The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expanded female leadership by calling six women in Europe to fill new leadership positions.
According to the Church’s statement released on March 11, these International Area Organization Advisers will mentor congregational officers, participate in leadership councils, instruct Church leaders and “provide women’s perspectives at all levels of councils.”
“The position of area organisation adviser expands leadership roles for women in the area and builds upon the practice of women and men serving alongside each other in unity on councils and committees on the other levels,” the statement says.
The women currently called as advisors are each assigned an area of Europe, encompassing over 40 countries between the six of them.
Ann-Mari Lindberg will serve the Nordic countries; Sibylle Fingerle is over the German and Dutch speaking countries; Letícia dos Santos Rudloff is assigned Spain, Portugal and Cape Verde; Ghislaine Simonet covers France and Italy; Julia Wondra serves Eastern and South Eastern countries; and Traci De Marco covers the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The women expressed their excitement and gratitude for this new calling in the Church’s news release.
“We are so blessed to be involved in this great work at this time and I pray the Lord will inspire, comfort and strengthen us as we carry out his work,” De Marco said.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this outstanding change which will undoubtedly further the Lord’s work in these latter days,” dos Santos Rudloff said.
Additional callings of women to this position in other areas around the world will be up to the discretion of Area Presidencies.
BYU Portuguese professor Patrícia Baialuna de Andrade said she is thrilled with the news and is excited to see the Church benefit from the “inspired insights” these women will bring.
The representation of these women in councils will enrich leaders and help members because “they know exactly what it is like to be a woman and member of the Church inside their countries and cultures,” she said.
“I know our Heavenly Father hears His daughters, and I am happy to see Church leaders hearing us too, more and more,” de Andrade said.
Teresa Bell, a BYU German professor who has lived in German speaking countries in Europe, said this announcement is wonderful news.
“The women in the Church in Europe are talented, vibrant, knowledgeable and spiritual. Sibylle Fingerle from Germany and Julia Wondra from Austria are well-prepared to further the work of the Lord as they focus on the feminine aspects of the work of the Lord,” she said.
Susan Madsen is a professor at Utah State University and a well-known speaker on female empowerment and leadership. She said this announcement is “just remarkable.”
This announcement is “incredibly significant and one of the many changes that has and will take place in order to really move the Church forward,” Madsen said. This step helps women be more engaged and effective in the Church.
The Church is structured in a way that for men there is a direct hierarchy all the way to the Prophet, Madsen said, and for women, it can be a struggle when questions arise about their callings because there is no direct connection to the officers of the Church.
Madsen said with these new leadership positions, women can now turn to other women for help. “Women need that support from other women.”
The advisers will receive training from the women officers of the Church making the “direct line” that will allow girls and women in the Church to connect with female leaders.
“Yes, the Lord needs our voices and he needs the connection from women all the way up and that’s what this does,” Madsen said.
When she heard about the new position, Madsen said she felt a deep witness that “things are changing in the way God needs them to change right now so women can use their voices, use their leadership in ways that the Church has never seen before.”
Madsen said this change “tells us again that the last days are upon us and we need to not just be listening to half the population. We need to equally listen and work and provide opportunities to influence and lead all men and all women.”