Editor’s Note: The transcript of Daniel Peterson’s 2019 FairMormon Conference presentation is now available.
by Jeffrey Thayne
At the 2019 FAIR Mormon conference, Dr. Daniel Peterson gave an illuminating presentation that — among other things — summarized the history of women serving as formal witnesses. He explored how female witnesses were considered less reliable than male witnesses in many ancient and modern legal systems, including within the United States. In U.S. jurisprudence, the testimony of women was routinely dismissed over the testimony of men. In fact, women were ineligible to serve on juries in most jurisdictions, and it was not until 1973 that women could serve on juries anywhere in the U.S. These were facts that I did not know.
Last week, President Russel M. Nelson announced that women could now serve as formal witnesses to all live and proxy ordinances within the Church. This exciting development can be seen as an extension of this broader historical movement of increasing female participation in formal legal and ecclesiastical contexts. At the direction of the Lord’s servants, it is thrilling to see that participation grow as we find new and better ways for sisters within the Church to wield righteous influence within our institution.
Furthermore, we are seeing an increase in women serving as witnesses in other areas, as more sisters serve missions and participate in Church councils. We are also doing a better job of documenting the witnesses of women across time who have been historically underrepresented in the literature. In the rest of Dr. Peterson’s presentation, it relates the stories and witnesses of the women who felt, handled, or saw the plates — and there are more than you would expect. These voices and accounts serve as additional witnesses of the Restoration of the Gospel, and add to the credibility of the men who signed their witness (included at the beginning of that sacred book). [Read more…] about Women as Witnesses