The time a young woman spends in the Young Women program is only six years, - the shortest period of any program for girls or women in the Church - but those six years are extremely important in a young woman's life, according to Young Women General Pres. Ardeth G. Kapp.

"Those brief six years are the years when young women formulate ideas, develop the ability to make and keep commitments, and establish goals that will affect them throughout this life and into eternity," explained Sister Kapp. "It's during this period that these young women gain their identity as daughters of God and prepare for the sacred responsibilities of womanhood."To help young women achieve these objectives, changes in the Young Women Personal Progress program and booklet have been announced.

"We want to focus on the spiritual growth of these young women, we want to emphasize the relationships between them and their parents, and we want to help them discover who they are and where they want to go," she continued. "This program helps us do all these."

There are four basic changes in the new booklet and program, reported Sister Kapp.

-First, each age group has specific "age-group responsibilities." Maintaining standards of personal worthiness, attending Church meetings, keeping a journal, understanding the Young Women theme and motto, and understanding the Young Women value statements are just a few of these responsibilities.

Some responsibilities are the same for all age groups, while others change as the young women progress through the program.

When a young woman completes the age-group responsibilities, she may receive the recognition associated with that age group. The recognitions - small medallions that can be worn on a chain or ribbon - represent eternal gospel principles: the first, for Beehives, is a young woman in prayer; the second, for Mia Maids, is an open book of scripture; and the third, for Laurels, is the temple spires.

-Second, one of the responsibilities for both the Beehives and Mia Maids includes completing 14 "value experiences" each year. Suggestions offered in the booklet include preparing and teaching a family home evening lesson, giving a Book of Mormon to a friend, or developing a talent or skill.

"Since the needs, interests, and development of young women change as they grow and mature, different value experiences have been prepared for each year, rather than all age groups selecting experiences from the same list," Sister Kapp noted.

-Third, the responsibilities for Laurels do not include completing value experiences. Instead, Laurels complete two "value projects" each year. The value projects usually require a minimum of 15-30 hours to complete. Many suggestions are provided which include working with the full-time sister missionaries on a regular basis, learning sign language, or organizing a ward youth choir.

Each year, the value experiences or value projects and the recognitions are closely related to the mission statements for the different age groups.

-Fourth, a leaders' section is included in the book with specific instructions for implementing the Personal Progress Program. This section was prepared not only to assist Young Women leaders, but also to make the information available to young women and their parents.

The new booklet and program have been four years in the planning, said Sister Kapp.

"Because of the nature of the worldwide Church, consideration was given to the international application of each experience and project," she said. "Careful thought was also given to the cultural differences and varying economic factors. Consideration was also given to a program in which each girl could succeed if she chooses to put forth the effort.

"For example, a young woman who has difficulty reading could choose from alternative activities that would not contribute to any feelings of inadequacy."

In fact, strengthening a young woman's self-esteem is one of the major purposes of the new program.

"Young women today, perhaps as never before, have a great need for self-esteem," Sister Kapp observed.

"I prefer to call it a knowledge of their individual worth and their divine nature. With the Young Women values used as a basis, young women will be helped to make correct decisions and live righteously. This is especially true when others support a young woman in her progress and provide ongoing encouragement and recognition.

"When a young woman commits herself to spending time working toward worthwhile goals, she is better prepared to resist temptation," continued Sister Kapp. "She knows who she is and she knows she can be in control of herself. She is better prepared to make wise choices and live with integrity, confidence and self-respect."

One of the objectives behind the new program is to try to increase communication between the young woman and her parents, Sister Kapp noted.

"Parents and leaders play a vital role when there is opportunity for communication. Youths who experience difficulty in handling life's challenges sometimes spend little time communicating with family and friends. They feel isolated and lonely.

"Many of the value experiences require communication with family members, peers, adult leaders and others," she explained. "Parents and leaders will be asked to listen, to guide and rejoice in minor and major progress."

According to Young Women guidelines, the Young Women Progress book is given to a young woman when she turns 12 years of age. At that time, a Young Women leader and, where appropriate, a member of the class presidency, visits the new Beehive and her parents.

"They present the Personal Progress book to her and explain to her parents the purpose of the program in helping their daughter be prepared to make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple and ultimately enjoy the blessings of exaltation," explained Sister Kapp. "We are anxious to assist parents and feel a keen responsiblilty to keep them informed about what Young Women is offering their daughters."

The Young Womanhood Recognition medallion will continue to be a part of Personal Progress, as well as the medallions received for completing each age group requirements.

Sister Kapp said goals completed before the new program starts can still fill necessary requirements for the Young Womanhood Recognition, but "the revised Personal Progress program should be used immediately to select new value experiences," she counseled. "A Laurel who has completed 14 goals during the previous year may count those goals for two projects.

"Young women and Young Women leaders who would be eligible to receive the Young Womanhood Recognition during the first six months of 1989 may complete the requirements from the former program and receive the recognition," she continued. "All other young women are required to complete the requirements outlined in Personal Progress."

The new Personal Progress book is available now, Sister Kapp noted, and every young woman, age 12 to 17, should receive her book. The books may be ordered through the Church distribution center (PEYW4125).