Aaa! So much I want to respond to, and also to bring up/ask about. This is the time where I really wish we could just get together and talk---although, writing is nice in a way because I can actually think out what I'm going to say and say it (unlike talking, where I often get interrupted/forget my train of thought/etc.). And I've been dealing with either cleaning up after throwing-up kids, or racing up and down trying to PREVENT having to clean up after throwing-up kids (every time my 2-year-old makes a tiny sound, she gets raced to the bathroom . . . which she really gets annoyed with)-----SO I am extremely RELIEVED to have a moment to sit down and type (the kids are napping) but I am also frustrated that I don't have MORE time.
Ahem. First of all, I like and agree with much of what's been said here about mothers learning (but also not having to, like, be in school---like Andrea said---I think she said it perfectly) and inspiring their kids, but it doesn't have to be formal and it can be individualized for your family.
And that polygamy article was probably the single best, most enlightening thing I've ever read on the subject. THANK YOU for posting it. I loved it, found parts of it very detailed/hard to follow and want to study it more, but I really want to share it with everyone I know now. We can discuss specifics more later if you want . . . but wow, really interesting dissection of D&C 132. Wow!
And also, Andrea, don't get too excited because I don't think I live THAT much like Misfit Cygnet, but there are a few similarities, but like I said our reasoning is quite far apart . . . anyway, we can get to that but first I am being DISCIPLINED and writing about the topic at hand: Youth Programs.
So, all I can go on here is my own experience. And what my own experience tells me is that she is WAY overreacting, but that her concern is not totally unfounded. Maybe I've just been lucky to be in really good wards? Because I've NEVER seen anything even close to as bad as what she describes (Halo parties? etc.) and that leads me to believe that they are a lot rarer than she thinks. I WOULD be concerned if I had seen tons of examples of this, but I just haven't. Also, I am currently the YW president in my ward and so I (maybe unfairly) feel a little defensive---like, she acts like all the leaders ever think about is helping the girls have fun! and be popular! and sexy! etc.---and I can say for dang sure she's wrong about that. We study and pray and agonize and worry and plan and try our VERY VERY HARDEST to help the girls feel the spirit--develop their own testimonies--learn useful skills--and oh yes, also have fun and enjoy being with each other. And sure, I am totally willing to admit we fail sometimes, and there is a lot more we could do, and my own shortcomings in being insecure or feeling self-conscious and wanting the girls to like me etc. DO make the activities I plan less-than-perfect sometimes. I know that, and I pray for help with it all the time. I felt totally inadequate to this calling when I got it almost 2 years ago, and I still do. Maybe someone more organized and more capable and less, whatever, would be better at it than I am, but the calling has blessed my life and I love it and I take it seriously. and I think it's a bit arrogant to assume that MOST PEOPLE don't do the same with their callings.
So, these leaders that always do cute handouts and crafts, and misfit thinks they are leading the youth to Babylon? I am less sure. I am not a fan of the cute handout/cutesy saying/etc. myself (as is probably apparent to you)----but I don't necessarily think God is condemning those methods either. Sometimes the youth need different things in order to be reached by the spirit. I feel the same about EFY. I never went to it, I would not send my kids to it (although I would not say no automatically . . . if they wanted to go and paid with their own money) because that sort of cheesy-emotionally manipulative stuff drives me crazy. Definitely, I want my kids to see the gospel more deeply than that. But do I think EFY is priestcraft and is undermining true testimonies in our kids? NO I do not. I think different methods work for different people. If a sentimental tear-filled meeting can pique a YW's interest and make her think, "maybe God IS real" . . . then who am I to condemn it? When I was a YW at girls camp I bore my own stupid cheesy "friendimony", tried to drum up tears because it seemed more "sincere," etc. I cringe thinking back on it. But I also learned deep gospel lessons that have stayed with me. I felt the spirit, it was TRULY with me though my own actions were not necessarily "deserving" of the spirit . . . I believe God sent it to me because I was young and trying and seeking him and he wanted to encourage that, even though I was not studying and understanding the gospel the way I would do later as an adult. And I'm sure the same principle holds true now, God encourages me even when my attempts are halting and inadequate, because he knows I am on a journey towards better things.
To sum up: There is so much more to the gospel than sappy music and John Bytheway. Of course! I will attempt to expose my YW (and my own kids) to deeper doctrines, to pure truths, to non-emotionally-driven gospel study (like that excellent polygamy article Andrea posted), etc. But I will also refrain from freaking out about how our youth are so worldly because they want to do an American Idol contest or they want to make Proclamation on the Family hairclips or whatever. :) I think having FUN (yes, even watching football or making occasional non-spiritual crafts or going boating) can also bring to pass the purposes of God. Just as it can in my own family. I will be the first to admit I don't always have the best-prepared FHE lessons, but our family spends a lot of time having fun together and I feel super good about it when we do! I feel like we are making memories that draw us closer together and make us a team; happy people who like each other and who feel a lot of hope and optimism about the future. I think having fun with the youth can serve the same purposes. Not to replace their families, not at all, but just as a supplement.
---(digression, sort of: I am the youngest in my family and when I was in HS my two oldest brothers were married, the other was in college. At that time I really, really hated FHE at home with just my mom and my dad. I didn't talk much to them anyway, certainly NEVER about "emotional" things like boys or deep feelings or whatever, and while that was I'm sure my own fault in a lot of ways, it wasn't something I knew how to change. SO, my parents would want me to spend "family time" sometimes, and I just resisted it like crazy. On the other hand I had a best friend who had younger siblings and a VERY CLOSE family. They did stuff together ALL THE TIME, and if I wanted to hang out with my friend I often had to go with her whole family. They let me tag along on so many things---I went to Russia with her family, and another time Germany, I had FHE with them, I went camping with them, etc. I loved her family and their openness and in many ways felt closer to her parents than my own parents. We had a lot of great, deep conversations and I learned a lot from them. I try to pattern my own family after them in some ways, although of course I also emulate my own parents. I just wonder, what if my parents had said "OUR family is the most important thing, you may not spend time with THEM at the expense of US." They would have been doctrinally correct perhaps, but I would have resented it so much and perhaps not had anyone in my life I could talk to about the deep things.)
Okay, here is my FINAL summing up. Sorry to be so long-winded. I think Heavenly Father is way more involved and clever in the way he saves his children than we sometimes realize. He works through multiple and varied channels in order to reach us. As that polygamy article reminded us, we are just custodial parents and our children are really HIS children. So he has a plan for them. He can and does teach them and touch their hearts through us, their parents. But he also lets them learn from imperfect YW leaders, wildy popular EFY speakers, sappy Mormon Pop music, self-important and know-it-all returned missionaries, enthusiastic but misguided seminary teachers, etc. etc. He reaches them at firesides---camp---pioneer trek---testimony meetings---progressive dinners---volleyball games etc. We just NEVER KNOW. We do the best we can, we use our specific talents and focus on our "pet" projects while we are in the calling. I try to do what I am good at and care most about. For example, I think the most important thing is emphasizing the possibility of repentance. From ANYTHING. It's NEVER too late. Other people might feel like teaching that is dangerous: "what if they minimize the seriousness of sin? they will just think they can repent and they won't try hard enough to avoid sin in the first place." Okay, fine, but I have to emphasize what I know most deeply. Then someone else comes along who may have totally different things to teach. The kids will be led to those who can teach them what they need. And we have to be humble enough to realize that those things, the things we aren't as passionate/knowledge about, are valuable too. I bet Misfit Cygnet would have a lot to offer as a YW president; like Andrea said, that frankness is sometimes very refreshing. But I don't see it as The One Lonely Voice of Truth in a Chorus of Babylon, either. If Misfit has really seen YW leaders glorifying immodesty and sex and violence etc. (she would say, maybe, "They are doing it unwittingly---but still doing it"), but they are TRYING to do their best in their callings----well, then I think the Lord is STILL using them the best he can. Not to say we shouldn't strive for more with our youth. Challenge them more, expect more of them, do less spoon-feeding. Yes. But we are supposed to strive for more with EVERYONE. We should do better with our RS lessons, Elders Quorum lessons, outreach to the needy, etc. I don't find any EXTRA cause for alarm with the youth.
Have to go pick up kids from school so I'm publishing this . . . hope it makes some sense :)