Virtue, revisited

At the beginning of 2009 I published my most inflammatory post ever–the one about the church announcing the addition of an eighth value to the Young Women Personal Progress program, Virtue. I took the press release, which invited parents and leaders “to teach the doctrine of chastity and moral purity to help each young woman to be virtuous,” as an indication that the church and the Young Women program particularly were aiming to put a special emphasis on chastity.

My fear was not only that we’d raise a generation of young women to think “virtue” means only chastity (problematic from an English-language perspective as well as a religious one), but also, even worse, that they would think their virtue was inextricably tied to their chastity, and if they failed to abstain from sexual relations (in all their variety), it would negate or severely diminish their virtue overall. Personally, I am all for classifying fornication as a major sin, as sex is a major thing and deserves a few major sin categories. I am against classifying fornication (much less other varieties of illicit sexual behavior) as the nuclear bomb of sins, something that either destroys your spirituality or taints your soul with Satanic radiation for a half-life of no less than x number of years. Obviously, sexual relations outside of marriage can have devastating consequences (operative word:can ), hence, the major sin. However (as I expounded in a later post), life is complicated, as is human nature. Therefore, goodness is also complicated, and the badness of one specific act is relative to the circumstances and context in which it’s committed. We should not confuse weakness with evil, and we should not confuse innocence with virtue.

As I recall, most BCC readers–or at least the commenters on this particular thread–took exception, if not outright offense, at my argument. They reminded me that virtue entailed so much more than chastity and I was being overly sensitive and/or cuckoo if I thought this was just about keeping our young women virgins.

I will now reiterate what I unsuccessfully iterated the first time. When I hear “virtue,” I don’t automatically assume the speaker means “chastity,” unless the context makes it clear that “chastity” is what the speaker means for me to infer. To me, the wording of the press release announcing Virtue (the Value) implied that Virtue was intended as a euphemism for Chastity. But many of you thought this was delusion on my part. Conveniently, the new Personal Progress books including Virtue had not yet been released, so we were all free to put whatever spin on Virtue and (its press release) we liked.

The general consensus among People Who Disagreed With Me was that virtue just meant Goodness, although there was another, overlapping group of People Who Thought They Disagreed With Me But Really Just Had A Problem With My Tone And Conclusions who held that Virtue was simply a more generally-applicable term than Chastity and encompassed a range of behaviors beyond the mere abstinence from sexual intercourse. I suspect, but can’t prove, that a substantial percentage of People Who Thought They Disagreed With Me were the same folks who took umbrage at Elna Baker claiming to live the law of chastity whilst lying half-naked with a fully-naked man in his hotel room. But if Chastity is really so narrowly defined as “(merely) abstaining from sexual intercourse,” then Sister Baker was absolutely living the law of chastity in that hotel room, and her nakedity therein was irrelevant. Of course, one could easily argue that lying naked or half-naked or any kind of naked with someone whilst in an unmarried state is not virtuous, strictly speaking, and perhaps if young Elna had had the value of Virtue instilled in her as well as the law of chastity, she would not have been in any man’s hotel room, naked or otherwise, and her memoir would be that much less interesting to read. But that’s neither here nor there.

My point–and I do have one–is that the new and improved Personal Progress books (“Now with VIRTUE!”) are coming out, and we should finally be able to settle the question of What Virtue Really Means (In Church, Anyway).

Is it abstaining from sexual intercourse and anything like thereunto, including–but not limited to!–all sexual touching, all sexual situations (e.g. lying half-naked next to fully-naked folks), all sexually explicit or suggestive media, and most-if-not-all sexual thoughts?

OR

Is it just all-around sweet stuff like being honest and industrious and helping old ladies across the street (assuming that would not be too much “like the boys”)?

I do not yet have my filthy mitts on one of these new pink pamphlets of purity promulgation, but I assume that the section on Virtue is very much like unto, if not exactly the same, as the current “Virtue insert” currently available online, which I’ve just now gotten around to reading because after I post something offensive, I need a period in which to recuperate before my interest in re-posting further offensive material can be properly engaged. Here is the Reader’s Digest version of the four required value experiences and the value project for Virtue:

1. Study the meaning and importance of chastity and virtue. In your journal, write the promised blessings of being sexually clean and pure and your commitment to be chaste.

2. When you are baptized and confirmed, you are given the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide all aspects of your life. Read the following scripture references, and identify the promised blessings: John 14:26–27; John 15:26; 2 Nephi 32:1–5; D&C 45:57–59; D&C 88:3–4; and D&C 121:45–46. In your journal, record what you have learned, and write about a time when you felt the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

3. Read Alma chapter 5. Make a list of the questions Alma asks. Answer the questions for yourself, and make a list of the things you can and will do to prepare yourself to be pure and worthy to enter the temple.

4. Determine to partake worthily of the sacrament each week and fill your life with virtuous activities that will bring spiritual power.

Project:
The Savior chose to live a virtuous life. Follow His admonition to “learn of me” (D&C 19:23) by reading the entire Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Liken the scriptures to your life and circumstances. As you read, record your thoughts regularly in your journal. Note the example of the Savior’s life and mission. What did the Redeemer and those who followed Him do to live virtuous lives? At the completion of your reading, record your testimony in your journal.

While it is somewhat telling that the first required value experience is all about chastity, and that chastity is the only aspect of virtue that merits a specific mention, the upshot of the other three experiences and the value project is encouraging. I like that they ask young women to think about the Holy Ghost and how to recognize its influence. I am particularly pleased with the requirement to glean one’s lessons about virtue from the scriptures. In Alma 5 Alma does not specifically mention abstaining from sexual intercourse (no offense to it), but does specifically mention non-sexual sins such as pride and envy and making a mock of one’s brother (or sister, to be gender-inclusive). Certainly the Book of Mormon has somewhat to say about chastity, but it is not the focus of the book as a whole, merely an integrated aspect of what it means to live virtuously.

Which brings me back to my original point–of this post and the earlier one–which is this: What is the point of Virtue, the value? If it is not to put a special emphasis on chastity, is it not somewhat redundant in the wake of those other seven values that pretty well sum up what virtue is? Is it some kind of doctrinal cake-topper? I don’t know, but I’m willing to concede that’s just me being fussy. Again, I have no quarrel with the value experiences and project requirements that Virtue adds to the Personal Progress mix; indeed, I find them pleasing and delightsome. Only a niggling concern that the superfluousness of the eighth value draws undue attention to its one unique aspect (chastity) haunts me.

Fortunately, my own daughter–who enters the Young Women program in a scant three-and-a-half months, promises to have so many problems with the first seven values that she will have no time to process the theoretically troubling aspects of the eighth. But time will tell, as it usually does.

I am most interested in reading about the opinions and experiences of young women and YW leaders. What has Virtue added to the Personal Progress program?

Virtue, revisited

Comments

  1. I don’t see how Virtue is superfluous. I mean, most virtues overlap a great deal. I see the virtue emphasis as a more direct counterweight to the immodest clothing, sexually aggressive behavior, low-brow humor, and inconsiderateness of the typical high-school teen girl. Sure, the other values cover all that peripherally, but Virtue hits it square.

  2. By the way, teen girls seem to have become really sexually aggressive. They’ve moved from the “come hither” to the “I know you like it” attitudes. We’ve got some good-looking YM in our ward, and their mothers aren’t happy about what they’ve seen.

    Maybe it’s just the South Cal high schools.

  3. I like the new virtue because I use it as a way to insert Aristotle into my talks and Sunday School lessons. Virtue is a great concept (and really fun to analyze), even if it is used incorrectly (only in relation to chastity). Funny things is that the YW values are actually better understood as virtues. Not sure if reciting chants helps with the development of virtue, though. Oh, well.

  4. If it is a particular emphasis on chastity and sexual modesty, then I agree it is not (necessarily) superfluous. I still think that it is problematic in that case–I wish they had chosen a different word, for one thing–but not superfluous. As you said, most virtues overlap a great deal, which is why I object(ed) to calling this particular value Virtue or having a Virtue value at all, if it is not meant to hit the sexuality issue square.

    I agree that teen girls are more sexually aggressive, generally speaking, than they used to be. There are a number of explanations for this, but they probably belong in a different post.

    If we’re going to concede that Virtue is meant to address sexuality issues, I’m certainly open to the argument that there’s a genuine need for this; more than being open to it, I would probably endorse it (though probably not in the form of a Personal Progress value). But if they do mean to place a special emphasis on sexual morality, I wish they would hit it a little more square than this Personal Progress value does. Only one of the value experiences for Virtue specifically addresses sexual morality, so what are we to conclude from this? I hope that it doesn’t cause (more) young women to conflate chastity with virtue generally.

  5. The virtue insert has been available, and in fact, has been in use by young women, for a full year. I can’t remember the exact month, but it seems like it was just before last January. So we actually have a fair bit of history concerning how the young women themselves view it, and how it’s being used by their leaders.
    I serve in my stake YW presidency, so I’ve had a chance to observe multiple wards and had talks with quite a few young women. My observation has been that, at first glance, many YW view this new value as specifically addressing sexual morality. Some leaders also seem to define virtue in the same narrow vein.

    However, the YW and leaders who actually read and then work on the goals develop a much more nuanced understanding of virtue as an all-encompassing standard of goodness, for lack of a better phrase. I’ve been very happy with how many.

    The introduction of this new value (yes…it is vaguely awkward to call virtue a value, but language is flexible, so it doesn’t really bother me) coincided with the general YW presidency’s new emphasis on preparing YW to enter the temple. YW have heard again and again about the importance of living a virtuous life in order to be ready to enter the temple and make covenants. When asked, the vast majority of YW understand that they should be more than just sexually moral to enter the temple.

    (And just an aside here, I’ve been thrilled that in all the phrasing I’ve seen about the temple and its importance in the lives of the YW, not once has the idea of temple for YW equaled temple marriage. Not once. Our stake in particular has emphasized the idea of preparing for the temple as a way to make personal covenants between the young woman herself and God. Of course, temple marriage figures in, but it is not the be all end all as I had worried. End aside.)

  6. Good question, Rebecca. The whole question of whether virtue just means chastity reminds me of the weirdness introduced in the Proclamation on the Family where the authors chose to say that “gender is eternal,” and left us to wonder whether by “gender” they meant “sex.”

    I think you make (and in your earlier post made) a good point about the overlap between this value and the others. (I was among the People Who Agreed With You But Were Too Chicken to Comment.) In fact, I don’t know the existing values that well except from what I remember my sisters saying when we were younger, but I wonder how much overlap there is in the first seven. Perhaps they could be reduced to three or four!

  7. The Virtue insert has been available for quite some time, but not at the time of my original post(s) on the subject. I know because I searched in vain for material on how the value was going to be incorporated into the existing program. If they’d introduced the insert at the same time they introduced the value, it would have saved me at least 2,000 words on the subject, perhaps even 3,500.

    Ahna, I am as thrilled as you that the phrasing about the temple does not equal temple marriage but temple covenants. This is a welcome change from when I was in YW and marriage was (or seemed to be, at the time) the only thing they ever talked to us about vis a vis the temple. (Granted, the sealing ordinance is the pinnacle, but it is hardly the only piece worth talking about, especially considering that many young women will be ready to make temple covenants before they are able to marry.)

    Ziff, I imagine that we could theoretically get by with one value, provided it was the right one. One value, multiple facets. “Virtue” is actually a very good candidate, although I still vote for “Awesomeness,” as it more comfortably incorporates something like Divine Nature. (You see that I’ve given this serious thought.)

  8. My take on the new value — it does indeed mean chastity specifically. The value experiences (looking at the more detailed ones in the manual) cover the importance of chastity and what happens if you’re unchaste:

    1. Why it’s important to be chaste.

    2. You need to be chaste to have the Holy Ghost.

    3. The consequences of being unchaste are horrible (“Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?”)…

    4. … but you can repent.

    The virtue section includes the quote “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10), and there is a ruby on the new medallion. I can’t help but feel like this is saying girls are worth more if they’re virgins (I know, I know, I’m being overly cynical). Fortunately, I doubt teenage girls will read as much into it as I have. I certainly hope they don’t get the message that slipping up sexually “taints your soul with Satanic radiation” (great metaphor!).

  9. (The value experiences don’t use the word “chaste.” They talk about being “pure and worthy”. I’m making the assumption that means the same thing as chaste.)

  10. I can’t help but feel like this is saying girls are worth more if they’re virgins

    See, this is why we need fewer Federal regulations in the economy and to just allow markets to work–It’s nearly 2010, and we still don’t know if virgins are worth more than non-virgins.

  11. It seems rather simple to me. I imagine that where the value of “virtue” overlaps, it is superfluous, but it is also intended to place more emphasis where it does not overlap, including chastity.

  12. What a well-written post! I, too, think it is wonderful that the temple if being expressed as more than a place for temple marriage. As someone who grew up with hearing about the temple almost exclusively in terms of marriage, I read the temple ceremony in terms of marriage when I first went through. Frankly, I didn’t like how marriage was depicted there, and so I left the temple being less then thrilled. I have only come to appreciate the temple as I have learned to see it through lenses other than marriage.

    Anyway, hope this trend continues. I’d be curious to know more about what exactly the young women are learning about the temple if the focus is no longer just on marriage.

  13. 2 Martin:
    It’s not just the So Cal teenagers.

    Everything else in general:
    I’ve got a friend in the ward – I home-teach her family, and her oldest son is of dating age. He’s a raging 16-year old stack of hormones, and that is exactly the way 16-year old boys are supposed to be. I remember being a 16-year old boy.

    Anyway, his mom and I have discussed his dating. He’s been serious with a non-LDS girl, and casual/serious with a couple of LDS girls. We’ve decided there are three general types of teenage girls out there.
    1. Stay away from her. Discourage her. Be almost mean. (Not that we are advocating meanness, per se, but it was a phrase my mission president used in how elders should conduct themselves around the Laurels.)
    2. Watch yourself around her. (Not that there’s ever a time not to watch yourself, but this is the sort who could help you fall into temptation, rather than actively reeling you in.)
    3. She is awesome. We need to see more of that young lady. (Reserved for those young women who aren’t going to lead anyone down that path to Satan’s radioactive waste dump, and aren’t about to casually walk anywhere in that direction either, even if the sunset is nice.)

    1 is off-limits except in groups or in supervised activities. 2 and 3 are great for double-dating, having over for an evening of video games in the living room, and for coming over when you’re having a big activity at your house. But, 3 can be talked into taking some time off from volunteering at the crisis shelter to help you move, cleans her plate, helps with the dishes, and changes any diaper that needs to be changed. These are the young ladies with worth above rubies, the kind you hope your daughter will be and that your son will find when he’s 25, done with college, and has a salary.

  14. “But, 3 can be talked into taking some time off from volunteering at the crisis shelter to help you move, cleans her plate, helps with the dishes, and changes any diaper that needs to be changed. These are the young ladies with worth above rubies, the kind you hope your daughter will be and that your son will find when he’s 25, done with college, and has a salary.”

    WOW. That so does not sound like the kind of glamorous and exciting creatures that most teenage girls want to see themselves as.
    As your friend will not be able to excercise any control over her son’s dating for very much longer I hope that she’s also having serious conversations with him about condom use……………

  15. But there are these exact sorts of young ladies out there. We had one in our ward until she went off to school this fall. She was in drama, played electric guitar, honor society, and cute to boot. She did humanitarian work at her high school, introduced her best friend to the Church, went to the discussions, and was there when the friend’s entire family was baptized. She got the YM/YW busy doing a service auction to collect food for a local pantry. She was fashionable and cute, made an effort to befriend the Beehives, and came over to help my 10-year old daughter paint her room. Her Ipod was filled with rock music and just about every soundtrack Julie Andrews ever made. She wouldn’t tolerate gossip within earshot, and didn’t hesitate to chew out young men who were teasing young women.

    Silly at times? Yes. Subject to the same hormonal urges as every other teenager out there? You bet.

    And yes, my friend has had these very pointed conversations with her son. She’s also tried to make sure that he behaves like the sort of young man that one of these young ladies would want to know.

    The boys should be taught to be virtuous as well. We as a Church are great at telling them what they should not be doing. Parents (myself included) need to work on that General Awesomeness part of Virtue – raising exceptional kids who know that they have a different set of rules and expectations than all the other kids around them. If we never expect more, we won’t get more.

  16. Scott,

    I refer you to the movie “Taken”. There, in the auction for the captured girls, the virgin clearly went for a higher price, though that higher price was most likely an artifact of Hollywood suspense. If we could get data on multiple auctions, with characteristics of each of the auctioned girls, we would be able to infer what the implicit value of virginity is, ceteris paribus.

  17. In the Protestant world the term “sexual purity” is all the rage. No euphemism required. I vote we follow suit.

  18. Rebecca, I do think Virtue is being used to directly address chastity issues, but I definitely think it’s a “higher law” approach to doing it. To be chaste, you avoid doing certain things. To be virtuous, you aspire to be a certain way.

    I think the church wants young people to look up to where they want to go, not down to where they don’t want to fall.

    Plus, Virtue encompasses more than just chastity. Sure, you can argue that chastity means more than not having sexual relations outside of marriage, but that’s the definition most young people would accept (and the one used for temple recommend questions).

  19. Sidebottom, judging from what I’ve seen, “sexual purity” to the typical protestant doesn’t mean at all the same thing as “chastity” does to a Mormon, but maybe that’s what you mean.

  20. As a Young Women’s President, I choose to define virtue as: moral excellence, goodness, righteousness, and valor. I taught a lesson on this shortly after the new value was announced. It had the effect of showing the girls that they are capable of so much more than just “not having sex.” (Although I think this is important).

    This definition also fits nicely with this years YM/YW theme:
    “Be strong and of a good courage”

  21. I like that tatertot…moral excellence sand valor

  22. Sidebottom – But that would require uttering the word “sex” and that would never do!

    philomytha – It appears that the lesson in the manual is exactly the same as the information in the insert, and yet we read the material slightly differently. As I said, it is telling that the first and only specific aspect of virtue mentioned is chastity, but I took the supporting experience requirement–reading the scriptures, pondering the example of the Savior and his followers–as an encouraging sign that leaders should emphasize more than just the (sotto voce) sexual purity angle. I certainly hope that’s what they’re doing.

    If we’re going to talk about the Holy Ghost not dwelling in unclean tabernacles, we need to send a clear message that “unclean” covers more than “unchaste.” It’s not like you’re entitled to the companionship of the Holy Ghost if you’re petty, conniving and mean–just so long as you’re chaste! I don’t believe the Holy Ghost is any more grieved by sexual sin than it is by a myriad of other sins that teenage girls are apt to commit, and I think that regardless of how many teens are having sex, it can’t be as many as are being mean to each other. It’s been ages since I’ve been in YW, so I have no way of knowing if the chastity angle is being overdone, but however many lessons they’re having on chastity, they need to have twice as many on kindness.

  23. Martin – what does “sexual purity” mean to a Protestant? I’m curious.

    Also, I’ve noticed in these conversations that people have a very narrow definition of chastity, which is not at all how I was taught to think about chastity as a young Mormon person. When I was in YW they always said that chastity was more than just not having sex–it meant sexual purity in thought, word and deed–and I attended a lot of different wards as a youth, so I don’t think it was just some freakish thing that one Mia Maid adviser made up. I guess I’m willing to accept that I was the only Mormon youth on earth who got that take-home message, but it seems a little odd to me nonetheless. Furthermore, the only temple recommend question about chastity that I know of is “Do you live the law of chastity?” not “Do you abstain from unmarried sex?” Or is the temple recommend interview different for me, too?

  24. If virtue is meant in a broad sense, perhaps we could add another value called “value.” It would make about as much sense. Though I like the idea of a single value (as suggested by 6 and 7); I could definitely go for Rebecca’s proposal of “Awesomeness.” As a YW I was cursed with the dreaded ailment known as “value confusion”; I could never quite parse out the difference between Divine Nature and Individual Worth. And I still wonder whether an appropriate project for Choice and Accountability would be making a bad choice and then being accountable for it. I can only imagine what I might have come up with for virtue/chastity.

  25. If there’s going to be only one value, I suggest “Be excellent to each other.”

    Rebecca, I like the idea of having just one value and many aspects, although this may just be a difference in labeling. I know this is tangential to the main discussion, but it seems like in having 7 or 8 values, the YW leaders (or whatever GAs are involved) have to strike a balance between having many (which is nice for detail but bad if details are wrong, demanding on memory, and potentially overwhelming) and having only one (which is simple but perhaps not very clear in its details). It would be interesting to know what an optimal number is (by whatever criterion), since it seems likely that the number will only increase over time.

  26. Rebecca, I stand corrected. I agree — the youth are definitely taught that being chaste is more than abstaining from extra-marital sex. The Law of Chastity is explained in the temple endowment.

    But my point is the same: chastity (to most teens) means abstaining; virtue is a goal to aspire to. Aspiring to virtue is a mindset that the church wants to include chastity, but it’s a whole lot more. Virtuous language, virtuous dress, virtuous pursuits, etc..

    I really like the “Virtue” value (if you couldn’t tell). I’ve three YW myself.

  27. Oh, and “sexual purity” to most protestants apparently means not sleeping around purely for recreation. Most see nothing wrong with having sex with a boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Protestants (and some Evangelicals) leave the term much more open to interpretation, perhaps so that each person can find a level to strive for with which they’re comfortable.

  28. Well, I was about to say that I might just be picking at nits here, but then I realized, no, I certainly am picking at nits. The fact is that I still don’t see a substantial difference between encouraging young women to be virtuous and encouraging young women to live with integrity (the seventh value), i.e. making one’s actions consistent with her knowledge of right and wrong. There’s nothing to dislike about the Virtue value, certainly not from what I’ve seen of the supplementary materials; I simply cannot see the point of it beyond the most obvious thing, which is a specific emphasis on chastity, and I can’t wrap my head around Virtue entailing so much more than chastity while also being substantially different from the seven other pre-existing values. It is just sour grapes on my part, I guess, that Salt Lake didn’t choose me to revamp their Personal Progress program.

  29. #27 Martin ~ Oh, and “sexual purity” to most protestants apparently means not sleeping around purely for recreation. Most see nothing wrong with having sex with a boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Protestants (and some Evangelicals) leave the term much more open to interpretation, perhaps so that each person can find a level to strive for with which they’re comfortable.

    What was your basis for forming this interesting conclusion about us?

    I’m aware that our pre-marital sex rates are almost on par with our secular counterparts, but I don’t believe that’s because we’re re-defining what “sexual purity” is.

  30. Yeah, I was pretty annoyed about the overlapping value thing too, but as has been mentioned loads of times that’s not new.

    I’m down with virtue for two reasons:
    1. It requires YW to read the Book of Mormon. It is downright shocking to me how many grown women I know with the slimmest of knowledge about the gospel. I love that it encourages women to be theologians instead of relying on a nice RM to handle that part, which was an implicit message taught in generations past.

    2. It encourages temple prep and experience as a personal spiritual development. Really, there’s no overstating the significance of the departure from the “Marry in the temple marry in the temple marry in the temple” drumbeat the girls got for so long. Unless they served a mission, every woman I know got their endowments out just before, if not the same day as, their wedding. When you think about the significance of the covenants and ceremony, it’s just not right to give it such short shrift.

    I think the new value is actually pretty darn empowering given where we were coming from, troubling implications of chastity or not.

  31. #29 Jack — My conclusion is purely extrapolation from my personal experience. I’m open to correction.

  32. Thank you for that perspective, Reese. I was pleased with the content in the Personal Progress book, and I am doubly pleased if the new value is improving the quality of the program on the ground, as it were.

  33. Thanks Reese. Your two points are exactly correct. And even better, as a result of this new emphasis, the YW themselves seem to be better grasping the idea that they are responsible for their own spiritual lives.

    If only we could get more YW to do the Personal Progress program. I’d wager that’s a far bigger concern than worrying that we’re confusing them with too many values, or virtues, depending on your vocabulary.

  34. Well, I certainly had no interest in doing the Personal Progress program when I was a teenager. I wish in retrospect that I had done it. I think it’s a very good program, with or without Virtue. I don’t have the foggiest idea of how to sell it to teenagers, though. I wouldn’t even know how to sell it to my teenage self, and I was me.

  35. Interesting. Do you understand why you didn’t want to do it?

    I was one of those who actually did do it, but it was one of the older programs and I don’t remember much about it at all. Reading the Book of Mormon cover to cover was certainly not part of it. The reason I did it? My home life was pretty bad, and my YW leaders took care of me. I wanted to be like them. They said I should do it. Then it became part of my identity–someone who did Personal Progress. I easily could have gone the other way.

  36. As I recall, I simply had no interest in doing whatever the requirements were. Under the old program, you had to set goals, and while there were suggested goals, you were free to make up your own, and I just wasn’t interested in any of the suggested goals and I couldn’t think up any of my own in most of the categories. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and I didn’t have any particular incentive to get the medallion. Part of me may have been rebelling against the expectation. It was bad enough that I had to go to church, you know? They couldn’t make me earn a medallion, by golly!

    I actually think I would have done better under the current program, which seems to have more structure than I remember the older one having. Maybe that’s what I should do for my new year’s resolution–earn my YW medallion. My daughter and I could do it together. Not that either of us would wear any cheap medallion, mind you–unless you paid us. Well, I’d do it for money, anyway.

  37. If you think it is hard to get teens to earn a medallion now, think of how much more difficult it will be with the new requirement of their having to first read the Book of Mormon, cIf over to cover. Yipe.

    The requirements were already overload (that is, “just” be perfect). No wonder so many despair they will never make it!

  38. If you think it is hard to get teens to earn a medallion now, think of how much more difficult it will be with the new requirement of their having to first read the Book of Mormon, cover to cover. Yipe.

    The requirements were already overload (that is, “just” be perfect). No wonder so many despair they will never make it!

  39. One of my biggest concerns is this whole notion that there are certain “categories” of sin that make you “unworthy” of God’s companionship and influence of the Spirit (sexual sins), while other sins (apparently) don’t.

    The fact is, we’re all unworthy of God’s companionship, yet He lingers with us anyway, as we seek Him through and IN SPITE of our weakness. It’s called grace. IMHO, we Mormons could stand to spend a bit more time talking about that than trying to force kids to comply to (what might appear from their perspective, anyway) a set of arbitrary standards.

    I expect that if we could really help kids catch the vision of Jesus’ core message, they’d be more motivated to make these values a part of their daily life.

  40. On the other hand, Katie L, aren’t evangelicals good at teaching kids Jesus core message of grace? And they have practically no success in getting their teens to live the law of chastity. In fact, LDS teens are far more likely to maintain their “sexual purity” than evangelical teens. So I think we must be doing something right, even though I agree with the points you make in your first two paragraphs.

  41. E,

    I don’t know. I’d be interested to see what the stats are on sexual purity. For some reason I’m under the impression that our success rates aren’t *that much* more impressive than anyone else’s — though I could be wrong on that point.

    In any case, I’d personally rather have a greater failure rate in terms of chastity if it involved less guilt, less manipulation, and more forgiveness and understanding. But that’s just me. Your mileage may vary.

  42. Fairchild says:

    Re: 34 and 35. I didn’t do much Personal Progress either and never got the medallion. It wasn’t much incentive for me. No one ever explained the program to me, my mom never helped me and I just didn’t enjoy most of the activities.

    My very first mid-week activity as a Beehive was making baby quilts, FOR OURSELVES! I was horrified and freaked out. I was barely 12, I thought we were supposed to NOT have sex (ewwww!) so the whole thing wigged me out! IMO, Beehives should NOT be prepping for future babies!

    I was Beehive President, Laurel President, Seminary Vice President, Youth Conference Co-chair and Girl’s Camp Youth Leader, so I served tons in my ward and stake and turned out just fine without Personal Progress. I even read the Book of Mormon, but because of Seminary not YW.

    The big problem I have with this new value is it seems the Young Men should have it too. If it is sooo needed for the girls (which I think is debatable) then don’t the boys need it just as much, if not more? Personally, I think everything this value entails already gets discussed plenty in the current program.

    Also, I hated pink as a young teen because to me it meant “little girl” and I was trying to be “mature” and get away from girly things. My dad bought me a 10-speed bike when I turned 12 and I hated it because it was pink. I wanted a red or blue bike, not a baby-colored bike. Hello, I’m 12 now, not 6!

    Thus, I prefer the old colors. I probably would have done better with the structure of the current program as well. The old one was so open-ended that I never got into it.

  43. I was one who saw virtue as a more broad value in addition to chastity, but after listening to Sister Dalton’s talk at BYU in the fall, I think the main focus is on chastity. I think that is a good thing.

    I think all the values have some overlap, but to me that is just how striving for Christlike living works.

  44. I’d be interested to see what the stats are on sexual purity.

    On this topic of having sexual relations, in one study,
    10% of LDS boys and 17% of LDS girls had had sexual relations, while 77% of non-LDS boys and 66% of non-LDS girls had.

    Reference here.

  45. I personally think that these women are called by the prophet of the most high and have direct inspiration for the yw program. I wouldn’t argue about the wording/values/programs that he has prescribed.

    I would be careful lest you find your self arguing with the Almighty.

  46. Stephanie says:

    I am loving the changes in YW – right down to the red ruby on the new medallion. Our world does need a return to virtue.

  47. Tricia (#45) appears to believe that LDS “prophet(s) of the most high” are infallible (which is the only way we could be sure that all programs in the church are unfailingly run directly in accord with the will of the “most high”). In reality, however, we are lead by fallible leaders, and therefore it is wise to put our own intellect to use instead of trusting solely on the “arm of flesh” (as the Bible warns against). The difference between fallible and infallible tenets can be the difference between following flawed and harmful doctrine, versus being able to acknowledge a better way may must exist than that which we are sometimes supposed to unquestionably accept and follow.

  48. jenn reynoso says:

    i love the changes in yw. ive already got my award, but i wanna do extra stuff in order to get the new necklace. the young womens program is amazing, and so is the new value virtue, such a testimony builder. :]

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