Guest Post –The Errand of Angels: A Response to Sister Dalton’s YSA Address

IMG_8940by 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.

IMG_8933Before 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.

IMG_8950We 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.

womens-march-exponent-5-300x225If 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.

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36 Responses

  1. Kalliope says:

    Thank you so much for your eloquent words, Becca. I had a similar, very positive experience marching in Washington DC with my three sisters and my niece. It was inspiring and heartening to see so many women present and holding space together, for each other. It was powerful, and it was beautiful.

  2. April Carlson says:

    I marched in SLC with many Mormons. It was an edifying experience to see mothers of disabled children, sexual assault survivors, and so many good caring people rallying for justice, kindness and respect. I am saddened by Sister Dalton’s need to compare women, judgementally putting some in an unladylike category. I bet all of our pioneer foremothers are rolling in their graves.

  3. Lily says:

    This man-baby defiles women in the worst way and the women that stand against him are criticized. WHAT?!

  4. OregonMum says:

    Thanks for eloquently sharing your thoughts and reasons why you marched. I know so many kind and faithful sisters who matched who have been deeply saddened by Dalton’s words.

  5. Caroline says:

    “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.” Yes, yes, yes!

    I had a similarly moving and enlightening experience at the women’s march in Santa Ana, CA. One of the most moving parts of it for me was seeing so many Muslim ladies in their headscarves there. Some were carrying American flags and crying with happiness, to see so many people come out to support Muslim women and women everywhere.

  6. Vajra2 says:

    I marched with my daughters and our dear friend. One of us is LDS. One of us is Latina. One of us is the victim of sexual assault. One of us is struggling to make ends meet. One of us has taken a job well below skill level to have medical coverage. All of us had to march. The love and beauty that we felt while marching still warms us.

  7. M says:

    To all the Mormon women who marched – thank you!!!! It meant a great deal to me to such a tremendous and loving response from MY people and MY home town.

  8. Mama J says:

    I have to politely disagree with you and agree with Sister Dalton. I am an LDS mother of 4 very young girls and I also was sexually abused as a child so you’d think I’d be on board with this movement but I am not. I have seen digraceful pictures of said female body part posters from Park City that made me cringe. Do I like trump? Absolutely not. I think he’s a jerk. But I also don’t support this type of protesting either. This may cause backlash but I just have to say that not all Mormon moms agree with these protests.

    • Diane says:

      I agree with you. I have lived through sexual assault, rape, shaming, neglect, and much more. I understand what many of these woman have gone through because I’ve been there too. But I agree with Sister Dalton. As daughters of God, we cannot stand for virtue unless we are living virtuously. I do not judge any of these women, and I do not believe she is either. Just because her heart sinks, as does mine, and the crudity of some of these women, does not mean I’m saying they shouldn’t fight for thes these things they feel is right, but I also don’t have to approve or accept their behavior. I will always stand for decency and morality, and in doing so I will remain decent and moral. You can stand for virtue in virtuos ways. There is a fine line in all of our actions in the world today, and we must watch ourselves that we don’t cross over it. I read her words as a pleading to remain an example. I don’t think anyone’s experiences will ever excuse them of their current and future behaviors. Mine included.

    • Leah says:

      Mama J, I am with you and Sister Dalton. I agree that many of these women are marching as from the 2 Kings scripture. However, too many were marching as vaginas, not angels. And spewing atrocious, unangelic like rhetoric. Everything that we do NOT stand for. And I will absolutely NOT be associating myself with those women and what they are representing. I stand with the prophet, and morality and virtue, and my strength will go to a upport all women who need my help, in my home, in my community and in my ward.

  9. Maren Weber says:

    We were taught to STAND for Truth and Righteousness, not just talk about it from the comfort of our congregations, surrounded by those that look like us and agree with our views. Thanks to my family and friends that took a stand and continue to do so. I look forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with you on the next one.

  10. Patty says:

    Great job! I love your characterization of angels!! Yes, I was on the errand of angels at the Women’s March.

  11. Mamie Coffey says:

    THANK YOU for this response to Sis. Dalton’s talk. I was vey disappointed to read her comments, when I- like you- would not miss that protest march. Trump offends every fiber of my being and that is BECAUSE I am a woman of virtue and have felt the call to reach out to the many, MANY people who are hurting and fearful for their safety because of this new administration. I will keep fighting the good fight and will continue to be utterly confused how ANY woman can stand by as Trump debases all that is good and holy on this world- let alone support him. In solidarity, your Sister in Zion, Mamie Coffey

  12. MDearest says:

    I marched with my daughter and a friend, and I met with some other like-minded Relief Society sisters who couldn’t sit at home and let the opportunity pass to symbolically stand in opposition to this political movement that would set human progress back if we allow it. My other daughter and some friends were marching in DC, and we texted photos of ourselves back and forth all day. It was a special event in my life, never to be forgotten.

    As I learned, in recent years, more about the history of women in the church and in our country and in our world, I have felt very lonely in my Relief Society because I thought my point of view was atypical and not welcome and so I muted myself out of respect to those around me and to not be considered a disgrace. That contributed to depression, and when other problems arose, I had no sisterhood to rely on. I learned to accept being alone. I can’t express in words the feeling of holiness I felt that day as we marched, and joy to be with So. Many. Others. Both men and women, but mostly women, led by women; to see the reports come in from all the other cities all over the world, and then to see the final count of marchers made me feel for the first time in a long time, like part of something good that we shared; that we won’t go back to the old way where people’s truths are ignored under the clueless boot of privilege.

    And it’s true that some women were tone-deaf about it, and did and said things in a harsh way. I did not agree with the celebrity who spoke of burning things down, and I requested (ever so politely) that there be no f-bombs on the signs, and in the thick of it I remarked that I still was Relief Society enough to cringe a bit at the depiction of a vagina on a sign (which led to a delightful encounter with our neighboring marchers.) But those less-than-perfect things were superficial and were not the focus of the effort.

    I was disappointed by the backlash against the event. I heard criticisms of the knitted hats worn by so many marchers, which were ALL handmade, and became one of the iconic symbols of the event. I felt like we were standing on ground that had been cleared by the old suffragettes, who endured and persevered through way worse backlash. I think women who criticized us for being unladylike don’t fully appreciate how their current rights to exercise political action were achieved by decades of unladylike behavior by those old protesters.

    Thank you for reporting your experience in the OP. I will never tire of reading everyones’ experiences and what it meant to them.

  13. Sarah says:

    I also have to politely disagree with you . I understand what you feel but I whole heartedly agree with Sister Dalton. She by no means was agreeing with the way President Trump has acted. Her words echoed what my heart has been crying for. We need to “march”for virtue. We, as women, need to stop degrading and objectifying ourselves. We need to stand for the virtue that we are demanding from our President. If we (collectively ) stop dressing immodestly and dressing our daughters immodestly, if we stop paying to listen to music or watch movies that objectify women, if we stop reading books or watching TV shows that degrade who we are then our actions truly will be standing for virtue and not be just words.

    • debo says:

      OK, you can stand for virtue if you’d like, but the rest of us will spend our time trying to solve more pressing problems that affect a wide variety of real women.

      Does dressing modestly help the single mother find safe, affordable child care so that she can work to support her family?

      Does dressing modestly provide affordable healthcare for all?

      Does dressing modestly address implicit bias (sexist, racist, etc.) that’s pervasive in nearly all aspects of society?

      Does dressing modestly counteract power dynamics and double-standards?

      Does dressing modestly prevent men from ignoring women’s ideas in meetings and then congratulating a man for his great idea when he says exactly the same thing?

      Women need to stop policing each others’ behavior and work together for real changes that will help a large number of people, not just the privileged few.

      • Bryan says:

        But dressing immodestly isn’t going to accomplish those things either. Rather, it will likely make those more difficult to accomplish. Why can’t one fight for those important things that you mentioned while still standing for virtue (which is more than just dressing modestly).

    • Lily says:

      Dressing modestly isn’t going to help when someone like tRump is elected to the highest position in the free world.

  14. Scott says:

    It is truly sad that neither major political party fronted a candidate who was anything close to virtuous. They are 2 peas in a pod. I wonder why these protesters weren’t as active during the campaigns?

    • Sophia says:

      Because neither had been elected president yet. Also, consider the purpose of the march and the stance of each of the candidates on those particular issues.

      • Scott says:

        Both major party candidates in this last US election are moral repugnants. It strikes me as a bit hypocritical to be protesting against only the winner, when these exact same protests should have been held during the past year against both of them.

    • Lily says:

      They are peas in a pod? Pray tell, who b@lls did Hilary Clinton grab?

      • Scott says:

        Hillary was/ is Bill’s chief enabler, and he is every bit the predator Trump is. And she led the victim shaming. Sorry, but voting for one while protesting the other is an ultimate hypocrisy.

      • April Carlson says:

        The Not-Gospel-2nd-Article-of-Faith
        We believe that women will be punished for their own sins, and for Adam’s (or their hubby’s) transgressions.

  15. Bryan says:

    I don’t think that Sister Dalton is wrong to be disappointed in how some women chose to sink to Trump’s level during their march. I think the high road will always be more effective. Stooping to shock, profanity, and crudeness is not becoming of anyone, man or woman. Still, I have no problem with good sisters standing with their crude counterparts and getting to know where they come from.

    • Becca Ogden says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Bryan. It’s important to hold ourselves to a high standard when we participate in public protest, so I agree with you there. I’m glad the phrase “When they go low, we go high,” has taken off.

      But I’m not sure your comparison stands between Trump and the marchers, though. Trump has repeatedly used his position of power to physically molest women. The women in the marches may have been bawdy, but they were never predatory or violent. Trump’s actions are on a different level, and I think that’s part of the point.

  16. Ziff says:

    Outstanding response, Becca. Thanks for posting this. Thanks for marching. Thanks for truly taking on the errand of angels!

  17. PaigeMc says:

    Thank you for this response! I was disappointed in Sis Dalton’s comments because I felt they were necessarily divisive. I wasn’t able to march in Park City, but I so wish I could have been there. I totally understand that not all people felt compelled to march and that’s ok. I was hoping, and still hope, that we can get to a place where we can disagree with the causes others choose to support or how they choose to support them without attaching a value judgment to their behavior like “unladylike”. We don’t have to all be and do exactly the same things to be disciples of Christ. And you don’t have to come out and march with me to love and support me as your sister.

  18. MDearest says:

    All y’all who support Sister Dalton calling out unladylike behavior, I respect that up to a point. You are bothered by incivility, and I understand and agree with that principle, and your desire to hold with that principle. I myself asked some sign-makers to please not resort to f-bombs. So, yeah, I get this impulse to be nice. But Dalton was wrong to imply that a woman goes against the gospel of Christ when they are being unladylike, and to judge all protesters with one broad stroke. I have found in my lifetime that following the Lord frequently requires me to get out of my safe, lady-like comfort zone and get anxiously engaged in working for good. And in this case I stood up for myself and for others who have, in the past when we were supposedly so “great,” been ignored as they (we) were trampled under the boot of privilege.

    And I’ll repeat myself: I think women who criticized us for being unladylike don’t fully appreciate how their current rights to exercise political action were achieved by decades of unladylike behavior by those old [suffragette] protesters.

    • MLawson says:

      Hurrah for Israel!! I was just about to type something similar. Sister Dalton egregiously chose to focus on some of the negative signs (I personally am not offended by a vagina since I have one that has courageously birthed three children) and not all the positive ones. Who defines ladylike behavior anyway? History will show that our unladylike behavior was what changed the tide of sexism, abuse, and inequality in this country. It is Sister Dalton’s refusal to “get out of the cab” and really get to know the women she serves, ALL THE WOMEN SHE SERVES, that is the most disheartening.

  19. Risa says:

    One of the most beautiful essays I’ve ever read here. Thank you, Becca. I can’t wait to hear you speak on International Women’s Day.

  20. Andrew R. says:

    I do find the use of “unladylike behaviour” strange. Fact is, if it had been a priesthood leader addressing men it would have been “unbecoming of a priesthood holder”.

    Surely we all participate in activities that have us engaging with people whose standards are not the same as ours. I went to the company Christmas party. There was no mention of Christ, there was a lot of drinking and there were a lot of immodest (by our standards) dress. Should I not go? Of course not. Everyone I work with knows of my membership in the Church, and that it is important to me. Going, and not drinking, being considerate of others, and engaging with them is how we are an example.

    All political parties in the UK are broadly in favour of abortion. Any vote in parliament has always been a free vote (no party whipping). Should I not vote for any party? Same with same sex marriage.

    What we have to do, and from what I have read in this post, and other about the march (still a word I don’t like from a language POV), is that members behaved as members should. So if our involvement in something that is essentially good helps to progress it, and we do it within the “bounds the Lord has set”, I think we can only be standing in the right place.

  21. ForeverSeeking says:

    This article terrifies me. No mention of how wrong it is for a president to say and do disparaging things to women? Or how to object to such things in a positive, Christ-like manner? Just these women marching have no virtue.

    The message these teenaged girls are receiving is not how to be ladylike, but okay for men in authority to objectify women. If women object to this, they are going against their divine nature. This is very dangerous.

  22. Mike H. says:

    “Unbecoming” conduct? Ponder this:

    ” The Prophet Joseph Smith despised sham. Pretense to him was folly. Once he said, “I love that man better who swears a stream as long as my arm, yet deals justice to his neighbors and mercifully deals his substance to the poor, than the smooth-faced hypocrite.” ”

    https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/ivan-j-barrett_joseph-smith-chosen-god-friend-man/

    Those Women marching seemed to be for justice.

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