SALT LAKE CITY – A Mormon conference this weekend in Utah will usher in a new era of the leadership of the church that the faith is struggling with increased supervision on the treatment of sexual abuse and one-on-one interviews between local leaders and young people.
President of the church, Russell M. Nelson will preside over the two-yearly meeting for the first time since his arrival, and the two new members will be chosen for an all-male top management.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this week announced updated guidelines for reporting sexual abuse after the news that a former prominent missionary leader was accused of sexually assaulting two women in the 1980s.
The new guidelines call on to lay leaders never ignore a report of abuse or encourage a person to stay in a wrong house. They also say children can bring a parent or other adult on the one-one-one interviews with local leaders of the church. Parents who previously were only allowed in a hallway or adjacent room. Young people can still go alone if they want to.
Some say that the changes to short.
On Friday, about 1,000 Mormons and ex-Mormons on foot to the church in Salt Lake City, headquarters to deliver petitions, which put an end to the closed door, one-on-one meetings that start at the age of 12, together with the sexual questions they sometimes are.
Mormon spokeswoman Irene Caso said in a statement Friday, the faith condemns any inappropriate conduct or abuse, regardless of when or where it occurs, and that the leaders of the church are given instructions for the youth interviews.
The statement also seemed to express a willingness to change: “As with any practice in the Church, we are constantly looking for ways to improve and adapt by following the Savior in the needs of our members.”
Nelson is expected to speak this weekend at the conference, but it is unknown whether he will address the issue of whether the larger topic of sexual misconduct that is the thrust in the national spotlight by the #MeToo movement. The leaders of the church usually focus their conference, a talk on spiritual guidance and religious themes.
Nelson, a 93-year-old former heart surgeon, was appointed the 17th president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January following the death of president Thomas S. Monson, who served for a decade.
Both Nelson and Monson rose to the leadership of the church ranks after with the name of a governing body called the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, modeled after Jesus Christ and the apostles. Members of the all-male panel under the president of the church and his two counselors, and remain on the panel until they die.
The members of the church, and scholars will be closely watching on Saturday to see if the Utah-based church adds diversity at the top leadership tier, which is made up entirely of white men from the USA, with the exception of a German, Dieter Uchtdorf.
More than half of the religion of the 16 million members live outside the United States, and some Mormons would like to see the church’s carbon footprint represented in leadership.
The last time there were openings in the quorum, in October 2015, the church chose three Utah men.
Women are not allowed on the religion of the highest leadership of municipalities or in the faith of lay ministers who lead local congregations. Church officials say their doctrine states, men and women are equal, but only men are allowed in the lay priesthood, because the religion follows the pattern of the Savior when it comes to the priesthood.”
A contingent of Mormons have advocated for years for a change in the doctrine, that women in the priesthood — including large rallies outside the church conferences in 2013 and 2014, but the Mormon church continues to pursue the patriarchal structure. Nine highest woman in the church to oversee three organizations providing programs for women and girls. These boards are covered with different layers of leadership groups is reserved for men.
The new leaders are likely to come from the next layer of the leaders of the church, which is called the Quorum of the Seventy, that is where the last of 12 men were chosen to work for their selections.
The new members of the Quorum will participate in a quorum of undergoing a substantial turnover after a series of deaths as the previous leaders succumbed to the consequences of the ageing of the population.
After Saturday, five of the 12 members of the college is appointed in the past three years. By 2015, it had been six years ago that a new quorum member is chosen, and more than ten years ago, the leadership of the council had two openings.