"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
January 29, 2015
Lame Young Women Activities
by Cyndie Swindlehurst

Question:

My 17-year-old daughter doesn’t want to go to Mutual anymore. She says the activities are lame and not worth her time. She would rather stay home and read a book.

We have always been a “we go to Mutual” family, but in this case, I have to agree with her. The activities are lame. They can hardly be called activities. Her time would be better spent at home doing schoolwork or reading a book. But I hesitate to tell her she can stay home.

What do you think?

Answer:

For many girls, the value of weekly Young Women activities wears thin as they get older. There often comes a point when participating in Mutual ceases to meet their needs and becomes objectively less important than other academic, dramatic, athletic, musical or work activities.

In your daughter’s case, this value calculation is further affected by low-quality activities. And it seems reasonable to excuse her from Mutual when she has a more pressing engagement or assignment to complete.

However, your dilemma cannot be solved by simply weighing the alternative activities your daughter might pursue on a Wednesday night. Your question is not about the relative value of reading a book versus attending an activity. Instead, it is a question about the long-term consequences of excusing her from Mutual.

Perhaps you are thinking, “Give me a break. It’s just Mutual,” but based on your hesitation, I don’t think so. So I suggest you ask three questions as you decide whether to let your Laurel stay home.

First, what will be the result of excusing your daughter from Mutual? Not the immediate result — the immediate result will be that she enjoys a good book instead of wasting time at the church. The immediate result will be overwhelmingly positive.

I mean the long-term result — not of missing the activities themselves, but of deciding not to participate. What will be the effect on your daughter?

Will she appreciate that your family policy of participation is subject to reasonable exceptions? Or will she infer that the policy of participation was never really that important and wonder what other family policies — modesty, seminary, stake conference — are also negotiable?

Looking forward, how will this decision affect her willingness to participate in activities once she is a young adult? Attending sacrament meeting is not optional no matter how dull it is. But attending other activities is expressly optional for adults based on their personal and family situations.

See, for example, Handbook 2, section 9.4.2 (“[s]isters should not be made to feel that attendance at these [activities] is mandatory). Will this decision give her a solid foundation for how to decide which activities to participate in once she is making those decisions for herself?

How will this decision affect your daughter’s understanding of the principle of sustaining ward members in their callings? Will it give her the wrong idea that she does not need to participate in classes or activities unless they are run to her satisfaction, and that her personal enjoyment is the most important factor in whether she attends?

Could it lead her to disregard the needs and feelings of others, or to disregard the positive effect her participation will have on the event and on the other attendees?

In a different vein, will skipping Mutual isolate her from the other young women and make Sunday attendance less pleasant as she becomes less a part of the group?

Further, you must consider the effect of your decision on the rest of your family. What will happen if your family policy suddenly changes for this child? And for the reason that the activities are lame? Your older children will think, “Oh, I guess Mutual wasn’t that big a deal,” and your younger children will think, “Neat! I don’t have to go, either.” You will no longer be a “we participate” family.

The second question I suggest you ask is, What principle do you want to teach? Excusing your daughter from Mutual will teach her when your family does or does not participate in church activities, and for what reasons.

Will this lesson support the principles you want her to learn and live when she is living on her own, or will it be at cross-purposes? If you want to teach her that participating is an important way to show love and support for the people in charge, whether or not an activity sounds fun, then you would be ill-advised to tell her she can skip Mutual just because the activity sounds lame.

(There are, of course, other ways to look at participation in Mutual. But weekly attendance seems to have been your family’s long-standing goal for, I assume, good reason.)

The third question I suggest is, Is your decision based on disdain for the leaders or other young women in your ward? You clearly don’t think the Young Women leaders are doing a good job planning Mutual. Nor do you believe that your daughter benefits from associating with the group during the week. If you did, you would be encouraging her to look on the bright side, to try to make the activities a success, etc.

If your personal opinion of the Young Women leaders is pushing your decision to excuse your daughter from Mutual, I suggest you reconsider.

I am not suggesting that you should entrust your daughter to a church leader whose behavior is offensive or harmful. But I am suggesting that everyone has good points and everyone has talents. It is unfair to see only a person’s defects; you must also look for and appreciate a person’s qualities. Your daughter will learn from you to look for the good in others and to appreciate their efforts.

Finally, even a lame activity can be fun if you enjoy the other participants. If the real problem is that your daughter does not like or get along with the other Laurels, you should investigate the source of the divide. If she is having a social problem, that is another issue altogether.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!


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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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