The presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are announcing changes in their organizations that will help meet the global needs of women and girls ages eight and older. The Young Women organization will now have five board members who live outside of Utah, four internationally. This is the first auxiliary organization to expand its leadership overseas, and all three organizations will transition leadership training seminars previously held only at Church headquarters to online training available for Mormon women leaders around the world.
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In an interview held in the Relief Society Building on Temple Square this week, Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president; Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president; and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, also provided more information on the upcoming semiannual general women’s meeting, scheduled for 29 March 2014. Rather than holding two separate annual meetings for women and young women, the Church decided in November 2013 to hold a combined semiannual meeting and include girls ages eight and over.
“As we counseled together we all came to the conclusion that it begins for girls when they turn eight years old, when they take upon themselves the baptismal covenant,” said Sister Wixom, who spoke by telephone from Texas. The women leaders said the changes will give women and girls in the Church opportunity for “advancement and progression.” “Children are growing up faster now than ever before and they bring an energy and openness,” Sister Wixom said.
“This past week we started calling [a new] general board,” explained Sister Oscarson, who was named as general president of the Young Women organization in the April 2013 general conference. She reported that the calls to board members were issued via teleconference with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Sister Oscarson explained that the general board will have four local board members from the Wasatch Front and five women living outside of Utah who will be “the eyes and ears for us in the different parts of the world,” including Africa, Brazil, Japan, Peru and New York City. “It has been a long time in coming and it’s been a long process for us to figure out what it needs to look like.”
“The technology is here now that we can communicate easily with sisters in other parts of the world,” added Sister Oscarson, who said teleconferences, cell phones and email that are now more readily available across the globe make it easier to correspond with the Young Women general board. “This is no longer a Wasatch Front church or even a church in the United States,” she emphasized. “It helps make the Church smaller. It helps us address the needs throughout the world, and I think the message that it sends to everyone is important.”
“We’re excited for them and to learn from them as well,” said Sister Burton, who believes divine guidance is helping to share the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Both she and Sister Wixom will be watching the Young Women general board to see if international board members might be considered for their organizations as well. “I think it’s important to know that before we made this move we were in counsel together and had their input on it, knowing that it’s a possibility that it could happen for them down the road too,” said Sister Oscarson.
The three general auxiliary presidents were also excited to share information with board members on a global scale with the new online training program available in multiple languages for women leaders, which will replace an annual training previously limited to the Salt Lake area. “It will be available for all at the same time, which is unique,” said Sister Wixom. “We’ve tried it the last couple of years to have our training prepared in a way that it could go out, and now it seems like it is the right time to provide this online training for Relief Society and for Young Women and for Primary. Other organizations will also be included.”
Sister Burton said the training will now take place after general conference. “We’ll have the priorities and the words of our prophets at general conference that we will adapt into our trainings and connect us worldwide,” she said.
“This is something that’s going to be captured online in video segments that will be available to everyone throughout the Church,” Sister Oscarson elaborated. “It represents that worldwide need … and hopefully will reflect what we’re getting from our boards and be able to put it online and it will be applicable to everyone throughout the world.”
The auxiliary leaders expressed their excitement about the semiannual general women’s meeting. “It’s not all about what we get; it’s about what we can give, and these girls are capable of giving and also of receiving that revelation that will come through participating in this event,” said Sister Wixom. “Each season of life is so important,” said Sister Burton. “We need to each see all of the seasons together so that we can strengthen one another and glean from our unique perspectives along that path.”
“I see one of the values of this meeting is for young women of all ages, from eight to 88, to see how important they are to one another in mentoring one another,” said Sister Oscarson. “In a world where the message out there is that there should be equality in all things, I think we need to keep re-emphasizing that women, and young women especially who are searching to understand their roles in the world, they have unique gifts and they have a unique role to play in the world.”
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