Getting Input

Last weekend my parents and I were discussing old church manuals, and new church manuals, and how some manuals desperately need an update. My mom absolutely blindsided me by suggesting that I write a manual for the YW program. Just so you know my mom is as conservative and traditionally minded as they come. The thing that blindsided me most was the fact that she wasn’t at all kidding. She really thought that I could write a great manual, send it to Salt Lake, and expect it to be taken into consideration.
And now, I’m even surprising myself by seriously considering it.
On a certain level I can see how something like that might be well received. I see a need, and rather than complain I do my best to help meet that need in a good natured show of effort. On the other hand I see how something like that might be thought of as problematic- that I’m taking authority upon myself, that not only do I find the old books inadequate, but I also see the people one would expect to do these things as incapable of doing it right. Or that I would be seen as laughably out of touch with what church programs should really be about, (much the same way that I see Helen Andelin’s rumored attempt to get Fascinating Womanhood adopted for church use)
I may or may not actually write a manual, and even if I did I probably won’t send it to Salt Lake, (they probably get a ton of those sorts of things, and who would I even send it to?). But, just in case someone out there is paying attention I thought that it might be worth it to make sure they get some more diverse opinions. So here’s a chance to sound off; what would you like to see in a Young Women’s manual?


Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

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15 Responses

  1. Azucar says:

    I was in Young Women for seven years in my last ward; teaching every week out of that manual. I really, really want to see a more scripturally-based manual. Even my YW president suggested to us that we find a way to update the story-heavy manual with more modern examples and be sensitive to the different situations our girls were living through. Honestly, a more scripturally-based manual would avoid all the out-dated and kind of “light” stories that comprise much of the manual.

    I know something about how the current manuals were created and why we won’t be getting new ones any time soon. I don’t feel comfortable sharing that information in a public forum. However, I found that if I stuck more closely to the principles and the scriptures while trying to teach my girls, it was a healthier and less fraught experience.

  2. Alisa says:

    Oh, great topic! I agree with Azucar on more scriptures. YW need to know the scriptures and be prepared to rely on them throughout their lives, whether or not they go on missions.

    I served in a YW presidency a few years ago, and I have a few suggestions.

    * Stories of righteous, powerful, interesting, and influencial YW and women from scriptures, church history, history of Christianity, and the world. Give these YW some women to look up to as spiritual role models.

    * Emphasis on individual development. Work on developing confidence, assertiveness, education, responsibility, mindfulness, healthy emotional management.

    * Work on creating well-rounded young women. Prepare them for adulthood and not just marriage. Help them realize the importance of preparing for a career they can enjoy and be good at, and help them find a way that’s meaningful for them to serve others.

  3. Bones says:

    This is slightly redundant, but I guess that is because it is SO needed–but PLEASE make almost ALL stories and scriptures female-based. No more endless stories about men/boys. That drives me nuts.

    More life lessons would be amazing. Talk about careers, living alone, defining yourself as a person, and even throw in some great cultural lessons like I experienced when I first entered the Relief Society in 1980. We learned about famous art works, amazing countries and music. I was tricked into thinking that those lessons were what RS was all about. Dang.

    ON a much lighter note, please change the names from Cathy, Susan and Karen to Amélie, Carmen and Xiao Ling.

  4. Deborah says:

    When I served in an urban nj yw, most of the girls were new converts, sometimes the only members in their family. It was just the prez and I, and after looking throughout all three manuals, we pretty much put them on the shelf. When I taught, I took them systematically through the life of Christ (the new testament stories had incredible resonance), and when the prez taught she focused on gospel principles, focusing on the needs of the girls and hunting through the New Era for more contemporary and relevant stories (when she used stories). I know we ditched the system somewhat, but I think we did some good for the girls in our care. I’d love the manuals to be more scripture-based with lots of possible “extension activities/discussion questions” to help leaders cater to their girls’ circumstances.

  5. Sterling Fluharty says:

    I wonder if it would be possible for YW and Seminary to have a more integrated curriculum.

    I think it would be cool if the YW manual could provide discussion topics for groups of young women that wanted to seek wisdom out of the best books.

    College readiness would be a great topic.

    Feminism from an LDS perspective would be dynamite.

    And it seems like the current manuals could say more about personal wellness.

    Have you seen the copyright page of the new manuals. They practically solicit feedback about the manuals. And there is an mailing and email address where you can forward your ideas. So why not try it?

  6. E says:

    If you go to, click on gospel library, then lessons, then on to the YW manual, the site solicits feedback and ideas for improving the manual. I absolutely think you should take your mother’s advice and send your ideas; I am sure that whoever is responsible for the YW lesson manuals are well aware of their deficiencies and would welcome contributions.

  7. EM says:

    Oh gosh, puh-lease I wish someone would update all the manuals, particularly the seminary ones. Young people today have no idea who Bruce R McConkie, who is quoted way too much. YW/M need to have lessons that reflect the times they’re living in, not some wishy-washy nonsense that even a primary child understands. I toss manuals out the window and use the scriptures only. Maybe that’s what needs to happen – throw out the manuals and only use scriptures.

  8. ZD Eve says:

    Starfoxy, will you be my daughter’s YW leader?

    In addition to the many other excellent suggestions, I’d like to see much more systematic preparation for the full range of adult roles and circumstances–missions, careers, and motherhood–rather than just temple marriage and more temple marriage.

    I think YW should definitely be preparing for a career. I’d like to see a whole unit or section on that every year. I’d read President Hinckley’s instructions to get all the education you can at regular intervals and talk frankly about how almost all YW will end up supporting themselves at some point in their lives due to singleness, husband’s unemployment, widowhood, or divorce. I’d like to see much more focus on taking school seriously as a gateway to future opportunities and college or vocational education. I’d love to integrate that with weekday activities on college prep and career selection.

    One of my pet peeves with the current manuals is that one of them has an entire unit on missionary work that makes not a single mention of girls serving missions. I’d definitely shift the focus away from supporting the elders to doing missionary work of one’s own, whether on a full-time mission or in other contexts.

    This isn’t so much a manual issue, but I’d like to see all the princessy swept-off-your-feet-by-your-RM rhetoric around marriage jettisoned in favor of realistic talk about how to make a marriage work–friendship, companionship, working out problems and disagreements. That would probably be for the Laurels, though, more than the Beehives.

    Maybe most important, I’d like to see a meaty spiritual curriculum with a lot of focus on developing a personal relationship with God, listening to the Spirit, and developing Christlike attributes. I’d love to see a YW manual filled with every scriptural and Restoration story about girls’ and women’s lives we can get our hands on–Deborah, Huldah, Anna, Abish, Martha Hughes Cannon, Patty Bartlett Sessions.

    One of the biggest problems with the current manuals is how bizarrely androcentric they are. Four lessons on honoring the priesthood? Not necessary. You can bet your sweet Aunt Fanny the boys aren’t having four lessons in a row on how to honor the girls.

  9. One manual isn’t going to fit every class nor every girl. Teachers need to feel free to modify lessons. I know when I was going through a rough time in junior high, lessons on the scriptures and the life of the Savior wouldn’t have helped me nearly as much as the stories of girls learning to make friends at school.

    It’s pretty hard to be spiritual on Sunday if you’re miserable at school five days a week. I think girls need to be taught more social and problem-solving skills. In my previous ward, we had trouble just getting the girls to be nice to each other. Seminary and years of scripture stories from Primary, Sunday School and YW hadn’t helped our girls internalize the Golden Rule.

  10. Angie says:

    I’ve been thinking for a few days about your post. What are the most important things to tell young women? I echo Sister Julie Beck when she says that the most important thing we must learn (and, therefore teach and discuss and practice) is personal revelation. We all, including the young women, need to know how to talk with God, research our options, think things through logically, feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and to trust ourselves. Personal revelation and all it entails – that’s what I think should be taught in YW.

  11. nat kelly says:

    Haha. It’s funny that you should write about this now. I’m currently working on a LONG letter to the curriculum department about the YW Manuals, which I’m planning on forwarding to the general YW Presidency. If you do attempt such an undertaking, I would send it on to the curriculum department. They warmly invite feedback and suggestions right on the first page. 🙂

    I’m going to post my mammoth letter online when I finally finish it. I’ll refer you to there for my specific answers to your questions.

  12. Olive says:

    My friends and I have been talking about writing a manual for the Activity Day Girls. Its just not fair that they have NOTHING and the cub scouts have SO MUCH. Seriously…give the project to a couple of moms, and in one week you’ll have an amazing, fabulous program. Why doesn’t the church see this!?!?!

  13. Debra says:

    I think both YW and adult sisters need to be taught and encouraged to become full adults, responsible for our own lives, our own happiness, our own salvation and our own well-being and happiness in all areas of our lives.

    The church system and culture tends to reinforce the dependency of women, with the strict gender roles and gender-based hierarchy, and so on, and holds women and girls in a state of perpetual adolescence – as does many elements of many of the cultures in which the church is now found.

    In addition to teaching about the Saviors’s life, and providing opportunities for young women to experience his love, power and grace in their own lives, through the scriptures and the application of the basics as taught therein, teach the girls life skills and in every opportunity, foster within them the belief and confidence in themselves that they can succeed, they have what it takes, and that it is up to them in partnership with the Father to become anything they choose to be in this life, and that they can achieve a Celestial home.

  14. Cassie Lynne says:

    The tone of the manuals is the first thing that could use a makeover.

    As a beehive I felt as though I was being babied. By Laurels, I really just wanted to gag more often than not. As a YW that was trying to dig the real message out and not be harshly critical, I can say with fairness than not even the Mormon girls that grow up in conservative Mormon families their entire lives do not naturally embrace the language and wording of the manuals. It is often taken as offensive, as if we’re not bright enough to see the whole picture of life.

    The tone, frankly, along with the topics, are boring. I’ve heard it said that young adults are the church’s biggest pool of investigators, which makes a lot of sense to me. YW lessons don’t need to be fun, flashy, and exhilarating, but discussing topics of interest and/or anxiety would be worthwhile, if the goal is truly to touch the hearts of the girls.

    Cut the fluff, but keep the feminine. Making the lessons more realistic will help girls feel respected and trustworthy. It will result in true interest and more participation. It might even change a young girl’s life.

    A few other things I’d like to see:

    *One topic a month is too long. Changing weekly or bi-weekly would keep topics fresh.

    *Lessons need to go deeper. It is important to learn about getting married in the temple, but that doesn’t matter if they don’t learn about the marriage following.

    *Let’s get some genuine thoughts and experiences shared. Leaders seem so far away to the girls. Bridging the gap and showing the girls that the leaders understand, care, and relate would increase their credibility in the YWs eyes tremendously.

    *Keep what the prophets say, but build off of it with practicable strategies and techniques.

    *Any changes to the classroom environment or teaching style that encourages girls to share real thoughts and insights, real problems, and real life examples.

  15. Reese Dixon says:

    Starfoxy, we’d love to have you participate in any way you want to over at BeginningsNew. There is enough work for a whole lot of us.

    Azucar, I’d love to hear more about the manual creation process. Will you email me at tresa at reesedixon dot com? Plus then we can squeal over midcentury design together.

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