by Becca Lee Ogden
Because my family lives in Provo, Utah, our ward shares a building with several other wards. One of these wards uses our Sunday School classroom as their Relief Society room. The Relief Society motto hangs over the chalkboard, and the bulletin board is decorated with quotes and pictures of Jesus Christ. At the top of the bulletin board, someone has hung a poster with these words printed in colorful script:
“The errand of angels is given to women.”
The words are surrounded by photographs of women performing acts of service. They’re doing the work so many of us do in the church — lifting those in need. Teaching our children. Spreading relief to our brothers and sisters.
Growing up in the church, I’ve heard many men call their wives angels. The word “angelic” often means kind, meek, and selfless.
These are admirable qualities, but I wonder if they truly describe the errand of angels.
In the scriptures, angels weren’t sent to bring frozen meals to mothers with newborns. They weren’t sent to clean the chapels on Saturday mornings, or to attach cub scout badges to uniforms.
Angels are messengers. They proclaim truth.
Before November 8th, I didn’t consider myself a political activist. I’m a stay-at-home mom. I teach in the Relief Society. I’m a visiting teacher and a volunteer at my son’s school. Like many moms, I have so much on my plate that I could fill several plates with all there is to do.
Then Donald Trump won the presidency, and my heart shifted.
Here was a man who had offended the very concept of virtue, a man who had weaseled out of contracts and stiffed his employees, a man who had cheated on his many wives and praised his own daughter’s sexual appeal, a man who used his position of power to sexually assault women and belittle those who complained against him.
When this man became our president, I felt called to serve in a way I have rarely felt before. I reached out to my circle of women and made plans. We held meetings, we formed committees, we organized ourselves, drawing on decades of experience in Relief Societies and Young Women’s presidencies.
We found ourselves in company with fierce, dedicated women from all over the world. I participated in women-led Facebook groups that blossomed from dozens to thousands almost overnight. The biggest was a group of LDS women called Mormon Women for Ethical Government. Today the group includes women from Relief Societies throughout the world, women from diverse demographics and even opposing political parties.
When it came time to organize a march against the presidency, there was no question as to whether or not I would go.
The day of the march, my three sisters and I got up at 5am to make it to Park City in time. It had been snowing all night, and we knew it would be a slow drive. We piled into our little sedan and picked up a friend on the way, packing her homemade sign on top of ours in the trunk. “Love, not hate, makes America great” it read.
At the mouth of the canyon, we pulled into a little gas station and unpacked a never-used set of snow chains. As I pawed through the snow to place the chains on our tires, I never considered going home. I thought of the women who marched through cities across America in the 1800s, petitioning for the simple right to be heard. I also thought of my pioneer ancestors, plowing through snow drifts in nothing but wagons and handcarts.
As we crept through the canyon at 30mph, I thought of the women who couldn’t march — women with no one to watch their children, women with weekend jobs and double shifts and little-to-no chance to sleep. So although it took us nearly six hours to reach the tail end of the protest, there was never a question of turning back. We were there to fulfill the errand of angels.
We were there to speak truth to power.
Last night as I laid in bed, I read Elaine Dalton’s recent address to young single adult women. She spoke to these young women in a way that resonated deeply with me. She said,
“You are everything, you embody and you exemplify everything I prayed you would be every single day. You are everything we prayed for, and I am so so grateful to you for taking advantage of the things that were there to prepare you.”
This describes so perfectly the energy I’ve felt from my fellow sisters as we organize our resistance. So as I continued to read Sister Dalton’s remarks, my heart — like hers — sank. She spoke of being in New York City during the Women’s March:
“I watched those women marching and yelling, and should I say, behaving anything but ladylike and using language that was very unbefitting of daughters of God,” she said. “As I watched all of that take place, my heart just sunk and I thought to myself, ‘What would happen if all those women were marching and calling to the world for a return to virtue?’”
These words stung. I thought of all the women I met as I marched. Many of them were young single adults. Some were mothers with small children — their daughters and sons clomping behind them in fluffy snow boots and tiny, pink homemade hats. I stood side-by-side with these women, raising our cardboard signs and chanting, “This is what democracy looks like” and, “Love trumps hate” to tourists and celebrities who paused to snap photos as they crossed the street or ducked into crowded coffee shops.
True, this movement has been joined by women who do not typify Mormon meekness. Many women who marched wore t-shirts and carried signs emblazoned with female body parts and loud, abrasive slogans. They are not reverent. They are furious and unladylike.
But these are our sisters. They are our mothers, our grandmothers, our aunts, our daughters. Many of them have survived abuse and sexual assault at the hands of men like Donald Trump. They are hurting, they are mourning. They are angry. They are fierce and strong in their opposition.
They are angels, and they are marching for virtue.
If Sister Dalton is still disturbed by the way these women conduct themselves, I encourage her to — next time — get out of the cab. Talk to these women. Hear their stories. As I rubbed shoulders with mothers and daughters, grandmothers and sisters, I felt their courage and strength. The scripture that came to my heart was from 2 Kings 16. In this moment, Elisha’s tiny army is joined by heavenly chariots of fire.
“Fear not,” he says, “for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
Ours is the errand of angels. We’re defenders of virtue. We’re filled with a great, unquenchable fire. This is our calling, and we will not be ashamed.
Becca Lee Ogden graduated from BYU with an MA in English and an MFA in creative writing. She lives in Provo with her husband, two sons, and one ornery cat named Draco Meowfoy.