The Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides instruction, encouragement and support in living the gospel of Jesus Christ for teenage female Church members ages 12 through 17. Its purpose is to help young women build their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, understand their identities as daughters of God, obey God’s commandments and feel and recognize His guidance in their lives.
The organization promotes the growth and development of each young woman through Sunday instruction, weekday activities and a goal-setting and achievement program called Personal Progress.
The global organization is led by the Young Women general presidency, consisting of a president and two counselors, operating under the direction of the Church’s First Presidency. They travel frequently to meet with local Church leaders and members throughout the world and to help guide and support the young women of the Church.
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson currently serves as the Young Women general president. Her counselors are Sister Carol F. McConkie (first counselor) and Sister Neill F. Marriott (second counselor). They have been serving as the general presidency since April 2013.
Recent Young Women general presidents have served for about five years. Fourteen women have served as general presidents of the Young Women organization. See their biographies here.
The Young Women general presidency is assisted by the Young Women general board, which typically has 10 to 12 members (all female).
Twice a year as part of general conference, women and girls hold a worldwide meeting called the general women's session. Speakers usually include a member of the First Presidency and members of the Primary, Young Women and Relief Society general presidencies. It is held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is attended by women and girls ages eight and older. The meeting is translated into over 70 languages and is available to congregations around the world online and via satellite broadcast.
All girls ages 12 through 17 in each congregation (ward) are members of the Young Women organization.
An adult woman is called to head the organization in each ward and is called the Young Women president. The president is assisted by two counselors and a secretary, who are also adult women.
In most congregations, the young women are subdivided into three age-based classes: 12- and 13-year-olds in one class, 14- and 15-year-olds in another and 16- and 17-year-olds in a third. A young woman normally advances into the Relief Society, the women's organization of the Church, on her 18th birthday or in the year following.
A class presidency is generally called from within the class in each age group. Those who serve in the presidency assist in planning activities and meeting the needs of the young women in their class.
Young Women leaders are also appointed in each stake (a geographical area roughly similar to a diocese).
For young women, one hour of the three-hour Sunday worship service is spent in Young Women classes. All the young women meet together for a brief opening prayer and hymn, then each age group holds a separate class for instruction.
Young women also typically have a regularly scheduled activity night during the week called Mutual. (The term “Mutual” suggests shared experiences in which there is mutual respect and support for one another.) The goal of these activities is to provide young women with opportunities to serve others and to develop spiritually, socially, physically and intellectually. Examples of activities include service projects, musical or cultural events, sports or athletic events, developing talents and skills, career exploration and outdoor activities.
At least once a year, congregations or stakes are encouraged to organize a large, multiday Young Women outdoor camping trip or similar activity. Young Women camp is an opportunity for young women to draw closer to Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, serve others, build friendships and unity and learn leadership and outdoor skills. Find more information on the history of Young Women camp here.
The Young Women organization originated in 1869 as the Young Ladies’ Department of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association. Its first leaders and members were the daughters of Brigham Young, asked by their father to form the society in order to strengthen their testimonies of the truth: “I wish our girls to obtain a knowledge of the Gospel for themselves. For this purpose I desire to establish this organization and want my family to lead out in the great work” (quoted in Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association , 9).
The word “retrenchment” in the original name reflects Brigham Young’s desire that they “retrench in everything that is bad and worthless, and improve in everything that is good and beautiful … to live so that you may be truly happy in this life and the life to come” (History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 9–10). Retrenchment meant more than adopting a simpler lifestyle; it meant a change of heart. Eliza R. Snow said: “What do I want to retrench from? It is my ignorance and every thing that is not of God” (Daughters in My Kingdom , 45).
Brigham Young asked Eliza R. Snow, who oversaw the Relief Society at the time, to organize associations in every congregation she visited. There was no general presidency or approved guidelines, and each congregation’s association created their own bylaws and functioned as an independent entity (see Janet Peterson, “Young Women of Zion: An Organizational History,” in A Firm Foundation: Church Organization and Administration, ed. David J. Whittaker and Arnold K. Garr , 277–94).
In 1880, President John Taylor called a sisters’ conference and announced separate general presidencies for the Relief Society, Primary and Young Women, with Elmina Shepard Taylor leading the renamed Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association.
The presidency and a central board met periodically and visited congregations, giving instructions and gathering ideas from the field. They developed an organizational structure with a centralized presidency, uniform lessons, age-group divisions, a magazine, achievement awards, music and dance festivals and a camping program. By the year 1900, around 20,000 young women were enrolled in Mutual programs in the Intermountain West as well as Canada, Mexico, England, New Zealand and Hawaii (see “Young Women of Zion”).
To more fully parallel the name of the young men’s organization (the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association), the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association was renamed the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association in 1934. The organizational structure continued to be refined, and adjustments were made in establishing the roles of the leadership on both the general and local levels (see “Young Women of Zion”).
In the 1970s, the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association was briefly combined with the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association to form the Aaronic Priesthood MIA Young Women, but the change was short-lived. Afterward, the separate organizations were renamed the Young Women and Young Men, as they are known today.
Though the Young Women organization has evolved in name and in form through the years, its purpose has remained to help young women draw closer to their Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.