What it means to women around the world to be able to serve as witnesses

Reading about the policy change to allow women, youth and children to serve as witnesses in baptisms and sealings, Nanda Brock said she felt as if Heavenly Father was looking down on her and smiling as He saw her face of happiness.

Brock, from Henderson, Nevada, said in this special moment, “I knew without a doubt that this change came from Him.”

Women all over the world are expressing excitement and appreciation for the historic policy change announced by President Russell M. Nelson on Oct. 2 during a general conference leadership meeting.

The policy change on witnesses included three points effective immediately:

1) Women, youth and children who are baptized can now serve as witnesses to baptisms;

2) Worthy temple recommend holders, including youth with limited-use recommends, can also witness baptisms in the temple;

3) Endowed women with current recommends can serve as witnesses to temple sealings.

For many, this policy change is yet another example of Heavenly Father’s love for His children and the Church moving forward at an accelerated pace.

The Church News reached out to women worldwide and gathered a handful of their responses through social media, email and text messages.

More participation for all

Nayara Borges, 29, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, said the policy change is more evidence that the Lord needs everyone who is willing to serve in the gospel, no matter their age or gender. She referenced a verse in the Book of Mormon where the Lord says all are privileged “one like unto the other, and none are forbidden” (2 Nephi 26:28).

“Giving the same opportunity to everyone to participate in specific ordinances of the temple doesn’t just confirm the promise of this scripture, but also increases the opportunity to receive blessings through serving one another, in this life or on the other side of the veil,” she said. 

Women and children who are baptized can now serve as witnesses to baptisms, the Church announced Oct. 2, 2019. Worthy temple recommend holders, including youth with limited-use recommends, can also witness baptisms in the temple. Additionally, women who are endowed can serve as witnesses to temple sealings.
Women and children who are baptized can now serve as witnesses to baptisms, the Church announced Oct. 2, 2019. Worthy temple recommend holders, including youth with limited-use recommends, can also witness baptisms in the temple. Additionally, women who are endowed can serve as witnesses to temple sealings. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“This is a living Church that receives revelations through living prophets to guide and orient us in the work that needs to be done here on earth. Of this, I have no doubts.”

Clara Inez Melendez of Palmira, Colombia, said the policy change is “an opportunity for us as women of faith to further participate in the ordinances happening in the temple.”

Ali Wood, a mother of two young children who lives in Wangs, Switzerland, said she loved a quote by President Nelson in an article on the policy change: “We serve a living Savior.” 

“As a result, the policies in the Church are also ‘living’ and grow and adapt as necessary,” Wood said. “Many women in the Church have a desire to be more involved in the sacred ordinances. While these ordinances and covenants remain exactly the same, the way in which they can now be witnessed before the Lord allows the women in the Church to play an active role.”

Women have much to offer to the Church and to the world, said Kimber Haner, 28, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona.

“Any policy modification that gives us more of a presence and more of a voice is a great change in my eyes,” she said.

Athena Howell, who is currently working on her doctorate at Ohio State University, said she felt excitement and joy “flash” through her when she first learned of the policy announcement.

“More powerfully, however, is that underneath the flare of excitement that always comes with change, I felt a steady, resonating confirmation that the Restoration is continuing as our prophet has reminded us,” Howell said. “With that second feeling came a deep gratitude for my Savior and all He has provided for me, including ongoing revelation and a prophet that conveys His will to us.”

She added, “I have a niece who is being born today, and I am so excited that she is coming into the world at a time when the gospel and God’s plan is moving forward so rapidly. What a world to grow up in.”

A greater connection for families

Jen Poulson serves as a Relief Society teacher in her ward in Franklin, Tennessee, and has four children. These new opportunities to serve can help connect families and ward members, she said.

“I think this change is going to help families and ward members feel more connected to each other spiritually, as well as strengthen friendships and compassion for one another as they participate in sacred ordinances together,” she said. 

Said Heidi Grimshaw, also a Relief Society teacher in her Indianapolis, Indiana, ward: “What an amazing privilege to be able to make an important ordinance like baptism, even more meaningful, by involving all family members. What a blessing to have a living prophet!”

Julia Fellows, who lives in Bremen, Alabama, is the mother of three children and has seven grandchildren. She is excited about the policy change’s impact on families as they serve each other and feel the Spirit testify of the sacred ordinances.

“How fun it will be for my granddaughter to witness the baptisms of her four younger brothers in the coming years and for other young family members to do the same,” she said.

Women, youth and children who are baptized can now serve as witnesses to baptisms, the Church announced Oct. 2, 2019. Worthy temple recommend holders, including youth with limited-use recommends, can also witness baptisms in the temple. Additionally, women who are endowed can serve as witnesses to temple sealings.
Women, youth and children who are baptized can now serve as witnesses to baptisms, the Church announced Oct. 2, 2019. Worthy temple recommend holders, including youth with limited-use recommends, can also witness baptisms in the temple. Additionally, women who are endowed can serve as witnesses to temple sealings. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Though her children are all married, Fellows said she welcomes the opportunity to be asked to witness a grandchild’s sealing to their spouse when the time comes. She and her husband, John, work in the Birmingham Alabama Temple and are excited to see the implementation of this policy there.

While the Hamilton New Zealand Temple is closed for renovations, Julia Lê said her stake plans temple trips overseas each year. With the new policy change to allow women to participate as witnesses, it will be easier to organize temple trips because they often have a shortage of men. 

“It will help engage more people in the ordinances, which will be good for the youth especially,” she said.

Katelyn Smith, 27, currently lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany, and attends a U.S. military ward. She explained that as service members are often required to spend expended periods of time away from their families, some wards there also struggle to meet the minimum priesthood requirement for temple trips.

“It is so clear that Heavenly Father is accelerating His work and He is inviting us to be part of it in a new way,” she said. “I’m grateful for a prophet and leaders who are actively seeking for revelation on how we can participate more in His work.”