News Story

Mormon Women Leaders Discuss Need for Stronger Families

Latter-day Saints respond to Oklahoma foster care initiative


Several top women leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traveled to Oklahoma to discuss the importance of strengthening families.

Sister Jean B. Bingham, general president of the Relief Society; Sister Neill F. Marriott, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency; and Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, first counselor in the Primary general presidency, attended a community leaders breakfast in Oklahoma City, Friday, August 4, 2017. The event was organized to bring government, business and religious leaders together as the state addresses a growing need for foster care.

“It was heartwarming to see the community support for children in foster care. We can all do something to show our love for God and His children by serving others, which begins in our own homes and communities,"said Sister Bingham.

“It was a gathering of 'one heart and one mind' as members of various churches met at the breakfast to share ideas for strengthening homes and providing hope for foster children,” said Sister Marriott. “The clearly stated faith of Baptist, Jewish, Mormon and Protestants created common ground for all to discuss their support for good foster homes in Oklahoma City.”

Sister Marriott and her husband, David, are the parents of 11 children. They also had a foster teenage daughter. Sister Bingham and her husband also were foster parents to teens and children, many of whom they consider part of their family.

U.S. Congressman Steve Russell said at the breakfast, "If you want to strengthen families, stay married."

On Friday, Sister Bingham, Sister Marriott and Sister Cordon toured Sunbeam Family Services, Oklahoma City’s oldest nonprofit organization. They delivered a donation of more than $22,000 in car seats, blankets and other items needed for foster care children.

Sunbeam has posted its volunteer needs on JustServe in Oklahoma City over the past year. In July, the donated items were collected by two Mormon stakes, or congregations, as part of a JustServe project. Several other Mormon congregations in Oklahoma have initiated drives to support local foster agencies in their communities. JustServe is a website sponsored by the Church to connect community volunteer needs with volunteers.

Erin Engelke, chief external relations officer of Sunbeam Family Services, said the Latter-day Saint donation was the largest in-kind donation the organization has ever received.

"Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can help," said Midge Woodward, Sunbeam’s director of Foster Care.

In 2015, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and the Department of Human Services launched an initiative called Oklahoma Fosters to recruit new foster and adoptive families to serve a growing population of children in state custody. The state has one of the highest numbers of children in foster care in the country.

Those who participated in the community breakfast included Rev. Major Lewis Jemison, senior pastor of St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church and Rabbi Abby Jacobson of the Rabbi Emmanuel Synagogue and president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma. Reverend Jemison and Rabbi Jacobson both offered prayers.

Melissa Houston, Oklahoma Labor Commissioner and a survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing, took the women auxiliary leaders on a tour of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum during their visit. She was a young attorney working in the Murrah Federal Building the day of the April 1995 bombing and was the only person in her office to escape without injury. Houston has also played a key role in anti-terrorism legislation.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.