The first official youth association of the church—the Young Gentlemen’s and Young Ladies’ Relief Society—was organized by church founder Joseph Smith in February 1843. The Young Women Organization of the church was founded by LDS Church President Brigham Young in 1869 as the Young Ladies' Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association. At the organization's founding, Young set out his vision for the young women of the Church:
"I desire them to retrench from extravagance in dress, in eating and even in speech. The time has come when the sisters must agree ... to set an example worthy of imitation before the people of the world.... There is need for the young daughters of Israel to get a living testimony of the truth... We are about to organize a retrenchment Association, which I want you all to join, and I want you to vote to retrench in ... everything that is not good and beautiful, not to make yourselves unhappy, but to live so you may be truly happy in this life and in the life to come.
From 1869 to 1880, the new Young Women organization functioned at the local ward level, without a general presidency. In 1871, the organization was renamed the Young Ladies' Retrenchment Association, or YL for short. In 1877, the organization's name was again changed to the Young Ladies' National Mutual Improvement Association (abbreviated YLNMIA) as a companion organization to the church's Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association, which had been founded in 1875.
On June 19, 1880, the first general presidency of the YLNMIA with church-wide authority was organized under the direction of Church President John Taylor, with Elmina Shepard Taylor as the first general president. In 1904, the name of the YLNMIA was shorted to the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association (abbreviated YLMIA) and in 1934 it was changed to the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Organization, or YWMIA.
In 1972, the YWMIA and the YMMIA were combined into a new organization called Aaronic Priesthood MIA Young Women. This organization was short-lived, however, and the Young Women organization was separated from the Young Men organization and given its current name in 1974.
|No.||Dates||General President||First Counselor||Second Counselor|
|1||1880—1904||Elmina Shepard Taylor|| Margaret Young Taylor (1880—1887)|
Maria Young Dougall (1887—1904)
|Martha H. Tingey|
|2||1905—1929||Martha H. Tingey||Ruth May Fox|| Mae Taylor Nystrom (1905—1923)|
Lucy Grant Cannon (1923—1929)
|3||1929—1937||Ruth May Fox||Lucy Grant Cannon||Clarissa A. Beesley|
|4||1937—1948||Lucy Grant Cannon|| Helen S. Williams (1937—1944)|
Verna W. Goddard (1944—1948)
| Verna W. Goddard (1937—1944)|
Lucy T. Andersen (1944—1948)
|5||1948—1961||Bertha S. Reeder||Emily H. Bennett||LaRue C. Longden|
|6||1961—1972||Florence S. Jacobsen||Margaret R. J. Judd||Dorothy P. Holt|
|7||1972—1978||Ruth H. Funk||Hortense H. C. Smith||Ardeth G. Kapp|
|8||1978—1984||Elaine A. Cannon||Arlene B. Darger||Norma B. Smith|
|9||1984—1992||Ardeth G. Kapp|| Patricia T. Holland (1984—1986)|
Maurine J. Turley (1986—1987)
Jayne B. Malan (1987—1992)
| Maurine J. Turley (1984—1986)|
Jayne B. Malan (1986—1987)
Elaine L. Jack (1987—1990)
Janette C. Hales (1990—1992)
|10||1992—1997|| Janette C. Hales|
(name changed to Janette Hales Beckham in 1995)
|Virginia H. Pearce|| Patricia P. Pinegar (1992—1994)|
Bonnie D. Parkin (1994—1997)
Carol B. Thomas (1997)
|11||1997—2002||Margaret D. Nadauld||Carol B. Thomas||Sharon G. Larsen|
|12||2002—2008||Susan W. Tanner|| Julie B. Beck (2002—2007)|
Elaine S. Dalton (2007—2008 )
| Elaine S. Dalton (2002—2007)|
Mary N. Cook (2007—2008 )
|13||2008—||Elaine S. Dalton||Mary N. Cook||Ann M. Dibb|
In most congregations, the young women are sub-divided into three aged-based classes which were given official nicknames by the church in the 1950s:
These nicknames may be used to refer to the class as a whole, or to the members of it; for example, a 13-year-old Latter-day Saint female may be referred to as "a Beehive", and she may be said to attend the "Beehive class" or "Beehives". When a young woman reaches the age of 18, she is encouraged to join the Relief Society, the women's organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In certain instances, such as when a woman turns 18 but is still in secondary school, an 18-year-old-may continue to attend the Young Women Laurel class for several months.
Generally, during Sunday meetings, all the Young Women meet together for a brief opening prayer and hymn. Then each age group will hold a separate class for instruction. Each class has a class president drawn from the members of the class, who in turn chooses two counselors to assist her.
Young men and young women also typically have a regularly scheduled activity night, called Mutual. The term Mutual suggests shared experiences in which there is mutual respect and support for one another. Mutual is held on a day or an evening other than Sunday or Monday. It is generally held once a week but may be held less frequently if priesthood leaders determine that travel, resources, or other significant circumstances prevent a weekly meeting.
The adult Young Women President assists the Laurel class, while the First and Second Counselors assist the Mia Maids and the Beehives, respectively. Additional adult women may be asked to prepare class lessons.
The Young Women theme is as follows:
We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will 'stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places' (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, and Integrity.
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.
The church advises that "[y]oung women and their leaders should repeat the theme during Sunday opening exercises and at other Young Women gatherings.
Each "value" mentioned in the theme is assigned a color to help in remembering the meaning and purpose of the values. The colors are used in decorating for Young Women events. The values with their colors and meanings are as follows:
- Faith (white) : I am a daughter of Heavenly Father, who loves me, and I will have faith in His eternal plan, which centers in Jesus Christ, my Savior.
- Divine Nature (blue) : I have inherited divine qualities which I will strive to develop.
- Individual Worth (red) : I am of infinite worth with my own divine mission, which I will strive to fulfill.
- Knowledge (green) : I will continually seek opportunities for learning and growth.
- Choice and Accountability (orange) : I will remain free by choosing good over evil and will accept responsibility for my choices.
- Good Works (yellow) : I will nurture others and build the kingdom through righteous service.
- Integrity (purple) : I will have the moral courage to make my actions consistent with my knowledge of right and wrong.