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!