Keeping manuals up to date

Beginnings new recently discussed possible revisions to the Young Women’s manual and what commenters think should be included.  Some people suggested updating the lessons to deal with issues that current young women face, such as saturation with electronic media.  The prospect of updating these sorely out of date manuals is exciting and much needed.  But the problem, I think, is that unless we continue to update these manuals constantly, any new issues and anecdotes will also inevitably become dated.  [Note: I noticed after writing this post that commenters on the Beginnings new thread already made the same point! ]

What I’m suggesting is that  so long as we rely on using manuals that are rarely updated, we will ensure that at some point the manuals become out of touch with the pulse of current young women.  Rather than putting out manuals with the expectation of keeping certain substantive content for a long time, it seems better to adopt a model in which the material will be repeatedly revised.  This could be done by a committee.  Or, better yet, it could be done by allowing users to participate in the process by revising and commenting on the lessons through an online medium.

If we do prefer a model in which manuals remain constant for a long time, then it seems that it might be better to make the lessons as scant as possible allowing the teacher to adapt and innovate the principles in them to changing times–a model more like the current missionary lessons.  The best lessons I have had in Young Women’s were ones were the girls simply discussed issues they were curious about, such as dating, and leaders spoke from personal experience rather than using the dated stories in the manual. Those stories tended to detract from the lesson when the girls perceived them as dated and funny.  Moreover, the thinner the lesson, the less chance for stories that advocate gender norms that might reflect a moment in history more than the gospel.

What do you think a manual should look like, if there should be manuals at all?


  1. We need an official Church Manual Wiki :)

  2. Julie M. Smith says:

    One approach would be to retain the lesson titles, objectives, and subheadings, but leave the rest to the teacher.

  3. I’m not familiar with the YW manuals, but for starters I’d be grateful if the YM manuals would remove language discouraging interracial marriage–at least from the Googleable online version? Please? Like, tomorrow?

  4. Mark Brown says:

    We should note that the online version of the manuals includes this instruction:

    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:

    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.

  5. I think the structure for YW/YM lessons should be similar to the structure for RS/Priesthood lessons. The Presidency decides the topic for the first Sunday (to address local needs), the second and third Sunday lessons come from a “principles” manual – maybe not the Gospel Principles manual itself, but something similar that covers basic topics and leaves lots of rooom for class discussions. The fourth Sunday is a conference talk, and the fifth is combined with the YM for a Bishop’s lesson.

    As for the “principles” manual, it could be the same for YW and YM just like the RS and Priesthood use the same manual.

  6. Remove the euphemisms necking and petting. If we are going to discuss things, we need to make sure the youth (and their leaders) know what they are. If the actual terms are considered unacceptable for Church lessons, then better not to discuss them at all.

  7. It’s very, very easy to keep electronic versions up to date. Since the kids are already online, their parents, teachers and youth leaders should be as well.

    But if the manuals were updated more often than once every 25 years, that would help some, too. It’s not like they’ve got (or should have) the same staying power as scriptures…..

  8. @ #1 – I also like the idea of a church manual wiki. Of course, if maintained by the Church it would probably be heavily monitored for content, which kind of kills the wiki-ness IMO. An online version is definitely best, since it is quickly distributed and easily updated.

    @ #6 – Problem is, the folks who write the manuals have to actually know the hip new terms for necking and petting before they can write an up-to-date lesson on the subject. And I can’t really envision a church manual attempting to enumerate all the different phrases for making out, which risks teaching the impressionable youths new things they should be trying.

  9. Latter-day Guy says:

    Problem is, the folks who write the manuals have to actually know the hip new terms for necking and petting before they can write an up-to-date lesson on the subject.

    Maybe they could take a page from BYU’s playbook, where, in order to avoid the clunkiness of using “he or she”/”him or her” all the time, the writing center coined the genderless hypothetical pronoun “werf”, as in: If a citizen wishes to avoid possible incarceration, werf should not make a habit of dismembering hookers.

    My suggestions would be “snurgling” and “grumphing,” respectively. (“Hypo-” or “hyper-grumphing” are possibilities to consider should it become necessary to differentiate the various “petting” genres.)

  10. I’m with Julie except to add a list of primary sources for the teacher to develop some expertise. And put all manuals on a 10 year review cycle. But wiki-manuals seem like a terrible idea.

  11. I would love a manual like Julie described for teaching RS. I think a new convert would be intimidated. It’s hard writing a manual that will serve both new converts and experienced folks.

    I am teaching Primary again after some decades away, and I love the manual. There are all kinds of options, and I love being able to choose from the ideas to pull together a lesson. As a newbie in this arena, it is such a blessing.

  12. Well, whatever the case, the Aaronic priesthood manual should take out the advice discouraging interracial marriage.

    “We recommend that people marry those who are of the same racial background generally, and of somewhat the same economic and social and educational background (some of those are not an absolute necessity, but preferred), and above all, the same religious background, without question” (“Marriage and Divorce,” in 1976 Devotional Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1977], p. 144).

    I can’t believe something like this has been allowed to stay in the manual into the 2000s.

  13. Natalie B. says:

    #11: The tension between the needs of new and old members seems to come up a lot. Do you think there is a reason we all need the same manual? What if we were to give the teacher a choice between manuals that provided more or less coverage? Or what if we simply made it clear that any of the specifics in the manual were suggestions only and that teachers could depart or innovate to suit their class?

  14. Natalie B. says:

    #12: Yes, that definitely needs eliminating. I think that the continued emphasis on marrying people of the same religious background is an especially tricky issue in YW’s, where most YW recognize that there are far more women than men in the church. Since not all women will have the choice of marrying another member, I think that our approach might need to deal with the issue in a more nuanced way than the manuals typically do. Maybe we should be emphasizing more the general importance of shared standards and life goals.

  15. LRC #7 – that’s an excellent point. At which point do hard-copy manuals become outdated just for the expense of printing them? Even with 25+year old manuals, as YW Pres, I had to order new ones every year because leaders would just keep them/lose them when they got released. What a waste!

    If the church didn’t have to worry about the cost of typsetting, printing, distributing new manuals each time an update came out, it would be much easier to update the curriculum on a regular basis.

  16. Having had two daughters marry in to different cultures and end up divorced due to really basic differences in the way they looked at equality in marriage, I think something should be left in the manuals about cultural differences at least.

  17. berzerkcarrottop says:

    I like Stephanie’s idea (#5).

    I think the Church is still going to have to print manuals because a computer in the home with reliable access to the internet is not universal.

  18. Continuing my thought in #5, for weeks 2 and 3, True to the Faith could be the “principles” guide used. Or, better yet, the church could put together a resource guide similar to the one used currently that lists conference talks, scriptures, Personal Progress and Duty to God projects, etc. to go along with any given topic. Since the resource guide is just a few pages, it could be updated every year or two at a much smaller cost.

  19. I really liked Stephanie’s idea of modeling the lessons on the adult relief society schedule. It would have the added bonus of helping young women transition to RS easier because it would be one less ‘new’ thing IMO.

  20. 1. Many wards have YW and leaders who are not on the internet all the time so they need the hard copy manual.
    2. I also think that similar backgrounds does help a marriage so young people should be taught to think it through….including racial and cultural differences. Love does not conquer all. If teaching our youth that marriage is a goal, we have to be willing to help them and discuss how to make a choice.

  21. AMEN, take out “necking” and “petting.” I had no idea what they meant when I was taught the lessons (10-15 years ago), and I still have no idea.

    I would really love lessons that are principle-focused, and then left to the discretion of the instructor on how to make them appropriate for the group being taught. There are so many cultural/economic/social/etc. differences between youth groups, it seems almost impossible to come up with scenarios, role plays, and other ‘examples’ that really reach across all of the boundaries.

    Plus, realize that the youth might be young, but they’re not idiots. Some of the current lessons really treat the youth with major kid-gloves. Also, please, for the love of Pete, remove the suggestion about having a shirt-ironing competition amongst the young women as a way to prepare for being good housewives.

  22. Bro. Jones says:

    #20 Sorry, that quote is just boneheaded and indefensible. Or if we’re going to take that route, let’s at least be consistent and emphasize that people with educations shouldn’t marry people without them, or that people who come from wealthy backgrounds shouldn’t marry the poor. Likewise, people from Utah raised in the church should not marry those from out-of-state, or converts. Because such a marriage just might not work out, it’s better not to even risk it.

  23. Amen, Bro Jones! We should emphasize that marriage is hard work, period. And not suggest that if you come from the same place, culture, background etc can doom it. Yes, having similar backgrounds can help a marriage, but teaching that is ‘the way’ can also make life boring and make people pick partners that are less likely to make them happy. After all if they discount the people they like for the people they are ‘told’ they should like… well… I guess I totally agree with you and the experiences around me suggest that you are right, but I have no idea how to word what I am thinking so…. I guess I will go make breakfast! now : )

  24. Bro. Jones, doesn’t the quote actually also say to pick similar education and wealth?
    I just get really frustrated with these 20 year old girls marrying a guy from another culture and being clueless as to what that means in a marriage. No, it shouldn’t be taught as doctrine, but if we are telling teen girls to plan to marry we should give them some help in how to choose a spouse….including practical stuff.
    My husband was talking to his friend from another country who was divorcing his wife (my sister’s friend) and when my husband said it was good that they didn’t have kids and didn’t have to fight over custody this guy acted surprised. What would be the problem? They would be his kids and he’d take them back to his original country.

  25. jks – I can understand your frustration at people’s ignorance of culture and what it might mean to their marriage. But wouldnd’t it make more sense that instead of teaching ‘pick similar culture, education and wealth’, we should be teaching our young women to really look at what a marriage entails. I do not know if anyone else feels this way, but as a female married to a male from a pretty similar background I still find myself clueless sometimes. I was told by one of my young women’s leaders that men were an entirely different culture/species all together. And I think in many ways that was the best advice I have ever gotten. I have rarely assumed that I could know what someone was like from their background, work, education etc… Teaching our youth that even in similarities people are different would probably be the best way to help our youth IMO- not suggesting that ‘similar culture, etc’ be a good idea because it can subtly suggest that marriage will always be easier and better that way. I’m not convinced that is true.

  26. given the variety of teaching experience which we accomodate in the church, I for one am grateful that many of the lessons have a substantial part of the lesson already in place. This, though, is both a blessing and a curse. As teachers catch the spirit of their calling, make the necessary preparations, and pleadings with the lord for inspiration, they will be able to use the tools at their disposal (manual, scriptures, etc) to construct a lesson which is every bit in touch with the students as would be a church-wide curriculum effort. Balancing enough latitude for the teachers to formulate lessons for their specific, local, class with the pitfalls that occur at times when teachers stray too far from the topic and venture out into the gospel weeds, I think should be the real focus. Maybe some set of graduated steps for the teacher as they become more confident and aware of the needs of their class, and if the lesson is lacking in a particular area, that they be given the flexibility to pull in other supportive materials.

    In my personal experience, I have always been supported by the local leadership whenever I have ventured off of the ‘manual’ lesson, so I don’t see this being such a big problem. Stay focused on the needs, conditions of your class members, and it will generally work out just fine – whether you go point by point down the lesson, or incorporate some additional material.

  27. Bro. Jones says:

    #24 It does say that, and I was being sarcastic.

    #25 Sonia, you’ve said it well. I absolutely agree that young people should be cautioned about the challenges of marriage, and should be taught the kinds of communications strategies that can make for a successful union. That’s the kind of intelligent, family-centered teaching that make the LDS message so important. “Don’t marry someone too different from you” is not an intelligent statement, and it doesn’t do much for those of us who do have diverse, successful marriages.