Each week, Hannah and Asriel will discuss the Young Women’s and Young Men’s lessons for the coming week from a feminist perspective. This week is lesson 44.
The Young Women
By Hannah Wheelwright
While I recognize that using time wisely is an important skill with implications for bringing us closer to Christ, I still feel like it’s a topic better suited for a mutual lesson or other setting. The stories used in the lesson, such as that of the efficiency expert who was paid $25,000 for his idea to prioritize your daily tasks, seem out of place in a gospel discussion, particularly the suggestion at the end of the lesson for the young women to implement the efficiency expert’s strategy. Of all the things we could be encouraging the youth of the church to do, it’s weird to me that we would be trying to instill such specific habits from random efficiency professionals instead of promoting gospel principles and doctrines.
As a feminist, I am constantly talking about equality, so I was momentarily thrilled when I saw the word “equal” in the lesson. However, I was quickly disappointed- the lesson asks the teacher to “indicate that there is one thing in which all people are equal: everyone has the same daily allotment of time.” Really? Time? THIS is the ONE THING in which all people are equal? To me, this lesson tries too hard to bring a secular subject into a gospel light and irritates me with this statement, because if we’re going to talk about equality, it seems to me like it would be better to talk about everyone being equal in God’s love, or in our individual worth, or in our capacity to return to God’s presence, or any number of things. Instead, the idea of equality is being usurped into a pathetically non-doctrinal lesson about time management.
Once again we see no scriptural or historical quotes from females, and a simplistic object lesson plays a dominant role in tying the lesson together.
Like I do most weeks, I looked through the Young Women’s lessons for a lesson on being good visiting teachers; there is not. However, I am not going to fault the curriculum for that because the real difference here is the lack of parallel between the visiting and home teaching programs. Aaronic Priesthood holders work with Melchizedek Priesthood holders in the home teaching program, but the Young Women do not work with Relief Society sisters in the visiting teaching program.
There was one reference to the “head of the household” in the section of self-evaluation questions for home teachers, and it was nice that the wording didn’t assume which member of the household would be the head, but at the same time, the concept of there being a head in the household provides inherent inequality.
Finally, and this isn’t a particularly feminist issue, the commandments for home teaching seem somewhat arbitrary to me, especially considering that they are really just useful guidelines or suggestions for home teaching success. The principle I’m reminded of is from President Uchtdorf’s talk, The Love of God—there are a lot of things that are good ideas that we can do, but we shouldn’t establish non-doctrine good ideas as concrete expectations.
Hannah: It bothered me that once again, the Young Men’s lesson suggests that the teacher invite outside male role models to come into the classroom. This is part of an overlying pattern that we’ve seen with the Young Men’s lessons, where more often than not, the lesson suggests that the teacher invite dads or the bishop or other male priesthood leaders to come speak to the young men, whereas this has only happened once or twice with the young women.
Asriel: To be fair, this week’s Young Women lesson is one of the few that does suggest inviting an outsider. But it does say to invite a person or a young mom, which is open to inviting a male time manager. I actually kind of like that the Young Women invitation suggestion is almost gender neutral.
Hannah: My other qualm with the Young Men’s lesson is more of a general point. Reading the Young Men’s lesson, I could see how a young man would come out of it with a strong testimony of his personal capability to help other people in profound and long-lasting ways. The many stories and quotations paint a vibrant picture of the potential the young men have to change lives, and I can see how this would complement their understanding of their responsibilities. On the flip side, the Young Women’s lesson admonishes the young women to use their time wisely. There seems to be a big gap in the emphasis of the lessons in this respect.
Asriel: Yeah, I can see that. I think it is a little unfair to compare a lesson about time management directly with a lesson on home teaching, but I think we’ve run into this a few times in the lessons that we’ve looked at—with the consensus being that there are more temporal-issue oriented lessons for the Young Women. I will say that a lesson on home teaching is all about how the Young Men can serve others and have an influence on the world around them. A lesson on time management seems more geared toward preventing the Young Women from wasting their time—which has a minimal influence on the world around them.
Hannah: Great points, Asriel. I know that in this series, I’ve been a big stickler for the way the Young Women’s lessons integrate secular and gospel subjects, but I’m curious to hear what you think about that integration in this lesson in particular.
Asriel: I tend to find the temporal lessons interesting, but I need to remember that I’m approaching this from the perspective of having had the Aaronic Priesthood lessons as a youth, and we’ve seen the Aaronic Priesthood lessons tend to be more doctrinally-based. I think there is space for the argument that all things are spiritual—whether it be explicitly doctrine or more temporal issues. But there is a problem with Young Women and Aaronic Priesthood lessons reflecting different balances of those types of lessons.