“Changing Attitudes Toward the Intelligence of Adolescent Women in the LDS Church”
The young women of the LDS church are taught each Sunday with lessons prepared out of manuals by adults in their local congregations. However, early lesson guides of the late nineteenth century were used by the girls themselves to teach each other.
Histories, manuals, and lesson guides published throughout the organization’s history reveal a changing attitude toward adolescent women and their ability to learn independently. The very structure of the earliest lesson guides implied an equality between teacher and student. Each young woman was assumed able to read and understand the material.
This structure of equality was lost when adults were asked to teach. This implies, but alone does not confirm, an attitude that the girls did not have the intelligence to think through religious material on their own.
This implication can be examined more closely by looking at the teaching method called for in the manuals and guides. The material provided, the instructions given to the teacher, and the prepared questions to ask the young women all contain assumptions about the students’ ability to learn. This will provide criterion for measuring the changing attitudes toward the intelligence of adolescent women in the LDS church.