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Brigham Young, the second President and Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints founded the Young Women's organization in 1869. It was originally known as the Young Ladies' Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association. Concerned for his daughters in a changing world, President Young declared the following to them: "I desire them to retrench from extravagance in dress, in eating and even in speech. The time has come when the sisters must agree…to set an example worthy of imitation before the people of the world…There is need for the young daughters of Israel to get a living testimony of the truth. We are about to organize a retrenchment Association, which I want you all to join, and I want you to vote to retrench in…everything that is not good and beautiful, not to make yourselves unhappy, but to live so you may be truly happy in this life and in the life to come."1
In 1877, the organization's name was changed to the Young Ladies' National Mutual Improvement Association. And then in 1880, the first general presidency of the organization under the direction of then President and Prophet John Taylor was formed, with Elmina Shepard Taylor as the first general president. Today, there continues to be a General Young Women Presidency, which oversees all the Young Women in the world.
As long as there is one young woman in a ward, there is a Young Women's Organization. The leadership comes from the adult women in each ward. Leadership can range from only the Young Women President to a complete presidency with a president, two counselors, and secretary. In larger wards, along with the presidency, there can be three more leaders, called advisors, which help with various activities. As the number of young women increases, so can the need for leadership
The Young Women's program is for young ladies ages 12-18. The sole purpose of the Young Women's program is to help each to come unto Christ. By following the Savior's example and teachings, each young woman can: "solidify her testimony of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel; fulfill her mission on earth, and return to live with her Heavenly Father."1
The Young Women's organization meets each Sunday during the ward's worship services for spiritual and uplifting lessons, which prepare each girl for eternal life. Activities during the week are planned and prepared that prepare each young woman for life. An important part of the Young Women's program is to teach girls to lead. Each girl is provided with numerous opportunities in which to plan, prepare and help other young women to come unto Christ. All activities that are planned are intended to create a feeling of unity and a sense of belonging which strengthens and supports the family unit.
Since the organization was formed, each young woman has been given the opportunity to make and achieve goals. In 1915, the Church established its first award program for girls. In 1920, all young women were called "Beehives" and were arranged in groups of "Swarms," and their leaders were called "Bee Keepers." "Each girl was required to memorize the Spirit of the Hive, the Beehive motto: 'On my honor each day I will have faith, seek knowledge, safeguard health, honor womanhood, understand beauty, know work, love truth, taste the sweetness of service, feel joy.'" There were three ranks in the program: Builders in the Hive, Gatherers of Honey, and Keepers of the Bees. To achieve each rank, girls were required to fulfill 14-16 foundation requirements and 36 additional requirements of their own choosing. At one time there were 373 requirements from which to choose, including the following: 1)Care successfully for a hive of bees for one season and know their habits; 2)Sleep out-of-doors or with wide-open windows; 3)During three consecutive months, abstain from candy, ice cream, commercially manufactured beverages, and chewing gum; 4)Clear sagebrush from a half-acre of land; 5)Care for at least two kerosene lamps daily; 6)Without help or advice, care for and harness a team of horses at least five times or drive 50 miles in one season; 7)Identify 12 kinds of lace and tell the reasonable price and appropriate use of each; 8)During two weeks, keep the house free from flies or destroy at least 25 flies daily.
In the 1960's, the requirements changed; some of the newer ones follow: "1)Strive to get your full nine hours beauty sleep each night this month. Make it a habit; 2)Increase your self-confidence by acquiring a good posture (sitting,standing, and walking); 3)Practice being considerate and polite and learn to accept directions graciously; 4)Conscientiously try to improve; 5)Make dinner hour joyous by improving table manners for the entire family; 6)Look for something beautiful every day for two months." 2
Due to changing times, the requirements have been updated over the years. However, the goals of helping each young woman gain a testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and His gospel, of learning to improve oneself, and of making the world a better place through service, remain constant in every age.
Today, each young woman is given a Personal Progress booklet as she enters young women. It contains the goals she is to accomplish in value areas such as faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, and integrity. As she advances through the young women program, she will set goals where her parents and leaders can help her achieve each one. Activities are planned to help her: 1)Know that she is a daughter of God; 2)Rely upon the Holy Ghost; 3)Develop personal religious behaviors, such as prayer, scripture study, obedience to commandments, and service; 4)Keep her baptismal covenants and prepare and qualify for temple covenants; 5)Develop talents and skills that prepare her for her future roles 6)Establish a pattern of step-by-step progress through her life.
The Young Women Theme today is: 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" as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, 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."
As each girl recites this theme and achieves the goals set forth in the Personal Progress program, she will know and understand her place in our Heavenly Father's plan. She will have set a pattern for life – a life that will bring her much joy and happiness for the future.
1 "Keepers of the Flame", Peterson,Gaunt; 1993 2 "lds.org"