Joanna from Bend, Oregon, writes:

I've been reading your column for a long time and followed you to Mormon Momma. Thanks for the great stuff. Today I have a question of my own.

Why did the church get rid of Achievement Days? When the girls finally had something that was like the Cub Scouts, it got dumped and now we're back where we used to be. What is the process for these decisions?

Alison says:

We thank you for being a loyal reader!

As for your question, first I must correct you. “Like Cub Scouts”? Are you serious? OK, I do know what you mean, but I never thought the two were even in the same ball park. As a child I remember dying with envy over the uniforms and the badges and all the cool stuff my brothers got in Cub Scouts and Weblos. Let's face it, the infrastructure provided by the Boys Scouts of America was/is impressive. Making the Kiddie Care Kit in Merrie Miss just didn't quite measure up (and, hey, the guys still had Blazers as well!) and the girls had no comparable program. (Sometime in my early youth the church discouraged participation in Girl Scouts because of something related to their secular philosophy.)

When my eldest daughter turned eight, I found out for the first time that the older Primary girls now had a program. It only met bi-weekly and it wasn't terribly structured, but it was something.

The most difficult part of the program for me and my daughters (the three oldest participated before it was discontinued) was the lack of continuity. If awards were given, it was up to the leader (and any applicable ward budget) to determine what they were and when they were given. So each child went through myriad different program introductions (from animal pins, to painted wooden stars, to bracelet charms, to certificates, etc.), only to have them change when the next leader was called. There was no feeling of completion, but rather a bunch of half-finished projects. (Hmmmm…reminds me of the overflowing box of half-completed Homemaking projects I finally threw away before moving…)

All three of my children who are old enough also completed the Gospel in Action Award, which was a separate program for both boys and girls, that focused on more spiritual goals.

To be honest, I was surprised that replacing the Gospel in Action program with the Faith in God for Girls and Faith in God for Boys programs would have anything at all to do with Achievement Days. I have no idea why the girls' “fun” event was replaced with one that is meant only to work on the spiritual goal program. And I have less of an idea of why the boys' “fun” activity (Scouts) is still part of the mix. Anyone have a friend on the General Primary Board?

Kathy says:

Hi Joanna. Thanks so much for sticking with the old circle. We have loved our global sisterhood and hope to continue to share valuable info and moral support. (Or in the dicey case of dressing down, “immoral support,” perhaps. The modesty issue was a heck of a romp for the mom of a young woman, wasn't it?!)

It's true that the kids' programs morph through the years. I was a lark, bluebird, and seagull just before we became “Lihomas” (Little Home Makers.) I adored my bandalo. Wish I still had it. Reminds me of a talk Sue Easton Black gave during her brilliant career. She was invited to participate in a religious program of some kind, when she was just a kid in Long Beach, California. So, sweet little starry-eyed Primary girl that she was, she marched in with her bandalo on, and when confronted with some nonsense about non-denominational secularism, Susy squared her miniature shoulders and bore her testimony to the huge assembly. Maybe this was one of the predictors of her later renown as an Education Week and Know Your Religion speaker.

It seems to me that the church has always been very much on-the-ball regarding the sorts of things our girls need, to support their growth, given their immediate surroundings. It is to be expected that programs will evolve and be administered according to the inspiration of their own moms, leaders, and bishops. Part of the built-in flexibility is a careful eye toward girls who might not enjoy enough resources to maximize the “programs” that come out of Salt Lake. There will always be a prayerful attempt to balance extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and rewards.

I think we moms are always excited to see our kids involved in a pretty structured, well-managed program with peers and leaders they admire and enjoy. There's no substitute for a great team with gifted coaches. How much accountability would most young men feel, to get good grades and follow a bone-crunching fitness regimen, if they were not going out for the school team and being lashed until they drop by a great coach who loves them and knows the game? It would be a rare guy indeed who would do it all on his own, for no reason other than personal growth and self-discipline. Obviously, most of us are the same. That's why adults take institute classes and Jazzercise if they can possibly find the time. But it might work better in a city that had neither an institute nor a jazzercise program to have some other way of accomplishing similar goals. Our other writer for Circle of Sisters was invited to participate in a number of discussions regarding international curricula for the church programs, and the concern of the brethren, which precipitated that initiative, was exactly that. Some programs don't play well out of town, and we need to make sure all our youth are learning how to stay close to the Lord and follow the prophet, avoid temptation, contribute toward the church's mission, and grow into joyful adults regardless of their circumstances. Pretty tall order! I think that could be one reason our favorite programs sometimes get dumped.