In the Saturday Morning Session of General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson sent waves of excitement throughout the LDS world when he announced the lowering of the age for young men eligible to serve as full-time missionaries from age 19 to 18.
Perhaps more significantly, the age for eligible women took a larger dive from age 21 to age 19. When asked in a press conference following the announcement if women’s missionary service (which is currently set for the duration of 18 months rather than the 24-month standard for the Elders) would be extended to be equivalent with their male counterparts, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland noted that this was not off the table for the future, but that one change was being tested and implemented before placing attention on another that would need to build off of it. “One miracle at a time,” he said.
Meanwhile, as featured in my last post and the following official announcement here, curriculum for Young Men and Young Women has been completely revised. There are no longer Young Men’s and Young Women’s manuals, but a single program, with the same doctrines being taught at the same time, very much like what is currently in practice with the Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society both working from the same Adult Curriculum.
Prior to these significant changes, we saw the release of the Church-published book Daughters In My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society, setting out the sacred narrative of the past of the Church’s organization for women, and reinforcing its importance in fulfilling the work of the Lord in our day.
With the above in mind, I want to go on record making a prediction for one of the next organizational ‘miracles’, to use Elder Holland’s term.
The Young Women organization will join with, and be re-branded as an extension of the Relief Society.
Great emphasis lately has been placed on the Relief Society being a sacred organization “after the pattern of the priesthood.” The Young Women’s organization is currently divided into classes and presidencies equivalent to the 3 degrees of Aaronic Priesthood/Young Men’s classes (Beehives = Deacons, Mia Maids = Teachers, Laurels = Priests). And now this equivalency has been made even stronger through shared curriculum. I see the next logical step—with no doctrine or even major practical considerations needing to be changed—as being that at age 12, young women will enter into Relief Society.
This is not suggesting that all YW classes become carbon-copies of the current Adult Relief Society class, or that, apart from brief opening exercises , they would suddenly meet with the current Adult Relief Society class . This is not suggesting the removal of Young Women Presidencies. For all intents and purposes, my suggestion is more of a re-brandingthan anything.
I see this being a powerful, purposeful organizational shift that actually makes sense logistically in many more ways than having a Relief Society/Young Women organizational split. If Young Men can be Priesthood Brethren at age 12, part of a bigger whole, then why not present the opportunity for Young Women to be Relief Society Sisters at age 12? This would not change the class structure, camps, activities, etc.
Just as a Young Men’s organization of adults exists in the General, Stake, and Ward level with an advisory role to serve and mentor the Aaronic Priesthood youth-led presidencies and quorums, the Young Women leaders would remain in this same capacity. The youth themselves, however, would be officially a part of the Relief Society Organization, just as the boys are a part of the Priesthood Organization.
I see this as being an organizational change that even those who are not comfortable with the idea of future potential extension of Priesthood Offices to women could get excited about, because it would require zero doctrinal adjustment. As it is, the Young Women’s organization is a bit of an orphan. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for Young Women, just like the teenage boys, to be a part of an Historic Restoration Legacy, one with sacred ties back to Joseph and Emma Smith, one with ‘an inseparable connection to the Priesthood’?
I view this as a pretty safe prediction, and one that I personally don’t see as being very controversial, but that I can recognize some would view as trivial. To use the adage, I see this suggestion as a “small thing that makes a big difference.” Or, to use its scriptural equivalent, “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass;” (Alma 37:6) What do you think?
 Per Handbook 2, this is something they already are authorized to do, albeit in a very limited fashion, and only under Stake authorization: “When authorized by the stake president, Young Women and Relief Society opening exercises may be combined one Sunday a month”