Amy Toronto well remembers her Young Women New Beginnings when she was 12 years old. On that memorable evening in 1986, the new Beehive learned about the new Young Women theme and values, which had been introduced to the Church just five months before on Nov. 10, 1985, during a special Church satellite broadcast. She didn't know it then, but the theme and values, with the accompanying motto, "Stand for Truth and Righteousness," would come to play a significant role in her life as she entered young womanhood — with all its challenges.
That was 20 years ago. Today, Amy Toronto Hunter, a young mother of two daughters and a member of the Irvine 3rd Ward, Irvine California Stake, reflects back on that evening and on the Young Women theme and values — what she calls "a continually steady influence that kept me on the right path."
That influence was never more apparent to her than when she was expecting her first child, Allison, now 7 years old. "Shortly before Ally was born, I had a nervous feeling about becoming a young mother. 'How would I teach her to be good and live a righteous life?' I was sitting down, pondering, and the thought came to me, 'Everything you need to teach her is contained in the Young Women theme.' "
Two decades and two generations of reciting the theme and values have made it clear they are as important today as yesterday — and will continue to be a "steady influence" in the lives of young women throughout the Church.
"I think (the theme and values) are powerful in the lives of young women," said Young Women General President Susan W. Tanner. "They're truths as powerful now as they were 20 years ago. They are as vital in the lives of the girls now as when they were created."
In a Church News interview discussing the 20th anniversary of the Young Women motto, theme and values, Sister Tanner described them as "absolutely foundational for a young woman in her testimony and in her life, and it begins with the crucial statement, 'We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us. . . .'
"As a presidency now, we have tried to emphasize this idea of girls understanding their identity. We really want them to feel the Spirit in their lives and to keep their covenants and to prepare for their futures. Those are the four points that we emphasize over and over again. They're contained in this theme."
Little has changed in the theme and values since their introduction in the mid 1980s, with the exception in 2001 of the addition of four words: "Strengthen home and family." (Please see Oct. 27, 2001, Church News.) Sister Tanner calls the Young Women values "building blocks" to one another, beginning with "exerting your trust, your faith in your Heavenly Father, then you have an idea of who you are, then you can care for others, grow in your knowledge of the gospel, make righteous choices, serve others, (and) live a life of honor and integrity."
In addition, the influence of the Young Women theme and values reaches far beyond young womanhood, she explained. Many Young Women leaders of today were the young women first introduced to the theme and values 20 years ago. Thus, they can testify to the young women of today, "This blessed my life. I know it can bless your life, too."
All this is what former Young Women General President Ardeth G. Kapp envisioned when she, along with her counselors and general board members, introduced the theme and values to the Church under direction of the First Presidency in 1985.
Reflecting on the yearlong journey of discovery in developing the values, Sister Kapp, who served from 1984 to 1992, recalled the "confusion in the world about the roles of women." So she and her counselors at that time, Patricia Holland and Maurine Turley, with the aid of administrative assistant Carolyn Rasmus, along with board members, began with what they considered three critical issues in the lives of young women — "a sense of their own identity," "a sense of direction," and an answer to the question, "What is my purpose?"
They then looked at "pillars" indispensable to members of the Church — baptism, and the ordinances and covenants of the temple.
From those critical issues and pillars came the Young Women Theme: "We are daughters of our Heavenly Father. . . . We will 'stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places . . .' " (Mosiah 18:9).
Values were developed, as opposed to goals, Sister Kapp explained. "Goals can change, but values never change. Values are the lodestar, they are anchors. If you have your values in place, then you have a basis to make decisions."
This is why the goals of Personal Progress, already in place in 1985, fit within the framework of the Young Women values. The colors of the Young Women values, Sister Kapp added, were simply easy reminders for young women.
The Young Women logo that accompanied the motto, Sister Kapp explained, had to be "universal. It needed to be timeless." Thus, the outline of a young woman's face in a torch's flame, the latter which represented light. Sister Kapp called it "such a simple thing that needed no translation for anyone."
In 1985, after receiving priesthood approval for the Young Women motto, theme and values, Sister Kapp knelt with her counselors and others and "expressed gratitude for guidance far beyond our natural ability."
The satellite broadcast introducing the theme and values to the world was a most historic day for young women everywhere — in any generation.
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