Young Women

The Young Women organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides instruction, encouragement and support in living the gospel of Jesus Christ for teenage female Church members ages 11 through 17. Its purpose is to help young women build their faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, understand their identities as daughters of God, obey God’s commandments and feel and recognize His guidance in their lives.

The organization promotes the growth and development of each young woman through Sunday instruction, activities and setting goals.

General Leadership

The global organization is led by the Young Women general presidency, consisting of a president and two counsellors, operating under the direction of the Church’s First Presidency. They travel frequently to meet with local Church leaders and members throughout the world and to help guide and support the young women of the Church.

Recent Young Women general presidents have served for about five years. Fourteen women have served as general presidents of the Young Women organization. See their biographies here.

The Young Women general presidency is assisted by the Young Women general board, which typically has 10 to 12 members (all female).

Young Women in Local Congregations

All girls ages 11 through 17 in each congregation (ward) are members of the Young Women organization.

Each ward's Young Women classes meet two Sundays a month for an hour each time. These classes are organized by age and according to the size and needs of each particular group. Young women also have regularly scheduled activities. These provide young women with opportunities to serve others and to develop spiritually, socially, physically and intellectually. Examples of activities include service projects, musical or cultural events, sports or athletic events, developing talents and skills, career exploration and outdoor activities.

An adult woman is called to head the organization in each ward and is called the Young Women president. The president is assisted by two counsellors and a secretary, who are also adult women.

A class presidency is generally called from within the class in each age group. Those who serve in the presidency assist in planning activities and meeting the needs of the young women in their class.

Young Women leaders are also appointed in each stake (a geographical area roughly similar to a diocese).


The Young Women organization originated in 1869 as the Young Ladies’ Department of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association. Its first leaders and members were the daughters of Brigham Young, asked by their father to form the society in order to strengthen their testimonies of the truth: “I wish our girls to obtain a knowledge of the Gospel for themselves. For this purpose I desire to establish this organization and want my family to lead out in the great work” (quoted in Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association [1911], 9).

The word “retrenchment” in the original name reflects Brigham Young’s desire that they “retrench in everything that is bad and worthless, and improve in everything that is good and beautiful … to live so that you may be truly happy in this life and the life to come” (History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, 9–10). Retrenchment meant more than adopting a simpler lifestyle; it meant a change of heart. Eliza R. Snow said: “What do I want to retrench from? It is my ignorance and every thing that is not of God” (Daughters in My Kingdom [2011], 45).

Brigham Young asked Eliza R. Snow, who oversaw the Relief Society at the time, to organize associations in every congregation she visited. There was no general presidency or approved guidelines, and each congregation’s association created their own bylaws and functioned as an independent entity (see Janet Peterson, “Young Women of Zion: An Organizational History,” in A Firm Foundation: Church Organization and Administration, ed. David J. Whittaker and Arnold K. Garr [2011], 277–94).

In 1880, President John Taylor called a sisters’ conference and announced separate general presidencies for the Relief Society, Primary and Young Women, with Elmina Shepard Taylor leading the renamed Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association.

The presidency and a central board met periodically and visited congregations, giving instructions and gathering ideas from the field. They developed an organizational structure with a centralized presidency, uniform lessons, age-group divisions, a magazine, achievement awards, music and dance festivals and a camping program. By the year 1900, around 20,000 young women were enrolled in Mutual programs in the Intermountain West as well as Canada, Mexico, England, New Zealand and Hawaii (see “Young Women of Zion”).

To more fully parallel the name of the young men’s organization (the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association), the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association was renamed the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association in 1934. The organizational structure continued to be refined, and adjustments were made in establishing the roles of the leadership on both the general and local levels (see “Young Women of Zion”).

In the 1970s, the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association was briefly combined with the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association to form the Aaronic Priesthood MIA Young Women, but the change was short-lived. Afterward, the separate organizations were renamed the Young Women and Young Men, as they are known today.

Though the Young Women organization has evolved in name and in form through the years, its purpose has remained to help young women draw closer to their Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.


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