New leadership roles to expand women’s influence in LDS Church

Europe becomes the first to appoint “international area organization advisers.”

(Photos courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) These six women are the first to be appointed as international area organization advisers for Europe. They are (clockwise from top left) Traci De Marco from the United Kingdom; Julia Wondra from Austria; Ghislaine Simonet from France; Letícia dos Santos Rudloff from Spain; Sibylle Fingerle from Germany; and Ann-Mari Lindberg from Denmark.

In a move to expand female leadership, Latter-day Saint officials in Europe have announced a new position for women as “advisers” to male area authorities.

The women, who will be called “international area organization advisers,” will “mentor congregational officers and participate in leadership councils” of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the region, according to a Thursday news release.

They will “give instruction to church leaders and provide women’s perspectives at all levels of councils.”

Utahn Neylan McBaine, founder of The LDS Women Project, was ecstatic about the new roles for the faith’s European women.

“This is the most important change the church could make to ensure that our global community continues growing,” McBaine said, “and to maintain healthy stewardship over all our members.”

McBaine’s 2014 book, “Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact,” challenged Latter-day Saints to think outside the box when it comes to policies and practices within the faith — and this move is the kind she had in mind.

“Historically, women’s stewardship over the church has been limited to a select few women,” the writer said Thursday, “and this opens the door to women being able to participate and have their voices heard at much broader levels of church governance.”

It will ensure, McBaine said, that “women are in the room where decisions are being made.”

The newly appointed advisers who hail from various nations — Ann-Mari Lindberg, Sibylle Fingerle, Letícia dos Santos Rudloff, Ghislaine Simonet, Julia Wondra and Traci De Marco — relish their new assignments.

“I sense a deep feeling of urgency, great timing and humility in this new calling,” Lindberg, from Dyssegård in Denmark, said in the release, “and can’t wait to see how the Lord will use me, in helping organizations, families and people in the church.”

Others echoed that enthusiastic response.

“In my calling, I can feel how much the Lord loves us sisters because he takes us seriously and together, we carry forward the feminine side of the work of salvation,” Fingerle, from Usingen in Germany, said in the release. “I also feel a mandate that we as sisters must use and increase our talents because the Lord needs us.”

Simonet, from Arnes in France, added: “I am enthusiastic to serve and help strengthen the organizations and families in French-speaking Europe and Italy in this new calling.”

Dos Santos Rudloff, from Mostoles in Spain, called women “the guardians of the family institution, the backbone of society and also of the church.”

“It’s a privilege to be part of this outstanding change,” she said, “which will undoubtedly further the Lord’s work in these latter days.”

The creation of the new position was approved by the governing First Presidency, the release said, for areas outside the United States and Canada. But it is up to area presidencies to decide whether to call women as advisers.

The Europe Area, which encompasses more than 40 countries, is the first to fill the positions.

In 2015, the faith’s top female general officers were added to previously all-male churchwide councils. The highest-ranking decision-making body is made up of the three-member First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — by definition, all men.