It was wonderful.
It is funny how when I was younger the only reason I looked forward to General Conference was because I could stay in my PJs all morning. Yet now, as an adult, my soul hungers for General Conference. It is definitely a spiritual feast for me.
There were lots of really amazing talks this year and I'm sure I'll reference many of them in the future. Yet this Conference what I was most looking forward to hearing was the Church Statistical Report given during the Saturday Afternoon Session.
Weren't you? Wait. You mean to tell me you were still coming out of your "in-between conference session nap" during that dazzling 2 minute talk! Oh, you missed out.
Brook P. Hales, the representative from the Church who gave the report, stated that as of December 31, 2010 there were
28,660 Ward and Branches (these are the names Later-day Saints use for their congregations)
2, 896 Stakes (which are a group of Wards and Branches, usually at least 3)
in the LDS church.
Why do I care about this?
Well if there are 28,660 Wards and Branches in the church than that means that for each of those congregations there are 12 women serving in leadership positions in each one of them. Each Ward and Branch has a Relief Society Presidency which includes a president, 2 counselors and a secretary. Each Ward and Branch has a Young Women's Presidency which includes a president, 2 counselors and a secretary and each Ward and Branch has a Primary Presidency which includes a president, 2 counselors and a secretary.
That means that within the church there are 343,920 women serving in Ward and Branch leadership positions!
In addition Brook P. Hales stated that there are currently 2, 896 Stakes in the church. Each Stake also has Relief Society, Young Women's and Primary Presidencies as well. Meaning that there are an additional 12 women in every Stake who are serving in leadership positions. This means that worldwide there are 34, 752 women serving in Stake leadership positions!
Which gives us a grand total of: 378, 672 women serving in leadership positions in the LDS church around the world!
I find that quite incredible. Can you think of another type of organization or church in the world that around a half a million women actively serving in leadership positions? It is really quite an astounding thing when you start to think about it.
It is even more incredible when you realize that there are women holding leadership positions and sitting on councils with men in countries where women traditionally have no voice or influence in their communities or families. In places where women aren't allowed to go to school, to defecate during the day, to show their faces, or to look a man in the eyes there are LDS women who are holding leadership positions and working along side men to administer the work of God's church. I don't think we quite realize how remarkable that is.
An image from the recent world-wide leadership training. Source
Granted things in the church aren't always perfect, because no where in the world are men and women perfect. There are many cultural traditions in countries around the world that often diminish the importance of women's voices (or men's voices) or perpetuate unrighteous dominion on the part of men and women. Richard G. Scott addressed this recently in the World-Wide Leadership Training held in February. He said:
There will always be room for better communication and more respect between men and women in every country and within every Ward, Branch, Stake and family. The church and its people are a work in progress. Yet I believe that most of its members are striving their very hardest to be true disciples of Jesus Christ and it gives me great joy to realize that I belong to a church that has such an elevated understanding and practice of men and women's relationships in the family, the church and in society. I think that as the restored gospel of Jesus Christ begins to be poured out upon the earth we will see hearts begin to soften, people and families begin to change and cultures and nations embrace the great eternal truths of the gospel teaches about men and women.
So while it might seem kind of silly I think that my new favorite part of General Conference will be listening to the Statistical Report (it is only given in April) and thinking about the hundreds of thousands of women around the world leading and serving in the church! Thinking about it makes me so excited to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ or Later-day Saints and to be a woman in this dispensation!