Lesson manuals: a comparison

As I was looking at the new Joseph Smith manual for RS and Priesthood, I couldn’t help thinking how strikingly different the kind of instruction we teach in Young Women’s is from that found in the other organizations. Is the YW’s manual, which focuses significantly on homemaking, family, and other life skills in addition to church doctrine, an anomaly? I decided to check out the Young Men’s manual. Here are the table of contents first from the YW’s manual and then from the YM’s manual. What do these suggest about how we raise (and gender) our children?  Is this the kind of instruction that they need to follow Christ in today’s world?  Tell me what you think…

From the YW’s manual:

Table of Contents

From the YM’s manual:

Table of Contents


  1. This makes me a little ill. I hope the YW manual is next in line for an overhaul.

  2. Yes, they’re different. But I think that the differences are not necessarily pernicious, at least most of them. If you tried to teach some of these lessons to YM, I think you’d have them laughing at you–things like ‘recognizing our own individual worth,’ whereas often here and on FHM, for example, one seems to frequently hear discussions of women (particularly young women) struggling with self-worth issues. So this may be entirely appropriate.

    I also could not help but note that many of the family skills/practical skills (ex., budgetting) lessons that do not appear on the YM titles overlap rather well with some of the merit badges required for Eagle Scout (eg., family life, communications, personal management, personal fitness. This may explain some of the deviation as well?

  3. Stephanie says:

    Oh man, I had to teach my Beehives “Lesson 4: Preparing to Become an Eternal Companion” last week, and I couldn’t contain my disgust! Luckily the presidency member over the Beehives wasn’t there, so I was alone with those impressionable minds. But seriously, they are 12 and 13. One of them is in the sixth grade!!! So basically, I stuck loosely to the topics in the lesson, while continually reminding them that these things aren’t just things that you should do to become an eternal companion, but rather things that are important for life in general. And I also reminded them several times throughout the lesson that not everyone gets married!

    All the General Authority quotes in that manual are from the 70’s.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I should add that my husband is over the deacons and I was quite disappointed to find out that his lesson was about agency. Seriously, what’s with that? And the comment about the practical skills for young men being taught in Scouts doesn’t explain it all away. Because guess what? The YW get even more homemaking crap at their weekly activities and probably through Personal Progress. Not that I would know, since I never did it!

  5. All the General Authority quotes in that manual are from the 70’s.

    They have provided more recent resource lists for the lessons, so that you don’t only have the older quotes to use.

    I’m really taken aback by the use of words like ‘disgust’ and ‘crap’ to describe programs and manuals of the Church. You talk about impressionable minds; I worry about them picking up on attitudes like this (even if you think you hide them).

  6. You’re right; the difference is striking. I wish the YM’s manual and program was more like the YW’s manual and program.

  7. This is a forever topic. I wrote a letter about 25 years ago to a Church coordinating committee observing that the emphasis of the YW manuals and lessons was certainly poorly designed to create strong and independent women. I got a polite letter back, I believe, thanking me for my input.

    It is a real dilemma. We all (think we) want strong and independent and wise people, regardless of which sex. The Church also wants women to raise children, a most undervalued calling. There is a lot of sacrifice of strength and independence called for in raising children. What do you do? Weasel out of it by making sappy manuals. A little of both but no real emphasis on strong and independent thinking. A woman is supposed to be subject to her husband, after all.

    Why not have lessons in the boy’s manuals about how to help their prospective spouses lead strong and independent lives? About the importance of strong and independent women? About being real partners in relationships with women? About not stereotyping women?

    I see there is one lesson, why not five or six? The family is the most important part of our existence, after all.

  8. This is another reason why my family left the church. My mother couldn’t tolerate teaching this to her daughter. The idea that she should be “preparing to be a companion” while the boys were “preparing to find a companion” is the kind of idea she didn’t want her daughter to think was accurate.

  9. Steve Evans says:

    m&m, I can sympathize with your alarm, but maybe picking up on an attitude of seeking improvement in all things and not being satisfied with lackluster manuals isn’t such a bad thing? Not all that comes out of the COB is solid gold, and criticizing a manual is not the same as criticizing the Church in toto.

  10. I am not a fan of the gender ideology in the YW’s manual. I find that most lessons, I try to edit out the ideology while focusing on the positive points in the lesson. Why can’t we just tell them that they should be living gospel principles so that they can be their best selves as opposed to the best future mothers?

    That said, it is a bit surprising to me that the YM’s manual has so LITTLE focus on their role in the family and on how they should be prepared to be members of a household. While the YW’s manual is undoubtedly way too focused on homemaking and motherhood, the YM might benefit from knowing that one day they will be asked to cook, clean, support their wives, and care for children, too. It is quite a disparity.

  11. I was listening to NPR on the way home from work when they played a sound bite from Gordon Hinckley when he said something to the effect, “(young women) should get an education and have skills in case something happens to their spouse and they have to work.” The NPR commentator said how “archaic” this must sound to non-mormon audiences. I would agree we can support traditional gender roles, but at the same time we need to come to terms with real world realities and statistics that most women in the world work (and many LDS too), and that education and other non-mothering skills are relevant and needed in today’s society (especially among LDS folks)…

  12. I think President Hinckley was good at understanding real-world realities that would necessitate a woman working outside the home. You see that in the Family Proclamation.

  13. So Stephanie, #3, maybe you can help me understand. Was your concern for the lesson that young teenage girls shouldn’t look forward to marriage and want to prepare for it? Or that they should be looking forward to other things more, such as a career? I mean no disrespect and I haven’t read the lesson, and I do want to understand your concern.

  14. And notice what President Monson said just a few months ago at the same meeting in which President Beck gave her controversial talk:

    “Beyond our study of spiritual matters, secular learning is also essential. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. Statistics reveal that at some time, because of the illness or death of a husband or because of economic necessity, you may find yourself in the role of financial provider. Some of you already occupy that role. I urge you to pursue your education—if you are not already doing so or have not done so—that you might be prepared to provide if circumstances necessitate such.

    Your talents will expand as you study and learn. You will be able to better assist your families in their learning, and you will have peace of mind in knowing that you have prepared yourself for the eventualities that you may encounter in life.

    I reiterate: Study diligently.”

  15. but maybe picking up on an attitude of seeking improvement in all things and not being satisfied with lackluster manuals isn’t such a bad thing?

    I don’t think using language like being ‘disgusted’ by the manuals and rejecting the programs is helpful, no. There’s an attitude toward seeking positive improvement that can also be positive, supportive and productive, but that wasn’t what I got from that comment. But I’m totally willing to hope that in person that all comes across differently.

    And I never generalized her comment to criticism of the Church, so please don’t create something I never said.

  16. Did you look at[some of your links]?
    You’ve a number of links there, and I’m not sure that is the page you meant.

  17. I don’t see a glaring difference. The YW manual has sections that are about “Family Life” and a few lessons that are explicitly about family issues, but the YM manual has lessons on chastity, Celestial Marriage, and other lessons that I think fall under “Family” but just aren’t under a section header that way.

    Maybe the YW has more on family because there is more pressure on young women to not become mothers than there is for young men to become fathers.

    I thought I wandered into FeministMormonHousewives.org for a second there.

  18. What I would like to see is a complete shuffling of those table of contents- like you would a deck of cards. The YM need more family focus, and the YW could do with more doctrine.

    This really is a glaring study in contrast. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

  19. Anon-The NPR program had sound bites from President Monson, not Hinckley. It was the same talk Macy quoted from.

    This is a fascinating comparison. I think the thing that sticks out to me the most is:

    YW: Preparing to Become an Eternal Companion
    YM: Choosing an Eternal Companion

    Although I suppose this disparity fits with the wording of the temple sealing…

  20. The lessons seem about right to me. They are meant to prepare the young members for their next step in life, not necessarily for everything in life. For the young men, the next step is more likely to be a mission. For the women, school, work or marriage. For them, a mission is two years further out.

    Half of the lessons cover the same topics, but with different titles.

    There are some differences in the specific commandments covered:

    YM: sacrament, prayer, fasting, tithing, sabbath

    YW: scripture study, honesty

    I wonder if that relates to the needs of the two groups, or if it is random and will change next year.

  21. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    Re: 18,
    I can’t agree more. This is something I recently realized I need to start saying in Church when the subject of inherent gender roles and differences come up: whether or not such roles exist (and I believe that, to a certain extent they do) we should be learning from them. If it’s true that women are more spiritual and caring than men and if it’s true that men are more logical and reasonable than women (please, please, please don’t threadjack on these points; the details aren’t important) then we should be attempting to emulate these godly qualities in each gender. Perhaps men should learn to be more like women and women should learn to be more like men?

    I think there really shouldn’t be any difference between the YM and YW manuals; it’d be awesome to have a Youth Manual that was general enough for the teachers to adapt it based on gender if they thought it necessary.

  22. The more I look into the two manuals, the fewer the differences.

    The YM lesson on Choosing an Eternal Companion has a section on “Being the Right Person”.

    The YW lesson on Marriage Standards has a section on “Righteous Standards Guide Us in Selecting a Marriage Partner.”


    We can’t judge a manual by its Table of Contents.

  23. Re #7

    This is a forever topic. I wrote a letter about 25 years ago to a Church coordinating committee observing that the emphasis of the YW manuals and lessons was certainly poorly designed to create strong and independent women. I got a polite letter back, I believe, thanking me for my input.

    You’ll be interested to know, then, that they haven’t changed the lessons manuals since you wrote that letter, BobW. They are exactly the same as they were when you got your input letter back; the only difference is that now there are updated quotes to apply to the lessons, taken from the most recent General Conference addresses.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    m&m, I was trying to save you some time — I figured you’d eventually bridge that gap yourself! heh.

  25. #23: Wrong – completely.

    The YW manual has been revamped dramatically in the past 25 years. My parents-in-law were heavily involved in that process. Both the manual and the program itself are very, very different than they were 25 years ago.

  26. It’s interesting to read similar lessons side by side.

    Here’s a link to the YW manual: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=6db848dd5b38c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=cdec7befabc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____
    The YM manual: http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=59cf5f74db46c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=402da41f6cc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____

    On the side of both tables of contents there is a request for input on the manuals.

    Your comments and suggestions about this book would be appreciated. Please submit them to Curriculum Planning, 50 East North Temple Street, Room 2420, Salt Lake City, UT 84150-3220 USA. E-mail: cur-development@ldschurch.org

    Please list your name, address, ward, and stake. Be sure to give the title of the book. Then offer your comments and suggestions about the book’s strengths and areas of potential improvement.

    Both manuals were published more than ten years ago. It seems likely that they will be re-doing them soon.

    (She crosses her fingers and hopes the links work.)

  27. What I would like to see is a complete shuffling of those table of contents- like you would a deck of cards. The YM need more family focus, and the YW could do with more doctrine.

    Yeah. Both seem a tad off. I think the YM need a lot more practical preparation and the YW need more doctrinal discussion.

  28. What strikes me about the YM manual is how much the lessons focus on what they should be doing at that time or very soon related to priesthood duties. Besides the over-emphasis on gender roles for YW, the other issue is that the YW are in classes and the YM are in quorums with priesthood roles in the religious community. In that way it’s apples and oranges.

  29. When I was a teenager, I couldn’t be bothered with all that silly homemaking business. Now I think, dang, wish I’d paid more attention to that stuff growing up. I don’t think homemaking skills are “crap” at all, and I certainly don’t think the YW need less instruction in them. On the contrary, the YM should receive more.

  30. What is surprising… How much gender plays a role in who we are and what we become. My strong, independent daughter is all but a thesis short of a Ph.D. She absolutely placed this on hold after getting married and having her first child. Now, almost 3 years later, she is finally returning to the thesis. (What man would do this?)

    I tell her she is living my nightmare. I wake up occasionally thinking I am wandering around campus trying to finish my thesis. Ugh. And she is a strong and independent woman.

    So, maybe the lesson manuals really do aim at the goals and desires of real people. Maybe we are putting too much emphasis on our cerebral cortex rather than on our limbic system. Maybe by stressing children over thesis we are actually bowing to the real imperatives of life.

  31. Having worked extensively with the YW manual I can say that there is something to work with there. The problem comes in with the current emphasis to stick with the manual. It creates lesson-bound teachers who do not adapt teachings to the needs of the students. 12-year-old girls do not need a constant harping on preparing for temple marriage and choosing an eternal companion. Rather, the instruction can be adapted to remaining worthy and choosing friends wisely, and how to respond to peer pressure.

    I love the emphasis on Christ in the YM manual. I’m not familiar with the lessons, but just read these titles:

    The Godhead
    The Atonement brings Victory…
    Jesus Christ, the Light and Life of the World
    Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ
    The Pure Love of Christ
    Feasting on the Words of Christ
    Becoming More Like our Savior

    and many many others about faith, a mighty change, forgiveness, gifts of the spirit, the sacrament, justice and mercy, etc.

    These lessons place the focus of teaching squarely on the Savior. With YW the focus can still be there, but the teacher must bring this in.

  32. This discussion? Again?

  33. Stephanie says:

    #5: I actually don’t hide my feelings about the manual from my girls. I am not a fake person and if I think something is silly, I don’t pretend otherwise. I think it’s kind of absurd to talk to 12 and 13 year-olds about marriage. Seriously, 4th lesson of the year??? Maybe when I’m 40 I’ll see the error of my ways and think, “Gee, those manuals actually were on track.” Or not.

    #13: My concern is that I think 12 or 13 is a little young to start shoving the marriage thing down their throats. Not that they shouldn’t talk about it, but having a lesson in which one of the two major sections is homemaking skills is insulting. As if homemaking skills are the key to a good marriage. Also, when you start talking to young women about how the goal of their lives should be marriage, and then it never happens for them, you are totally setting them up for a lot of pain. Not everyone gets married in this life. It’s just a fact. I think that every young women should be preparing herself for a career, and some people may take offense to this, but doing hair or dental assisting don’t always cut it.

  34. #25 – Ray – The copyright date on the current YW manual is 1993, reflecting some updating from the early 1980s but not a complete overhaul. Most of the lesson have quotes from conference dating from the 1970s and early 1980s, none from the 1990s. In one upcoming lesson, there’s a quote from “Elder Gordon B. Hinckley.” Ouch. I do note that the resources issued in each Conference issue of the Ensign are meant to update the manuals, but the topics, and often the treatment of them, are from a completely different generation and don’t acknowledge the world most of our teens occupy.

    Second, those of you who have strong feelings about the topics and message and culture of YW can enliven our conversation every day over at Beginnings New. We’re all about young women’s 24/7.

  35. I’m not so concerned about the comparison between the manuals, though the YM seems more substantial in terms of gospel meat, as the fact that the YW are still working with a manual that is at the very least 16 years old. It is a completely different world out here than that of the early nineties. Most of the stories seems quaint and dated.

    Yes, there are other resources for us to use but these don’t address contemporary issues any better than the manuals. Leaders and teachers have to be creative and proactive in modernizing these lessons, though they are pretty much forbidden to be so. Many have adopted the attitude of “better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

    What bothers me most is the message our YW are getting about their importance in the church at large. Everytime I have to apologize for a cheesy story by explaining the manual is a little dated I can’t help but think “Why are the time and resources the church possesses being put into these most precious young women?” The church’s best creative minds just created and ran a huge, multi-media, multi-million dollar campaign to attract investigators. Why not put these minds to work on making the gospel an exciting thing to learn about and live for the people who are already participating in it? And if we need all that glitz to attract people, how do we think we’re going to retain them with boring, dated manuals?

    It Is Important to Choose a Vocation

    Distribute paper and pencils to the young women. Ask them to list the vocations they have considered for themselves. When everyone has finished, ask each one to tell which of the vocations she listed appeals most to her and why.
    Teacher presentation

    Explain that as women, the class members should have two vocations in mind: first, being a homemaker; and second, doing something that will allow them to earn money to support a family if that should become necessary. Many women also find that before they are married or after the children are reared, there is time to be productive in a vocation.

    Explain that it is important to choose a vocation and to choose wisely. The vocation we choose can affect our lives in many ways. It may determine where we live, who our friends are, how long we are in school, how much money we will spend on training, how much we will earn, and how much we are able to help our family members. Whatever vocation we choose, we should be prepared to give quality service.

    Elder Howard W. Hunter said: “There are impelling reasons for our sisters to plan toward employment. … We want them to obtain all the education and vocational training possible before marriage. If they become widowed or divorced and need to work, we want them to have dignified and rewarding employment. If a sister does not marry, she has every right to engage in a profession that allows her to magnify her talents and gifts” (“Prepare for Honorable Employment,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 124).

    Who disagrees with that?

  37. Eric Russell says:

    Why are the YW bored to death with their lessons while the YM get lots of interesting lessons that actually have a practical effect on their lives? Are women supposed to just sit at home be a 24/7 sunday school teacher to their children while men go out and live their lives? These manuals really are misogynistic.

  38. Eric Russell says:

    Oh crap, I got the manuals mixed up. Well, the differences still obviously favor boys, whatever those differences are. The church hates girls.

  39. I think it’s kind of absurd to talk to 12 and 13 year-olds about marriage.

    I’m not so sure. It was in middle school when my children started getting lots of questions about having a mother who was at home fulltime. They saw some of the benefits immediately, because ours was always the house for after-school group study or project sessions.

    But I had one middle schooler flat out ask me, “So what do you do all day?” And it was a great teaching opportunity to share my life and values.

    I think that part of the emphasis on homemaking at church is that it provides an alternative to the world. There are many places in the world where having a parent at home is not economically possible. If (like my questioner) they were raised in a home where both parents are employed, they may not have any idea of the benefits of a single-earner lifestyle while children are growing. The church lessons help provide that as a possible alternative.

  40. I once read in an article on the publishing industry that “relationship books” like Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus are purchased and read exclusively by women, that men are not interested at all in such reading. Now, if that is true, it might account for the difference between the way the Church presents the gospel to women and the way it is presented to young men. It is probably just a reflection of the very real differences between men and women. Even our brains are anatomically different. Just like various other body parts.

  41. It doesn’t surprise me that the church would have difficulty getting the career/family balance right in teaching manuals. The Girl Scout manual errs in the other direction. Each interest project (badge) for 11-17 year old girls has a career requirement, but there is only one reference in the entire flippin’ thing about being a SAHM.

    I have trouble being balanced on the subject. Everyone I know struggles to get it ‘right.’

    I am 40 this year and many of my friends who haven’t had children yet (either through late marriage or educational & career choices) are having heart-breaking infertility issues. Biology isn’t fair. Women in their twenties have children more easily than older women.

    And yet, my best friend from high school quit pre-med because she thought being a doctor wouldn’t work out well with raising a family. She has never married.

    What’s the right balance? I don’t know, but I’m guessing that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

    Many of today’s SAHMs are cross-stitching a different verse than their mothers did.

    Researching and writing can wait ’til tomorrow,
    For children grow up we learn to our sorrow,
    So quiet down thesis, law school go to sleep,
    I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

    The effect is that some of those mothers won’t ever finish their education or if they do it will be later in life. It’s a painful dilemma.

    Teaching YW and YM to pray and believe that God will help them to make the right decisions in their life, teaching them to recognize the Spirit and stay worthy of his companionship, those are lessons that would probably help resolve the dilemma best. Teaching them that there are choices wouldn’t hurt either.

  42. I think we need to remind the girls they can have it both ways. I went to college, meet DH, got married, finished and have followed my career for the last 5 years. We have a 18 month old son, but I plan to quit when we have kid #2.

    Why? I’ve had my fill. I have used my unique degree (meteorology) and feel that the time is right to stay home. I think too many YW feel it’s an all or nothing. You can have both – just follow the Spirit. My sister was the same as me: graduated, worked, had a kid, kept working then quit with #2. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

    This way, I won’t wonder what live would be like if I had followed my career – I know. And I’m ready to be a SAHM. Some girls go right for that, and that’s fine. Some choose careers and always will work. If that’s what the Spirit tells them to do, more power to them. We should stand as judges – it’s not our place. And while raising kids is important, that may not be what each YW is called to do. And they should be aware of that…

  43. Shouldn’t stand as judges, not should

  44. FWIW, this topic brings to mind several articles from decades past:

    Two articles published in the March 1985 Sunstone are available here pp. 28-37).

    An article (Janine Boyce, “Messages from the Manuals”) published in the Summer 1994 issue of Dialogue is available here (pp. 205-17).

  45. Thanks for all of your responses. I found this discussion quite illuminating, and it gave me many ideas on how to teach my 12-13 year-olds and bring in an emphasis on Christ. So, here is my response to preparing YW lessons this year:

    Despite my frustration with some aspects of the YW’s manual, I have really been struck this year by how responsive my girls are to some of the good principles in the lessons. In particular, they appear so hungry to discuss issues surrounding dating, marriage, and education, but only in complex, realistic ways. I think they have enjoyed hearing an honest and diverse range of responses from the leaders.

    Beyond discussion, there is some very valuable stuff in the lessons that I don’t think I ever saw as a YW, because I couldn’t get beyond the cheesy stories and ideology. If I work hard today to excise ideology from the lessons (by replacing words like “future husband” with “friends,” etc.), I think it is in part because I don’t want my YW to throw out such good principles as they develop their own relationships. I want them to see how they can apply these principles to their lives now – not just to their future families.

  46. #33: I am 40+ and I see the PRINCIPLES in the manuals are most definitely right on track. The STORIES might be old, but that doesn’t negate the basic principles of the gospel.

    I think every YW should be preparing herself to be the best disciple of Christ she can be. For some that will include motherhood; for others it will include a career. For some it will include both. This should NOT be an either/or choice for these YW, and it should never be taught as such.

    I believe you can’t take a 16 year old and teach them overnight about dating prep. You can’t take a young single adult and teach them overnight about marriage prep. These are characteristics one cultivates and learns over time. Decisions made at 12-13 (or older or younger) about dating, marriage, career, relationships, etc often have life-altering effects. I WANT my kids (and the YW I serve) to make goals and choices for their lives LONG before they reach the moment of decision.

    I have always been taught and believed that one teaches from the manual BY THE SPIRIT. To me, that means if a particular story in the YW manual doesn’t fit the circumstances of the YW in my class, I either use a different applicable story or have the YW themselves share examples from their own lives of how the principle(s) in the lesson can be, and have been, applied in their daily lives. Much more effective, in my experience.

    #41: You explained the “best” way to teach the youth: “Teaching YW and YM to pray and believe that God will help them to make the right decisions in their life, teaching them to recognize the Spirit and stay worthy of his companionship, those are lessons that would probably help resolve the dilemma best. Teaching them that there are choices wouldn’t hurt either.”

    While new updated manuals might be nice, they aren’t a prerequisite for teaching and learning by the Spirit to occur.

  47. Also, when you start talking to young women about how the goal of their lives should be marriage, and then it never happens for them, you are totally setting them up for a lot of pain.

    In my first draft of my comment, I mentioned that our leaders are clear about the fact that some women won’t get married, and so we can be, too. But how hard is it to fold that into a lesson on marriage? We shouldn’t be apologetic or ‘disgusted’ that there are messages on marriage. There should be.

    I talk to my girls often about skills for life, and what things might happen to them, and they are 6 and 7. We talk about education and homemaking and the fact that some women don’t get married, and what would they do if they didn’t? We talk about covenants and the power of the gospel to help them be women of God. I also talk to my son about education and homemaking skills and of course the gospel, and all that his life should be as a man of God. We talk practical and we talk spiritual, with all of our kids. I think our youth programs do the same, if the leaders will see the big picture and remember ALL that our leaders regularly teach on these subjects.

    I think we need to remember that there is not simply one lesson to teach them; a balanced program over the years will get the messages across to the youth, if we ourselves see and understand and hold onto the big picture and teach and testify often. One lesson on marriage is not going to doom girls to despair if they don’t happen to get married. And homemaking skills are those we all need, regardless of what our lives may bring. But the YW program is so much more than this. And I loved this:

    “While new updated manuals might be nice, they aren’t a prerequisite for teaching and learning by the Spirit to occur.”

    And I think worrying too much about this imperfection or that of the manuals may at some point be a negative. There is enough and to spare in the programs and in our current leaders’ teachings to lead our youth aright.

    I also agree with this:
    “Decisions made at 12-13 (or older or younger) about dating, marriage, career, relationships, etc often have life-altering effects. I WANT my kids (and the YW I serve) to make goals and choices for their lives LONG before they reach the moment of decision.”

  48. Elder Howard W. Hunter said: “There are impelling reasons for our sisters to plan toward employment. … We want them to obtain all the education and vocational training possible before marriage. If they become widowed or divorced and need to work, we want them to have dignified and rewarding employment. If a sister does not marry, she has every right to engage in a profession that allows her to magnify her talents and gifts” (“Prepare for Honorable Employment,” Ensign, Nov. 1975, p. 124).

    That is from the manual. When I asked if anyone disagreed, I was asking if they disagreed with that specific part of the manual and the related text.

    Most of what I see is people agreeing that women should be free to obtain all the education and vocational training possible before marriage and to engage in professions.

  49. Bear in mind also that the manual changes each year. Though there are always slightly more “homemaking” oriented lessons in the YW manuals, there are actually three of them, and the content of each is different. The YW1 manual (for next year) includes the following lessons:

    Living as a Daughter of God
    Lesson 1: A Daughter of God
    Lesson 2: Jesus Christ, the Savior
    Lesson 3: Following the Example of Jesus Christ
    Lesson 4: Seeking the Companionship of the Holy Ghost

    Fulfilling Women’s Divine Roles
    Lesson 5: Finding Joy in Our Divine Potential
    Lesson 6: Finding Joy Now
    Lesson 7: Homemaking
    Lesson 8: Attitudes about Our Divine Roles

    Contributing to Family Life
    Lesson 9: Honoring Parents
    Lesson 10: Supporting Family Members
    Lesson 11: Growing and Maturing in Self-reliance, Part 1
    Lesson 12: Growing and Maturing in Self-reliance, Part 2

    Learning about the Priesthood
    Lesson 13: Sustaining Priesthood Bearers
    Lesson 14: Patriarchal Leadership in the Home
    Lesson 15: The Melchizedek Priesthood
    Lesson 16: Women and Priesthood Bearers

    Learning about Family History and Temple Work
    Lesson 17: The Purpose of Covenants and Ordinances
    Lesson 18: Temple Marriage—Requirement for Eternal Family Life
    Lesson 19: Personal Records

    Being Involved in Missionary Work
    Lesson 20: Reach Out to Others
    Lesson 21: A Righteous Example Influences Others

    Increasing in Spirituality
    Lesson 22: Repentance
    Lesson 23: Forgiveness
    Lesson 24: Prayer and Meditation
    Lesson 25: Sabbath Day
    Lesson 26: Testimony
    Lesson 27: Scripture Study
    Lesson 28: Resisting Sin
    Lesson 29: The Second Coming
    Lesson 30: Service

    Living a Virtuous Life
    INTRODUCTION: Note to the teacher
    Lesson 31: Group Activities: A Basis for Wise Dating
    Lesson 32: Personal Purity through Self-discipline
    Lesson 33: Avoiding Degrading Media Influences
    Lesson 34: Worthy Thoughts
    Lesson 35: Living Righteously amid Pressures
    Lesson 36: The Importance of Truth in Living a Virtuous Life

    Maintaining Physical Health
    Lesson 37: Caring for Our Physical Bodies
    Lesson 38: Nutrition and the Word of Wisdom
    Lesson 39: Drug Abuse
    Lesson 40: Health Care in the Home

    Developing Socially and Emotionally
    Lesson 41: The Ability to Succeed
    Lesson 42: Courage to Try
    Lesson 43: Righteous Living

    Managing Personal Resources
    Lesson 44: Using Time Wisely
    Lesson 45: The Value of Work
    Lesson 46: The Purpose and Value of Education
    Lesson 47: Encouraging the Development of Talents

    Developing Leadership Skills
    Lesson 48: Short-Range Goals as Stepping Stones
    Lesson 49: Delegating Responsibility to Others

    The biggest difference I see between the YW and YM is that the YM don’t have the cute thematic divisions, and the YW have girlier chapter titles. All the manuals are about the same age: my CTR-8s are using a manual from the 1990s (sans a 2002 copyright, which the YW and YM manuals have) as well.

    And we should remember that all the youth are supposed to be attending (gender neutral) Sunday School — your Beehives and Deacons are getting identical lessons from the Preparing for Exaltation manual. Loads of heavy doctrine, I assure you all.

    Oh, and most of the homemaking lessons in the YW lesson manuals are more about the family you live in now (listen to your parents, don’t hit your brother) than about raising hypothetical future babies. They say things like “Challenge them to increase the spirituality in their homes by working hard to change this habit or attitude. Explain that this will be easier if they maintain a neat and clean physical environment that will invite the presence of the Spirit of the Lord. By starting now and seeking the Lord’s help, they will increase their spirituality, regardless of what the other members of the household do.” Most of the lesson (the “spirituality at home” one in this case) talks about being a cheerful person rather than a grouch. Sounds like something most teenagers probably have to work on. The most obvious equivalent lesson for the boys focuses on swearing instead of generic sharpness, which again sounds about right given the differences in social roles for girls and boys.

  50. “If a sister does not marry, she has every right to engage in a profession that allows her to magnify her talents and gifts” but if she does marry, she does not have that right.

    That’s how it reads to me, Stephen. And that kind of sucks.

  51. For the Strength of Youth is equally for both genders and I think could be successfully lengthened and modeled into a combined YM/YW manual for teaching and study.

  52. #50 – Then you are reading that 32 year old quote in direct contradiction of multiple statements by Pres. Hinckley over the last 13 years. Context really can be everything.

  53. Ann, that quote is really pretty open minded for 1975. Plus, while men–if they’re lucky–may have some opportunity to magnify their talents while pursuing their professions, their first responsibility is to provide. And so, as the game usually goes, most men don’t find a lot of fulfillment in the workplace–and it’s the same for most women who are forced to work in order to provide.

    But the game’s a little different for a single woman. She has only herself to provide for–and so the playing field’s a little different. She can be a little more picky and choosy in the workplace–and have a better shot at finding personal fulfillment in her career than those who have a nest full of hungry mouths to feed.

  54. that 32 year old quote in direct contradiction

    Direct contradiction? I think that’s a bit of a stretch, Ray. President Hinckley always, always stressed family first, and even President Monson’s recent quote talked about getting an education to prepare for possible tragedy or difficulty, not simply for personal fulfillment and career at the expense of family. Context IS everything on that topic and it’s never a see-saw like sometimes it’s made out to be…it’s about balance and priorities and seasons of life. I am sure you know that, but too often this topic gets too polarized and it shouldn’t be, imo.

  55. m&m, with all due respect, this is what Ann said:

    “If a sister does not marry, she has every right to engage in a profession that allows her to magnify her talents and gifts” but if she does marry, she does not have that right.

    She added the last phrase on her own, saying, “That’s how it reads to me.” That assertion (that a married woman does not have the “right” to engage in a profession” is in direct contradiction of what Pres. Hinckley has said multiple times over the past 13 years – including in the Proclamation to the World.

  56. In the second paragraph of #55, profession” should be profession) – How did I miss that one?

  57. Single in the City says:

    As a young single woman, wholly supporting herself, I do not feel that the lessons in the YW manual have prepared me for my current situation in life. I have chosen a profession that will place me in a leadership position at a large organization. In this position, my values and ideals will guide the decisions that I make, and I have the Gospel thank for teaching me correct principles. But, what is was missing from the manuals and what I was taught was a feeling worth from leading people and the impact that I can make outside of the home. I think there is so much good that can be done when good women from the church can be an example as a leader in the workplace. At a recent YSA activey, one bishopric member’s wife told us (mostly college students) that we need to be more girly and stop trying to be like men. She told us that men do not like female bosses. What a slap in the face. What suprised me the most was that many of the girls in the room nodded their heads and agreed with her! Luckily I had the nerve to say that women can be feminine and be leaders at the same time, that they are not disjointed things.

    I wish that the YW manuals were a little more up-to-date with today’s reality for women. If women are not to marry, they can make a difference in the world. If we are continually taught to have a career only “just in case”, what is the motivation to think objectively about long term career planning? How long will we have to wait until we have a female LDS candidate for the White House? :)

  58. #57, I have a question. Putting aside those females that desire marriage, and for one reason or another are not able to marry, what about the rest?

    For a women who has the opportunity to marry in the temple, and raise a family, but chooses instead to be president of the United States, do you feel she has made the best eternal decision? The best decision for herself?

    I am not talking about having the right to make that choice, because we all agree that women should be able to choose. I support her right to choose. But has she made the right choice, if she chooses to turn down a family and marriage in return for being president of the United States?

    I know somebody will say she can do both, but again that is not my question. My question is about values. Do we value being president more than being mother/wife, if we have to choose one or the other?

  59. Steve Evans says:

    I would assume that any mormon woman that serves in the Senate or that runs a campaign to become President is only doing so in order to more effectively teach senatorial tactics and presidential skills in the home.

  60. #59, ah yes, she can do both, very nice answer, but not my question. (I must admit, your answer made me laugh, which I am sure was your point. I grew up in a home that values clever repartee, and we worship sarcasm)

    Back to serious discussion. I suppose we could broaden the question a little. What about a man who gives up marriage and family for being president? Would anybodies answer be any different?

    My answer would be no different.

  61. Jumping right down to comment before reading what others have said…

    I think the YW has the superior focus. I like breaking the lessons into smaller themes. I like the partial focus on things like finances, career, dating along with doctrine. I wish the boys had something similar, and since I’m the deacon’s quorum advisor maybe in my ward they will.

  62. #57 – We may very well have a female LDS US President long before we have a female BYU President. Something to think about.

  63. Single in the City says:

    Lol. Thanks for the laugh Steve! Why must we teach one or the other–you can be a mother or have a career? I can tell you that 99.9% of professional single women that I know, myself included, want to be mothers. We prepare ourselves carefully and thoughtfully while also pursuing meaningful employment. I see the advantages of gaining a lucrative education and job that will give me the advantage of choosing to work FT, PT or not at all once I have children.

    I would not say that motherhood/meaningful employment are disjointed terms. Some of the worst mothers I know are SAHMs (obviously not all) and some of the best are working full-time (obviously not all). What makes a difference is knowing what is your top priority in life, which should be your family. These successful women also have husbands that understand that family comes first and work hard at keeping and maintaining a loving home (this is key). How do they balance home and work? That, I cannot tell you as I have not experienced it myself.

    If a woman is able to raise a family and a loving home while also influencing the nation as well, that is something she should be proud of. Perhaps even, that could be her “calling” in life. Is that too hard to imagine? Do we have to choose “one or the other” as CW suggests? Are the many moms in the House and Senate failures when they are subjected to the “Proclamation”?

  64. My concern is that I think 12 or 13 is a little young to start shoving the marriage thing down their throats.

    Is 12 or 13 a little young to start shoving the college thing down their throats? Or the career thing?

    Also, when you start talking to young women about how the goal of their lives should be marriage, and then it never happens for them, you are totally setting them up for a lot of pain.

    By that logic, we also shouldn’t talk to young women (or young men) about the goal of having a fulfilling career. After all, not everyone has the wherewithal to become a famous politician, or a CEO, or an accountant, or whatever that individual would truly find “fulfilling”.

  65. I taught a test lesson a couple of years ago from a YW lesson that was in the works. It was a great improvement in terms of the stories and quotes included. Hope it’s ready soon. But I’m sure there are some people who will never be happy. And motivated teachers can always find the best stories and quotes to include using the Church Web site, anyway. That’s what I always did when teaching YW.

    You can have both – just follow the Spirit.

    Amen to that!

  66. Excuse me, I meant to say, “a test lesson from a YW manual that was in the works.”

  67. #63, I am not suggesting that anybody has to choose one or the other. Many choose both, and more power to them. I am simply asking which one is most important if one has to choose.

  68. 55
    Ah, I see what you were saying. I thought you were talking about Pres. Hunter’s quote.

  69. I don’t understand the question that the post raises. Natalie, are you suggesting that the manuals for YW and YM be the same and gender-neutral?

    Regardless of what the Mormon church teaches, I meet very few individuals who feel that they’ve been hoodwinked into marriage and child-rearing. And for all the ink that is spilled regarding women in the church, what about the men? I had to forego a lot of things that I would have otherwise chosen had I not been tied down to a wife and children.

  70. No wonder people think only ugly girls go on missions, have you seen the pictures of sister missionaries in that manual?

    Go to lesson 48 from 2007 the demonstration actually tells the teacher to bind, blindfold, and gag the class president. I thought we were trying to avoid lawsuits…

    How many young men do you know that write letters to their future spouses at the age of 13? Do the young men have ‘wedding nights’? Do the Young Men compile lists of the traits they’d like in their future wife at the age of 12?

    The church focus on teenage boys is on getting them on a mission- the focus for young women is to remain pure and true to be a wife. It’s the way it was when I was 12, it’s the way it is now that I’m 30.

    Luckily, we are taught to teach by the spirit. Use the manuals as a loose guideline for a topic, and do some research of scriptures and talks to update the lesson and make it more timely.

  71. salt h2o, I was about to ban you for lying, then I went to lds.org and read this:


    At the beginning of the class, have the class president seated in the front of the room with a blindfold around her eyes, cotton in her ears, a gag across her mouth, and her hands and feet tied. Without any reference to her plight, begin the class by announcing some things you would like the class members to do. For example: “We have an important lesson. In order for you to learn it, I want all of you to line up your chairs in perfect rows. Mary, move into the chair next to Jane. Susan, sit alone in the back row. Everyone sit up straight in your chair with both feet on the floor. Be absolutely quiet.” Do not respond to any comments by class members. Continue to order them into place. Give the class no choice in their activities, and do not listen to or respond to any comments they make.

    After this short demonstration, say, “I have the feeling that you don’t like the way I’m leading the class, so I’ll just turn the class over to the class president.”

    She will be unable to do anything since she is bound and gagged. She might try to make sounds or motions, but the futility of her actions will soon become apparent. Remove the gag and other things from the class president.

  72. … I would argue that no gag is needed to demonstrate the futility of the class president.

  73. Do the Young Men compile lists of the traits they’d like in their future wife at the age of 12

    My deacons’ quorum did. Didn’t yours?

  74. “Do the Young Men compile lists of the traits they’d like in their future wife at the age of 12?”

    Yes, and they are usually very immature things on the list. For most of them, a good lesson on such a topic would be a huge step up from their natural lists.

  75. Yes,

    I have seen YM do things like that. From Deacons to Priests in class.

    The LDS church is one of the few places that still socializes teenagers towards marriage. Good for us.

  76. Steve, lol. you have outdone yourself on this thread.

  77. Oh yes, we flamed about that particular demonstration when that lesson came up. I pray that teachers everywhere were discerning enough not to use it, and that no local reporters were sitting in on class if they weren’t.

  78. Steve,

    My mom recited 2 Nephi 9:24 all too frequently for me to risk hell and damnation to lie on a message board about a Young Women’s Manuals.

    Thanks for doing your research before “banning” me.

  79. Natalie,
    Your young women are lucky to have someone that is concerned enough to review the lesson material so thoroughly. I agree with your point (#45) about giving them instruction that they can apply now and not just to their future lives, and perhaps you do this too, but I believe there is also value in having them begin to think about and to prepare now for their future roles as wives and mothers.

    The same would be true for the young men. They have lessons to help them prepare to receive the Melchizedek priesthood, to attend the temple, serve missions, and to be married in the temple. These are all future events that require some advance preparation. I would hope that my son’s leaders (he’s a deacon) covers each of these topics as fully and completely as possible.

    A few other comments: I liked how the YW lessons were divided into different categories. From the titles, as near as I could tell, none mentioned specifically “mother” or “father,” although I’m sure some of the lessons cover aspects of preparing for these roles.

    Also, I don’t have it handy, but I recall seeing in one of the newer manuals or study guides a request for feedback. If you have suggestions or comments on topics that aren’t covered or topics that you feel are covered too much, I’m sure they’d love to hear from you.

  80. Renato Marini says:

    Probably we take things more easily here in Italy; my wife teaches YW class and when she finds something that she does not like in the manual she simply change it. Manuals are not Scriptures. Most of the material proposed by the manual must be adapted to our circumstances, and many study-cases are strange for us. So she keeps the lesson goal, the Scritures, the main points, and adapt the rest.
    We play with the cards we have, using our head to fill in the gaps.

  81. Ann, sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.

    You do make a good point that different people will take the same material differently.

    Which is why I think we need to exercise care that our daughters do not get the wrong message.

  82. My 16 year old daughter was told on Sunday, that she should be prepared to give up her educational and professional dreams so that her husband could follow his dreams. My daughter pointed out to the teacher that the President Hinckley told women to obtain all the education they could. The teacher pointed in the manual and said “Education and employment for women is only for extenuating circumstances.” My daughter then suggested that husbands and wives could not be equal if one sacrificed their dreams for the other. The teacher told her that was a woman’s divine nurturing role. I know that the manuals do not teach this, but the fact that YW leaders believe this is sad.