Emily W. Jensen
Mariama Kallon speaks about her experiences in Africa at the Women and the "LDS Church: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives Conference" at the Utah of University.

SALT LAKE CITY — How the gospel of Jesus Christ empowers women was a topic of the panel "Latter-day Saint Women Outside the United States" at the "Women and the LDS Church: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives Conference" at the University of Utah on Saturday.

“I don’t think I can start without my testimony,” Mariama Kallon said tearfully. She described the traditions and culture of growing up in Sierra Leone. “I grew up with people deciding for me. There are many women who endure beating and maltreatment, believing they are just for making babies.”

Kallon, who later served a Mormon mission on Temple Square and now lives in Salt Lake City, knew she could not speak up without being kicked out of her home and losing the opportunity to gain an education.

But as she heard the gospel teachings, she said she learned that she and all women “deserve to be treated as women of God, as children of God.”

And as men in her culture learn about the gospel, she added, it teaches them “to understand that men and women are equal. They learn they have to treat them the right way, the way that is pleasing unto God.”

Matt Heiss, an LDS Church archivist, described how in his travels throughout the world cataloging stories from of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he found that it would many times be Russian grandmothers who passed on religious traditions to their grandchildren while their children were out working for the Communist Party.

He explained: “I believe the gospel has empowered women from, as Elder (Joseph) Sitaki (of the Seventy) has said, ‘the shackles of tradition.’” But “I don’t believe the church is about culture genocide. President (Gordon B.) Hinckley admonished us to bring the good from cultures but to set aside the bad.” Heiss cited the recent temple cultural celebrations as an example of how Mormons are celebrating their cultures and traditions.

Carine Decoo-Vanwelkenhuysen discussed her findings in interviewing and surveying women from all over Europe. She found that Mormon women in Europe have higher levels of education than the overall population. She also found that “Mormon women in Europe reflect their culture, but there are fundamental similarities of shared female identity, ecclesiastical belonging and shared testimony."

In conclusion, Kallon admonished the audience to “Be grateful for where you are and be grateful for this gospel and for being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

Emily W. Jensen updates "Today in the Bloggernacle" on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, presenting the best from the world of LDS-oriented blog sites. Her extended "Bloggernacle Back Bench" appears on Tuesdays. Email: ejensen@desnews.com