International Young Women general board visits SLC

Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

For the first time since being called last spring to the Young Women general board, all nine board members met together Sept. 27 in the same room in the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City. Before then, the board and Young Women general presidency had held meetings with the help of videoconferencing.

And they don’t expect to meet physically together again after the first week of October.

Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, said she was delighted to have the entire group together for the General Women’s Meeting and for general conference. “We came together and we were already friends,” she said. “No one wanted to leave. There was such a great feeling of unity and love.”

But having women — who serve as the eyes and ears of leaders at Church headquarters — represent other areas of the world has brought great strength to the Young Women general board, she said.

Sister Oscarson announced last February, that the new Young Women general board would represent the global membership of the Church. The board consists of four women from Utah who assist the presidency in more immediate ways at headquarters. They serve, with the help of videoconferencing, with five women who live in Brazil, Peru, Japan, South Africa and New York City.

The Young Women general president said that given the international growth of the Church, the time was right to call women to the general board who represent Church members who live outside of Utah. Through technology — cell phones, email, and video conferences — board members counsel together, are given assignments and help with training.

The international board “was a helpful next step in the Church’s progress,” said Sister Oscarson. “This is a global Church now and the needs are different than they have been in the past and the programs need to reflect that.”

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t take effort to work out the logistics, Sister Oscarson said. Board members — who live in areas that span 16 time zones — meet together every other Saturday at 6 a.m., Utah time.

That’s 10 p.m. in the evening for Megumi Yamaguchi of Nagoya City, Japan. However, she said when she was called to the board and asked to serve from Japan, it felt right. “I felt it was really the right thing,” she said. “I am excited to contribute everything I can.”

Dorah Mkhabela of South Africa said she approaches her calling to the board as she would if she were physically meeting in Salt Lake City. “I try to prepare for the meetings. I wear my Sunday clothes. I sit there and feel like I am part of Salt Lake City.”

Janet M. Nelson, who lives and serves from Brooklyn, New York, said she “has the responsibility to let the presidency know what the Church is like in New York City and the surrounding areas.” She speaks about the struggles Church units face as leaders integrate cultures and languages and deal with a lack of resources.

M. Lúcia Silva of Sao Paulo, Brazil, said everyone on the board feels blessed to work with the Young Women of the Church and “see how the Young Women program works in all places in the world. The young women in Brazil are strong. They have many challenges but they are doing well.”

Carmela M. Hooker of Lima, Peru, said it was great to finally meet the board in person. “I am so happy to be here with them and meet them and know we are working around the world, doing the same things.”

Rosemary Thackeray, who lives in Orem, Utah, said each board member “brings different strengths to the table” but all are “united in purpose.”

Sister Silva said she doesn’t have words to express her feelings of gratitude to be able to visit Salt Lake City and meet the entire board in person.

“It has been amazing to meet all these great women,” said Sister Nelson.

“We have laughed a lot together,” said Sister Thackeray.

Leslie P. Layton of Sandy, Utah, said from the beginning the predominant feeling on the board was love.

Before coming to Salt Lake City, Sister Yamaguchi said she already loved the women with whom she serves. “I love them more now,” she added. “I feel like they are my family.”

Sister Mkhabela said it was wonderful to hug each of the women and visit with them in person — something that is not possible through videoconferencing. “The ice has been broken,” she said. “It will be different going forward.” @SJW_ChurchNews

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