Equality or More Licked Cupcakes?: The New YM / YW Manuals

By: Guest
November 16, 2012

Today’s guest poster is Molly.

Back when I was in elementary school, the teachers of Utah went on strike. Now, I was only about 10 so my memories may be skewed, but I remember being told there were non-teacher substitutes (“scabs,” if you will), who were willing to come teach a few days. When they were told there would be no lesson plans, they were confused, upset. “We can’t do that!” they cried in frustration. See, they were used to the heavily correlated lessons of the church, in which every question, scripture, and “attention activity” were scripted.

And so it has long been in the church. As a current Primary teacher, it almost doesn’t matter how prepared I am. As long as I’m familiar with the scriptures, I can just go along with the manual and teach the lesson just fine. Usually I spend time preparing, but when I forget it’s my turn to teach until that morning, it’s happened. Judge me if you dare.

There’s been a lot of buzz about the new lesson manuals for the Young Men and Women. There are some really good things about them. Although I haven’t done a super in-depth study of the new lessons, here are some things that look great about them.

  1. They are roughly equivalent between the two sexes. Although there are a few differences, notably around priesthood things, Duty to God, and Personal Progress, the differences are more that one gender gets additional material rather than one gender talks about modesty and the other gender talks about the Restoration. To be honest, despite being a lifelong BIC member, there are plenty of priesthood things I have to ask my husband about, because the Young Men learn about them, and we did not. This is crap. The new manuals fix a lot of this. Now all we have to do is make the paperwork equal (+1 YW), the funding equal (+1 YM), and the activities equally awesome (+1 YM. Archery, anyone?).
  2. I don’t know about the Young Men’s, but the current Young Women’s manuals have a whole bunch of fake stories about Susan, Sherry, and Carol who go through a lot of mental angst about whether or not to go to the mall on Sunday. First Susan, Sherry, and Carol are the names of the current YW leaders, not the girls. Second, the stories are supposed to show important gospel principles, but just end up sounding trite and tiresome. Make a choice, Carol, and move on!
  3. The new manuals include videos embedded within the lesson. I know this is all first-worldy, but it’s about time the church’s official manuals used new media! Also, the new manuals suggest activities that aren’t teacher-centered, like having the students pair up and explore scriptures with slightly fewer “guess what I’m thinking” questions.
  4. There is a ton of information in the manuals, without so much script for the teacher. This will allow teachers to choose the best parts of the lessons, the parts they feel their girls/boys need most, or that are more interesting. It leaves more room for the spirit to encourage leaders to teach what the kids need and is not so painfully one size fits all.

Although there are great things about the manuals, I’m a little worried that the last great point – the lack of script – will allow some bad things too. Well, one bad thing, really.

I’m worried that the less specific and guided nature of the lessons will encourage even more of the extra-curricular “helps” for teachers. The kind that suggest lesson-enhancing activities like the infamous “licked cupcake” object lesson. You know the one, ladies, the one where the leader gives the girls a cupcake/stick of gum and have the girls lick off the frosting/chew the gum, then compare that to their chastity? That one? The one that tells girls that once they have sex THERE IS NO GOING BACK, THEY ARE RUINED FOREVER? Forget that pesky atonement! You’re a licked cupcake!

Although these possibly scarring object lessons are around now, I worry that with a little less guidance in the manuals, the YW leaders may look for guidance elsewhere. (I’m less worried about the YM. Call me prejudiced, but I have the idea that the YM teachers are less likely to be uber prepared.) There are plenty of great things “elsewhere,” like on the Internet, but there’s also a lot of stuff that can encourage kids to be judgmental, blind to the needs and challenges of those not like them, or self-condemning.  The new YM/YW curriculum seems really good, but non-approved supplements are very uneven.

So, what are your thoughts?

  • What will you miss from the old manuals?
  • What do you like about the new curriculum?
  • Do you have any concerns about the new curriculum?


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8 Responses to Equality or More Licked Cupcakes?: The New YM / YW Manuals

  1. LDS Anarchist on November 16, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    The licked cupcake image has me hypnotized. I can’t take my eyes off of it.

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  2. hawkgrrrl on November 16, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    I’m encouraged by this, especially more equality between the two manuals, fewer leading questions (those cause students to disengage every single time – when will we learn??), and a bit more freedom for the teachers.

    Another critique of the new manuals that I read was that the language in the YW manual was very passive, but for YM was very active. IOW, the girls should get used to a life of supporting others and the boys should be prepared to DO things. Which is rubbish.

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  3. Hedgehog on November 16, 2012 at 11:20 PM

    Hawkgrrrl, can I just ask if it was the critique you thought was rubbish, or the idea of the girls having to ‘support’ while the boys ‘do’?

    I was examining the differences in the lesson on patience with one of my brothers a few weeks ago, and was irritated by the difference in emphasis. For instance: the girls are asked to discuss things that help them be patient, whilst the boys are asked to discuss how patience helps them. There was much that was the same too, and the differences are only subtle, but personally I found the boys lesson to be more empowering and the girls to be more controlling. My brother, on the other hand, saw it as assuming the girls were already better at patience than the boys (which demeaned the boys). It was a lively discussion.

    I can’t really see why there have to be different manuals. It irritates me that there are.

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  4. hawkgrrrl on November 17, 2012 at 1:06 AM

    Sorry I was unclear. The notion that girls’ role is just to support in the background while boys are active “doers” is rubbish. It certainly doesn’t resonate for me, and it would not have when I was in YW. It seems like paternalistic nonsense rather than actually understanding how real women think. The excerpts that critic shared revealed that bias in the manuals (when you saw side-by-side comparison of the same material being taught to the YM and the YW).

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  5. Juliathepoet on November 17, 2012 at 7:25 AM

    I am not as far along in doing comparisons as I had planned, but I have done some. I also happened to have three ward YW presidents helping me pack up our house because we are moving next week. So, I had our ward YW president, her sister who was visiting and is a YW president in rural Utah and my mom who is a YW president two stakes over. All of them had received some form of stake training about the new program.

    (I wasn’t really part of the conversation. The room they were helping to pack is open to the one my bed is currently in, so I was close enough to hear them, but not ask questions or really join in.)

    All three of them were excited about the flexibility of the lessons and the ways they saw the progression of the program as it unfolds over the next six years. They liked that all the YW and all the YM would be having the same lesson, they saw that as a good way to phase in lessons and have older girls more involved in teaching each other. They liked that having the same lesson for all the girls meant that as a presidency they could do more to coordinate and support the teachers, and incorporate the lessons into combined YW and combined YW/YM activities. (There was a cautious optimism that maybe the YM combined activities might be better planned and spiritually based.)

    The YW president from Utah was glad that their stake training had been very clear that because there was way more information in the source material for the lessons than you ever get through, that outside sources were not appropriate. The other two YW presidents had been given the same council and one had already told her teachers that anything “extra” added to a lesson had to be run by her ahead of time, and she didn’t expect that additional things would be brought in more than a few times a year.

    Apparently all of the stake training included how to have the girls in the class teach part of a class at least once a month. Because resources are available online, teachers should be emailing or texting their students at least twice during the week to remind them of the materials that will be covered, with the link. While this years Laurels may not be doing the majority of the teaching, this year’s Beehives should be, by the time they become Laurels.

    I can’t remember which one said it now, but I liked this view of what the program’s goal is:
    Beehives/Deacons who have a strong understanding and testimony of the principles of the gospel as explained in Preach My Gospel and can express it to themselves.

    MiaMaids/Teachers who have a strong understanding and testimony of the principles of the gospel as explained in Preach My Gospel gospel and can teach it to other YW/YM and bear that testimony to other members of the church.

    Laurel/Priests who have a strong understanding and testimony of the principles of the gospel as explained in Preach My Gospel gospel and can teach it to members and nonmembers and bear that testimony to anyone they are prompted to.

    I have a 13 year old son and 11 year old daughters. I will be happy to support a program that is focused on a testimony and understanding of gospel principles. I am excited that just as my children can prepare the lesson materials online, that I can to. I am also glad that since I can go and see what is supposed to be taught, if my kids come home with a “smashed cupcake experience,” I have the resources to challenge that teacher (and YW presidency if necessary) about their choice to not teach the material in the lesson.

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  6. FireTag on November 17, 2012 at 3:44 PM

    You have no idea what I am AFRAID that licked cupcake lesson was trying to teach about chastity, and what non-religious teens here in the east will make of it.

    And I thought the changes in the hymnbook were coming fast!

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  7. Hawkgrrrl on November 17, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    Julia, thanks for sharing that information about the training. I absolutely agree that having the youth teach is inspired! I had a very trusting Sunday School teacher when I was 13 who would often call me as his substitute on weeks he couldn’t be there, and it completely changed me in relation to church. I became part of what it was, not just a vessel to be filled with others’ wisdom.

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  8. Alex on November 19, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    They have some really good comparisons of the new 2013 YM and YW manuals at Doves and Serpents.


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