A New Dawn for Young Women: Its about time!

I woke up this morning to the announcement that the age of missionary service has been lowered for both males and females.  My first reaction was, ‘hurray!’

About 30 years ago the General Young Women Presidency visited Christchurch New Zealand and had an open forum with leaders and Laurels.  At that stage I shared my frustration that as a young woman there was little in the church for girls to  hope for, that there was little systemic interest in my intellectual and spiritual welfare and  that  in comparison with the boys, I didn’t feel relevant.  These women were sympathetic and promised to take my concerns back to the brethren.  It took 30 years of debate, but its nice that things do move in the church – albeit slowly!

 

Jesting aside,  my delight today comes from a number of places.  Firstly, if I had been permitted to serve a mission at aged 19, I would have gone in a heartbeat.  Instead I felt like an unwanted spectator as I  watched my then boyfriend prepare for his mission.  The attention, and interest lavished upon him by our church community was in stark contrast to my own feeling that I was simply an annoyance and a hindrance.  In the void left by his going I was simply called  to wait or marry.  I wish that I had the opportunity of preparing with him, being called within months of each other, and naturally growing up apart from each other in a place where I was safely in the service of others.

 

Secondly, I’m delighted with the potential that this has created for Young Women to be thinking about another option to bridge the gap between adolescence and womanhood.  One that feels relevant and meaningful.  This will hopefully wash over into the new youth curriculum, nudge out the emphasis on marriage, and push those domestic conversations into Relief Society where they belong.

 

Thirdly, it signals an interest in the young women of the church, who up until now have been largely neglected in comparison to the boys.  It doesn’t ask them to lag behind the boys by 2 years, it doesn’t tell them that they are less useful, and it pays attention to them as more than simply brides and breeders, and only missionaries by default.

 

Of course there is room for further questions and improvements.  Peggy Fletcher Stack questioned President Holland at the press conference today as to why they haven’t reviewed the two years for young men and 18 months for young women.  His response was appropriate. He acknowledged that the emphasis by the brethren had been placed on the decision to lower the age, and signaled a ‘wait, and lets see how this works out’ approach to further developments.  I’m grateful that he didn’t respond with the usual closed-ended revelatory declarations.  He talked, albeit briefly, through a process of thoughtful decision making which included a consideration of all the options and their consequences.

 

My joy this morning is compounded by the new youth curriculum which makes no distinction between gender roles but places an emphasis on growing an understanding of Jesus Christ as our Saviour.   Its about time.  Now the only things they need to revisit are the  nature of LDS missions, the missionary  ‘uniform’, the leadership arrangements in the mission….. (but that might be another blog eh?).

 

To those young women – whose lives have changed today – I wish you all the very best.  Blessings to you all!

 

  • Jeff

    It was a fantastic announcement – it fills a gaping hole for young women and a smaller and less noticeable but nonetheless at times significant gap for young men (where some fall by the wayside in that crucial post high school). I did love the “brides and breeders” comment.

  • http://rustedsun.blogspot.com Rusted Sun

    I can’t help but feel that in a little way life has changed for all Mormon women, even those who are not directly effected by being able to go on a mission earlier. Hopefully a change in the view of Young Women will also be an eventual change in the way women are viewed in general. I have felt elated all day.
    Two young women in our ward testimony meeting today shared their excited the news and I shared my excitement as part of the announcements in Relief Society. This warms my heart.

    • Gina Colvin

      Snap! I’m so, so please and happy and I do agree, the terrain shifted today! Thanks for your comment.

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  • JohnH

    “and it pays attention to them as more than simply brides and breeders,”

    I feel as though I am missing something here but it is my understanding based such things as ‘The Family: A proclamation’ among much else that being eternally sealed in the temple and rearing children is the highest possible goal for both men and women in this life, our eternal reward in the life to come, and the calling to be a mother is the highest of all possible callings that anyone can ever have. Families are many times more important then missionary work based on all the statements in scripture and from the current Apostles so I am confused about why emphasizing the importance of marriage and family is a bad thing, and I must be missing something.

    ‘the leadership arrangements in the mission’
    I don’t know if you are aware that this has been changed at least in part for a few years now. I am not sure of all the details but I know that Sisters can have leadership of districts and zones.

  • Moana

    Really like this blog. Yes – it is about time! No wonder I felt so frustrated in my youth and YSA years. Felt less valued than my male peers and that my destiny was to wash dishes and ‘bear & rear’. That opportunity has not happened for me so I’ve had to fulfil my life in other ways – being an educated career woman. Yet growing up in youth, Sunday school and YSA, there was little encouragement to pursue a career. Still feel out of place to this day. I would love to hear more about the ‘uniforms’.

    • Gina Colvin

      Kia ora Moana! Yep I tend to think that women have been a bit short changed in Mormonism. Its also wonderful to hear about our amazing Mormon women who have soldiered on distinguished themselves in education and careers. That fact alone I think will change the landscape somewhat!


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