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In rare event, woman leads prayer at major Mormon conference

April 06, 2013|By David Kelly
  • Jean A. Stevens conducts the morning session's closing prayer during the 183rd Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.
Jean A. Stevens conducts the morning session's closing prayer during… (Rick Bowmer / Associated…)

For the first time in memory, a woman has led a prayer at the major conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City.

Jean A. Stevens offered the closing prayer for more than 100,000 Mormons gathered Saturday for the church’s general conference. Millions of others watched via satellite.

“Women have been praying in church and speaking at conferences for years,” church spokesman Eric Hawkins told the Los Angeles Times. “But this is the first time in memory that we have had a sister lead a prayer.”

A feminist group launched the Let Women Pray campaign in January asking for the right to offer opening and closing prayers at the conference, which has been held for 183 years. The group earlier had urged women to wear pants instead of dresses to church to highlight gender issues within the Mormon Church..

Hawkins said the group had nothing to do with the church’s decision.

“The prayer assignments were made before that campaign started,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first of similar prayers to be led by women. It’s a change, it’s a new thing.”

Stevens is on a church panel that advises parents on how to teach the faith to their children.

Also on Saturday, the Mormon Church announced plans to build two new temples, one in Cedar City, Utah, and the other Rio de Janeiro.

Church members consider temples the most sacred places on Earth, where marriages and other rituals take place. There are 141 operating temples worldwide and, with Saturday’s announcement, 29 temples planned or under construction.

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