Changes in YW and YM over the years

On Sunday I ordained my oldest son a priest and my youngest a deacon – both were impacted by the age changes announced in December. In preparation for the Temple and Priesthood Preparation meeting later that day, I did a little research on some of the changes to the Young Men and Young Women programs over the years.

History of Age for Priesthood Ordinations

  • Before 1877: No age specified; mostly adult men and some boys, ages 8 and up
  • 1877: No age specified; young men between ages 9 and 19 begin to be ordained
  • 1908: Deacons: 12; Teachers: 15; Priests: 18
  • 1925: Deacons: 12; Teachers: 15; Priests: 17
  • 1954: Deacons: 12; Teachers: 14; Priests: 16

There’s a great little article in the 1916 Improvement Era where they gathered feedback from a bunch of bishops about duties and activities of the different age groups. Among the expected duties you’ll find that young men were asked to “haul gravel,” “make cement walks about meeting houses,” and “help with teams to level public squares.” Each had a musical assignment: priests as ward choristers, teachers as choir members, and deacons as organ pumpers.

Priesthood duties in the 1916 Improvement Era

A few notes from a Young Women organizational history article at BYU

The Young Women program had various names over the years:

  • The Young Gentlemen and Ladies’ Relief Society of Nauvoo, 1843
  • The Young Ladies’ Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association (Young Ladies’ Retrenchment Association), 1869
  • Young Ladies’ National Mutual Improvement Association, 1877
  • Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association (YLMIA), 1904
  • Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association (YWMIA), 1934
  • Aaronic Priesthood MIA, Young Women, 1972
  • Young Women, 1974

Heber C. Kimball organized the first group in Jan 1843. Youth met at his home to talk about “the frivolous manner in which they spent their time—and their too frequent attendance at balls, parties, etc.” The name was shortened to “Young People’s meetings”

Brigham Young in 1869 –

All Israel are looking to my family and watching the example set by my wives and children. . . . I desire to organize my own family first into a society for the promotion of habits of order, thrift, industry, and charity; and . . . to retrench from their extravagance in dress, in eating, and even in speech.

I have long had it in my mind to organize the young ladies of Zion into an association. . . . There is need for the young daughters of Israel to get a living testimony of the truth. . . . Retrench in everything that is bad and worthless, and improve in everything that is good and beautiful. Not to make yourselves unhappy, but to live so that you may be truly happy in this life and the life to come.

From 1880-1904, YW meetings included the following:

  • Singing (Association choir), prayer, roll call
  • Miscellaneous business
  • Bible lecture
  • Historical narrative or biographical sketch
  • Musical exercise
  • Book of Mormon, alternating with Church History
  • Answering of questions
  • Declamation, alternating with select reading
  • Report of current events or an essay
  • Scientific lecture
  • Distribution of queries and reading program
  • Closing exercise, singing, benediction

“Because the Mutual year only ran from September to June, leaders sought a new endeavor for the summer months. Patterned after the Camp Fire program and considered a sister organization to the Boy Scouts, the Beehive program, announced in 1915, involved girls ages fourteen to eighteen. Requirements for advancement included knowing “the proper use of hot and cold baths,” mending and caring for clothing, doing “one good turn” daily, and memorizing Doctrine and Covenants 89. [11] The Beehive experience, so well received, was incorporated into the general program.”

“As many older Primary girls wanted to attend Mutual, parents could choose whether their daughters attended one or the other or both. At this time, the twelve- to thirteen-year-old group was called Nymphs. Later, the entrance age was determined by a girl’s twelfth birthday. Over time, the older girls were divided into Seniors and Advanced Seniors. Then a Junior class was added. From the story of Ruth in the Bible, the Seniors were renamed the Gleaners.”

The Gleaners were renamed Laurels in 1959.

Thomas S. Monson:

The Church moves on and programs change, but the basic responsibility of helping youth to choose the right . . . is as cardinal a rule today as it has ever been.

More changes to come!


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