The news stories of FLDS teenagers (a polygamist religion) has focused extensively on the teenaged girls, some of whom are believed to be married with children.
In contrast, teenage girls who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are generally living very typical teenage lives. They go to school, join clubs, attend dances, and date. Members of the Mormon Church do not live in isolated enclaves, but participate in public life and live normal lives in their communities worldwide.
The Church offers a program to help teenage girls prepare for adulthood. This program began in 1869, when Brigham Young asked his ten teenage daughters to organize the Young Ladies Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association.for the teen girls in the Church. He asked them to help the girls study the scriptures and to dress modestly and simply, while still dressing attractively. The girls weren’t happy about bypassing the season’s new fashions, but they agreed to do so. Over time, the program grew into something far more encompassing. Girls learned public speaking, encouraged one another to stay in school, played sports, put on plays, and went to camp.
Programs were created to help girls complete goals, much like today’s scouting programs. Following are the requirements to be followed by the girls in 1910, well after the FLDS church was organized and the members were not a part of our Church. How many of these things could be done by a modern girl, even in these liberated time? Certainly, they were “liberated” even for their own time:
1. Have a party with from 8 to 12 persons, with refreshments that cost no more than a dollar—and keep accounts.
2. Learn to float in the Great Salt Lake. Propel yourself 50 feet. Learn to get on your feet unassisted.
3. Without help or advice, care for and harness a team of horses at least five times. Drive 50 miles in one season.
4. Care successfully for a hive of bees for one season, and know their habits.
5. Pack a horse successfully.
6. Build a tree house sufficiently large for two girls to sleep in.
7. Pick 800 pounds of cherries or their equivalent in any six days.
8. Clear sagebrush, etc., off half an acre of land.
9. Identify 12 kinds of lace and tell the reasonable price and appropriate use of each.
10. Raise three trees that bear food which attracts birds in winter.
(Janet Thomas and Lisa A. Johnson, “Young Women—Then and Now,” New Era, Nov 1994, 38–41
Requirements changed over the years to meet the needs of changing times and an increasingly world-wide church. However, the goals of the program are the same: To help young women come unto Christ. The girls recite a theme at each meeting:
“We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Choice and Accountability
Good Works and Integrity
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to
strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.”
Following are a few of the things girls can do today to earn their awards. In addition to the smaller choices, they must complete a series of projects they plan and carry out independently.
“Living gospel principles requires faith. Choose a principle such as prayer, tithing, fasting, repentance, or keeping the Sabbath day holy. In your own home or another setting, plan and present a family home evening lesson about how faith helps you live that gospel principle. If possible, ask a family member to share an experience that has strengthened his or her faith. Share your own experiences as well. In your journal write down one of those experiences and describe your feelings about faith.”
Learn about an area of work or service that interests you. Talk to someone who works in that field, and find out what that person’s job responsibilities are, what training or education the person obtained to do the job, and what contributions this person’s job makes to society. Record your findings in your journal.
Help plan your family’s menus, obtain the food, and prepare part of the meals for two weeks. During that time help your family gather to share mealtimes.
Establish a pattern of wise money management by making a budget for saving and spending your money, including the payment of tithing. Live within your budget for at least three months. Set priorities that allow you to meet your most important needs before satisfying your wants.
Participate in a dance, speech, music, or drama performance at school, in your community, or at church.
Teenage LDS girls are using their time wisely to prepare for the time when they’re grown up. This includes preparing for a career in the event one is needed and using the teen years to learn how to care for a home and family, and to serve in the community. They do this within the safety of their own home under the guidance of their parents, leaders, and teachers. Teenagers are strongly discouraged from marrying, because the teen years are a time of preparation and education.