Before there was a “Girl Query” department written by Catherine Hurst, there were “Confidential Chats” hosted by Aretta Young and Frances M. Richards. Their style is completely different from the candid, to-the-point advice of Catherine Hurst, but the letters they received show that 10 or 20 years didn’t make a bit of difference in the concerns of young Mormon girls.
I wish our girls would send me more letters, for I want to get at the hearts of the girls, and I cannot do that, unless they will open those sacred portals and allow a vision of that inmost holy of holies. Ask your questions, girls. I think I can tell you something about almost any subject which girls are interested in, for I was a girl myself once, and I try not to forget my feelings and actions at that time. If you do not wish your letters published, I will only publish the answer, and shall keep sacred the secret of your name and identity. Let me now proceed to reply to this letter which I have received:
Dear Sister: – The “Confidential Chats” in the Journal have a great charm for me. Last year Miss Aretta Young and Mabel had a correspondence about “round dancing,” which interested me very much. I can sympathize with Mabel. Like her, I am exiled from all dancing parties; because, if I ever go to one, I am ridiculed so much on account of my scruples concerning round dancing, that I feel worse than when I stay away from such entertainments altogether.
It was Mabel’s and Miss Young’s letters in “Confidential Chats” that first caused me to think seriously on the subject. Since reading them, I have wondered, if round dancing is, or was ever, actually disapproved of by the First Presidency of our Church, why so little attention is paid to such disapproval by our young people in general. I ask, whether it is that we are so mixed up with the outside element; or is it because the authorities of the wards give undue license to merry-makers; or is it obstinate naughtiness in our young folks themselves.
My parents have taught me to honor the instructions given by the Prophets of the Lord. And believing that President Brigham Young said that the Saints would be better off if they would refrain from round dancing, I will not indulge in it; although I have had even a Bishop tell me that, “it does not do to be too straight-laced; waltzing is a delightful exercise, of which young people should not be robbed.” And a Sunday School superintendent told me at one party, “It will be better for you to go home, as you do not waltz, and might get your feelings hurt.” These are only a few of the hard things I have had to meet and answer in this matter.
But my parents and two noble brothers help me to maintain the position I have taken. My brothers never dance at all, although they are merry hearted young men, and would enjoy dancing, if our parents did not encourage us all the time to refrain from round dancing, and if the old fashioned square dances were engaged in now.
A lively lady friend of ours called in to see us the other day, and was talking as most of our friends talk now-a-days about the pleasures of round dancing.
Mother said she did not believe the young people enjoyed their dancing now, as much as dancing was enjoyed in the days of the Pioneers and early settlers of Utah, say forty years ago, when most of the dancing that was done consisted of reels and cotillions.
The friend said, “But those kinds of dances are things of the past now, and all out of date.” Father made us all laugh by saying in a jovial way, “So are squash pies, baked beans and buttermilk out of date; but I often think I should enjoy them more than I do the ‘angel cake,’ ‘lollies’ and ‘pollies,’ or whatever they are called, and the dainty beverages we are asked to partake of at the entertainments we attend now-a-days.”
Dear friend, I hope my “chat” will not be so long that you will have to decline to answer it. What I want, is to know, if I can find out, whether the stand I have taken with regard to round dancing is wise or foolish. I would not like to be numbered among the virgins of the latter kind.
Sincerely yours, Willmia.
My dear young friend, you are asking the same question which a number of our girls scattered throughout the Church are asking. If round dancing is wrong, why is it wrong? And if it is wrong, why do our girls and boys indulge in it?
Let me call your attention to one principle in our Church. As you are a young girl, I will answer you as if you had not read these things for yourself. In the great plan of salvation, we are told that Lucifer wanted to come and act as the Savior of this world. But his plan was to redeem and save everybody whether they would be saved or not. In other words, he wanted to take away the agency of mankind. Now, the Gods decided against him, and after that occurred the war in heaven.
If you will read carefully the Book in the Old Testament, called Leviticus, you will see there that God laid down strict and severe laws for the government of His chosen people. Moses when in the Mount, was preparing himself to bring to his people the higher law, which is only enjoyed under the Melchisedek Priesthood. When he saw them worshipping a golden calf, he knew that they could not be trusted with those purer ordinances, and so the lower ordinances, or as these laws are sometimes called, “the schoolmaster,” were given to the Jews.
Now in these days, God has revealed the higher law which Christ brought to earth, namely the highest and purest type of “self-government.” Each one, in this order, may or may not keep the law. if you break the Sabbath Day, you are not taken out and stoned to death, but your parents gently and kindly teach you to keep that law. Then, when you grow older, you keep it because you love to do so. You see, we are on a higher plane, and it is also true that we have the more responsibility to bear, and consequently we can sink lower.
That answers your question as to why this given rule of our leaders, namely, that round dancing is to be discountenanced, and discontinued if possible, is not observed. We are using our agency to the fullest extent.
Now, my dear young and sensible girl, you ask if round dancing is wrong? It is a means of wrong coming to some, or rather it generates sin in the hearts of some. Now, for the same reason that you would not play cards or drink beer or buy lottery tickets or have your fortune told, you will not dance round dances. It may not and probably would not hurt you or your kind, noble brothers. But it does do incalculable mischief to some, and it opens the door for much sin to enter into the midst of our young people, and therefore you shun it as you do the other things I have mentioned.
If you were here with me, I would tell you some things further, which I cannot tell in this open letter. I will say one thing, however, and that is I fear the time will never come when our young people will avoid this forbidden practice until our mothers see their duties in a clearer light. There is altogether too much ignorance in regard to the deep and holy secrets of life among us young and old. How many mothers are teaching their girls and their boys the root of the objection to round dancing. In other words, how many of our mothers are teaching their sons and their daughters the whole story of that beautiful mystery called parenthood!
And when you tell a boy, “there are some apples, but you must not eat them,” he says right away, “Why not? They are sweet to the taste and very desirable, I want some.” And the girl comes along with a thin, white, dainty ball-dress on, and she holds out her pretty, innocent, but tempting arms, and he turns away from the mother’s cold, soulless, and unintelligent warning, and in a moment the apple of desire is between his lips, he has eaten, he swings his pretty partner around and around, and when he is through with the dance, he says mentally, “My mother is a simpleton. Why should I not enjoy such a delicious thrilling experience.”
Oh, my dear girl, it is these mothers who should study the laws of nature for themselves, and then they should teach every truth to girls and boys alike.
There is an inconsistency in requiring young people to refrain from a pleasure, unless you can explain to them why they should refrain. After that, our girls and our boys will need no one to come out and stone them to death, for having been taught correct principles, they will govern themselves.
Write again dear girl, and let me recommend you to get some of Dr. Mary Wood Allen’s little books which you can get from her at Ann Arbor, Mich. Study these things for yourself.
Kindly Yours, Frances M. Richards.