New YW and RS boards include two black women, “Common Ground” LGBT inclusion advocate

Photos of three new RS and YW board members.The Newsroom announced new leadership on the Young Women and Relief Society general boards yesterday. There is plenty to celebrate here! I wish I knew more about all of the women, but I love what I see and what I know behind the scenes about some of these picks. They include two black women, and a leader in BYU’s athletics department who has been part of NCAA’s efforts to improve the experience of LGBT student-athletes at religious schools. 

First, meet Tracy Browning, of the RS General Board; and Carol Lawrence Costley of the YW General Board.

  It hardly needs saying how important it is that there are black women serving on both the YW and RS boards. This representation is so important for women and girls! So much to love in these bios as well! (emphasis added)

Sister Tracy Browning was born in New Rochelle, New York, but spent a good portion of her childhood on the island of Jamaica in the West Indies, the birthplace of her mother and father. She spent 15 years working in the financial services industry at Morgan Stanley prior to joining Church employment in 2015. Sister Browning currently works as a client service director in the Church’s Publishing Services Department. She and her husband, Brayden D. Browning, are the parents of a daughter and a son.

Sister Carol Costley was born in London, England. She received a master’s degree from Brigham Young University in social work and worked with individuals and families as an independent services professional. Sister Costley volunteered in her community through a local theater, with counseling groups and with the Disabled Rights Action Committee. She and her husband, Jerry, have five children and six grandchildren.

Another pick that I couldn’t be happier about is Liz Darger.

Here’s her bio from the press release (emphasis added):

Sister Liz Darger was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received a bachelor’s degree in family sciences and a master’s degree in school counseling psychology, both from Brigham Young University. Sister Darger works as the senior associate athletic director at BYU. She served as a part-time service missionary in LDS Distribution Services from 2003 to 2004. Sister Darger also volunteers on the leadership team of the NCAA Common Ground initiative.

That’s an impressive leadership bio, but if you aren’t familiar with the NCAA Common Ground Initiative, it would be easy to miss the significance of that last sentence. NCAA Common Ground Initiative is an effort by the NCAA to promote diversity and inclusion in college athletics, specifically making college sports safe for LGBT athletes. Here’s a video by the group:

The initiative is especially focused on how to dialogue about LGBT inclusion (and basic safety) at religiously-affiliated schools, like BYU. However, BYU was not initially invited to participate, and it was basically Darger’s single-handed leadership and active lobbying in all directions that brought BYU into the coalition, and her ongoing commitment that has resulted in concrete changes at BYU in this area. The Common Ground Initiative’s annual meeting will be hosted at BYU this year, a sign of just how far Darger has advanced the conversation. Obviously BYU and the church still have a long ways to go before they can begin to undo the damage of exclusionary doctrines and policies and be safe places for LGBT folks. But Darger showed incredible courage and initiative on this, and the thought of her serving on the YW board is frankly blowing my mind right now.

I wish I knew more things I could celebrate about all these women. But what I know, I am just delighted about.

Comments

  1. Great news! I’ve often thought they should invite board members to speak in General Conference. It would expand the pool of sisters so that we could perhaps hear from more than one sister in a single session. Based on this post it would also provide a variety in background and perspective.

  2. Great news!

  3. What does the board do and how are they chosen? How long do people serve on the board?

  4. This really is great news! How refreshing!

  5. Louan Christensen says:

    Hallelujah!

  6. Fantastic!

    Couple of other interesting notes: Seems like a higher number of these women have degrees/background in social work/psychology. It also seems like the writer of the bios went out of their way to point out the women’s work and volunteer experience in detail. I’m actually thrilled by both of these. We are starting to value women for being more than mothers!

  7. Deborah Christensen says:

    Wow!

  8. Kristin Brown says:

    “All are alike unto God” – a visual witness.

  9. OftenPerplexed says:

    Change is coming for women and LGBT members. It is just coming so slowly that my children will likely have found other churches to satisfy their spiritual needs.

  10. The name Liz Darger sounded very familiar to me. She was profiled in a great piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education back in May, and it talked specifically about her thoughts and feelings going to her first NCAA Common Ground conference, specifically with the Mormon context:

    “I’m a Mormon.

    She heard the words and moved into the center of the circle. Of all the questions read that night, she says, that was the only one to have just one person step forward.

    In that moment, she said, she caught a glimpse of the isolation gay students experience every day attending BYU among crowds of young heterosexual couples. She says it “lit a fire” in her.

    “It’s this sensitive issue that we don’t have all the answers for,” Darger said. “All of us, whether you’re Mormon or evangelical Christian, are all trying to figure out in our hearts and our minds how to reconcile our religion and sexuality. That’s something many people are doing on their own anyways, and certainly many of our students.””

    Anyways – hope this doesn’t get caught in the spam filter, but the story is *really* good.

    https://www.chronicle.com/article/Inside-Gay-Students-Fight/243487

  11. TopHat –
    I have a cousin who served on the General Young Women’s Board and then the General Primary Board. They were roughly 5 to 7 years each. Like most callings, these women come to the attention of the leadership through experiences they have in Salt Lake. My cousin began volunteering in the Relief Society Bldg. (Not for a calling, but because she was teaching a program in her ward and the Relief Society wanted to highlight it). Over time she met various church leaders – both women and men. One of them was a Hinckley. A year later she was invited to accept a calling from President Hinckley to serve on the boards. She had never met him personally, but assumes he or others talked to him about her.

  12. I’ll wager that these women were called of God by inspiration and not because of the color of their skin or their LGBT activities. Let’s learn to look past skin color and just see these women for who they are. I don’t think God is much into diversity quota’s and other similar left wing political agenda’s. You might be, but I don’t think he is. I believe he just loves all of his children and calls those for whom he feels the time is right.

  13. They were called of God by inspiration because of who they are–which includes, among many things, the color of their skin and their LGBT activities. It is presumptuous to think that we have the right to “look past” any of a person’s defining characteristics and achievements.

  14. Fred, I’m not so sure what God’s priorities are, but I am sure that God does NOT approve of apostrophes being used to form plural nouns in English. Just sayin.

  15. I appreciate your perspective Loursat and I welcome criticism of my perspective…but I don’t appreciate you gas-lighting me.

  16. No need to be dismissive and condescending, Kristine. Not everyone is as educated as you. But that doesn’t mean my perspective is of less value.

  17. Your perspective is a little confusing to me, Fred. Nowhere does the original post claim that these women’s skin color or activism had anything to do with their new callings. Read it again. The only claim made is that this is an exciting developement for those who can now see more church leaders who look like them and/or understand their issues.

    What exactly do you think you are rebutting?

  18. This is excellent news indeed. Thank you, Cynthia, for drawing broader attention to it.

  19. When this news was announced today, my one daughter excitedly sent a group text message to all of her sisters and to me. This is wonderful news! One of my daughters knows Liz Darger and says she is thoughtful and impressive. We immediately started sharing changes we’d like to see in the YW program, since some of these women are coming on board at a time of great changes in the youth programs. I also found it interesting that the person writing their biographies emphasized their education and careers, not the just number of children or previous church callings they have had.

  20. You make a good point, Kenzo. I’ve carefully read back over the original post and nothing explicitly mentions those factors as being a part of the reason they were called. But it does feel heavily implied. I guess I shouldn’t have been so quick to jump in.
    I come here often but usually stay on the sidelines and don’t comment because my views don’t usually comport with those of the majority here. And I also am not as educated and expert in the art and craft of language as most here are. I’ll slip back to the sidelines and get back to just reading and pondering instead of posting.

  21. “Obviously BYU and the church still have a long ways to go before they can begin to undo the damage of exclusionary doctrines and policies and be safe places for LGBT folks.”

    So are some of the changes you think the Church needs to make in its doctrine is the normalization of homosexual behavior within the boundaries of the Church? Extending this thought, would your desired goal for doctrinal change include provision of Temple blessings for same sex couples? Can’t think of any other doctrines that would otherwise need to be changed to meet your goal of diversity and inclusiveness.

    Or am I misreading your comment and you are asking for LGBT folks to be treated with respect while not endorsing their viewpoint (which I strongly endorse).

  22. it's a series of tubes says:

    BCC – where permas make an occasional commenter an offender for a *portion of a* word.

  23. I go away for a while, and I come back to see that I’m accused of gaslighting. Fred, I don’t know what offended you, but nothing in my comment can be described as gaslighting. Please stop tossing that word around until you learn what it means.

  24. “My views don’t usually comport with those of the majority here.”

    I wonder if you would find more to like if you read others’ opinions charitably, looking for things to agree with, rather than assuming they are your ideological foes who need to be called to repentance for *implied* disagreements. (Which, in this case, I don’t even see implied anywhere. You’re revealing more about yourself than the original post.)

    I realize charitable reading isn’t fashionable on the internet, but I believe it’s possible! :)

  25. Sorry, Fred, and tubes. I thought it was well-known enough that I’m an obnoxious usage pedant that I could make a joke. (Do you really think I _actually_ believe God cares about apostrophes?? Especially in English, which isn’t even His first or favorite language… :) ;) :) )

  26. What do board members do?

  27. Fred,

    the reason you rightly discussed their skin color and activism in relation to their calling is because those were the facts that the title of this post found most amazing and chose to highlight. It was those traits that caught the notice of Cynthia. I wager that if the new board announcement had been made and it didn’t include them, but instead was all-white women who championed “traditional marriage” then we wouldn’t have had any post about the new board at all (go back and see if there are posts every time new board members are named to YW, YM, RS, etc. If posts are made each time then please correct me). But not remembering any such posts in the past about changes to any church boards, I think it is perfectly safe to assume that we have one now based almost solely on these women’s skin tone and activism, rather than their personalities and accomplishments.

  28. Kristine… I laughed at the joke :)

  29. Fred, Jax, and Kristine, thanks for handling possible contention in the comments situation well and with respect. Sometimes, I really lose hope that we will ever see that again in this day and age when people disagree. Fred, I hope you won’t go to the sidelines. We need everyone’s voice in order to grow.

    PS I loved the article. It made me happy, and I can’t wait to see what these women have to offer.

  30. “Women on the general board are assigned to help the Young Women general presidency meet the needs of the global Church as they visit with members in their areas, review and provide recommendations regarding curriculum and other resources for members, work on committees and projects and provide training and support as assigned by the general presidency.”

    That paragraph is in a Newsroom article from a few years ago, when several new members of the Young Women general board were called from different parts of the world:

    https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/new-members-announced-for-young-women-general-board

  31. All these women are living in Utah correct? I wonder if the international/remote board didn’t work out. Which is too bad as I was struck by how similar most of these women appeared in their photos. I’m still thrilled with the new choices, but were there any representatives from South America or other places where the church is growing?

  32. it's a series of tubes says:

    Kristine, wait, God isn’t a native English speaker? COGDIS :)

  33. ReTx, the Newsroom press release linked in the first paragraph sort of obliquely addresses that. It says: “While the 14 new board members reside in Utah, most have lived extensively across the United States and in other countries.” So yeah it sounds like they’re implicitly announcing that a distributed board is no longer a thing. Which, as you note, is an unfortunate loss.

  34. Donna Hatch says:

    I think “damage” is a very strong word regarding the church’s stand on LGBT. We do need to include and love everyone, but we need to be careful not to condone any actions that are contrary to the teachings of God, and the church policies are designed to be in harmony with His commandments.

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