Women from areas outside of Utah now serving on the Young Women general board will be the “eyes and ears” of leaders at Church headquarters, said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson.
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 the global membership of the Church. Sister Oscarson announced the change Feb. 3 during a Church News interview with Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president.
In the past, general boards have been made up of women who live locally, she said. “But we have decided that we would like to see some international representation on our board and the use of technology makes that possible.”
The new Young Women general board will consist of four women from Utah who will assist the presidency in more immediate ways at headquarters. They will serve, with the help of teleconferencing, with five women who live in Brazil, Peru, Japan, South Africa and New York City. “It’s a worldwide Church,” said Sister Oscarson. “We are excited to have the eyes and the ears of sisters in the other countries to give us insights as to what the needs are for the Young Women.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued the calls to the international board members via teleconference.
“We are as excited about this development as our Young Women general presidency is,” said Elder Holland, Chairman of the Priesthood Executive Council that advises the Relief Society, Young Women and Primary organizations. “When they were called these sisters were invited to think creatively and broadly about the tasks — and the years — that lie ahead. Privately we felt the need for wider geographical representation on their board but did not direct the presidency regarding that. We wanted this to be their board doing their work in response to the inspiration they themselves would receive. And they certainly are receiving it!”
Sister Oscarson said when she and her counselors were called last April they were encouraged to “think outside the box” about what they wanted their board to look like. “We haven’t just come up with this idea by ourselves,” she said. “We’ve been mentored … by our priesthood leaders and encouraged to seek the inspiration that would be the right thing for this time.”
Elder Holland said the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve were thrilled with and impressed by “the sound proposal the [Young Women general presidency] made, the questions they had already thought through, and the selection of the women who would serve with them — four from Utah and five from the wider Church.”
He said the Relief Society and Primary general presidencies have been invested in the discussion from the beginning and will be benefiting from what the Young Women learn in the months ahead.
“It is a wonderful time for the women of the Church — of all ages and backgrounds,” he said.
Sister Burton said the general presidencies of the Relief Society and Primary organizations will watch and learn from the international Young Women board.
“We included some international experience on our boards,” she said noting that they have called women who have lived and served in the Church outside of the United States. But it is different having women serve who are currently living outside of Utah, she said. The Young Women general presidency will “learn along the way and we’ll be listening and counseling really closely.”
Sister Oscarson added, “As we developed this idea and talked about it within our presidency we made sure that we counseled with [the Primary and Relief Society general presidencies], knowing that in the future it could impact their boards too.”
She said Area Presidencies have been involved in the process too — recommending sisters for the service and in calling the sisters.
“It has been a very sweet experience as the calls have been issued,” she said. “The spirit in the room was just so strong. It was a real affirmation to us that this is going to work, that we can communicate spirit to spirit.”
These sisters, she added, were chosen through inspiration, even though the presidency didn’t get to meet them face to face.
“They have gifts and talents and strengths and it came through as we were talking with one another.”
The women will report to the Young Women general presidency.
“But we hope that they will use the information that they’re gathering and also keep the Area Presidency informed. We think that they’ll be a resource to the Area Presidency.”
Sister Oscarson said technology makes communication — with cell phones, e-mail and teleconferences — possible at a low cost.
She said the board members will counsel together, will be given assignments and will help with training.
“We’re going to be asking them to sit on committees that would be developing programs. For instance, if we decided that it was time to redo the camp manual, we could form a committee. And think of the great value of having sisters from all parts of the world to give their input as to what it’s like to do camp in different parts of the world.”
Sister Wixom said the international board will unify women in the Church. “We may live in different countries, we may have different cultures, but our needs are the same and our purpose is the same.”
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