SALT LAKE CITY — Women of all ages will strengthen one another as they meet together for the 2014 General Women’s Meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Sister Linda K. Burton.
“There is power in gathering,” she said. “We elevate each other in a way when we are together that is absolutely remarkable.”
Sister Burton, Relief Society general president; Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president; and Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, said they hope the women’s meeting — a historic gathering that is the first of its kind for the LDS Church — will unify Latter-day Saint women across the globe.
The meeting “is about what we feel when we are together,” said Sister Burton. “It is about working together as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
The church’s First Presidency announced Nov. 1, 2013, that beginning this spring the semiannual general women’s meeting would replace the general Relief Society and general Young Women meetings. All women, young women and girls 8 years of age and older are invited to participate in the combined meeting.
The live broadcast, Saturday in the Conference Center at 6 p.m., will be translated into 55 languages and sent to millions around the world via the church satellite system and on television, radio and the Internet.
Sister Burton, Sister Oscarson and Sister Wixom will speak at the meeting, along with a member of the First Presidency.
The “emphasis is the covenant path that we are all on together,” said Sister Oscarson. “We call it the covenant path because it starts when we make baptismal covenants at age 8."
She said it is valuable for women, young women and girls to be able to see how important they are for each other. “We need one another,” she said. “We are all in this work of salvation together, that we are not divided into organizations that keep us separate.”
Each season of life is so important, added Sister Burton. “We need to see all the seasons together so that we can strengthen one another and glean from our unique perspectives along that covenant path.”
Sister Wixom agreed, noting the new general meeting sends an important message: “It is unity,” she said. “It is seamless in spirit and purpose. We are together.”
Sister Wixom said it is important for Primary-age girls 8 to 11 years old to participate in the general women’s meeting.
“A girl begins her path, that covenant path, when she's baptized at age 8. And this will open a door and an opportunity for her to go with her mother, her mentors or her friends to be taught and to share in the very same environment that those older do,” she said.
The meeting comes just two months after the women leaders announced other changes they hope will unify LDS women. Reflecting the organization’s international growth, women who live outside of Utah and outside the United States have been called to serve on the newly formed Young Women general board. In addition, training — previously held locally in conjunction with April’s general conference — will now be delivered worldwide through an integrated, Web-based effort that will be provided in key languages.
“We all know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is worldwide,” said Sister Wixom. “All of these things — the general women’s meeting, the training that will come online, and also international boards for Young Women — are pointing in that direction, to meet the changing needs of women.”
One clear example of the unity the leaders are talking about is the multi-generational choir that will perform at the general meeting.
Church leaders asked women, young women and girls across the Wasatch Front to apply for the choir; the church received 12,000 applications for the choir’s limited seats, according to a press release from church public affairs.
The volunteer choir includes 364 church members, ages 8 and older, who live within 100 miles of church headquarters and have experience singing in choirs. Participants also committed to attend all six rehearsals.
Sister Burton said the overwhelming number of applicants captures the “spirit of what we were hoping to accomplish with this meeting” and is indicative of the willingness of Latter-day Saint women to engage in the work of Jesus Christ.
“This is indicative of the women of the church,” she said. “They want to be involved. That extends to the work of salvation, as well as this one meeting.”
Sister Wixom said the church leaders are most grateful to all who offered their talents — including the many who were not able to participate in the choir.
Diane Bastian, music manager for the church, said during the selection process directors concentrated on families and tried to fill all the age groups. The outcome was that about 50 of the 364 participants are children ages 8 to 11. Another 70 choir members are ages 12 through 18. The adults in the choir represent the remaining decades, she said.
Selecting participants from the many thousands that applied was “a very difficult process,” she said. “We looked at choir credentials, especially, and looked at musical experience.”
The “choir by application” in the church is unique, she said.
Sister Oscarson said it will be “thrilling to see the group of women, young women and children standing together and uniting their voices.”
She is also excited about the fact mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters and aunts will be coming together to sing.
“Their voices will reflect their testimonies,” Sister Wixom said.