Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Girls and the Priesthood: The View from 1937

Girls and the Priesthood: The View from 1937

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 25, 2010

The lesson titled “How Girls May Be of Service in the Church,” reproduced below in its entirety – and I do mean every word – was scheduled to be given to the Sunday School class for 10- and 11-year-old boys and girls on July 25, 1937. The lesson was not originally planned as a part of the curriculum, and does not appear in the lesson manual published at the beginning of the 1936-37 church year. It appears only in the Instructor (May 1937).

I think what amazes me most is the consolation prize aspect, the assumption that girls could not be interested in church history lessons on the restoration of the priesthood. Also surprising to me is the brevity (this is a quarter or less of the number of words used to spell out most lessons in that manual), and the lack of any real examples, despite the lesson’s call to “see to it that concrete details are brought out.”

Anyway, the lesson –

How Girls May Be of Service in the Church

Lesson 25. For Sunday, July 25, 1937

Since the lesson before this [“How We Got the Aaronic Priesthood”] and the lesson after it [“What It Means to Be a Deacon”] are on the Aaronic Priesthood, inasmuch as the Aaronic Priesthood may be held only by boys and men, and that there are girls also in this class, it has been deemed advisable, in the interest of the whole class, to make one lesson which will be of interest to the girls.

Point of Contact

Boys of your age will soon hold the Aaronic Priesthood. But what about the girls in this class? One of the things about the priesthood is its opportunity for service in the Church. What are these opportunities, as explained in the Doctrine and Covenants (see Section 20, verses 53-59). Meantime, what opportunities are there for the girls to serve in the Church? (This brings the matter down to the comprehension of the class. They will probably have a good deal to say on the subject. But see to it that concrete details are brought out.)


How can I, a girl, help in the home, in the organizations, in the Church generally?


Does your mother have to stay away from meetings, or some religious duty or privilege, because she has to do something at home? Could you help your mother, so that she might do this? What about your father? Your brothers – those, particularly, who hold the priesthood?

Do other members of your home have officers in any of the organizations of the Church? Are you a member of any other Church organization besides the Sunday School? What are you doing to help in those organizations?

Have you any brothers in the home who will presently be ordained to the office of Deacon? In what ways can you help them to look forward to their ordination to this office?


I will do all I can to put into practice the points which I have learned in this lesson.

That’s it. The whole, entire, complete lesson.



  1. That if something is a short lesson. I feel sorry for the people who needed to prepare a lesson based on that. What did they do with the rest of the time?

    Comment by Niklas — October 25, 2010 @ 7:18 am

  2. I’m not sure what they did for any of the time — what were any examples of girls giving service in the church? (Doing the dishes so Mom can go to Relief Society? Polishing brother’s shoes before he goes to Deacons’ quorum?)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 25, 2010 @ 7:30 am

  3. I can’t get over the “application” section–did they chant that at the end of every lesson?

    Comment by ESO — October 25, 2010 @ 8:55 am

  4. Wow.

    Comment by Paul — October 25, 2010 @ 9:25 am

  5. Wow. That’s nearly as brief as the monthly home teaching messages have become in the past few years. (Don’t get me wrong, I love the new “wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am” format, and I hope it will trickle down to our Sunday meetings!)

    Comment by Latter-day Guy — October 25, 2010 @ 9:52 am

  6. This clearly demonstrates why we call them auxiliaries.

    Comment by Mark Brown — October 25, 2010 @ 11:26 am

  7. Wow.

    Comment by mmiles — October 25, 2010 @ 12:13 pm

  8. I share in the surprise, but I’d like to put a different spin on this. What I find most interesting is that this lesson is designed to let the Girls speak in their own voices during class time. There is nothing for the teacher to do precisely because the girls need to explore, develop, and express their own ideas. As a teacher of 11-12 year old girls and boys, I can see making this an interesting hour of discussion with the girls, without drifting into the dreaded (oh how I hated it) Iron-their-shirts and make-their-meals discussion.

    Comment by Coffinberry — October 25, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  9. P.S. If I were teaching this lesson today (and y’know, it’s not a bad one, especially if approached from the point of view of “for whatever reason, God has not revealed that young women will be ordained to the priesthood in similar manner as the boys, and so I will help the girls and myself explore meaningful ways to build zion here and now”) I’d borrow from President Uchtdorf’s talk a conference or two back about “creativity” and lay that out there in the mix.

    Comment by Coffinberry — October 25, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  10. I don’t think it’s a *bad* lesson, either, just a puzzling one. What are some concrete examples, Coffinberry, to answer the title question of how girls (girls of the same age as deacons) may be of service in the Church?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 25, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

  11. FWIW, every deacon I know of would be thrilled if the Beehives shared the burden of deaconly duties (Fast offerings, sacrament, endless set-up-the-chairs, etc.)

    Comment by Clark — October 25, 2010 @ 12:48 pm

  12. Here are some ways that would be common with deacons:

    1. Dress and behave in church in a way that invites the spirit (something I regularly remind my deacon of when he sits on the bench at the front of the chapel…)

    2. Sing the hymns

    3. Sustain your bishop, his counselors, and the YW (and YM for the deacons) leaders by being an active participant in activities, class discussion, etc.

    4. Come to help clean the building with your family when it’s their turn

    5. Offer service to those who need it (raking leaves, shoveling snow for widows; babysitting for young families to attend the temple)

    6. Study the gospel so that when you are called to speak or teach you can do so

    7. Attend temple baptism sessions when available

    8. Pariticipate in family history work

    Granted, these are not unique to Young Women, but they are definately ways in which Young Women can serve in the church.

    Comment by Paul — October 25, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  13. Thanks, Paul. Seems obvious when you list some like that, but I admit I couldn’t think of even one. Maybe it’s because you present them *as service* and not merely as “behaving yourself.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 25, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

  14. Ardis,

    I was just thinking that among the pioneers heading west, it seems like everything was in service to the group, even ‘behaving oneself’. Maybe I’m romanticizing it (and you’d know better than I), but that’s what it seems to me.

    Comment by Paul — October 25, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  15. Paul answered before I did, Ardis, with a very good list. Additional ways might include elements of watch-care, as well as personal development to enable future service (diligence in school work, music lessons, repair skills, discernment, recordkeeping/bookkeeping, group management, meeting organization, social skills). Oh, gee. Fancy that… it’s the current personal progress program.

    I think the value of the lesson and any others like it is to help recast our thinking onto how our daily tasks and mundane efforts are nothing less than building up the Kingdom of God.

    Comment by Coffinberry — October 25, 2010 @ 12:58 pm

  16. As I’ve been thinking for the past few minutes about why none of Paul’s and Coffinberry’s “ways of service” had occurred to me, I came up with two thoughts.

    The first is how cautious we ought to be about what voices we listen to — even when I think I’ve been careful, I see that my thinking has been adversely conditioned by so many online discussions that assume that because we have few administrative roles in the church, girls and women have no real roles.

    The second is that I needed a reminder — which both Paul and Coffinberry give eloquently — that routine acts can be acts of service, and I should be more conscious of those acts, both done and observed.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 25, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

  17. Here are a couple more examples (thinking of the Beehives in my Primary class and some of the things they’ve done to serve lately…).

    Faithfully recording the minutes in Beehive Presidency Meeting.
    Making a bulletin board/poster to share with other ward members the things your class has been doing.
    Bearing your testimony.
    Arranging with other class members a visit with a less active girl, including a personal invitation to an activity in the near future.
    Sitting with the organist’s kids during sacrament meeting (because organist’s husband is in the bishopric).
    Preparing a FHE lesson based on a conference talk.
    Learning how to prepare and then giving a talk.
    Comforting those that mourn.
    Cleaning the toys in nursery.
    Taking Red Cross Babysitter Training/First Aid course.
    Participate in band/orchestra at school. Learn to play Primary songs in addition to the band music.
    Play with enthusiasm and good sportsmanship on the ward volleyball team.

    Comment by Coffinberry — October 25, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

  18. Even men who serve in administrative roles err if they think that is the only service they give.

    To me that’s the key in “ministering” instead of “administering”.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of voices that focus on the lack of administrative weight of one group or another.

    Adris, thanks for prompting such a terrific discussion. I think we’ll continue this at home…

    Comment by Paul — October 25, 2010 @ 3:15 pm

  19. er, that would be “Ardis”, not “Adris”…sorry.

    Comment by Paul — October 25, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

  20. If you only knew, Paul, how often I mistyped my own name as Adris or Ardios …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 25, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

  21. It is so very comforting to know that someone as ‘with it’ as you, Ardis, occasionally mistypes her own name-Daine

    Comment by Diane Peel — October 25, 2010 @ 8:47 pm

  22. Interesting. I find this same problem in many discussions of women’s roles–the attitude that “well, you don’t get the important jobs, but I’m sure we can think of something . . .” The information itself is fine, it’s the way it’s framed that is bothersome.

    Comment by Amy — October 25, 2010 @ 11:05 pm

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