SALT LAKE CITY – A Mormon conference this weekend in Utah will usher in a new era of church leadership that comes when faith is confronted with intensified research into handling reports of sexual abuse and One to one conversations between local lay leaders and youth.
The President of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, will chair the biannual meeting for the first time since taking office. Two new members will be elected for a male top executive committee.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has this week announced updated guidelines for reporting sexual abuse after a former prominent mission leader was accused of sexually assaulting two women in the 1980s.
The new guidelines require lay leaders never to disregard a report of abuse or to encourage a person to stay in an abusive home. They also say that children can bring parents or other adults to One-One-One interviews with local church leaders. Parents were previously allowed only in a corridor or adjacent room. The teenagers can still go alone if they want.
Some say the changes are not enough.
On Friday, some 1,000 Mormons and ex-Mormons marched to the Salt Lake City Church headquarters to file petitions calling for an end to the closed door individual talks beginning at 12, along with sexual issues that sometimes involve them.
Mormon spokeswoman Irene Caso said in a statement on Friday that faith condemns any inappropriate behavior or abuse, regardless of when or where it happens. and that church leaders receive instructions for youth interviews.
The Declaration also seemed to express the willingness to change: "As with every practice in the Church, we are continually seeking ways to improve and adapt ourselves by following the Savior's needs of our members."
Nelson is expected Speak at this weekend's conference, but it's not known if he's going to address the issue or the bigger issue of sexual misconduct, which was pushed into the national s potlight from the #MeToo movement. As a rule, Church leaders focus on spiritual counseling and religious issues.
Nelson, a 93-year-old former cardiac surgeon, was named the 17th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January after his death by President Thomas S. Monson, who served for a decade.
Both Nelson and Monson rose to the leadership of the church after being called to a governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, modeled on the apostles of Jesus Christ. Members of the all-male panel serve under the church president and his two counselors and remain on the podium until their death.
Church members and scholars will watch Saturday closely to see if the Church in Utah brings more diversity Leadership layer, made up entirely of white US men, with the exception of one German, Dieter Uchtdorf
More than Half of the 16 million members of the religion live outside the United States, and some Mormons would like to be represented in the leadership.
When the oratory was last opened in October 2015, the church chose three men from Utah.
Women are not allowed in the highest councils of religion or in faith clergy who run local churches. Church officials say their doctrine says that men and women are equal, but only men are allowed in the lay priesthood because religion follows the example of the Redeemer when it comes to ordination.
A Mormon contingent has championed a shift in doctrine to allow women in the priesthood – including large-scale rallies outside of church conferences in 2013 and 2014 – but the Mormon Church remains committed to its patriarchal structure. Nine highest-ranking women in the church oversee three organizations that run programs for women and girls. These councils sit under several layers of leadership groups reserved for men.
The new leaders are likely to come from the next higher church leadership, called the Quorum of the Seventy, where the last 12 elected men worked before their election.
The new College members will join a college that has significant revenues after a series of deaths, as past leaders have succumbed to the effects of aging.
After Saturday, five of the twelve members of the panel have been appointed in the last three years. By 2015, it had been six years since a new College member was elected, and more than a decade since the Leadership Council had two openings.
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