As an example, I ran across a comment that lead me to some research recently that indicates that a father’s religious participation levels has a greater effect on their relationships with their children and future religious participation then a mother’s does.

  10. Robin says:

    Thank you for your thoughts. I will be using this as a guideline in my lesson this next week for the Mia Maids and Laurels. When I showed my husband the lesson topic a few weeks ago and asked him what he thought, he laughed and said “well you mow the lawn and I do the dishes so maybe we don’t fit the way it’s outlined” but that is what makes our marriage work – tasks that we each do that may or may not be “traditional”. Love these ideas!

  11. Kelly says:

    Good news: the “Women Who Know” talk is no longer listed as a resource. And another lesson outline references Sister Oscarson’s comment that we are all homemakers, makers of a home, regardless of gender or family situation. Progress? Thanks for a good angle on the topic.

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