(by Sarah Jane Weaver deseretnews.com 2-7-14)
LDS Church leaders announced changes this week that will impact the religion's Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations.
The changes are part of an effort to unite women across the globe, said the general presidents of the three organizations.
Reflecting the organization’s international growth, women who live outside of Utah and outside the United States have been called to serve on the newly formed Young Women general board.
In addition, training — previously held locally in conjunction with April’s general conference — will now be delivered worldwide through an integrated, global, Web-based effort, that will be provided in key languages.
These changes were announced weeks before Latter-day Saint women, age 8 and older, will gather March 29 for the semiannual general women’s meeting — which will replace the general Relief Society and Young Women meetings that have been held annually for decades.
“We all know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is worldwide,” said Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president. “That reason alone provides opportunities for advancement and progression. All of these things — the general women’s meeting, the training that will come online, and also international boards for Young Women — are pointing in that direction, to meet the changing needs of women.”
Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, said collectively the changes will have a big impact. “It is something to celebrate,” she said.
Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, said the changes will unify a worldwide membership and help "make the church smaller."
The First Presidency of the church announced Nov. 1 that beginning in April the semiannual general women’s meeting will replace the general Relief Society and general Young Women meetings.
Sister Burton said the Relief Society general presidency has talked about where the idea came from to make the change. “We couldn’t pinpoint where this idea came from, because it has come from so many different sources and the timing and the pieces that have come together have been remarkable,” she said.
Sister Wixom said leaders wanted to be inclusive and invite Primary girls 8-12, in addition to young women and women. “As we counseled together we came to the conclusion that it begins for girls when they turn 8 years old and they take upon themselves the baptismal covenant,” she said.
Sister Burton said she is excited for the meeting because “there is power in gathering. … We elevate each other in a way when we are together that is absolutely remarkable.”
She said the new general meeting sends the same message as integrated global training and international boards: “It is unity. It is seamless in spirit and purpose. We are together.”
Sister Oscarson said that when she and her presidency were called last spring and asked to consider a Young Women general board, they felt like the time was right to include women from across the globe.
As part of the board, four women from the Wasatch Front will serve side by side, by the use of technology, with women from Africa, Peru, Japan, Brazil and New York City. “This is a global church,” Sister Oscarson said.
She said she hopes the international board will send the message to women across the world that the Lord is aware of them.
Sister Burton said the Relief Society and Primary leaders will be watching and learning from the Young Women international board. Leaders haven’t determined yet if they will call international members to the Relief Society and Primary boards.
Sister Wixom said new online training will make it possible for women all over the world to receive the same message at the same time. Another change, added Sister Burton, is the timing of the training. The annual training emphasis and materials will be developed after April general conference, which will be held April 5 and 6, for posting on approximately June 1.
Sister Oscarson said the training will consist of online video segments and other materials and will respond to the growing needs of the worldwide church.