OGDEN -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will now hold a semiannual women's meeting one week before each general session of LDS conference. The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made the announcement earlier in November.
The women's meeting will take the place of the general Young Women's meeting traditionally held in the spring and the general Relief Society meeting held in the fall.
The meeting will be open to all girls and women age 8 and older.
"As the women of the Church gather together -- sisters, mothers and daughters -- they, their families, and the Church will be strengthened and blessed," the First Presidency letter states.
Since 1993, the general meetings have been held for the Relief Society and Young Women in September and March and include talks by a member of the First Presidency and, usually, members of the Relief Society and Young Women general presidencies. Before that, from 1984 to 1993, a general meeting was held for all women and young women.
Pat Porter, a South Ogden stake primary president, is excited about the change, calling it "a great idea."
It is often discussed that primary children need to begin their testimonies at a young age and develop those testimonies, because sometimes by the time they get to Young Women's, it can be too late, Porter said.
"It's important to teach them when they are young. Why not include them?" she said.
She likes the idea of the general meetings being similar to the Priesthood meeting, where all men age 12 and older are invited.
"It can create a special tradition and bonding time," she said of mothers and daughters attending the event together.
Porter said at 8 years old, the girls start Activity Days, a program for young girls in which they get activities and spiritual uplifting one day a week, so it is appropriate for them to be at the meeting.
Susan DeYoung, a stake Relief Society president in Ogden, also likes the idea.
"As one age group goes into the next and into the next, it is good for them to have those connections and times to get to know the older sisters," DeYoung said. She feels that it will help smooth the transitions from Primary to Young Women's to Relief Society.
Carrie Lund, a Young Women's counselor in an Ogden stake, said it will be interesting to see how they adapt the conference for such a wide age range, but she likes the idea.
"I'm up for the adventure," Lund said.
Many area stakes hold dinners before or after the broadcasts for the particular age group the conference is geared for, but with so many being invited that may now be a challenge. Lund thinks some may do it by wards instead.
All three women feel positive about the change and think it will unify the sisters.
Kate Kelly, the founder of Ordain Women, a group that is pushing the LDS Church to ordain women to the Priesthood, is also pleased with the announcement.
"We are glad women will meet twice per year now. It is really encouraging to see our leaders responding to cries for greater inclusivity," Kelly said in an email Wednesday afternoon. Kelly said there was no explanation from the LDS Church as to why the meeting was introduced at this time; Ordain Women sees it as an answer to prayer.
The first general women's meeting will be held in March at the LDS Conference Center and will be broadcast to LDS meetinghouses across the world as well as on television.