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Meet Bonnie Oscarson, worldwide Young Women's leader for the LDS Church

(KSL-TV)


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Estimated read time: 7-8 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — Millions of LDS women and girls from around the world will gather Saturday for the semi-annual general women's session of conference to receive counsel and inspiration from their leaders. The general young women's president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bonnie Oscarson, will conduct the meeting.

As part of her calling for the church, Sister Oscarson's responsibility is to lead and guide more than half a million young women between the ages of 12 and 18. She serves on general councils for the LDS Church and meets regularly with local church leaders and members throughout the world to help strengthen the young women of the church. She's held this calling since April 2013.

Dave McCann had the opportunity to sit down one on one to learn more about her and to hear what she has to say about what our youths want and need today.

Here is a transcript of that conversation:

Dave McCann:You are the head of half a million young girls and young women from around the world; so what have you learned about them?

Bonnie Oscarson: That they are amazing and valiant and outstanding. That they really have a desire to do what is right. I love the young women. I have five daughters of my own, so and I've spent a lot of time working in the Young Women's organization. I've always loved teenagers. I love working with the youth because they just overcome a lot of obstacles and they are outstanding.

DM:What do these teens want from their moms and dads?

BO: I think that our youth today need structure and firm direction. They respond best when there is firm direction in the home. I think sometimes parents try to be too much of their kids' friend instead of a parent to them, and I think youth really do need a parent that will teach and guide and take advantage of every spontaneous teaching moment that they can.

DM:How do they want us to communicate with them?

BO: I think they want honesty these days and they don't want us to shy away from the difficult questions because they are being exposed to a lot of difficult issues. Our kids want to know how to answer those questions with their friends. I think our youth tend to be believing. They have testimonies and they want to be faithful but they are asking their parents to help them to know how to respond to these questions. I think they want transparency. I don't think they want us to shy away from the difficult issues. I think they want us to be up front and introduce the difficult topics ourselves.

DM:Did you ever imagine when you were teaching early morning seminary class that you would be the leader of the entire Young Women's organization for the church?

BO: Never in a million years! I call myself the grand experiment because I didn't follow the pattern of others who have gone before me in this calling. Most of them served on a general board level and then maybe they were counselors in a presidency and then called to be the president. I had had no general church level experience whatsoever. My husband and I had been serving in the temple in Stockholm up until November of 2012 and then I'd been home two months when I got this phone call.

DM:How was that phone call? How did it go?

BO: Well, we were in Las Vegas at the time visiting a daughter and they called me on my cellphone. It was the executive secretary for the First Presidency. He asked if I could meet with the First Presidency on Tuesday at 9 a.m. How they got my number I never knew. I hung up the phone and I said to my husband, "That was really weird, that must have been for you," and he said, "They didn't call my cellphone, they called yours." So Tuesday found us walking into a room and I was thinking maybe it would be with one member of the First Presidency but the whole First Presidency was sitting there. President Monson spoke to me for a couple minutes and then he issued the call and I about fell off my chair. I just started crying. I turned to President Monson and I said, "President Monson, I don't know anything about how to do this." And he just looked at me with that funny kind of half smile that he has and said, "Of course not, Sister Oscarson, we just called you." So I just kind of left the room in a daze. Honestly it was the last thing I would have expected in my life.

DM:Contrast those feelings of surprise and anxiety to how you feel every day when you come into work in your office now.

BO: Every day is a pinch-me moment. I can't believe that I'm doing this. I consider it one of the greatest privileges in my life. It truly really is.

DM:How has the new missionary age empowered young women now and in the future?

BO: Oh, I am so excited about what's happening with young women and missions. It's not that we expect every young woman to go on a mission. I hope they still get that message that this is something they receive their own inspiration about. But it's making such a difference for those who go. I see women on their missions just rising into their leadership callings and having and embracing these great opportunities. I see a whole generation of young mothers now coming up who are returned missionaries. I think it is going to make a big difference in our homes going forward. The young women that are on their missions now are outstanding. They can get in doors that nobody else can. People sometimes respond to them as being more open and easy to talk to. Their effectiveness is incredible and their spirit is incredible.

DM:Along with your calling you get opportunities to speak in front of everybody. How is that going?

BO: Well it's probably one of the most uncomfortable things, most out of my comfort zone kind of things that I was asked to do. I remember the first time I stood up in the Conference Center. I was conducting the general women's meeting at the time, and as I was sitting there I was watching the clock tick by and when there was one minute left and I knew I had to stand up I started to panic. I turned to my counselor Carole McConkie and said I don't want to do this. She kind of got a panicky look and said well you don't have a choice, you have to. There are moments like that when you say, "What am I doing here and how can I, just a normal person, be doing what I've seen these people I admire all my life do?" The clock does hit that point and the little sign does go on that says stand up and so you walk to the pulpit and something kind of miraculous happens when you step up to that pulpit. I call it the bubble of protection. There is something that surrounds you when you stand up there and you feel calm, and you feel peace and you know you're not alone.

The general women's session will be held Saturday, Sept. 26, at 6 p.m. It is for LDS women ages 8 and older. It will be held at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City and broadcast to members throughout the world. Angie Denison is a graduate of Brigham Young University and is an executive producer over Special Projects at KSL TV. Contact her at adenison@ksl.com.

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Angie Denison

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