New York Times: Missions Signal a Growing Role for Mormon Women

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After working on the story for several months, The New York Times published a 4,500-word article on Saturday, 1 March, triggered by the surge in numbers of female missionaries serving for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the minimum age for service for women was dropped from 21 to 19.

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The Times does a good job of capturing the enthusiasm of the young women of the Church now entering missionary service, the contributions they are making and the implications for the future.

Authors Jodi Kantor and Laurie Goodstein describe Church efforts as “one of the most sensitive gender experiments of coming years,” and report that while cultural changes are being addressed by the Church, the doctrine – including priesthood ordination – is unchanging.

Particularly insightful are interviews by Jodi Kantor of missionaries in South Korea, where Ms. Kantor assessed for herself the increasing responsibilities and leadership roles now resting on female missionaries. The newspaper’s visit to South Korea was facilitated in part by Church Public Affairs spokeswoman Jessica Moody, who herself served in South Korea as a missionary.

In Mormon Newsroom’s view, the lengthy article was fair overall, and the Church welcomes the interest of objective journalists who thoughtfully explore its beliefs and culture, but the Times misstepped in a couple of places. An hour and a half interview with Linda K. Burton, who as president of the nearly 6-million-member Relief Society is one of the most influential women in the Church, yielded a half-sentence quote. And the newspaper’s reference to the Mormon Women Project as a place where women can vent frustrations about the Church caused an immediate protest about mischaracterization from the project’s leaders. To its credit, the Times removed the mention of the site in the online edition, but it was too late to be deleted from the print edition.

The newspaper invites readers to participate by sharing their experiences in the comment sections located throughout the feature.