John W. Taylor (1858-1916) was a son of Church President John Taylor, and an apostle. Two years after writing the following essay, Elder Taylor resigned (he would have been expelled against his will, had he not resigned) from the Quorum of the Twelve, and excommunicated in 1911, because of his continued performance of plural marriages and entering into such marriages himself in direct opposition to instructions of the First Presidency and his own Quorum. Not that those details are relevant to this post, but it’s what he is unfortunately best remembered for.
“There is no place like home” applies to none more appropriately than to the young ladies of Zion. And there seems to be no class among the Latter-day Saints who have a greater temptation to leave home, and home influences, than the daughters. The causes for the desire to leave home are varied, but the most common is the wish on the part of the ambitious young lady to become self-supporting and help father and mother, who are experiencing great difficulty in providing for their family, and in some instances are sacrificing what they need for their personal comfort to provide, in an ordinary way, for their family. The thoughtful, intelligent young woman takes in the situation at a glance. She looks with sorrow and unbounded sympathy upon the care-worn faces of her beloved parents,. A longing desire arises to do something to take the load from dear mother and father. Knowing as she does the humble circumstances of her parents, she hesitates to ask for a much needed dress, a pair of shoes, a hat or even a less expensive article, necessary to make up an ordinary outfit, that she may appear as others of her young friends.
Here comes the trial. She asks herself, “Can I not do something to help my parents and myself?” Thoughts crowd upon the active mind like lightning. The answer comes quickly, “Yes. I can help. I am young, strong, and willing to work, and I now, if I can only get work, I can lighten the burdens of my beloved parents and make their hearts rejoice. I can show them in a substantial way how much I appreciate their loving kindness to me.”
In the new light of ambition and inspired thought her young heart indulges in glowing anticipations as to what she will do for dear mother and father. How they will rejoice when they realize what a real help she is to them, and what a great pleasure it will be for her to do her part in the family circle.
Where can she get work? What, can she do?
Could anyone have better motives? No! The angels never indulged in purer desires. As the pure spring of water bubbles forth from the bosom of the earth, so do the tender thoughts of the young woman spring forth from an affectionate heart when she first leaves home to go forth in the path of business life. Here is the danger point!
I venture a few suggestions to young ladies at this juncture. They are prompted by an experience of many years’ travel among the Latter-day Saints.
Young ladies should be industrious; the desire to work is most commendable and praiseworthy. None, who are in good health, should be idle. The Doctrine and Covenants, section 68, verses 31 and 32, reads:
‘now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness.
“These things ought not to be, and must be done away from among them.”
It seems we must all work, but where, how and when shall we work?
My advice to you is, if it is possible, stay at home with your mother until you are married – by all means do so. If circumstances are such that it is positively necessary that you leave your father’s home to seek employment, the greatest care should be exercised in securing work where your reputation will not be at stake, for “it is better to wear a faded coat than to wear a faded reputation.”
Many young women have lost that which is more precious than life, by working away from home at hotels, boarding houses, railway and mining camps, and other places where they have been unprotected. While their motives were pure and praiseworthy and they thought to bring unbounded joy to their beloved parents at home, they have brought a lifelong sorrow upon father, mother, brothers and sisters. In many instances they feel like they are outcasts from home. Could they but cancel their mistake and have it pass away as a dream, and they take their place in the family circle as they once did, they would willingly make any sacrifice to adapt themselves to the humble circumstances of home life.
I should as much expect a lamb turned out among hungry wolves to return home unharmed as a young woman who goes away from home, unprotected, to work at a mining camp, or similar place.
It is not a question of the motive of the lamb, or the young inexperienced girl. They are both pure and innocent, but it is the nature of wolves to destroy lambs and of wicked men to prey upon the pure and innocent.
In my view no greater evil prevails among the Latter-day Saints today than sending, or permitting their lovely daughters to leave the home of their childhood and wander abroad unprotected in the world to be preyed upon by the wicked. Who is responsible, the shepherd or the lamb?