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Monday, August 01, 2005 

Separate but Equal?...You Decide

Young Womanhood Recognition vs. Eagle Scout Award
August 1, 2005


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints utilizes the Boy Scouts of America program for the young men ages 8-18. Basically, all the young men are automatically members of the local congregation’s scout troop. Tithing money pays the dues for all member scouts, and while all boys in the area are eligible to participate in the troop, non-LDS young men would pay their own dues. Members of the congregation are called to serve as “den-parents” and scout leaders. The young men earn badges and stuff, and do all the normal scouting stuff (former scout readers please comment) with the end goal of receiving their Eagle Scout Award.

For the young ladies of the Church, they participate in the Primary organization in a group called “Activity Days” from the ages of 8-11. While in Activity Days the girls participate in the “Faith in God” program. (The 8-11 year old boys can earn their Faith in God award and it is integrated into their scouting requirements). When the young ladies turn 12 they enter the youth program of the Church, aptly titled the “Young Women’s Organization”. In Young Womens (as is it grammatically incorrectly called) the girls participate in a program called “Personal Progress” until they are 18 with the end goal of receiving their “Young Woman Recognition Award.”

(I just recently learned that the adult woman’s organization, the “Relief Society” also has a goal program called “Pursuit of Excellence”, and it is quite interesting…)

Growing up in the Church, I set many a goal in my day. You must complete goals in every program. Since my nature is to be lazy, I grew up feeling like I always had something hanging over my head: a Faith in God goal, a personal progress goal, etc.

The Church creates these programs so that we can learn self motivation and self improvement. The underlying purpose is to build testimonies of the Savior. I think goal setting is good; I think it is healthy…it just goes against my lazy, lazy nature.

There is some argument that the Young Woman Recognition Award is the equivalent to the Eagle Scout Award. This is debatable (hence the reason for the topic choice…).

Of note, my very own grandmother, Jean Green, was on the Church Correlation Board that created the modern Young Women’s Personal Progress program. Some members of the Young Women’s General Presidency at the time wanted to focus on themes like “Behold, Your Handmaiden”, and it was people like my grandma who stood up and said, “Neither my self nor my daughters are handmaidens to anyone…they are daughters of God, and should respect themselves as such!” Thanks, Grandma!

The current program focuses on the following areas: faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice & accountability, good works, and integrity. While these are great and fine and noble…I DO wish that we had a little more of the scouting grit…more camping…more outdoor skills. After all, aren’t we all supposed to trek out to Missouri sometime? Faith will only get me so far…

So now that I’ve explained a little of the topic, I want our readers and commentators to comment with their own stories of the Church’s youth program. Let it be glorious, tragic, hilarious, what-have-you… You former scouts out there must give us your input…do we Young Womanhood Medallion holders measure up? I will be adding my two bits in the comments as well…

Behold the Gold

The scouts may have gotten badges for completing goals, but we got BLING! Behold the gold. I hope someone comments on the fact that some Church leaders have admonished young women to wear their Young Womanhood medallions with pride (some have criticized this as “Look how righteous I am!"), or to only consider marrying young men who received their Eagle Scout award (and vice versa: only marry young women with their medallions). Let's discuss...

P.S. I didn't really complete any goals...I bought all those medallions on e-Bay...phew!

you did NOT buy all of those on e-bay... LOL!!!

I'm looking forward to this topic...I (for one) do not think the two are equal in recognition...BUT I will go into that more in my turn.

I remember doing PP and looking through the book and going, "Which one of these is the easiest and requires the least amount of effort...?" I was certainly in the right frame of mind, eh?

I'm in agreement--I was one lazy, lazy girl and I didn't want to exert myself. Plus, once I got to be like 16, I just didn't think it was cool anymore to "write my mother a letter telling her how much I loved her" or whatever the syrupy sweet goal was.

I only earned my beehive medal, which I can't remember the name of, and I never wore it. I still have it, somewhere, at the bottom of a jewelry box.

Plus, I hate gold. Yuck.

Although PP lacked the more grity stuff, I do remember that we had Girl's Camp Manuals that had requirements similiar to the PP program and you had to do them each year you were at camp. That stuff was more grit--learn how to tie 6 different knots, swamp and unswamp a canoe, use a compass, etc. So there was some element of outdoorsy-ness...

The PP program has changed a bit since I was in YW. Now the girls must complete 6 "experiences" and 1 project for each value. Each project requires a minimum of 10 hours. That is 42 experiences and 7 different 10 hour projects! It is quite a lot to work on.

I admit that as a youth, I did sometimes choose goals that were easy instead of the more challenging ones. But I also remember very well the hard work that went into completing the projects during my Laurel years. I learned alot and found new talents while working on those projects.

As a YW leader now, I am striving to earn my YW medallion under this new program. I am amazed at how much is required and I'm impressed as I watch the girls working on their goals.

I think that the amount of dedication and work is equivelant to earning an Eagle Scout and when you add in full participation in girl's camp, they learn all the gritty stuff too.

I hated personal progress. Not so much because I was lazy, but because during my high school years I was also attending early morning seminary (with mandatory readings, quizzes, tests, & projects), had NUMEROUS after school activities (music lessons and outside musical groups, honor groups, academic internships, etc., etc.), and I worked part-time... It's a wonder I had any sanity at all! I enjoyed YW's because of the camaraderie—and I despised the pressure from PP. I never completed anything the goals past Beehives and don’t regret it. The blessings that YW’s brought to my life was well outside of PP.
(I know the pressure that church puts on the youth to complete church educational goals is not your topic—sorry…)

I never felt that PP & scouting were equal. (Nor did I think it was fair that the young women were waiting in line to have their PP checks while the boys played basketball.) And looking back on it I can more clearly articulate the stereotypes embraced in boys learning to tie knots (when they weren’t displaying gross behavior at boy scout camp) while the girls kept journals. I know as I grew up there was a lot of talk about the church moving away from Boy Scouts and developing a program that more adequately mirrored the spiritual goals of Personal Progress. Ultimately the point is for personal growth and development and I believe that these can be achieved outside of such (PP & BS) programs that can be such a burden.

I also hated PP, but did it all (for all the wrong reasons, I am sure). Nearly every time a girl got her award in Sacrament Meeting, the bishop would remind everyone that it was equivalent to an EA. It always sounded like lip-service, after all, there is no special meeting, no treats, etc. While I personally feel it was MORE effort than an EA (after all, I wasn't at weekly events for 10 years where someone walked me through every achievement), it is not the same and will never be esteemed equally.

I was just working at my brother's Eagle project last week. If anyone should get an award, it should be my mom, not my brother.

Maybe I am just a cynical person, but this whole topic brings a rush of negative emotions for me.

First of all, I have always felt that pp was given to us young women to appease us so we didn't feel left out while the boys were repelling off mountains, star gazing or building snow caves to sleep in. I feel so cheated because it is not like my parents would have let me do these things by my self, or with a group of friends. Instead I was incouraged to complete goals I could have done in my sleep and then told I was so wonderful for doing them.

Looking back I feel like I was given the appearance of something, while the boys were given the substance of real and delicious things. I was never jealous of the Eagle Scout, but of all the amazing experiences my brother had while I was stuck eating snacks and chatting. No wonder women in the church have self-esteem issues.

I'm not trying to play devil's advocate or be some kind of Pollyanna...but while I thought that PP was a little bit of a waste of timewhile I was doing it, I'm glad I did it. Now that I have been a YW leader and now an Activity Days counselor, I take my calling VERY seriously. I really want my young ladies to complete these goals because everything that we do leads to testimony building. I look back at the girls in my YW classes (and the gilrs I have now)and realize that sometimes the weekly activities were the only religion these girls were getting during the week. And there were many, many awkward young ladies who needed social interaction and positive adult reinforcement. The goals are just a means to an end, I think. Don't get me wrong, I was as busy as the next person in high school, and I would argue that I was busier, but sometimes grudgingly doing a goal had a beneficial outcome, like the service project NO ONE wants to do, but that becomes the highlight of the youth conference or something. Like I said, I was terribly lazy (despite the school, dance, orchestra, plays, track, and 5:30 AM seminary). Sometimes goals and activities kept me from typical teenage self pity, angst, and depression...and the whole process definitely helped me gain my OWN testimony.

Carrie Ann-
It sounds to me like you were anything but lazy. You were obviously involved in several activities at school because they were interesting, challenging and helped you to grow. In my experience(and I haven't been in yw for eighteen years so maybe it has changed)the pp goals were not interesting or challenging and did little to help me grow. Maybe that is why you didn't feel like doing them. Maybe that is why so many yw quit after a few years.

Working with my daughter and following the outline of the new and quite different personal progress has been a very interesting experience for me.

She spends a lot of time on it, and enjoys doing it, and I do think it is benifical in helping her grow and learn.

Same as scouts? Nope, but it is better than nothing.

The merit badge program is so much in depth in its educational persuit.

I think both programs are wonderful. Though I am sure could use some more work.

Speaking from a Young Men's Leader's perspective, the Duty to God program actually mirrors the Personal Progress much more than Scouting. Eagle Scout is usually achieved, if is is a well-functioning unit, by the time a boy is 13 or 14. But the Duty to God program has goals and projects for deacons, teachers and priests, similar to the PP for YW.

Are the YW program and the YM program "equal"? If by equal you mean "the same" then the answer is definitely no. It is established church doctrine and practice that men and women are different, and that programs for them are designed differently. Do both programs provide goal-setting activities and opportunities to develop leadership skills, as well as some "fun" and outdoor activities? I'd say yes, although i've never been in YW personally.

Do many scouts exhibit "laziness" and fail to complete the Eagle Scout program, just like many young women fail to complete PP? Yup. Do many young men feel that scouting doesn't really offer what they want, and prefer other activities? Yup. So in both the positives and the negatives, i'd say the programs are similar.

Hi. Didn't do my Personal Progress as a Young Woman. It was boring. Instead, I did it as a Beehive Advisor, and also as a 25-year-old mother of small children. Now I'm a Laurel Advisor, and when the girls tell me that they're too busy, I try to remind them that while they certainly ARE busy at this stage in their lives, PLEASE BELIEVE ME when I say that they will be busier later in life.

The new program is better for a few reasons: 1) you can choose gold OR silver for your medallion. 2) You can work on your activities as fast as you choose, just like the Eagle. My husband got his eagle when he was 13 - had he waited any longer, there's NO WAY he would have gotten it - he was too busy with school, seminary, sports - all the things that teens are 'too busy' with. With the older PP program, you could only do your Beehive experiences as a Beehive and had to wait until you were a Mia Maid to continue; now, the entire program can feasibly be finished in the first year of being in the YW program.

Also, my laurels always complain that we're not climbing rocks or rafting down raging rivers of death. Don't know how that fits in here, exactly, but they think it's unfair that the boys "have to" do these things as part of their project(s).

Myself being a life for life, which is how my compatriot Todd so aptly put it, I hated the scouting program. If anything, it was anti-spiritual. Campouts were excuses to play cards, gamble, speak with vulgar tongues, and play cruel “jokes” on others.

During my teenage years, a program with a spiritual aspect would have been much more beneficial rather than the boring diversion that Boy Scouts were. Besides, the activities were really of no interest to me. However, my wife wishes she could have done many of the activities that the Boy Scouts do. Coming from an inactive family, she had no interest in the more spiritually focused program for the young women.

Now, as a Cub Scout leader, none of the kids show up. I wonder if their parents had similar experiences, and they do not care whether their kids attended scout functions.
Of course, quite possibly this is simply a matter of personal preference. Here in the city there are many things to do. Out in the middle of nowhere, where I am from, everyone in the local ward attended Boy Scouts and the local Catholic and Presbyterian churches also sponsor troops. Camping and knot tying were the height of civilization. Personally, most Boy Scout activities were not for me.

The question, are the two programs equal? Who could know? They are fundamentally different. Frankly, different people have different needs. Scouts did not fulfill any of mine. If anything, it probably helped me move further in the wrong direction.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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