The Mormon Church said on Wednesday that for the first time in its history the Utah-based faith has appointed a trio of women to high-level leadership councils that had been traditionally served only by men.
The decision by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is major development in the role of women in the faith amid sometimes fractious debate over their role in its hierarchy.
Feminist groups have pushed for the involvement of women in decision-making. On Wednesday, the Church said three women general officers had been appointed to priesthood leadership councils. Mormon women's leadership roles had previously been limited to auxiliary organizations.
Bonnie Oscarson, who leads the Church's Young Women's organization and becomes a member of the Missionary Executive Council, said she was grateful and honored to be asked.
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"What a great time to be a woman in the Church where our voices are needed and valued more than ever," Oscarson wrote in a Facebook post.
Linda Burton will join the Priesthood and Family Executive Council, while Rosemary Wixom will serve on the Temple and Family History Executive Council.
"Good men and women of the Church throughout history have worked together to build a strong foundation for Christ's restored Gospel to flourish and give hope to a world that is so often without light," Burton wrote online.
The Salt Lake City-based faith said it has more than 15 million members and more than 85,000 missionaries worldwide.
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Dallin Oakes, a member of the second-highest LDS governing body, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, wrote that he was very pleased to learn of the three new assignments.
"We need their wisdom and participation!" Oakes said.
(Reporting by Peg McEntee; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maler)