I’d love to be able to write that it was an amazing 6 days, and my daughter loved every minute. I’m sure it was a lot of work for those involved running it. My daughter, along with the other YW attending, including investigators and less-active girls, enjoyed meeting other youth from elsewhere. They have some fun and crazy pictures. But the girls were aggravated by quite a few things. And they were seriously aggravated by something in particular that was said. Our YW have complained about it over the weeks following, and I don’t blame them.

First off, the dress rules are as crazy as those at BYU, though not quite as crazy as BYU-I; this is sort of a fun week, not a business conference thank goodness. Capping it all, however, one day of the week gets treated as a Sabbath, so you know, that’s Sunday dress all day, even though there’s nothing about the activities that would require such dress, and it isn’t a Sunday. Yep, I’m not crazy about this whole ‘we’re going to pretend it’s a Sunday’ thing. Running through the whole week there’s the seemingly arbitrary way in which things that will and will not ‘offend the Spirit’ (clapping to express appreciation of musical talent displayed at evening devotionals was thoroughly frowned upon) are invoked at every turn, and on the ‘Sabbath’ that was magnified. Because the one thing FSY is supposed to be is a great spiritual experience for our youth. A worthy aim, perhaps, but hard to achieve if you’re constantly putting backs up by harping on about small things.

I think we can take it as read that everyone’s clothing choices are being monitored. But on the ‘Sabbath’ the girls came in for extra scrutiny, primarily because they were wearing skirts rather than the usual jeans, combats or tracksuit bottoms. Anyway, lets just say, safety pins were applied to many of those skirts, because many smart skirts at the moment are straight with a shortish split at the back (it makes walking easier). But apparently the splits failed the modesty test, so the girls had to hobble along hoping the pin didn’t burst open, and give them a nasty scratch instead. One poor girl, who’d been fretting about whether her skirt would pass (it did), finished up being sent back to change her very nice shirt, which she’d never imagined would be an issue, because, although it did have sleeves, those sleeves were lace. So let’s see, stressing out young women about their ‘Sabbath’ dress on a Thursday, requiring them to hobble along with safety pins in their skirts, none of that offends the Spirit, apparently. The final indignity dress-wise, was having to spend the entire days’ activities in dress shoes, because who doesn’t kick off their shoes at least, when they get in from church? Feet crying out for relief, they don’t get in the way of feeling the Spirit either.

So, having got dress out of the way, lets look at what else happened. It being a ‘Sunday’, they were split for YM and YW presentations. Sadly this did not preclude the male leader from addressing the YW during their turn in the theatre. What happened? Well, at one point several of the YA counsellors filed on stage to perform the FSY medley. I’m told one of the girls in the auditorium wolf-whistled (though not loudly enough for everyone to hear), when the YA guys walked onto the stage. The male leader nearly had a stroke. He might have expected that kind of behaviour from the boys, he said, but from the girls it was unconscionable. Finishing up with, how dare they disrespect priesthood holders like that! My daughter tells me she was with him on the not wolf-whistling part, because that’s not good for anyone to do to anybody, though she was ticked off that he appeared to expect a different standard from the girls than the boys. But that last reference to priesthood holders was a huge problem. How was that relevant? If it’s wrong, it’s wrong to do to anyone. She was seriously annoyed. Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. At the end of that, the girls came in for a huge lecture about how if a boy fails to go on a mission, it’s because there’s a girl at the bottom of it. And they had better not be responsible for any boy failing to serve a mission now or in the future. Now my daughter was furious. All the girls were. They’ve been complaining about it. Every week we YW leaders have been listening to their sarcastic ‘oh yes, because if a boy does something wrong that’s out fault, he can be 100 miles away, but it’s still our fault’. They recognise the error of the message, but they are angry, and I don’t blame them. It is experiences like that, which erode respect for priesthood leaders. That session was a feel the Spirit fail. And don’t blame the girl who whistled. Would it have been better if she hadn’t? Probably. But this is a meeting with youth. Some of them less active, whose parents were desperate for them to attend and have a good experience, and who had miraculously agreed to put up with the crazy dress restrictions for a week to do so. Not everything will go the way you expect. There are appropriate ways to respond and allow the Spirit to teach. Ranting at the girls, brandishing the priesthood as a weapon to ‘put them in their place’, and telling the girls they’re responsible for boys’ failures wasn’t one of them.

Finally, as is often the case, when a large group are gathered together, it’s going to be somebody’s birthday, or maybe several somebodies’ birthday most days. In celebration, the youth would sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the individuals concerned, on the appropriate days. Except, on this ‘Sabbath’, which wasn’t even a Sunday anyway, and on which there was yet another birthday, the youth were told they shouldn’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ that day, because it would ‘offend the Spirit’! Excuse me! The Spirit doesn’t want to celebrate our birthdays with us when they happen to fall on the Sabbath? What kind of insanity is this? Have these people never seen the Children’s Songbook? Have they never experienced primary children singing birthday songs to those who’ve had a birthday recently? Is the Spirit some staid kill-joy? I don’t think so. Anyhow, whilst ‘Happy Birthday’ was declared inappropriate for ‘Sabbath’ singing, the youth were required to sing ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ on that same ‘Sabbath’ as a warm up to learning the FSY medley. A glaring inconsistency that they didn’t fail to notice.

All in all, it seems to me this ‘let’s pretend it’s Sunday’ resulted in a whole lot of unnecessary aggravation for the leaders, the youth, and especially the girls. The huge pressure that resulted from trying so hard to manufacture an extra-spiritual atmosphere seems to have backfired. Why do they do it? Wouldn’t it have been better to have had a more relaxed atmosphere, meeting the youth with love and concern, being happy to celebrate achievements and birthdays? If we want our youth to experience the fruits of the Spirit, I’d suggest we need a different approach.