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Top women officers in the LDS Church took a giant step forward Tuesday when they became permanent members of what previously were three key "priesthood councils."
Bonnie L. Oscarson, the church's Young Women president for girls between ages 12 and 17, has been named to the Utah-based faith's Missionary Executive Council. Linda K. Burton, president of the church's Relief Society for adult Mormon women, will serve on the Priesthood and Family Executive Council. Rosemary M. Wixom, president of the Primary for children 11 and under, will join the Temple and Family History Executive Council.
From time to time, leaders in the all-male Mormon priesthood have asked the women's advice on certain issues, but these women were not on these high-ranking committees as sitting members.
"I still vividly remember [LDS Church] President Thomas S. Monson announcing the lowered missionary age [from 21 to 19] for young women [in October 2012]," Oscarson wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday evening, detailing the new assignments. "Today, I witnessed another significant moment."
This move comes at a time of vigorous and often-tense discussion and debate about the evolving role of women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith whose top leaders are all men.
Some feminists have pushed for ordination to the church's priesthood. Kate Kelly, who helped launch the Ordain Women movement, was excommunicated in June 2014, but the group continues to work toward that end.
Others have worked for greater female involvement in decision-making and religious assignments short of ordination, while seeking enhanced visibility and gender equity in budgets and activities. Mormon women seeking change from wearing pants to church services to praying publicly at General Conferences have made headlines in Utah and across the world.
"What a great time to be a woman in the church where our voices are needed and valued more than ever," Oscarson exulted in her Facebook post. "I am grateful for the opportunity to add my perspective and experience to this council as we work together to spread the message of the restored gospel."
LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks also used social media to praise the addition of the women to the councils.
"We need their wisdom and participation," Oaks wrote on his own Facebook page. "It is sensible that their assignments line up with their current responsibilities."