Sources inside the LDS Church say that a woman will for the first time in the history of Mormonism offer an invocation or benediction at the Church’s worldwide General Conference, this April 6–7, veteran religion journalist Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
The announcement comes after Mormon feminists and their allies mounted a “Let Women Pray” letter-writing campaign this winter. (LDS officials say that the Conference program was set “many weeks ago.”)
Women’s advocates within the LDS Church like LDS WAVE have long pointed to the continuing restriction on women praying in the Church’s global meetings as one of many examples of day-to-day gender inequalities in the practice of Mormonism—most of them having absolutely no foundation in current Church teachings.
There is no foundation in LDS doctrine, theology, or scripture for restricting women from praying in public or at church meetings. Still, women have been excluded by policy and custom from pulpit prayer at times throughout LDS history.
During the 1970s, women were not permitted to offer invocations or benedictions during weekly congregational church services, a restriction that was lifted in September 1978.
Other non-doctrinal policy restrictions on women’s full participation in LDS Church life and leadership remain, including the exclusion of women from serving as financial or membership clerks in local congregations or participating as Church officers in broader Church budget and financial deliberations. Historic barriers to full participation include the exclusion of women from service as the presidents of Church-owned universities. And gender inequalities continue in other dimensions of LDS life, including policies that permit living men to be “sealed” by LDS temple marriage to more than one spouse, while living women may be “sealed” to only one man.