Mormon women gather in historic conference

By ABC 4 News

Published 03/29 2014 08:46PM

Updated 03/29 2014 11:04PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) -- Thousands of female members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints gathered in downtown Salt Lake City Saturday night for the first General Women's Meeting in more than 21 years.

Since 1993 the LDS Church has held a General Young Women's Meeting in the Spring and a General Relief Society Meeting in the Fall. Saturday's meeting combined both groups and for the first time ever, included girls as young as eight years old.

"This is the first time since September 1992 all of the women of the Church have met together in a conference and the first time that 8 and 9 year olds have been included," Young Women's General president Bonnie L. Oscarson told the crowd assembled in the Church's Conference Center.

Some attendees told ABC 4 about the the significance of the event.

"We were talking in the car on the way down here that this might be the largest gathering of women of all time," Framington resident Brittney Collado said.

"I think it strengthens our sisterhood bonds," Hailey Nash said. "It's fun to see the younger girls walking to the same building as us and to be able to learn and to take the same message at the same time."

Members of the group Ordain Women would like to see those girls have the opportunity for expanded roles in the Church, including holding the Priesthood which has always been exclusively for men.

"It's my feeling that priesthood transcends gender and that priesthood is for everyone," Ordain Women Executive Secretary Suzette Smith said. "It's for all genders. It's God's gift to us and we can all participate in it."

"Priesthood is important because it's not only the power to act in God's name but is the administrative power as part of the Church," Ordain Women Spokeswoman Hannah Wheelwright said. "And we want women to have a seat at the table to make these decisions in the Church that involve us as well as to demonstrate that women are just as capable of giving healing blessings and performing ordinances as men are."

Others are not convinced.

"I don't necessarily agree with what they are trying to accomplish," Chelsea Peart of Syracuse said. "I know in the end that God's the one in charge so what He wants to happen will happen."

The real showdown will take place Saturday April 5th. That's when members of Ordain Women will attempt to gain entrance to the Priesthood session of the Church's semiannual General Conference. Church officials have already stated that they will not be allowed in.

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