“Marriage and Family” Curriculum for Youth

young-man-knocking-holding-rose-686406-galleryI’ve been wanting for some time to compare the different class outlines in the Come, Follow Me program. This month, the theme (“Marriage and Family”) lends itself particularly to comparison across the classes. So, here goes. I’m not looking for anything in particular; my aim is mostly to be descriptive and to highlight a few things that might be of interest. How we teach about gender and sexuality are some of the most fraught discussions that we have in the Church. I am a work in progress when it comes to my own views on the subject, so I will bravely refrain from putting them forward here. This exercise is my effort to gather more data.

To begin, I’ll look at the patterns for teaching (the main outline sections) that each of the classes follow consistently, week after week, regardless of the topic. Next, I’ll zoom in on the month of August and the subtopics that have been selected for presentation in Sunday School, Young Women, and Aaronic Priesthood, respectively. Finally, I will focus in further on the outlines from the young women and Aaronic priesthood for teaching a lesson on chastity.

Teaching Patterns

Comparison

This chart shows the main outline points that each of the classes follows every week.

Sunday School

Young Women

Aaronic Priesthood

Prepare yourself spiritually Prepare yourself spiritually Prepare yourself spiritually
Let the young men lead
Make connections Share experiences Begin the learning process
Introduce the doctrine
Learn together Learn together Learn together
Invite to act Live what we are learning Invite to act

Discussion

Aaronic priesthood classes receive emphasis on learning to lead and teach. They are also to give time at the beginning of each meeting to allow quorum members to “share their experiences fulfilling their duty to God.” The young women, on the other hand, take time during the end of each class to discuss how the lesson can be implemented in the Personal Progress program (which accounts, I think, for the different rubric they use at the end (“Live what we are learning,” rather than “Invite to act”). The function of introducing doctrine, spelled out for young women, is subsumed under “begin the learning process” for Aaronic priesthood. Both groups are encouraged to reflect on what was taught the previous week, whereas in Sunday School (“making connections”), the focus is on what they are learning in other venues, like “personal study, seminary, other church classes, or experiences with their friends.”  

“Marriage and Family” (August) Topics

Comparison

Sunday School Young Women Aaronic Priesthood
How will keeping a personal journal bless me and my family? Why is family important? How can I strengthen my family? (Duty to God)
Why is it important to learn about my family history? Why is temple marriage important? Why is chastity important?
How can I teach others how to do family history work? Why is chastity important? Why is temple marriage important?
How can I explain the importance of marriage and family to others? What are the Church’s standards regarding dating? Why is family important?
What opportunities are there for learning and teaching in the home? How can I prepare now to become a righteous wife and mother? What are the Church’s standards regarding dating?
How do the roles of men and women complement each other in families? How can I prepare now to become a righteous husband and father?
How can I strengthen my family? How do the roles of men and women complement each other in families?

Discussion

Sunday School topics are unique and avoid themes dealing with chastity and gender roles. The Aaronic Priesthood and Young Women topics are mostly identical but presented in a slightly different order and with one Aaronic Priesthood lesson every month being expressly related to a Duty to God emphasis. Since instructors are free to teach topics in any order, or not at all, I am not sure how to account for differences in the order topics are listed. 

Occasionally there are topic differences, usually arising from a focus on priesthood responsibilities for the Aaronic Priesthood (AP) that apply differently or not at all in Young Women (YW). For example, in December (“Building the Kingdom of God in the Latter-days” the AP have a lesson on “How can I be a missionary now? (Duty to God)” while the YW have “What does it mean to ‘stand as witnesses of God?'” So, both have a missionary focus, but each lesson relates to the specific program content for AP/YW). Also that month, the AP have a lesson on “How can I become a better home teacher?” while the YW have “How does Heavenly Father want me to use my spiritual gifts?” All of the other topics are the same, and are in the same order. 

“Why is Chastity Important?”

Comparison

Young Women

Aaronic Priesthood

Genesis 39:7–21 (Joseph fled from sexual sin) Genesis 39:7–21 (Joseph fled from sexual sin)
1 Nephi 10:21 (We must be pure to dwell with God) 1 Nephi 10:21 (We must be pure to dwell with God)
Alma 39:1–13 (Sexual sin is an abomination) Alma 39:1–13 (Sexual sin is an abomination)
Moroni 9:9 (Chastity is dear and precious) Moroni 9:9 (Chastity is dear and precious)
D&C 46:33; 121:45–46 (The importance of virtue) D&C 46:33 (Practice virtue and holiness before the Lord)
David A. Bednar, “We Believe in Being Chaste,Ensign orLiahona, May 2013 David A. Bednar, “We Believe in Being Chaste,Ensign orLiahona, May 2013
Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity Jeffrey R. Holland, “Personal Purity
Jeffrey R. Holland, “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 2007, 42–45 Jeffrey R. Holland, “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction,” Ensign, Oct. 2007, 42–45
Dress and Appearance,” “Sexual Purity,” For the Strength of Youth (2011), 6–8, 35–37 Dress and Appearance,” “Sexual Purity,” For the Strength of Youth (2011), 6–8, 35–37
Chastity,” True to the Faith (2004), 29–33 Chastity,” True to the Faith (2004), 29–33
Videos: “I Choose to Be Pure,” “Chastity: What Are the Limits?” “True Confidence” Videos: “I Choose to Be Pure,” “True Confidence,”“Chastity: What Are the Limits?”

Discussion

The recommended readings and viewings are largely the same. I’m puzzled why the reference to D&C 121:45–46 is not included in the AP list, since it occurs in a discussion about the righteous exercise of the priesthood, and everything else is the same. Its omission seems arbitrary, but not accidental, since the summary is also different. Note that Moroni 9:9, which has been the subject of controversy lately, is also included. The summary given of that verse “chastity is dear and precious” presumably indicates the intended emphasis—rather than that chastity and virtue can be taken by force, which is the concept to which many readers of the verse (including me) take strong exception.

As per their usual pattern, the AP are encouraged to have a young man help teach part of the lesson, but the ideas for teaching are largely the same across both groups. One exception in this lesson is the inclusion of this suggestion for YW but not AP:

Invite the young women to watch “I Choose to Be Pure” or “True Confidence,” looking for possible answers to the question “Why is chastity important?” Ask them to share their thoughts and contrast the views expressed in the video with what the world wants young women to believe. What can the young women do to support each other in their efforts to obey the law of chastity?

The use of analogies in teaching chastity is a topic that is raised in both lesson plans, both of which include this suggestion:

Show the video “Chastity: What Are the Limits?” After the video, ask the young women [or young men] to explain what the analogies (such as the waterfall, airplane, or alligator) teach them about the law of chastity. What else do they learn from this video? Invite them to think of and share other analogies that teach the importance of chastity.

The analogies included in the video illustrate the perils of violating standards from For the Strength of Youth that might lead to violations of the law of chastity. However, the invitation to consider other analogies in class opens the door to less apt metaphors, still current in some quarters, that have also been under scrutiny of late because they tend to objectify people rather than focus on principles that emphasize the worth of souls. Much depends here on the sensitivity and care of our leaders of youth.

Significantly, the discussion suggestions for teaching modesty are identical (which is not, however, the same as saying that the emphasis or the standards as taught are the same). Again, much depends on our leaders.

And finally, both lesson plans include this topic:

Ask the young women [young men] how they would help a friend who is struggling with same-gender attraction. Invite them to look for ideas in Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s article “Helping Those Who Struggle with Same-Gender Attraction.” Encourage them to write a letter that could help their friend. What else do they learn from Elder Holland’s article?

And, once again, much depends on our leaders for how this sensitive topic is addressed and what kinds of suggestions are endorsed or contested along the way.

For the most part, there is parity between the plans, and some of the few differences seem random (when dividing into groups for discussion, the AP material recommends “three groups” while the YW doesn’t specify). Other differences seem more purposive, but the reasons are not obvious, to me at least. Have you conducted a comparison of any of the youth lessons? What have you noticed?

NOTE: This post is another in a series based on the monthly themes from “Come, Follow Me,” the new youth curriculum for the Church. Here are the previous posts for JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune and July.

Comments

  1. Jessica F. says:

    The thing that gets me every time is how the YM says “let the YM Lead” and the YW says share ideas. That part alone kills me every time. It frames it totally differently from the very beginning regardless of the material.

  2. marginalizedmormon says:

    All I know is that some young people I love are suffering over this very lesson topic–

    one has asked to spend time with a parent in another part of the building, just to have time to ‘shore up’ for the next month–

    it’s not suitable for everyone; our children are not all alike–

    hard thing–

  3. I teach the oldest youth Sunday School class in our ward, and I am going to start by going through The Family: A Proclamation to the World section-by-section – for as many weeks as it takes us to analyze it closely and discuss what it says. (It is the first resource listed in the first lesson summary, and I can teach almost all the lesson summaries using it as the primary reference source.) I also plan on leading discussions about how some of what it is in is different than what used to be taught and how it is a good example of on-going revelation and the evolution of human understanding, making it clear that it is neither codified scripture nor the unchanging, immutable, inerrant word of God.

    I promised the students when I started teaching last year that I would treat the class like Gospel Doctrine and that I would answer fully and honestly any questions they have. My Bishop told me when he asked me to teach the class that the students needed to have their general understandings challenged, so they can start to build their own understandings and testimonies, and this month will be a really good test, I think.

    I know the kids in my class well enough to believe that there will be some interesting questions about some of the things in the Proclamation, and I am looking forward to the discussions we will have.

  4. Too bad we don’t give the life and teachings of Jesus this same amount of teaching time and analytical scrutiny. It would do us all a whole lot more good. Or at the very least, integrate more of Him into these lessons.

  5. RockiesGma says:

    Have they changed the name of the Young Men’s organization to Aaronic Priesthood? Please say they haven’t.

  6. No, but the curriculum is designated specifically as for Aaronic Priesthood quorum instruction. When the materials refer to the students, they are “young men.”

  7. I couldn’t put all my thoughts into a comment. While I’m not thrilled with every subject the curriculum covers, I am grateful that what is being taught now is so much better, and more doctrinally based, than my YW experience. You can read the entire thing here:

    http://www.poetrysansonions.com/2013/08/my-mormon-perspective-preparing-our.html?m=1

    The most germane part of the post, to the discussion so far, relates to the experiences of several good friend who let me share her experiences as teachers, and the advantages they see in curriculum.

    ” While not all topics covered in the lessons is from Teach My Gospel, in the 3 months that I personally compared, (and in the posts that Morgan has written, that seems to hold out, although some commenters are more or less worried about individual differences or similarities) I didn’t find anything missing from the new lessons that is taught in Preach My Gospel, although there certainly are formatting and grouping differences. While there are a number of things that are rearranged, and that pull their wording from either Duty to God or YW advancement, they are, (in my opinion) minor when compared to the previous manuals, and unrecognizable compared to those when I was in YW.

    Like my frustrated friend, quoted earlier, I think that there will be teachers and students, who feel like a member of the class, another adult in the room, (or even the teacher) can crossed a line into speculation, or areas that are not doctrine, while not officially running afoul of the manual, and some lessons set up more opportunities for this than others. From what I have read online from teachers and students, and had reported to me by people I know personally, the resources in the lesson are broad and deep enough that one or two “off base comments” can be addressed with other lesson materials that can bring in other ideas and thoughts, all of which lead to the central topic of the lesson. A discussion that could be upset by someone introducing false doctrine, can change how the presentation is ordered and focused, but, “being forced to spend the rest of the class, using the lesson, to prove their idiocy wrong,” is preferable, (in my book at least) to having the lesson itself be based on false doctrine or folklore, with a few correct principles thrown in, because the materials provided are not sufficient to have a real discussion.”

  8. Thank you for the great post, juliathepoet. I enjoyed reading your blog, as well. (One note: I’m one of those increasingly rare Morgans who was born with a Y chromosome). I agree that the new curriculum is vast improvement—by many cycles, in fact—beyond the old. And thank you for pointing out as well the correspondence between topics in “Come, Follow Me” and “Preach My Gospel.” That is another area where further comparison would be fruitful. Carry on.

  9. “I teach the oldest youth Sunday School class in our ward, and I am going to start by going through The Family: A Proclamation to the World section-by-section – for as many weeks as it takes us to analyze it closely and discuss what it says.”

    Why???

  10. I also dislike that the YM, and not the YW, are invited to lead. Seems like difference for the sake of difference.

  11. MCQ, because that document is the primary source listed in the lesson outlines, and because everything in all of the lesson outlines can be taught using it as the primary source. I didn’t say it would be the only thing I use; all I said is that I’m going to start by going through it section-by-section to teach about marriage and family. If there is anything we don’t end up covering that way, we will finish by discussing those things.

    That approach is in line, completely, with the lesson outlines in the manual.

    So, my question is simple:

    Why would you object?

  12. Oopsie, I’ve been inviting my YW to lead, and teach the topic of their choice once a month. I guess when I watched the video that told us to let the young people teach I figured they meant girls as well as boys. Welp, guess they’re going to grow up to be ballbusters just like I have been hoping they would.

  13. Layne, I think that you are in good company. In my relatively small sampling, some wards have one lesson a month taught by a member of the youth presidency of the class, others have a class member asked to present a portion of every class, which rotates among members of the class. In one of my favorite variations, a ward with a 5-1 ratio of YW to YM, once a month the 6 Laurels and 1 Priest teach a combined lesson to all of the YM and YW, and one week a month the YM join the YW classes, and are taught by the YW and their teachers. The other two weeks the YM meet together and the YW meet in classes. Because there are no more than three YM in any age group, the ward youth council has three YM and three YW who jointly plan all of the activities. In supporting the YM earning their Eagle Scout Awards, the YW and YM spend two Wednesdays a month doing scouting, one doing Duty to God/Personal progress combined activities, and one activity split by gender. Next year they add four new Deacons and it will be interesting to see if this is a one year experiment, or continue to be the model, since their primary has a 3-1 overall ratio of girls to boys. I suspect that many international wards and branches will use the flexibility even more creatively, and we will see even more innovation over the next few years as the curriculum model becomes more familiar to leaders.

    Morgan, sorry for the gender mix up. I would take it as a compliment. ;-) I will look forward to future posts, and continue to collect and share the anecdotal experiences of those actively teaching. After a discussion on another thread about the difficulties of teaching so many lessons on The Proclamation, when so many youth may only hear that their families aren’t good enough because they aren’t the “ideal,” I shared a rough outline of how I have approach the topic in classes from Primary to SS and RS, (no invites to teach priesthood yet, hmmmmm) and will be putting the entire lesson plans with notes for a teacher, up in the next day or so. I’ll share the link here, if you don’t mind. Thanks for continuing to remind us about the differences and similarities between the YM and YW curriculum, and I’ll keep reminding everyone just how revolutionary it is to have curriculum that glows for 6 years, and directly relates to the way missionaries are asked to teach the gospel. Imperfections, (and correlations less than ideal simplifications acknowledged) it really is something I was hoping my grand kids would get this. That my kids are learning this way, that is something I am deeply grateful for!

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