Girl’s camp is a rite of passage for many LDS Young Women between the ages of 12-18. The thrill of spending 3 to 5 days in the woods with girls from your stake or ward enthralled by tying knots, treating shock, looking for cloud formations, and folding cravat bandages, all in the hopes of passing off certification to advance to the next level of girls camp is hard to measure, but it is real. But some of it is changing.
The LDS Young Women Camp Manual that has been around for as long as anyone alive can recall has been revamped from the ground, err, title page up. Certifications are out while spiritual, social, physical and intellectual activities are in. In addition, similar to youth now taking a larger role in temple work, youth camp leaders now have the charge to plan the trip, while the adult leaders have been asked to step back and allow those youth leaders to take a much larger role.
The Young Women General Presidency, in an interview with the Church News, announced the Young Women Camp Manual will be replaced with the Young Women Camp Guide, available later this spring. One of the driving forces behind the overhaul is the need to adapt for a worldwide church, and recognize that camp certifications focused on mountain survival skills might not be particularly useful for a young women living Kyiv, Ukraine (for that, it’s better to develop anti-graft skills). What is useful to all LDS Young Women, regardless of geographic location, is the opportunity to gather together apart from worldly influences, feel the spirit, and grow in unity and love. That gathering place may very well continue to be a camp in the woods, or it may be the cultural hall at the local church building.
At approximately 40 pages long, the guide is principles based, and it encourages youth and adult leaders to counsel together to receive inspiration in planning a camp that will meet the needs of the young women they are serving. Perhaps most importantly, youth and adult leaders are encouraged to discontinue the practice of activities that force a spiritual experience through emotion or drama, teaching Young Women that spiritual experiences are not required to be dramatic to be profound. Above all, the manual has one overarching message: simplify.
But do not despair those of you who enjoyed cooking your breakfast in a paper bag over an open fire. Much like the Church’s newfound relationship with the Boy Scouts, attendees at girls camp are still free and welcome to embrace some of the old activities – just don’t expect a number of them to be managed from the top. So if the spirit moves you, go ahead and bring your bag, your bacon, and your egg. The fire will be provided, and the thrill of watching your paper bag catch smolder when you get it too close to the flame while seeing your breakfast go up in smoke is a thrill that will never—and can never—be extinguished.
***The author believes, or at least hopes, this is the first step in a much anticipated process of re-vamping all youth programs for a more global church, and is currently taking bets on how long before the Boy Scouts and those ridiculous merit badge requirements are out the door and a similar program for the Young Men is adopted.