1 of 3
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
People walk through downtown Washington, D.C., during the Women's March on Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017.

SALT LAKE CITY — A delayed flight didn't keep Jody England Hansen away from this weekend's Women's March on Washington. She and two of her fellow passengers on her flight from Salt Lake City to Newark drove more than four hours through the night in a rental car to Washington, D.C.

"I was determined to make it," said Hansen, 59. "Activism is part of my Mormon upbringing."

Maria Hudson also overcame unexpected obstacles, driving two and a half hours in a blizzard and bad traffic to reach the march in Park City, Utah, from her home in Provo.

"It wasn't convenient to march, and it wasn't safe at the time because of traffic and weather. But it felt great and validating," said Hudson, a 37-year-old mom to three children who identifies as a devout Mormon.

Shauna Summers, a 50-year-old book editor in New York City, only had to ride the subway for 45 minutes to participate in the Women's March there. Her journey was more of an emotional one — Saturday's event was her first political march.

"It was very affirming spiritually. It was a really great, powerful experience," she said.

Hansen, Hudson and Summers were three of the hundreds of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to participate in the Women's March on Washington and its sister events on Saturday.

The events illustrated that it's OK to wed deep Mormon faith with political engagement, Hansen said. LDS participants embraced the opportunity to bring their individual concerns to the public square.

"At least in Utah, there tends to be an assumption that if you're Mormon and active, you're supposed to wait and be told where to show up," she said. "But to me, being a good Mormon means you take responsibility, educate yourself and step forward anytime you feel inspired."

LDS women marched for many political reasons, and some rejected the events' association with the movement that's pro-abortion rights. But almost all cited their faith as a key source of inspiration.

Shared values

Women's March events brought together people of all ages, faiths and political affiliations, applying a broad focus on unity to a variety of political causes.

"The diversity of opinions expressed was unbelievable. The whole feeling was, 'We're all in this together,'" Hansen said, noting that she was particularly interested in marching on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community.

Hudson, who came to the U.S. from Guatemala with her parents when she was around 2 years old, said she marched for her fellow immigrants and other women of color.

"I feel really alarmed about things that are happening. I'm concerned about women's rights, minority rights and the rights of women of color, in particular. To feel that other people have those same concerns was really great."

Although the Women's March events grew out of frustration with Donald Trump's election and future policy plans, many LDS marchers shared Hudson's sense of joy, noting that the marches were a breath of fresh air in a gloomy political season.

"I've felt a little impotent in the political arena since Trump was elected," said Ali Johannesen-Stine, 44, of Alexandria, Virginia. "But there was a feeling of love and camaraderie (at the D.C. march) that overrode any frustration."

"The march showed that many women around the nation are concerned about our current political climate and that they will hopefully show up in the future for caucuses, volunteering and things like that," said India Johnson, a 24-year-old LDS woman who marched in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Whether they carried signs supporting immigrants, defending Muslims or promoting their Mormon faith, LDS women described the marches as a chance to put their religious beliefs into action.

"The tenets of our faith and the gospel of Jesus Christ include calls to care for and respect others and to embrace diversity. I marched because I wanted to make sure that those who are in a position to make decisions are aware that there are many who wish for and, in fact, demand that these core beliefs aren't threatened," said Heather Belnap Jensen, a 44-year-old associate professor of art history at Brigham Young University.

Potential concerns

The LDS Church has an official position of political neutrality, but, at times, leaders do get involved in policy debates, supporting religious freedom and outreach to refugees, among other causes.

However, individual Mormons sometimes hesitate to take action on their individual political concerns, especially when doing so might associate them with a problematic or seemingly anti-religious crowd, Summers said.

The Women's March on Washington events presented this issue to some potential LDS marchers, she added, noting that national organizers had spoken out in favor of abortion rights.

"I can see where that would have been a problem" for some Mormons, she said.

It was for Hannah Currie, 24, of Salt Lake City, who was uncomfortable with the organizers' statements that were pro-abortion rights.

"My stance on abortion rights is much more complicated than that of the loudest voices marching on Saturday," she said.

Similarly, Erin Rider, a 33-year-old Georgetown University graduate student, said the Women's March on Washington felt one-sided.

"I know many people marched for a variety of reasons, but when the D.C. march organizers uninvited pro-life groups, to me it felt like a clear statement that only certain viewpoints were really being represented," she said.

Instead of marching, Rider chose to be politically engaged by attending Friday's Inauguration Day ceremony.

"Attending a presidential inauguration is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's a chance to witness the peaceful transition of power in a democratic society," she said.

Currie joined the Utah Women's March on Monday, timed to correspond with the opening of the Utah Legislature.

"Monday's march was good for me in that it was directed at my specific representatives," she noted. "I wanted my elected officials to know that I'm part of a growing voice in Utah that says our moral principles don't sustain Trump's agenda. We need to demand more from our leaders."

Hansen landed in Salt Lake City on Monday just in time to drive to the Utah Capitol for the end of the Women's March there. She acknowledged that it was focused on a more narrow set of political issues and celebrated the around 6,000 people who felt called to join in, whether they supported the Women's March on Washington as a whole.

"It was so exciting to see this happen here, even if it was on a smaller scale," Hansen said.

Moving forward

Whether they traveled across the country or took a short drive to join marches, LDS women said they were changed for the better by the events of the past few days.

Johannesen-Stine, a trained lawyer who is now a stay-at-home mom, said the D.C. march pushed her to make new plans for the future.

"I want to be a presence on the Hill, to use my degree in a volunteer or paid position to promote women and children," she said.

128 comments on this story

Hudson, the Guatemalan immigrant, said her Park City adventure inspired her to check out more marches in the future.

"Although I care most about reproductive rights and immigration rights, I should be out there marching for environmental rights and other minority communities," she said.

Currie said she also sees more political engagement in her future, noting she'll draw on the energy of Monday's event throughout Trump's time in office.

"It helped me take a step closer to being involved. It's what everyone needs to do, especially during these next four years," she said.