My Prediction for the Next Organizational ‘Miracle’

yw_rsIn 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 [1].  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?

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[1] 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”

Comments

My Prediction for the Next Organizational ‘Miracle’ — 14 Comments

  1. I have been hoping for this for years. It makes for a much smoother trajectory and transition. I think holding one women’s broadcast instead of dividing up into RS and YW would be critical as well and a good stepping stone.

  2. A safe prediction indeed. Now that you mention it, I’m surprised it hasn’t already happened.

    How about a prediction in the other direction? Melchizedec Priesthood becomes more like RS by redefining the stake high priests quorum as consisting of the stake presidency, the high council, and the various ward bishoprics. At the ward level, only the elder’s quorum would operate, so all the adult men would meet together.

  3. If Young Women became part of Relief Society, it is easy to imagine them being assigned as junior companions in visiting teaching. This would also aid in transitioning girls from teenage to adult programs.

  4. The changing of the age of calling young missionaries by a year or two has attracted excitement and enormous enthusiasm in the Church and local Utah media. As Elder Holland stated, it is one of the great Mormon Miracles in recent memory. So, not so fast, David!!

    When I was recently speaking with one high level administrator in the Presiding Bishop’s office, I suggested that the church could benefit by, and be very influential in seriously adopting renewable energy. He responded: “We are not pioneers.” No we are not pioneers, anymore. In fact, we are not even on the paved road. It is my fault for thinking we ought to expect two miracles in one year. And if (according to Elder Holland) the most prominent, recent Miracle in the church is changing of the age one is called on a mission by a year or two, what you are predicting is as miraculous as changing water to wine.

    There is no lack of potential miracles for women, small symbolic gestures or respect that would take our breath away: such as the ward Relief Society President sitting on the stand each week in church with the Bishopric as a symbolic treatment of honor for the Relief Society and women. But this would be a miracle if it happened in Mormonism. Or, the Church Relief Society involvement and leadership with church humanitarian aid such as global microfinance programs to the poor of the world. But this would be a miracle if it happened in Mormonism. None of this requires change of doctrine, as with your prediction. But they will not happen.

    The New Testament speaks of the miraculous healing of the woman with an issue of blood—by simply touching the garment of Jesus. But what you are suggesting is the equal and fair treatment of women in Mormonism. This would be more miraculous by a degree of a thousand—we have had our Miracle for one year. A Miracle, a Miracle, we have had our Miracle and we need no more miracles. So, David,

    Go and catch a falling star,
    Get with child a mandrake root,
    Tell me where all past years are,
    Or who cleft the devil’s foot,
    Teach me to hear mermaids singing,
    Or to keep off envy’s stinging,
    And find what miracle herb can purge the constipation of a bureaucracy.

  5. Several small changes led up to the end of the priesthood and temple ban such as allowing people in Brazil to be baptized without having to trace their ancestry looking for African lineage. The changes in youth curriculum and the changes in the ages of missionaries may be a small thing (I actually think that they will have very far-reaching consequences for the church), but I get the feeling that there are bigger changes to come. Time will tell.

  6. Wow. This sounds and feels eminently reasonable and logical, but it hadn’t even crossed my mind before.

  7. Spoken like a prophet, Mark. It does feel like the Church has lost some of its pioneering, miracle-seeking spirit. Do you think there’s a solution, or is the bureaucratic momentum too great to be diverted?

  8. There is still hope and pressure will mount to change. But time is running out. I think I understand the Church and why it is so slow to change. It doesn’t want to create enemies. It has a powerful truth. It has been criticized before. Stay the course. They can get killed a hundred different ways with every decision. There are a lot of power centers for any majior decision. The Church has alot to lose if it makes a mistake. Silence and staying the conservative course is seen as best. But there is danger in doing nothing and remaining silent in the midst of enviromental and social upoheaval.

    The most famous businessman in America teaches at Harvard –Clayton Christensen. He does consulting for some of the biggest and best corportions in American. He has built a career on the theory of disruptive innovation. He shows in indusrty after industry, the organizations that play it safe are dead in the end—the auto industry, the camera industry, steel, etc etc. You change or you die. No matter how good your product is, and in spite of inferior products that compete against you.

    No matter how great the Mormon church is, it is in the same spot. It must change or die. The choice before Mormonism is more than how to treat women well. It is more than speaking out on environmental issues. These are important. Let there be no mistake. What is at stake is the survival of Mormonism, the religion that we love. But the world will go on without Mormonism if it stumbles. Mormonism must change as a priophetic religion should or it will die. Then the prophetic funeral procession of Amos will rise again at the gates of the City of the Great Salt Lake:

    Fallen is the virgin Israel
    Fallen, fallen to rise no more.

    I wish it were not so.

  9. Uh, Mark, you do remember that this really *is* the Church of Jesus Christ? God has said that, “this is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people,” (Mosiah 27:13). Neither the people nor organization of the Church is perfect, but we really do try hard to follow Jesus Christ.

    I’d be careful trying to second guess true prophets of the Living God. I’d also beware of getting so distracted by gospel hobbies (i.e. feminism and environmentalism) that you don’t gain faith in Christ unto salvation. I have seen a number of interesting changes to the organization of the church in my lifetime, but the basics of the gospel: faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end have not changed in any way. We still need to keep our covenants and magnify our callings. Take care.

  10. I would love to see the change you predict. I think it would be a miracle, while perhaps small in scope, would really impact the way (young) women live their religion.

  11. I have always been and sometimes fought against LDS Church organizational and theological prognosticating. More often than not its political wishful thinking rather than a logical extension of the principles of the Gospel. This is only the second time that I agreed with someone’s proposal for change. In fact, I think this is actually the trajectory that the LDS Church has been taking for the most recent generation. Smaller wards already have a loose symbiotic relationship with the young women. My own position is that it would be great for both groups to finally come together so the older can mentor the younger like happens with the Priesthood.

    The first major prognosticated change I ever agreed with sadly will probably never happen. Boy Scouts is here to stay, but it would be great if the LDS Church left it entirely to go it alone. It could develop similar programs while increasing future Priesthood leadership training without having to water them down to camping and fishing. Although there were spiritual moments, Boy Scouts never seemed to actually develop spiritual boys.

  12. I absolutely totally agree with you! Something definitely needs to be done to make the YW part of RS. Your ideas are spot on and I hope they come to pass!