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For the first time, the Mormon general women's meeting being held in the LDS Conference Center in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday night no longer will be open to reporters or photographers to attend in person.
Journalists can pick up copies of the speeches to be given during Saturday night's 90-minute meeting and/or watch the proceedings, which will be streamed live on the Internet and broadcast on several stations, but they will not be allowed into the cavernous building or its media room.
The move is meant to mirror the church's handling of the all-male general priesthood meeting, explained LDS Church spokeswoman Jessica Moody. That session will take place Oct. 4 as part of the Utah-based faith's General Conference. "Our approach is the same for both the general women's meeting and the priesthood session," she said late Friday. "The needs of the media will be met throughout the conference meetings."
The two meetings, of course, can never be handled completely the same, given that male authorities attend and speak at the women's meeting, while no females speak or attend the gathering for boys and men.
Further, scores of men have acted as ushers, security or media representatives at the women's meeting. By comparison, no women are present at the priesthood session.
"Regarding ushers, the expectation is the same for both meetings," Moody said.
But observers have noted a number of males inside the Conference Center throughout the general women's meeting, while few, if any, females have been seen at the priesthood session.
With rare exceptions through past decades, only male reporters were allowed to cover that priesthood meeting. Eventually, even male reporters were not given media access, though they could go in and watch the proceedings without raising suspicions because they were men.
Female reporters could report on the gathering by picking up printed copies of the speeches. In April, the priesthood session also was broadcast live for the first time. The same is planned for next week's meeting.
A year ago, a group of LDS women from Ordain Women, a movement to open the church's priesthood to females, asked for standby tickets to the all-male priesthood meeting. The church declined the request, and the news media were barred from Temple Square during the conference.
Last spring, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that instead of a general Relief Society meeting for adult Mormon women and a separate Young Women's meeting for girls between ages 12 and 17, the two gatherings would be merged into one every six months for all Mormon females age 8 and above.