An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

I hated attending YW Conference with my teen-aged daughters. They giggled and whispered throughout, and I sometimes joined them. Two hours of tedium strained our reverence. And I’m not sure any messages they managed to hear benefited them. The focus on marriage and motherhood as the only goals for LDS girls probably pushed Lolly into a radical feminist stance. The promised bliss of temple marriage may have blinded Jaycee to the need to check qualifications beyond a temple recommend in choosing her husband.

I don’t know how much the conference messages have changed since I last attended, probably not much. Just five years ago, Lolly served as YW president in her ward in upper New York State. She despaired that her Laurels set goals only for admission to BYU and marriage. Very bright girls not accepted at BYU elected to stay home and enroll in a local community college rather than attend one of the excellent state universities out in the sinful world.

I wish the message to the YW could be less Utah-centric, less fear-based. Sure there is evil in the world and immorality exists on college campuses—including BYU if you know where to look. But secluding  herself from the world while waiting for Santa to drop a suitable mate down the chimney is not the best  choice for most young women.

Why not include women from outside the Wasatch Front to speak to the YW? And I don’t mean a speaker who describes being the only Mormon girl in her high school and struggling with loneliness while maintaining her high standards. Let’s have some inspiring stories from women taking  advantage of opportunities outside Mormon culture. Mormon Women: Portraits & Conversations by James Kimball and Kent Miles interviews women from nine different countries who illustrate a spectrum of successful lives—SAHMs, career women with children, single moms, and women without children. All these women value family and church, but their contributions have not been limited to that sphere. Good works initiated by these women range from starting orphanages in Nepal to driving truck loads of humanitarian supplies through the war zone to Bosnia.

And why limit role models to Mormon women? Why not highlight some of the Christian and Moslem Liberian women interviewed in the documentary Pray the Devil Back to Hell? These women united to exert pressure on both government and rebel leaders to end the bloody civil war in Liberia in 2003. I can’t think of a better example of upholding family values than ending a war which killed over 200,000 and fostered rape of women and girls and kidnapping of boys for child soldiers .

And how about some examples of women who have created successful lives despite youthful moral transgressions? I’m thinking of a classmate who got pregnant and married at age 15. She and her husband accepted their responsibilities, accomplished educational and financial goals, raised a good family, and both contribute to their community. And no, I don’t think recovery stories will influence girls to sin now, repent later. A girl dumb enough to think struggling to finish high school in the role of wife and mother while her friends attend the prom and plan for college or jobs and their own paychecks following graduation cannot be influenced by anything spoken at YW Conference. I do think girls need to learn that transgression need not ruin their lives. God never abandons His children.

Like a few others, I’m making suggestions for YW Conference speakers.  Being an optimist, I’m awaiting a thank you-call from headquarters.

Comments on: "Young Women’s Conference 2010–My Suggestions" (7)

  1. charlene said:

    I don’t think YW Conference existed when I was of that age, but I do remember one amazing guest speaker, Helen Andelin, the author of Fascinating Womanhood. I’d read the book (now you know how old I am) and thought it was frightening. I resented that this model should be presented to us and that its author should be our speaker. However, I went to the session out of obedience (if I go now, its out of respect for those who have worked hard to arrange the event). I was amazed and thrilled at the wonderful, spiritual, comendable guidance she presented! I think it was something along the lines of, everything we do should be an honor to God; even the mundane like making a bed, or being prompt and neat is a way to be prepared for God’s presence.
    It’s nice to be surprised by eloquence.

  2. Theolina said:

    I’m not in YW anymore but I would LOVE to hear from the women featured in Pray the Devil Back to Hell. If Headquarters took any of your suggestions, I might just try and go the conference with my little sisters.

  3. Kathy Curtis said:

    Amen, girl! It really upset me when my 13 year old daughter was put into a wedding dress and had her picture taken outside the temple and that was the big event for the year! Marriage and motherhood is great but not what 13 year old girls should be focused on. How about school, career, being a good person with or without a companion?

    • Kathy–

      Our ward actuallyl had a Brides Day activity for the Primary girls last summer–dressing up in wedding dresses and choosing the temple for their wedding.

  4. Two of Three said:

    I love the idea of having women of different faiths contribute to what womenhood is. We live in a bubble. It is time to see all the contributions by all good people.

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