'Errand of angels' is the duty that God entrusts to women

Borrowing a phrase from Emily Woodmansee's hymn "As Sisters In Zion" (Hymns, 1985, No. 309), Elder Alexander B. Morrison spoke of "the errand of angels" that God entrusts to women.

Elder Morrison of the Seventy was the keynote speaker at a fireside on the first evening of the Women's Conference at BYU, April 29-30.Quoting a United Nations publication, Elder Morrison noted: "It has been said that females are one-half of the world's population, perform two-thirds of the world's work, receive one-tenth of its income, and own less than one-hundredth of its property.' There can be little doubt that for the vast majority of women, theerrand of angels' is a very difficult task indeed, played out in poverty and adversity, in sorrow and deprivation."

Using a series of case studies and overhead-projector illustrations, Elder Morrison told of the squalid conditions of women in several Third World countries.

Despite disadvantages, women farmers in Kenya, for example, have been found to be more efficient than men and produce bigger harvests, he said.

"Third World women not only work very hard, they also face difficult problems focusing around health and education," he noted. "In most developing countries, women occupy the bottom rung of society. They eat least and last, always serving the men and children first, often having little or nothing left for themselves."

Referring to high rates of illiteracy and lack of education in developing countries, Elder Morrison said: "It is no small thing that the Relief Society has done to champion the cause of literacy in women everywhere. Indeed, I am convinced that an emphasis on teaching women to read and write is part of that `errand of angels' of which we have spoken. Substantial evidence indicates that the health and well-being of Third World families is more closely related to the educational status of the mothers that it is to the economic status of the family. Furthermore, how can a woman learn the gospel if she cannot read the sacred scriptures?"

Elder Morrison told of Florence Nightingale's dedication to the cause of nursing as she forsook the mindless pursuit of pleasure she could have followed as a child of well-to-do parents.

"The Lord does not expect His daughters all to become clones of Florence Nightingale, leaving family and friends to care for the afflicted of the world," he said. "Modern sisters in Zion,' however, have a Christian obligation to do as the Lord instructed the First Presidency: tosuccor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees' (D&C 81:5). This work begins at home and then extends out, as circumstances permit and warrant, to impoverished souls in local communities and elsewhere."

He mentioned the payment of a generous fast offering or donations through the Church for humanitarian purposes as effective ways to help others.

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