As a break from a week of emotionality about possible excommunications of high-visibility people, I have a true story that should set your hair on fire.

I just heard how things went at my old stake’s girls camp. I am talking about girls camp last week, in the year 2014.

The girl’s camp theme for the week was “Happily Ever After” complete with t-shirts sporting a Disney type crown. The highlight for girls camp was a program given by stake leaders saying that their goals for life should be on finding a returned missionary, getting married in the temple and viola! Happily Ever After, the t-shirt comes true.

Gag me. That is the message I was given 35 years ago when I was a young woman in church. Did these camp leaders completely miss 2001? That was the year President Hinckley gave the game-changing talk https://www.lds.org/ensign/2001/01/a-prophets-counsel-and-prayer-for-youth

What about telling the girls the truth – There is NO happily ever after? They may not get married. They may get married and regret it every day of their life. They may be happily married and their spouse still has affairs. They may deal with sickness, death and widowhood. Their spouse might develop a mental illness. They might have a car accident that leaves them in a wheelchair. The list of realities goes on and on. The one thing that is guaranteed to not happen is Happily Ever After.

The icing on a week of saccharine-sweet lies, was how all the girls were shamed by an insane dress code.

Before camp, the stake girls camp leaders decided they wanted to emphasis  a dress code. Shorts needed to be to the knee or longer. Fine.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t communicated until after the girls arrived at camp.

The stake leaders went around to all the girls and if their shorts were above their knee, their legs were marked with black Sharpie marker. Then they were presented with a pair sweatpants decorated with beads, bows and writing all over them saying ‘Sweat Pants of Shame’ that they were forced to wear.

Did no one in leadership stop and think about this for one half of a second? Obviously not.

Non-member girls go to camp. Less active girls go to camp.  Girls who out-grow clothes overnight go to camp. Girls who have eating disorders, are freaked out about their appearance, and worry obsessively about being ridiculed, go to camp. Girls like me, who took all the clothes I owned to camp because I only had 3 pairs of shorts, go to camp.

Are we surprised to hear that several of the girls who were marked with Sharpies and forced to wear outlandish Sweat Pants of Shame, vowed they would Never. Go. To. Girls Camp. Ever. Again? You shouldn’t be surprised. That is what happens when you use humiliation as a teaching tool.

I don’t care what a girl is wearing at Girls Camp. It is NEVER ok to use shame with a child of God. Even if a girl shows up dressed as a waitress at Hooters, shame is 100% not ok. Actually, that is the moment a girl needs kind leaders to wrap her in their love, help her get camp appropriate clothes that fit her, and make her feel glad she went to camp.

To say my heart is broken puts it mildly. Like all of you, I am already raw with pain for my sisters and brothers in the gospel who are facing serious challenges in the church. To be told of the mean-spirited behavior that was inflicted upon the sweet girls who just wanted to go to camp and have fun, is pouring salt in my open heart wounds.

I have a message for every parent and adult leader who has dealings with our wonderful youth in the church:

Stop it.
Stop shaming our kids into what you think is appropriate clothes, appropriate behavior, appropriate whatever. If you can’t lead with love and kindness, get the H-E-double hockey sticks away from the children. You don’t deserve to be in a position of authority in Christ’s church.

And quit lying to them. Quit telling girls the only way to happiness is through finding a man. Quit telling them that only returned missionaries are worthy of their time. Quit telling them that once they have a temple marriage, they have arrived at Happily Ever After.

Instead, tell them the truth. The only way to Happily Ever After is through having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything and everyone else will let you down, just like these girls camp leaders did last week.

Boy, did they.