A Modest Proposal

The young women of the church should be invited to participate in visiting teaching, as junior partners, just as the young men participate in home teaching. I can think of several possible benefits:

1) The young women would be connected to more adult women. Kids tend to do better by most measures of achievement and mental health the more caring adults they have involved in their lives. It can’t hurt to have one more friendly face to say hello to at church.

2) These connections would ease the transition from YW to RS, which has been a major concern for many years.

3) Young women would get to see real-life versions of their possible future, instead of relying on crappy movies, sappy songs, and Hallmark ads (or, heaven forfend, Ensign articles about the joys of motherhood, travails of singlehood, and the neverending misadventures of Name Withheld).

4) Mothers of young children could use their visiting teaching connections to guilt-trip the YW into babysitting. (Just kidding)

5) Young women would have a chance to prepare visiting teaching messages, and might even learn the names of some of the auxiliary presidents quoted therein (because until the missionaries get in *much* better shape, it seems unlikely that names of RS presidents will ever be learned as rhythmic accompaniment to pushups in the hallowed gym of the MTC…). Teaching in an intimate setting like visiting teaching requires a particular skill set, not easily acquired in the rest of the YW program or any other forum I can think of, and these skills are really important for missionaries. It’s also a chance for young women to find their voices, their own way of expressing spiritual impressions and thoughts in a slightly less scary and/or potentially emotionally coercive atmosphere than, say, testimony meeting at Youth Conference or Girls’ Camp.

6) Having a visiting teaching partner could either give a daughter a chance to see her mother in a new role (if she’s paired with her mother), or a chance to hear and discuss gospel principles which she would be shy or unwilling to discuss with her mother (if she works with another woman in the ward).

I can think of a few potential pitfalls, as well, mostly logistical–YW Presidents tend to be massively busy and stressed anyway, as do RS presidents, and adding another layer of coordination to their schedules might be nightmarish. Young women could have bad experiences if their partners or teachees weren’t carefully chosen. It could be just one more obligation for “good” girls to feel burdened by, and one more opportunity for “bad” girls to rebel (and/or secretly feel guilty and inadequate about).

On the whole, though, I think it would be a net gain for the church and for the young women involved. What do you think?


  1. I think it’s a pretty good idea as well. Is it ok to suggest that it may also make the feel on a par with young men in their duties as HT’s? Have you suggested this in real life to ward leadership? If so, with what response?

  2. I’ve only talked about it as sort of a pie-in-the-sky idea with friends who were bishops–despite what you might think, I would actually be pretty shy about seriously trying to get a bishop/RS President to try it. Doesn’t feel like my place to make such suggestions in real life!

  3. A very simple, yet very effective idea. Huzzah! KHH, prophetess, once again proves her prescience.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I like it, Kristine. I especially like the transition to RS angle. The notion that a suddenly 18-year old girl is just magically going to bond with a bunch of older women is really, really naive, as actual experience demonstrates time and time again. And I like the idea of promoting equity/reciprocity with the young men to the extent possible.

    The question is: is this an innovation that a bishop could institute at the ward level, or is it something that would have to go up the ladder and be contemplated church-wide? Even if it is the latter, don’t be too surprised if this idea were to receive a favorable reception. Lots of innovations in church practice were initiated at the grass roots level.

  5. Kev, I think you’re right on — I see no reason that this couldn’t be done as a grassroots effort.

  6. Kristine. This is so revolutionary that I can’t stand it. Why hasn’t anybody done this already!? Seriously. This should be done.

  7. Molly Bennion says:

    Good idea, Kristine. In our ward, the YW are joining RS for opening exercises once a month. Is that churchwide or our innovation?

  8. I’ve seen a lot of that (#7).

    This is a fantastic idea.

  9. Julie M. Smith says:

    Excellent, excellent idea. Maybe someone with access to the CHI could tell us whether the visiting teaching rules would prohibit this or whether it could be done on a local level.

  10. We actually do this in my ward – SSSHHH!!!

    Laurels are invited to be companions to their mothers or older sisters. The pluses and minuses are about what you describe, Kristine. But one very big advantage you don’t mention is that it is often easier for a woman to schedule time to go visiting with her own daughter than it is with another adult woman.

    We also invite two laurels to accompany two priests when they administer the sacrament to shut-ins on Sunday afternoons. The YW participate by giving a spiritual thought or scripture reading. I’ve found that an experience like this with no adults around to oversee them increases the respect that YW and YM have for each other.

  11. Very good idea. I also like the suggestion of YW and RS meeting together for an opening. Why not indeed?

  12. This is a wonderful, wonderful idea!!! Why hasn’t this been done already (or more–seeing Mark IV’s post) ?

  13. any mouse says:

    wait! since when do we visit teach in companionships?! okay, i jest… but we haven’t had vt companionships in the past four wards, including the current one. one ward did “pods,” which were groups of women who were already cliquish and checked off their vt for the month by going to the mall or out for lunch. when i was called as vt coordinator, i agreed to do it on the condition that we did it the right way. you would not believe how much opposition i came up against. the rs1c ranted and raved about how she had a friend who did it in their ward and had received express permission by phone from mary ellen smoot. um, okay. we ran atrocious numbers anyway, i didn’t see why we couldn’t at least report those numbers knowing we were doing things the way the lord had intended.

    i think it’s a great idea. i’ve never been in a ward that had ANY association between rs and yw and it seems like a great idea. i mean, it’s good enough for the men, right? number four is probably my favorite reason why it’s a great idea. sue me. ah, and scheduling, which seems to be the biggest problem in companionships, would be a dream! having had no experience with this (for either men or women), would there be cases of unrighteous dominion on mom’s part, though? i can just picture my mom now, “oh, you WILL be visit teaching with me on tuesday or you’ll be grounded for a month!”

    anyone here grammatically inclined enough to expound upon “visiting” versus “visit” in vt?

  14. I will pose this question to my bishop friend/coworker tomorrow, if you want another opinion from a current bishop.

    As the father of a 9-year-old daughter who talks about being a missionary and going to med school (and for whom I don’t see much support in our ward for either activity), I’m all in favor of anything that would help her develop her skills when she hits the YW.

    This afternoon at her achievement day activity, the girls received instruction on skin and hair care. The cub scouts got to make boats from a cereal box, a strip of wood, a rubber band, and a balloon. My daughter would rather have been with the cub scouts.

  15. Mark Butler says:

    This sounds like an excellent idea to me.

  16. THe only problem I would foresee, though not that big a one, is a lot of VT is done during the day when many of the YW are in school.

    Otherwise, I don’t see any reason why not.

  17. I might agree if visiting teaching and home teaching were strictly analogous, but they’re not. Women want a good “jaw” more than a dry lesson from the ensign or a leaky pipe fixed. And you need “peers” for a good jaw not “teachers.”

  18. Tim J – there are lots of places where women work during the day and VT at night, plus there’s all afternoon after school, plus Saturdays, plus Sundays….

    Jack – You’re right: VT and HT are not analogous – VT is much more likely to get done (at least in my 40 years of experience with both programs). But, seriously, you’d be surprised at how much conversation can be had between YW and RS members – after all, the RS “peer group” goes from 18 to death (unlike the MP “peer group” that’s divided into Elders and HP’s). And, last-but-not-least, I know several good VT’s perfectly capable of fixing leaky pipes, broken cars, freaky computers, squeaky doors and a whole passle of other household items (often while dragging whiny children along the way), so don’t be so fast to discount the non-traditional talents of your sisters.

  19. Discounting talents? Let the visiting teachers fix the pipes, but don’t do it at the exclusion of good conversation.

  20. despite what you might think, I would actually be pretty shy about seriously trying to get a bishop/RS President to try it. Doesn’t feel like my place to make such suggestions in real life!

    Well then, it only follows that you try it out here in the Bloggernacle something akin to Ronan and Steve’s monthly HT visits. Once you’ve perfected the cyber version–you should certainly be ready to implement it in real life! You may eve be reporting on it Church wide next April in general conference!!

  21. Our ward RS president tried, unilaterally, to implement this in our ward a couple of years ago. She may have heard about Mark IV’s ward. She did not discuss it first with any ward leaders.

    The YW President was taken quite by surprise (not having been consulted), and the high school seniors, including my daughter, were up in arms, because they were plenty busy already applying to colleges, preparing for graduation, and the like. Our bishop got to play mediator between the organizations and the young women themselves. (An additional problem was that the RS President did not assign the young women to their mothers as companions, but to other women in the ward to get better acquainted.)

    The experiment ended after 6 months or so.

    Had it been collaboratively implemented, it might have had the beneficial results Kristine suggests, although I am sympathetic to my daughter’s concerns about time demands during senior year.

    I would add that I made it a practice to take my daughters (and my son) with me, one or two at a time, as home teaching companions from the time they were infants (I have rarely had a formally assigned HT companion). I can remember being my dad’s HT companion at times long before I turned 14.

  22. any mouse says:

    not that anyone ever bothers to home or visit teach us, but i’d greatly appreciate a spiritual message over “jaw jacking.” the lone time i was visit taught, the two sisters spent so much time chit-chatting that it was bothersome. i had two very small children, was now running behind schedule for the day, and wasn’t feeling very edified as they compared their adult children. i kept a stiff upper lip, but it was a long two hours! they concluded by giving me a photocopy of the message from the ensign and letting me know i could call on them.

    i’m wondering now if my teachees have always felt under-attended. i of course start with small talk and see how they’re doing, but i don’t drag it out. if all is well with them, we get on with the message. (obviously if there’s a concern worthy of some “jaw jacking,” i’ll oblige, but that’s not standard!)

  23. John Mansfield says:

    Comment #21 by DavidH brought up the issue I wondered about. How would youth who are not part of Relief Society be responsible for a function of the society? Not meant as a damper on the brainstorming, but I wonder how the stewardship would work. It’s also interesting how proposed benefit #0 is left completely in the background for this post and set of comments.

  24. Why would any RS or YW organization want to waste 15-25 minutes doing opening exercises like Priesthood does?

    My experience with having YM companions for HT has been that they either don’t participate by not coming along or they don’t participate by coming along and not saying anything. I don’t have any sons though.

    I do know many fathers love that they get a sort of “free pass” on having spiritual time with their son and on having an easy companion to work with, and I would think that is the one major pro of the arrangement.

  25. mw* — obviously you have not heard of the “good news minute” — there is plenty of time wasted in the beginning of RS

    I think that this is a great idea, primarily because one of the great limitations that I see in the YW program is the lack of “responsibility” that the young women have in the church. I have blogged on it elsewhere, but in my experience, YM get invaluable experiences from their priesthood duties in preparing/passing the sacrament and through HT, while YW are taught to view the world through the lens of “personal progress”. I have been very pleased to see my son who is 12.5 preparing a lesson for his HT family and trying to serve those families. For this, I give much of the credit to my husband who is conscientiously mentoring him in this regard.

    I think that joining for opening exercises would help a lot with transition as well. Back to the example of my son, when he goes to Priesthood, he sits with his friends, but he is also getting the experience that he is part of a larger group.

  26. Also, John Mansfield, how can youth who are not a member of an Elder’s Quorum or High Priest’s Quorum be responsible for a function of that quorum? How does the stewardship work for the YM?

  27. Personally, I always wanted to get VT visits while I was in a singles ward. I didn’t think it was fair that the girls got both (and the VT’s usually brought treats) while we only got HT’s (who never brought treats).

    Maybe you can add that on as an option to the proposal.

  28. Kristine, I think this is a great idea.

    Kris, I’m not John Mansfield, but his point was that the VT program is specifically directed for the benefit of the Relief Society members, whereas the HT program is for the benefit of ward members. One of the scriptural chargers of Aaronic Priesthood Teachers (14-year-olds) is to teach the members of the ward. They are included in the HT program to help them perform this duty. Deacons aren’t included because it isn’t part of their charge.

    DavidH, if YW are too busy preparing for college to VT, and if President Hinckley is concerned that too few YM are going to college, it looks like Kristine should be instead proposing that YM not be allowed to Home Teach! They have college applications to write . . .

  29. Matt, I think there’s lots of room for flexibility here. As noted above, my son is a deacon and he’s started HT. In terms of scriptural charges, do we really need to look any further than Luke 10:29-37 or Mosiah 2:17.

    The last few YW leadership training meetings I have been to, have placed great emphasis on the fact that we are helping the YW to become future leaders — I don’t take this just to mean event planners. VT provides a great opportunity to expose YW to diverse sisterhood, to serve and develop compassionate attributes.

  30. OK, here’s how it worked for us.

    First, the idea originated with the laurels’ presidency. The YW themselves wanted a way to provide ongoing, meaningful service. Over the course of a month or so, the idea made its way through the youth committee meetings and ward councils. People liked the sound of it, but were somewhat timid about taking the first step. The bishop told the SP what was being contemplated, and he gave approval. Note: it helps if your bishop has a reputation as a straight arrow. He’ll have credibility, and the stake will be more willing to provide covering fire when other wards hear about it and demand to know what the heck is going on. Our SP just told people we were doing a temporary test. From an adminstrative standpoint, you can do quite a lot of innovation if you just tell people you are involved in a “pilot program”.

    To address Julie’s point, we did check the handbook, and we didn’t find anything that strictly forbids it. I was really happy with elder Ballard’s talk in conference when he described the handbook as guidelines which must be observed, but which allow for a lot of creativity (his word) and adaptation to local needs.

    Following up on what Matt said, it is true, strictly speaking only boys of at least teacher age are to home teach. But every ward I have ever lived in uses the deacons as home teachers, and nobody gets heartburn.

  31. I second, third, fourth, twenty-eighth this idea–whatever comment number we’re on by now. I really think this is a fabulous idea. And in case someone hasn’t suggested it already (I haven’t read all of the comments), this might also increase the number of sister missionaries serving. Maybe?

  32. Considering the sheer number of Church obligations our Laurels have, I think something like this would inspire absolute mutiny. Not counting leadership meetings for the presidency (which adds between .5 and 2 hours per week,) my sister spends a minimum of 10 hours a week just in Church/seminary, not counting any prep time, personal study, etc. They can barely get the girls to show up on Wednesdays. Admittedly I, as a YSA, basically don’t do any YSA activities at all while I’m in school; it’s a personal struggle to accept my VT’s requests for appointments, given the amount of homework the Russian department likes to hand out. I was nearly tearing my hair out last week, when my VT was five minutes late (I could have been conjugating or declining or something!!!!) And the YW like to cancel things without calling anyone; my sister brings her homework to the church on Wednesdays just in case.

    Then again, if you let the girls out of one YW activity per month as compensation, they’d fall over themselves to accept, I think. At least, the ones who don’t like Wednesday after Wednesday of personal beauty tips and trust exercises and so forth.

    And there’s no hypocrisy here as far as YM/YW is concerned — most of the YM don’t seem to go on their HT assignments. Our HT always has his YM companion, but considering that the YM in question is a) the bishop’s oldest son, b) our HT’s grandson AND c) one of my younger sister’s closest friends this is an unusual situation (he also spends most of the visit playing with our cats.) I wasn’t sure about the wisdom of having a YM home teaching in a house with three YSA/YW daughters, but then again, he actually shows up nearly every time (our last HT was assigned to us for three years, and only had a companion – almost always a different guy – a third of the time.) And it’s probably only because he’s there that my sister is willing to show up in the living room at all.

  33. I can’t count the times in my adult life that I have heard leaders bemoan the fact that YW aren’t making the transition to RS. It’s not a mystery to me. Young Women in the church generally have little contact with RS while growing up. The RS and YW usually operate as closed societies, one exclusively for youth, one exclusively for adult women; so why are we surprised when younger women act on the impression that RS is not for them? The organization has effectively taught them that lesson their whole lives.

    For all of the moaning about correlation I read in the bloggernacle, I think this is one area that needs more correlation, not less. If YW had more organizational contact with RS while growing up their transition to RS would become a natural progression to adulthood instead of a feeling that they are being banished from carefree youth to the “old ladies”. I think that could be accomplished by implementing an Aaronic priesthood/YM model:

    1. RS and YW meet together every week for opening exercises. The RS president presides, just as the Bishop presides in priesthood opening exercises. Contrary to a prior comment this doesn’t take 25 minutes, more like 10 minutes.

    2. The women’s session at general conference becomes the RS/YW session. Women would attend with their daughters and the meeting would focus on the YW as much as on the adults.

    3. The RS birthday would become a social event for women and YW, just as the father and sons campout, which celebrates the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood, is a social event for men and boys.

    4. Kris’ excellent suggestion that YW become involved in visiting teaching.

    I think the biggest thing that needs to change is the mindset of RS and YW. RS needs to change from a closed society for adults into a society that is nurturing women and young women. If the combined opening exercises continue as RS starts now and the YW are treated as just visitors, they will continue to see RS as them rather than us. In our priesthood opening exercises a YM always plays the piano, even if it is excrutiatingly slow; a YM always leads the music, even if he just waves his arms; and a YM always offers the prayer. We want them to get this experience and we want them to know that they are an important part of the priesthood. I think RS would have to give up some of its cherished rituals and be more welcoming to change.

    Likewise, like a previous comment illustrated, the YW president will have to give up some of her power and allow her organization to be integrated. But the YM president seems able to accept this, I think the YW president could also.

  34. In our ward, the Laurels attend RS once per month. The girls generally dread this particular Sunday (and, over the years, I have viewed their opinions from the vantage point of being a YW advisor, a RS teacher, and the mother of a Laurel). As RS teachers, we were encouraged to involve the girls in the lessons, and the RS Presidency makes an attempt to invite the girls to lessons that might interest them. Our stake RS invites the Laurels to numerous stake events with the RS. All of these are attempts to ease the challenging YW-RS transition, and all seem to be disliked by the Laurels. They think we RS sisters are B-O-R-I-N-G (and I did too, at their age).

    My sister observed that YM at least get to go into the EQ, with men somewhat closer to their age range, while the RS takes all, from 18 to the grave. If I were running the show, I would try a “Junior RS” for ages 18 to 30; perhaps the YW would feel more comfortable with the younger married women.

    Three cheers for experimentation with any of these areas, including visiting teaching. I know the Church is seriously concerned about the number of members who become “less active” during the college and young adult years.

  35. Oops, didn’t mean to suggest most women 18 to 30 are married; we have a YA ward in our stake, so in our RS most younger singles are elsewhere, but we do have a group of married sisters in their 20s to whom the Laurels might relate.

  36. cchrissyy says:

    I really like the idea.
    In the meantime, if I had a teen daughter, I’d consider always bringing her along, even telling the RS I can go partnerless because she’s always unofficially there. Of course, that’s pretty hypothetical. My girl is 18 months old!

  37. The problem, peony, is that in the wards I have been in all the “young” married women, who would relate well to the YW are in the YW program allready! Which then hhurts the one or two sisters in RS not in YW or primary as well. The biggest change should be a personal one, not an institutional one. However, the RS, being an auxiliary, doesn’t have as many restrictions on how it is to be run.

    Also, I believe that the YM HT at age 14. I think 12 is an exception. Growing up, you HT with your dad from 14-16, and then 16-18 taught with another person (Most likely a HP).

  38. The value of this idea depends entirely on what one thinks visiting teaching is for.

    While such a program might provide a relatively painless initiation into Relief Society for laurel-aged girls, I’m not sure that having a 17 or 18 year old girl as a visiting teacher would always be a good idea for the sister being visit taught.

  39. My youngest sister wanted me to add that she’d be for it provided the girls could get a necklace in exchange (after, say, a year of participation.) She’s still miffed they got rid of the Beehive/Mia Maid/Laurel necklaces, I think.

  40. Here’s another modest proposal:

    Occasionally magazines such as Time or Newsweek feature brief compilations of “great ideas” that come from abroad and might be worth trying in the U.S.

    Why not have an article in Dialogue or Sunstone that follows this same model, i.e.: the editors could issue a “call for proposals” and gather grassroots suggestions similar to Kristine’s suggestion here: simple ideas and practices that may benefit the church as a whole, but aren’t currently widely, if at all, practiced. The editors could then select the 25 or 30 best ideas and publish them, each in a half-page or so paragraph.

    What do y’all think?

  41. Sarah, do they do give them something instead of the necklaces now? I hadn’t realized that they no longer did that. I haven’t known many girls who cared about it in the past.

  42. Julie M. Smith says:

    “The value of this idea depends entirely on what one thinks visiting teaching is for.”

    True–and that’s why I think having a YW along would be a plus. There are too many women who think of VT as free therapy, time to whine about husband, children, dog, etc., and hopefully the presence of tender ears would remind them that this isn’t what VT is about

  43. Deep Sea,
    Maybe we’ll try something like that here at BCC. Remind me about it sometime in case I forget. It’s a great idea.

  44. Hi, Kris! Great post. I must admit that anything associated with Relief Society used to scare the heck out of me as a teenager. The RS women seemed completely out of touch with my teenage life, – even though many of them were only three or four years older than I. The last thing I wanted to do as a fourteen year old was to hang out with people like my parents. That said, I didn’t ever actually make the transition to Relief Society from YW, so perhaps a “Junior” Relief Society might help those who worry about being instantly transformed into an adult with serious responsibilities as soon as she walks into the RS room.

  45. Excellent idea! =)

  46. My friend/coworker the bishop says that there’s nothing stopping anyone from doing it. He offered a few observations:

    – It would be most beneficial to use the YW to assist VT that goes on in the evenings, because they couldn’t help much during the day.

    – Except, you restrict this to the summertime only.

    – The difference between YM HTing and YW VTing is analogous to the expectations we put on missionary service for YW and YM. For YM, it’s expected as a manner for preparation for priesthood leadership. For YW, missions are “encouraged but not required” (I disagree with that assertion, as I think most YW leaders do a great job dissuading YW from serving missions).

    – The time commitment with seminary, YW activities/service projects, and college prep may be an issue.

    He said he wouldn’t be opposed to implementing it in his ward, but it would have to be run by the RS/YW as a joint “program”. He indicated that the management of the VT program is managed by the RS, not by him.

  47. Julie M. Smith says:

    “The time commitment with seminary, YW activities/service projects, and college prep may be an issue.”

    I find it hard to see why this would apply to the YW and not the YM.

  48. Obviously it applies to both YW and YM.

    My friend’s point is that for some, the time commitment is easier to use as an excuse if you’re not already obligated to help with home/visit teaching. The YM are essentially obligated to it. The YW or not. So when you propose that the YW do it, then the time commitment comes into it.

    Neither of us think it’s a valid point. But he threw it out as an perceived obstacle to overcome.

    OK, so how much time commitment do the YM spend on HT, anyway?

  49. Sorry, my last line should have read:

    (HTML tag with the word “cynical”)
    OK, so how much time commitment do the YM spend on HT, anyway?
    (fake HTML tag with the word “/cynical”)

    Hard to have fake HTML tagging for humorous purposes when the comments strip out the brackets.

  50. This is a wonderful idea, Kristine. It wouldn’t work in our ward, because we put one woman who will go, who will call, and actually care, with one who will not.

    We don’t have enough to put with the young women who would get them out. I tried it with the 18 year olds, but no one would follow up.

    But in wards where there are actually two women who are partners who will get out, you could split them up and that would be a really good idea to send them with young women.

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