SALT LAKE CITY – Some people were surprised to hear that this was the first time a woman offered a prayer at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Annual General Conference, while others who knew were pleased with the historic event.
Jean Stevens, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, offered the benediction at the first session of the 183rd Annual General Conference, which made her the first woman to do so.
Church member Melanie Nielsen said the honor in the act comes from god.
“I thought, what an honor to be asked to be the first woman to pray at a conference," she said. "But the honor comes in being a member and having the spirit speak to you while you are up there,” she said.
Church member Kyle Hoffman said he was glad a woman prayed at conference.
“I think it's very exciting,” he said. “I think that’s kind of the way things need to be.”
Mormon feminist groups have spent the last several months lobbying the LDS church to let women pray at conference. LDS church officials said the prayer assignments for the session had been made long before this campaign.
Church member Spencer Marks said he doesn’t think it was bad that women hadn’t prayed until now, but he said it was “good to see” it happen on Sunday.
“I don't know if it's as big of a deal as, maybe, other people thought about it,” he said. “I don't necessarily think it was discriminatory in the first place. I think it might have just been over looked. I thought it was a great way for the church to evolve.”
Church member Mercy Idoko said women have always been important, if quietly so, in the LDS church.
“There has to be a quite side and a loud side to everything,” she said. “While the brothers stand in front, the sisters are quietly always there, pushing along the work of the gospel. So, they've always had a very, very important role to play in the gospel.”