For the Strength of YOUth

by: hawkgrrrl

September 25, 2012

I remember when they added “I Am a Child of God” to the hymn book.  I felt like I had already graduated from Primary, and suddenly I was back again, as if I were Adam Sandler being sent back to first grade.  For some, I’m sure the addition was nostalgic.  The song is not a personal favorite of mine (too sing-songy for my taste).  But since people like it, I suppose it does no harm having it in the hymnal.

However, there’s a new retrograde movement in the church that I am decidedly against.  In the last few weeks I’ve experienced first hand and heard online from others that there is a trend of reviewing the FSOY pamphlet and standards with the adults and explaining that it applies to them as well.  What’s behind this?  Here are some possible theories:

  • Elevating FSOY to Scripture.  We’ve already seen wards using the Proclamation on the Family as scripture or claiming that it is scripture, despite it being made clear from the editing of Pres. Packer’s talk in General Conference that it is not.  If FSOY becomes scripture, what’s next?  The White Bible?  The CHI?
  • Got Milk? This sounds like another focus on basics in a church that’s so focused on basics that we’re often accused of providing only milk, never meat.
  • We Love Rules.  We are so enamoured of rules that we really just wanted to provide a few more, even if they aren’t age appropriate (which hasn’t stopped the modesty police either) or situationally appropriate.  Now, who was it that loved rules so much?  Oh yeah.  The Pharisees.
  • Out of Ideas.  This sounds a lot to me like the correlation committee has truly scraped the bottom of the barrel to come up with teaching materials.  Here’s an idea I’ve pitched before.  How about we just move to a two-hour block and quit straining so hard to come up with something to talk about for three hours?

I think my favourite comment on this topic is the claim that the FSOY pamphlet contains “timeless standards.”  Clearly, the 1965 version of the pamphlet was incredibly timeless as these snippets will demonstrate:

  • “Few girls or women ever look well in a backless or strapless dresses.  Such styles often make the figure look ungainly and large, or they show the bony structures of the body.”  (Like those ungainly hags Angelina Jolie and Katherine Heigl).
  • “When at home working in the yard, hiking, traveling in the mountains, camping, or participating in active sports, girls or women may appropriately wear slacks.”  (The word “slacks” sounds like someone’s double-knit pants rubbing together as they walk.  *shudder*)
  • “Pants for young women are not desirable attire for shopping, at school, in the library, in cafeterias or restaurants.”  ( is evidence of that!)
  • “Young men should always dress appropriately for the place and the occasion.  For special school or church dances, they should wear a suit with dress shirt and tie, but never tennis shoes or “T” shirts.  Sports jackets or dressy sweaters are appropriate apparel for the more casual dances.”  (I defy any man to open his closet right now and find a dressy sweater.  If you found one, was it next to your clip on bow ties?  Do you also play the accordian?)
  • “Girls should always try to look feminine in their dress.  They should not dress like boys or try to give a masculine appearance.  Dress often determines their actions.”  (What actions will be determined?  Will they pee standing up?  Chew tobacco?  Impregnate a cheerleader?)
  • “A “real lady” does not go out in public, to the market, or to shops with her hair in curlers.”  (I would like to know why “real lady” is in quotes.  It reminds me of this Chris Farley sketch.)
  • On dancing standards:  “The dance should not be a grotesque contortion of the body such as shoulder or hip shaking or excessive body jerking.”  (I’m speechless.)
  • “Members of the church should be good dancers . . . ”  (I’m actually surprised that being a good dancer is a requirement for church membership.  I’ve been to enough church dances to know that it’s not routinely enforced) ” . . .and not contortionists.”  (Cirque de Soleil performers will be disappointed that to hear they are not welcome.)
  • “Extreme body movement should be avoided, and emphasis should be placed more on styling and clever footwork.”  (Whew!  Riverdance is in!  Actually, the only “clever footwork” I’ve ever seen at a church dance was break dancing.  Mostly I’ve just seen the two-step side-to-side shuffle.)

I’ve only culled some of the best tidbits from this blast from the past, but it begs the question, what will today’s FSOY look like in 45 years?  It’s hard to say.  Obviously, I’m a product of my own time, so the 1965 pre-sexual revolution pamphlet is hilarious.  It’s hard to be objective.  Plus, since I graduated high school in 1986, we didn’t use a FSOY pamphlet when I was a teen.

  • Are FSOY standards helpful and necessary in leading and parenting teens?
  • Are the FSOY standards equally appropriate for adults as for teens?
  • What from the current pamphlet do you think will sound ridiculous in the future?  Is there some of it that sounds ridiculous now?


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34 Responses to For the Strength of YOUth

  1. NewlyHousewife on September 25, 2012 at 7:30 AM

    I hate it all and feel the church is overstepping into parental duties by marketing the pamphlet so wildly. I truly do wonder if it is emphasized as much in other countries, or it if is among the many (ensign for example) things that are strictly US of A. The RS here has one lesson a month devoted to one or two parts of the FSoY. It is awkward to say the least to hear grown women talk more about word choice than overall body language with a small statement of not judging at the end.

    Was I being stupid when I felt by aging out of YW I was escaping the thing?

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  2. Hawkgrrrl on September 25, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    I experienced this in Asia. Now in fairness, people here generally love rules, hierarchy, and control even more than most people in Utah would.

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  3. Mike S on September 25, 2012 at 8:15 AM

    I absolutely hate this. We had our annual stake standards night this last Sunday. The youth speaker was actually good, and talked about appropriately using social media, dressing according to a standard that you personally felt was modest, etc.

    The adult speaker epitomized this “new” attitude. He held up the For The Strength Of Youth Pamphlet. He then said that if Christ Himself walked in and they asked Him to speak, that he would tell the youth EXACTLY what was in the pamphlet. He said it was inspired through the prophet and we should treat it as if Christ Himself said it.

    I think that with regards to the current attitudes, we might perhaps get a talk about the Pharisees. Perhaps I’m wrong.

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  4. Jenn on September 25, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    The one that cracked me up was when people would give me a hard time about my r-rated movies because the FSOY pamphlet said not to watch them. Except…. it didn’t. It never has, that I can find. It says select only media that uplifts you. It doesn’t say don’t watch Amelie or the Last Samurai. But people automatically assumed the more Pharisaical interpretations of the law must come straight out of the FSOY :)

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  5. Paul on September 25, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Here we go again…

    I suspect folks ply the FSOY standards on parents of youth so that those parents are not accused of being hypocrites by their teens (and so the teens have positive role models in following the standards).

    That said, what standards in the FSOY would adults NOT keep? (I mean in today’s FSOY, not the older versions…)

    As for R-Rated movies — clearly this is a vestige of the American-born counsel to avoid them. Of course the world-wide FSOY does not mention them because international movie rating systems don’t match up with one another, so the language of FSOY is more general (as it should be).

    Mike, I, like you, am troubled when people proport that the correlated FSOY pamphlet is defacto cannonized revelation. I don’t doubt for a minute that it’s wise, and even agreed to at the highest councils of the church. But the statement your referenced speaker made does seem way over the top.

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  6. Jon on September 25, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    I think someone else stated it when they said people hunger for revelation so much that they make anything revelation that they can. Or it could be just a generation of people that have grown up with the song “Follow the Prophet.”

    Rock Waterman was a guest on “A Thoughtful Faith” recently. I agree with his sentiments.

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  7. Paul on September 25, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    I wonder if it’s hungering for revelation or a cultural desire to appeal to authority. I suspect more the latter than the former.

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  8. georgy on September 25, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    You know what I hate more, is the reading of the FSOY to the young kids in primary.

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  9. Aaron R. on September 25, 2012 at 11:24 AM

    This has been going on for awhile and I suspect that it is nothing more than someone bringing their *unique insight* to GC – namely, that the rules of the FSoY apply to adults. Someone else then picks up this idea and it begins to grow exponentially.

    However, I agree with Paul that if most adults sat down and read it there is probably very little in the FSoY that is not taught to adults in other places by the leaders of the church. From that point of view it is not so bad but it is just stupid and unnecessary.

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  10. Orwell on September 25, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    I really hate this as well.

    Yes, I suppose that the First Presidency technically approves the pamphlet, but I’ll bet they just look over the final thing and say “sure — send it to press.” That’s a far cry from it falling word-for-word from the lips of Jesus (unless your name is R. Gary, in which case it is exactly the same thing).

    Anyway, it’s our acceptance of these things that makes them stick. We don’t adhere to every last thing ever said by GAs, even in General Conference. As much as we are loathe to admit it, we pick and choose as a culture. So, it’s unfortunate that we’re latching onto this (it’s our love for visible markers of orthodoxy).

    If we let it spread eventually it will trickle up and then we’ll really be screwed, so we need to make sure we oppose this silliness whenever possible to prevent its roots from getting any deeper. (I did a post on this phenomenon a couple of years ago, if anyone cares.)

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  11. Orwell on September 25, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    And by “this silliness,” I mean making For the Strength of Youth the universal church dress code (including babies and adults) and collapsing the dress code with definitions of modesty and morality.

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  12. Ziff on September 25, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    Hawkgrrrl, I always enjoy your snarky asides, but these ones were *particularly* good, and for you, that’s saying something. Your bit about the “good dancers” rule not being enforced in particular made me laugh!

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  13. Porter on September 25, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    My brother and his wife read FSoY with his eight children every week, everyone takes a chapter. They read this more than the scriptures. The kids are required to memorize FSoY before they can have a cell phone.

    He has raised a very devout family (so far) but I wonder at times whether his dependence on the FSoY and other black and white declarations like no TV on Sunday, no R rated movies, no sleeveless shirts, etc. etc. will come back to haunt them.

    My bother and his wife seem to have completely abdicated the guideline-making in his family to the church. There seems to be no flexibility for individual personalities or circumstances, and there is no free agency for these kids. Just rules to follow because they follow the Prophet. I have four kids of my own, and I REALLY don’t think my brother and his wife are on the a path to successful parenting; kids need to learn to make choices for themselves.

    In fact, I have to admit that I will cheer when one or more of his kids finally rebels and tells his or her parents to stick the FSoY where the sun doesn’t shine. Its just a matter of time…

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  14. Paul on September 25, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    #13 Porter: you may be right. Early on with our kids we took a “Follow the prophet” approach (rather than a “follow your parents” approach). We found after a while our kids didn’t like the prophet much.

    Following the prophet makes sense only once you’ve gained a testimony that he IS the prophet and you’re able to follow him out of love for the Lord. By the time you can do that, you can also see the nuance in how to follow the Lord by following his prophet.

    We found as parents we had to teach “house rules” rather than “church rules.” Of course our kids rebelled — most kids rebel at one time or another. But teaching “church rules” just made our kids hate church.

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  15. Joseph S. on September 25, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    Jenn (#4), FSOY definitely stated R-rated movies specifically in the 1980s edition–I had many arguments with my friends over it. (It also said masturbation specifically). I was particularly happy to see R-rated movies removed from the newer version (which came out when I was in high school), but it’s written in a language that everyone understood to mean “of course R-rated movies are not allowed, but other movies also need to be carefully chosen” (just like the removal of “masturbation” was replaced with something like “don’t arouse sexual feelings in yourself”, which means “of course you don’t masturbate, but you also need to be careful of other things that may excite you”).

    I remember my friend who moved from Italy being very frustrated by the fact that some of his favorite movies were considered inappropriate because they were rated R (because in Italy they had been rated 14+ or whatever system they had). Why the MPAA should be used as the arbiter of Mormon standards baffled him (and continues to baffle me).

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  16. Joseph S. on September 25, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Jenn (#4) [PS to my previous comment]: Looking over the edition I remember, you’re actually right. It doesn’t mention R-rated movies specifically. In fact, it says: “Movie ratings do not always accurately reflect offensive content.” I must have taken that to mean that a movie might be more offensive than its rating implies, but never less offensive.

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  17. Paul 2 on September 25, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    One healthy direction that FSOY has gone is to include the recommendation that youth that know about sexual abuse cases report them to police and to the bishop. It also clearly explains to victims that they are not guilty for what has been done to them. That kind of awareness is very important and all youth should see those messages regularly so that they can take appropriate action to protect themselves and their friends and family if necessary. Kudos for adding that!

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  18. Rigel Hawthorne on September 25, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    •Are FSOY standards helpful and necessary in leading and parenting teens?

    I think there are youth who value having a shorter reference for standards that they feel is personalized for them. They may get more out of it at this point in their life than they would from reading the entire Old Testament (which was required during my first year of seminary) or even portions of Second Nephi. I agree with others that the information within should be tempered with house rules. Overzealous standards tempered with house rules are probably better than no or insufficient standards in print.

    •Are the FSOY standards equally appropriate for adults as for teens?
    As a required resource for every empty nest home—no. We have been taught correct principles, so we should be able to govern ourselves and use the messages in the Ensign to refresh our memories or revitalize our commitment when needed.

    •What from the current pamphlet do you think will sound ridiculous in the future? Is there some of it that sounds ridiculous now?

    Like I remember whats in the pamphlet enough to answer this question! Hopefully the information will not look as dated in 50 years in comparsion to the 1965 version. I do believe that our kids could benefit from learning ‘clever footwork’. My wife taught me some and the youth that we have taught from time to time have had great interest in learning some steps–even bringing their non-member friends to learn the lost art of dance steps.

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  19. Howard on September 25, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    The following scriptures are offered by FSOY in the chapter on Dress and Appearance to support dressing modestly:

    Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

    And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.

    If this is the best correlation can do to spiritually support modesty I think cap sleeves and skirt lengths are in in serious trouble especially for youth! This is a great example of the church becoming pharisaical. I think the FSOY pamphlet seriously lacks creditability due to weak scriptural support.

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  20. Douglas on September 25, 2012 at 4:21 PM

    we’re in trouble when men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, along with their “eternal companion”, need to rely on a pamphlet to teach their children modesty.

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  21. NewlyHousewife on September 25, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    The reason most of the FSOY pamphlet is taught in other areas of the church is because most of it, if not all, is common sense. Why spend at least a few hundred thousands to print and distribute a pamphlet of common sense I have no idea. But it’s either we’re asking for help as parents (eventually replacing the role of parents) or the church feels that the rates of youth leaving the church is a result of poor parenting and thus needs to step in.

    Either way it’s quite demeaning.

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  22. Howard on September 25, 2012 at 5:59 PM

    Modesty is relative to one’s culture and climate. Some cultures find our knee to cap sleeve covering far too revealing. LDS modesty standards are far too octogenarian Utah centric to be used universally world wide. And they change too much and too often to be eternal laws. One standard does not fit all!

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  23. Hedgehog on September 26, 2012 at 1:38 AM

    I had no idea the pamphlet had been around so long, in one form or another. They can only have begun emphasizing it over the last decade or so? I definitely don’t remember it being part of the youth programme in the 80s.

    1965 version – hilarious!

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  24. Samuel Rogers on September 26, 2012 at 9:11 AM

    At 25, I’m pretty young. I can still remember appreciating the FSOY pamphlet when I was a teenager because it gave some really specific guidance, at at time when specifics were hard to come by. Teenagers are pretty confused people and specifics can be nice.

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  25. Angie on September 26, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    Here’s just one reason why FSOY is necessary:

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  26. Hedgehog on September 27, 2012 at 1:53 AM

    Just been reading through the 1965 booklet you linked:
    “Girls should dress to enhance their natural beauty and femininity”
    Perhaps they’ve now decided they don’t like the interpretation of enhance?
    “modesty cannot be determined by inches or fit since that which looks modest on one person may not be so on another”
    A pity they didn’t keep that bit though, it didn’t seem to stop them trying to anyway:
    “Strapless dresses and spaghetti straps are not acceptable either on sun dresses or evening dresses”
    How did this get conflated with sleeveless dresses, which would appear to be the interpretation of covering shoulders now?
    “any pants which reach just above the knee are acceptable” (for yard work, camping, hiking, and sports only ladies)
    How come just above the knee is now too short?
    “When travelling to and from the beach or swimming pools, young men and women should be fully dressed or at least their swimming suits should be covered with outer clothing”
    Now conflated to having girls wear t-shirts over their costumes on the beach, walking from changing area to pool, or even while swimming in a lot of places!
    Oh my. I hope that things are more relaxed in the future. I don’t want to think about how they could get any worse.

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  27. salth2o on September 28, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    My sister wore a 1 piece swimsuit her whole life until she got married.

    I have zero opinion on her choice of swimwear, but I do find it odd the change in standards that occurred in her life right after she got married.

    The only reason the Strength of Youth should be read by adults is 1- If you want your kids to live by those standards you need to live by those standards and 2- If you’re in the youth program teaching those standards and you aren’t living them- you’re a hypocrite.

    Jesus didn’t slam those that watched R rated movies, but he sure as heck did slam hypocrites.

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  28. Douglas on September 28, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    I recall a line from one of SWK’s books (can’t remember whether it was MoF, aka “It’s a Miracle if You’re Forgiven”, or “Faith Precedes the Miracle”
    As a general rule, you want to wear what will reasonably obscure temple garments. Just for the sake of wearing them in an appropriate manner should be enough justification. Fortunately between the popularisation of the 2-piece style AND trends towards knee-length shorts, we don’t have to look so dorky when wearing casual summer attire.
    Sometimes prior choices can have an interesting effect later on. A good lady friend of mine, now in her mid-forties, had gotten “inked” almost twenty years ago with the lower back tattoo, aka a “tramp stamp”. Under most circumstances, not an issue, until she went through the Temple for herself last year. The sister temple worker, seeing that this woman was “marked”, refused to finish the initiatory rites at first. She had to be instructed that tattoos did NOT preclude an ability to enter the Temple and participate therein. So what is supposed to be one of the most uplifting spiritual experiences a member can have in his/her lifetime gets marred thanks to a temple worker’s hidebound ignorance.

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  29. NewlyHousewife on September 28, 2012 at 4:43 PM

    Douglas, are you saying its the fault of the tattoed woman for the insulting temple worker? It really is the other way around.

    I’m wondering how long this obsession will last. When did gambling kick the bucket and we moved on to pornography?

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  30. Jenn on September 28, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    I understood it as Douglas saying it was the fault of the temple worker for ignorance.

    PS, I got a good chuckle out of “It’s a miracle if you’re forgiven”

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  31. hawkgrrrl on September 28, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    I would love to see equal parts “don’t judge others” and “the Lord looketh on the heart” and how to be welcoming, kind and compassionate to people who don’t look or dress exactly like us. Really, when these talks are given to adults, I’m looking around asking myself just who the target audience is. Most of the adults in attendance didn’t have teenage kids or if they did, they were pretty orthodox themselves. And really only the converts had tattoos (people often get them in Asia for superstitious reasons). Multiple piercings are not that prevalent or noticeable if they are.

    If we are trying avoid hypocrisy, then let’s have a focus on avoiding hypocrisy in general, not on adults following the rules in the youth pamphlet. Do a fireside for the parents of youth to know what’s in the FSOY pamphlet.

    It’s also circular logic. Teens (who haven’t been endowed) need to dress as if they have been so that one day they will be (?), and adults, whether or not endowed, need to dress as if they have been so that everyone is on the same standards (?) regardless of circumstance or culture or age. I agree heartily with Hedgehog #26 that the dress standards continue to get more and more stringent. I am absolutely shocked by the insanity of not allowing YW to wear shorts or requiring tee shirts and shorts OVER a one piece bathing suit at a girls camp. We’ve painted ourselves into a corner. In trying to keep the coach away from the metaphorical cliff, we have been so far removed from the cliff for so long that we think a curb is a cliff.

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  32. Douglas on September 28, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    I only lampoon SWK’s work MoF as ‘IaMiYF’ simply because since his ‘retirement’, bishops and stake presidents alike, rather than actually talk to their errant charges, have whipped out this tome as practically scripture. It’s useful, and the old boy had a lifetime of wisdom in service to the Lord that can’t and ought not to be readily dismissed…BUT…even SWK was but a man and fallible, something that in his own humility he’d have readily admitted.
    Yes, the “fault” over my friend’s experience (and since I’m only legally separated from my erstwhile spouse a “friend” is all she can be at this time) was, IMHO, all due to the temple worker’s ignorance. True, we discourage tattoos…heck, my rule with my middle-school-age daughter is neither ink nor piercings until eighteen, and even then, as long as you’re under my roof…but it was patently ridiculous to mar the first temple experience of a woman who has made remarkable changes in her life to comply with an LDS lifestyle…SIGNIFICANT changes…it’s what they call becoming ‘converted’…but some things, like getting inked, don’t get easily ‘erased’. Would the Lord go to the trouble of having a House erected at high expense and sacrifice of the members only to have one of his sisters being, in effect, told that you’re ‘branded’ and therefore no good? If one sheds tears in the House of the Lord (and I have myself), it should be purely for joy! That’s my more than two cents worth on judgementalism amongst the Saints and why methinks that the well-intentioned FtSoY program can get out of hand when administered by nitwits. Call me naive and idealistic but I always thought that the mission of the Lord’s Church was to instruct and uplift, not badger and condemn.

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  33. Wyoming on September 29, 2012 at 11:33 PM

    I work with communities with significant social problems with their youth – 50% drop out rates, high teenage pregnancy rates, school violence and disrespect as the cultural norm. I am very glad that church leaders have defined what it means to be a Mormon youth and outlined values and behaviors conducive to surviving this very challenging period of life.

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  34. Jon on September 29, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    Another positive note of the FSoY booklet, at least we don’t wear garments that go down to our ankles/wrists anymore and don’t ask our youth to be nearly as dressed as they used to be (I’m assuming).

    I would think if people from back then could see us now they would think us downright sinful.

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