LDS women, girls participate in historic gathering

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SALT LAKE CITY — Female members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered throughout the world Saturday evening for what leaders termed "an historic meeting."

There was excitement and curiosity to participate in the LDS Conference Center and around the world. What made this General Women's Meeting unique was its inclusion of women and girls from the Church's Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations — something never done before.

The leaders of the three Latter-day Saint women auxiliaries and their boards all joined in the unique sisterhood.

"Tonight we gather together, all over the world, as (Jesus Christ's) disciples, with a desire to defend and sustain the Kingdom of God," said Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president.

"The combined power of our testimonies and faith in Jesus Christ surely constitutes one of the most faith-filled and powerful assemblies of women in the history of the Church, if not the world," said Sister. Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president.

"I have seen your faith. You have something to give and you are willing to give it," Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, told the women. "You do this without fanfare or publicity, drawing attention to the God you worship, not yourselves, and with no thought of what you will receive."

President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the Church's First Presidency, also spoke to the women about the importance of the meeting.

"We have been taught with spiritual power tonight," President Eyring said. "I pray that the word spoken by these great sister leaders will go down into your heart as they have mine. This is an historic meeting."

A changing atmosphere for LDS women

Prior to the meeting, Angela Fallentine, a Latter-day Saint from New Zealand, said she was excited to participate in the event.

"You can feel the excitement," Fallentine said. "I don’t know of any other women’s gathering like this in the world."

Lately, more attention is being paid to some changes for women in the Church. Women can now go on a mission at 19 years old. For the past year, sister missionaries have been on new leadership councils. More women speak and pray in General Conference.

You can feel the excitement. I don't know of any other women's gathering like this in the world.

–Angela Fallentine, Latter-day Saint in New Zealand

In New Zealand, Fallentine is one of the managers for the "Mormon Women Stand" Facebook page, which has quickly grown to around 10,000 members.

"I don’t feel the Church is making changes because of social pressure. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t work that way. The Church has a culture of change and improvement and we are always seeking to do better," said Fallentine.

Brittany Chapman, a historian at the Church History Department in Salt Lake City, said church leadership has always made it clear men and women work together and complement each other. Chapman noted that the Church was ahead of its time when the Relief Society was organized 172 years ago this month.

"There was always this great union between men and women,” Chapman said.

While cultural changes are made to fit the needs of a growing worldwide membership, Fallentine says the doctrine upon which the Church is founded won’t change.

"The Church isn't going to change God’s doctrine — because it isn't ours to change," she said. "And that provides strength and solidarity for the members of the Church while the world has a lot of shifting values."


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