Mor­mon women are named to three coun­cils pre­vi­ously re­served for men


The Mor­mon church for the first time has ap­pointed women to three high-level church coun­cils pre­vi­ously re­served only for men — a move scholars and Lat­ter-day Saint fem­i­nists say marks a small, but note­wor­thy step in an on­go­ing push to in­crease vis­i­bil­ity and promi­nence of women in the faith.

The Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-day Saints an­nounced the ap­point­ments Tues­day evening of three high-rank­ing women to com­mit­tees that make key pol­icy de­ci­sions for a faith of 15 mil­lion world­wide mem­bers.

The women are: Linda K. Bur­ton, pres­i­dent of the faith’s largest or­ga­ni­za­tion for women called the Re­lief So­ci­ety; Rose­mary Wixom, pres­i­dent a branch ded­i­cated to teach­ing chil­dren called Gen­eral Pri­mary; and Bon­nie L. Os­car­son, who leads the Young Women’s or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Mor­mon leader Dallin H. Oaks, a mem­ber of the Quo­rum of the Twelve Apos­tles, said in a state­ment that he is pleased the coun­cils will have the women’s wis­dom and par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Jan Shipps, a re­tired re­li­gion pro­fes­sor from In­di­ana who is a non-Mor­mon ex­pert on the church, called it an im­por­tant change that was likely a re­sponse to pres­sure be­ing ap­plied in re­cent years by fem­i­nist Mor­mons.

“It’s a way of say­ing women are im­por­tant, but we are not go­ing to make women mem­bers of the priest­hood,” Shipps said.

The church doesn’t ap­pear close to open­ing the faith’s lay priest­hood to women, but they’ve made other con­ces­sions in re­cent years that have marked steps for­ward for Mor­mons seek­ing to end gen­der in­equal­ity.

In April 2013, history was made when a woman led the open­ing prayer at the faith’s semi­an­nual gen­eral con­fer­ence in Salt Lake City. Since Oc­to­ber 2013, a church con­fer­ence ses­sion that had pre­vi­ously been lim­ited to men has broad­cast live for all to watch.

Mary Ellen Robert­son, a repre- sen­ta­tive of a prom­i­nent women’s group called Or­dain Women, said she’s pleased by the ap­point­ments of the women to the coun­cils, which will now make bet­ter de­ci­sions thanks to hav­ing the per­spec­tive of women.

But, Robert­son ques­tioned why it took so long to make the change and why more coun­cils aren’t opened to women.

“Some­times it’s a lit­tle hard to get en­thu­si­as­tic for baby steps that Mor­mon fem­i­nists have been ad­vo­cat­ing for quite some time,” Robert­son said. “One is a good first step, but why not have an equal num­ber of men and women on these coun­cils?”


In this March 29, 2014 photo, Pri­mary Gen­eral Pres­i­dent Rose­mary Wixom speaks at the LDS Gen­eral Women’s Meet­ing at the Con­fer­ence Cen­ter in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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