Be the Change


I love to travel, and one of things that I often do is attend church. Sometimes it is not an LDS service, and sometimes it is. It is always interesting to see how other people do things. Several years ago, in Hawaii, a young woman was being honored for receiving her Young Womanhood Recognition award. The Stake Young Women’s presidency came to the pulpit, called the young sister up, and spoke at length about her projects and character. She was then presented with her medallion and a beautiful lei, accompanied by warm embraces. It was very touching to me.
Last weekend I attended church in New York City. The bishop first asked the Primary President to come forward, calling her “President”. Then, the Primary President invited a twelve year old girl to come to the pulpit. What a splendid girl! Long braids swinging, skirt with constellations and stars on it, rainbow stripe knee-high socks, tennis shoes, and such a smile on her face! The Primary President spoke about this primary graduate’s accomplishments in Activity Days, and told the congregation about her special gift for helping others feel loved. She mentioned that the primary would miss this wonderful girl and that the young women would be lucky to have her. Then the bishop asked everyone to raise their hand in a gesture of appreciation and support as this daughter of the ward transitioned into the next phase of her religious life. Everyone was smiling.
I ache for significant, systemic changes in the way women participate in our church. Both of these examples help me realize that there are many ways, on a personal, local level, that we can improve the experiences that sisters have in church. They may feel like drops in a bucket, but they are still felt. Leaders that exercise sensitivity and creativity can and do make a difference. The culture and traditions of a ward or stake can be significant.
How can I better recognize and appreciate the gifts and accomplishments of my sisters and brothers?

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6 Responses

  1. April Carlson says:

    I love these examples! We can treat Mormon girls as fully human, complex, achievers valued for something other than their sexual attractiveness to men or potential fertility. We are all better for these small efforts to embody egalitarian treatment of all our children!

  2. Dani Addante says:

    Great examples! I wish I would see things like this more often at church.

  3. Violadiva says:

    Yes! I recently heard about a ward where the Young Women in Excellence program was done in a Sacrament meeting, and all of the girls had their displays in the gym afterward so the members of the ward could speak to them about their projects after hearing their talks in the meeting. I love the idea of making our girls more visible, not just for their sakes, but for everyone else, too!

    • Jen says:

      We just had our YW in Excellence program after Sacrament meeting, which actually coincided with an all YW sacrament meeting (opening prayer, 8 talks, special song, and closing prayer all by yw). Us leaders loved having the YW in the spotlight and I think the young women enjoyed having the entire ward come through and speak with them about their projects.

      Now how can I get my bishopric to invite the Primary President or Young Women president to present the girls when they hit the milestone 12 years old or get their medallion! What a wonderful idea. It’s always the awkward bishopric member that has nothing to say other than, “Here’s so and so, she’s 12 and has been found worthy, and will be joining the young women’s program.” Haha.

  4. Bryant says:

    As a man who definitely is sympathetic/empathetic to women’s issues in the church, I am incredibly pleased to see these two examples of young women receiving recognition. I have been in scouting for many years, and it grates on me that the young men get their own special “court of honor” for earning their eagle (with probably too much help from mom), and the young woman gets 1 minute to come up and the Bishop gives her her medallion (at least in my Utah ward). My daughters worked as hard/longer and on their own to earn this award than my son did for his Eagle. I love these ideas and hope that if given the opportunity to voice this to our local leadership, I can convey this appropriately.

    I also have some heartache for young primary girls who come up to the stand with a young man graduating from primary and the young woman gets recognition of leaving primary, and the young man…..well, you know. To me, after about age 8, the disparity rears itself. Until then, boys and girls are pretty much the same in church. After this, women do not have the congregation raise their arms to advance or sustain for anything, unless they get a ward calling, which may not be for many years after leaving primary.

  5. Ellen says:

    April- That is part of a larger conversation that needs to be ongoing. So much of our messaging to YW- both in church and our culture in general is focused on attractiveness. Ugh. Dani- I don’t think there is anything other than habits and traditions that keeps us from behaving better toward YW. Violadiva- What a great idea for the Excellence event! We have a “Scout Sunday” where all the dudes wear their scout uniforms. I guess that won’t be happening any more. But the YW need a chance to shine. If we really believe that all the parts of the body of Christ are needed, we need to show it by our actions! Bryant- I think traditions and inertia and the “unwritten order of things” holds us back in so many areas. We all need to speak up, if not for ourselves, then for the young ones that are following.

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