At the beginning of the year I hired someone to come and help me do some spring cleaning. I told the employment agency I wanted someone who didn’t smoke, and out of their pool of over 100 candidates, they sent the only women they could assure me didn’t smoke.
Elizabeth and I got along wonderfully and I was delighted to have her cleaning alongside me. One day after we were done cleaning she asked abruptly, “Are you Mormon?” “Yes we are!” I responded with enthusiasm, wondering what had tipped her off. The framed copy of The Family: A Proclamation to the World? The picture of The Savior on the wall? The Book of Mormon on the counter? No, it was my sons’ missionary plaques she had noticed. One of my sons had served in the same mission as her brother.
“I used to be a Mormon,” she announced. “When I was a teenager I went to that church.” I put my checkbook away, and gave her my undivided attention. Since then she had been to a Baptist church a Pentecostal church, and most recently a Lutheran church. “What do you remember about the Mormons?” I asked. “They’re the ones who taught me how to wear makeup,” she replied.
Makeup? I wondered if I had heard her correctly. You attended the Mormon church clear until you were a teenager and the one thing you remember was a lesson on makeup? I blushed with embarrassment. How could my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the only church on the earth with all the gospel truths presently available to mankind, allow a young woman to walk away having learned merely how to apply makeup?
I wondered what my young women would remember if they choose to leave the church tomorrow, or after their Mia Maid years, or after they had been Laurels. How long would I have the opportunity to teach the girls that are currently under my care? What forces of the world would lure them away, and how soon?
How Many Chances?
The urgency of using wisely the time I spend with my young women struck me like a vision. I cannot take for granted that they already have strong enough testimonies to weather the storms that will come their way. They may, or they may not. Every hour I get with them is valuable, precious time. Can I afford to use it teaching them to apply makeup?
There are a plethora of fun, creative, darling ideas floating around the internet for entertaining young women during their weekday activities. Several websites share the colorful contributions of a variety of faithful Latter-day Saints. Most often, I will admit, these crafty, decorative ideas are intended to teach a gospel message. If the theme for the month is virtue, quite often a quote about virtue will be attached to that week’s craft. However, does the tactic actually teach our young women the value of virtue? Is that what they will remember about their Young Women’s experience?? The quote attached to the craft? Or will they remember learning to apply makeup?
The wonderful new program the Church has laid out for teaching youth on Sundays should give us some inspiration for teaching them mid-week as well. The new program encourages the youth to become active participants in their own learning. They need to let us, their leaders, know what they want to learn. They need to take responsibility for their learning. The plan is not for them to sit passively on Sundays and be spoon-fed the gospel, any more than it is for them to show up on Wednesday nights wondering how well they are going will be entertained that evening.
Not only is the new Sunday School program intended to help youth become active participants in their own learning, it is intended to help them gain a testimony that if they act, they will know. We have been instructed to promise our youth that if they do the things they are taught, they will blessed, and to delineate the blessings.
No Qualms About Makeup
Maybe makeup application, or activities like it, are appropriate for a week-day activity. However, if we do choose to teach our young women to apply makeup, or something of that nature, we need to be careful that they take away the right message from the activity.
If makeup is, indeed, the lesson for the day, the take-away should be something they will learn from the Mormons that they won’t learn from the world. Perhaps the message is about wearing makeup in moderation, or inner beauty, or enhancing the loveliness the Lord blessed them with in the first place.
Hopefully, if they leave the church before we have a chance to teach them another lesson, they will never forget that the Mormons were the only ones who taught them that they are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves them and that they have inner beauty that is far more important than how they look on the outside, or how they attempt to change their appearance with makeup.
JeaNette Goates Smith is the author of Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance, available at www.unsteadydating.com