SALT LAKE CITY – A slight change to the name of a semi-annual women's meeting put on by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suggests a big change in how the LDS Church is working with its female members.
According to LDS Church spokeswoman Jessica Moody, the meeting will now be considered part of the semi-annual general conference, which is always held separately.
"The First Presidency has decided that the General Women's Meeting will be designated as the General Women's Session of general conference," Moody said.
The move comes after some confusion at the most recent general conference. Because the women's meeting is always held the weekend prior, some church leaders weren't sure if they should refer to it as the first session of the conference.
In his remarks during the General Women’s Meeting, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the LDS Church’s First Presidency, made a statement indicating the women’s session was the opening session of general conference.
“My beloved sisters, my dear friends and blessed disciples of Jesus Christ, I am honored to have this opportunity to be with you as we open another general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The next Saturday, Elder Bruce A. Carlson of the LDS Church’s Second Quorum of the Seventy offered a prayer during the Priesthood Session of the general conference in which he called the Saturday evening session the fourth session, again implying the women's meeting opened the conference.
However, LDS.org later edited the video associated with the session to mute the word “fourth” from the prayer. A YouTube video shows the unedited version of the prayer, which occurs at about the 1:50:50 mark. Click here for the edited version. The prayer begins right around the 5-minute mark.
Now, the name of the meeting has been changed, and the few extra words mean the meeting is now considered part of conference. It also signifies much more about the LDS Church's view of its female members, according to the former symposium director of the Sunstone Foundation Mary Ellen Robertson.
"I think it's a good thing, and I appreciate the forward strides the church makes," Robertson said.
As a Mormon feminist, she has become part of a growing movement to give women a greater role within the church.
Those efforts garnered national attention when the church excommunicated Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, a group Robertson is also a member of currently.
"It seems as though a lot more things are lining up with the kinds of things that Mormon feminists have been asking for for years," Robertson said. "I do applaud the steps forward, and I also see the road is long."
For Robertson, the move is a step in the right direction, but a small one.
"If we are talking about balancing the scales, then treating the largest women's organization in the world and oldest women's organization in the world on par with the LDS priesthood seems to make sense to me," she said. "I'm glad it's happening, but it does feel like a small concession. It's the easy concession."
While there are currently no plans to move the women's meeting to the same weekend as general conference, Moody told FOX 13 News that could change down the road.