1,100 youth, adults ready 'Lord's garden' for spring blooming

"Working in the Lord's garden" is how 10-year-old Patrick Belnap described his efforts as he helped dig out summer plants on Temple Square.

Patrick was one of about 1,100 youth and adults who worked on the 10-acre Square and other Church properties in downtown Salt Lake City Oct. 9 and 16, preparing for next spring's blooming.The volunteer gardeners from 12 Bountiful, Utah, area stakes converged at Church headquarters in shifts. Nearly 600 young men, their fathers and priesthood leaders "grubbed" flower beds on Oct. 9, which means they pulled out old flowers and turned and raked the soil. Then the next week, on Oct. 16, nearly 500 young women and their mothers planted nearly 130,000 tulip bulbs and other seedlings and plants that will bloom next spring.

The helpers worked in an area that includes about 40 acres total, said Peter Lassig, group manager of LDS Church ground services, who supervises all gardening at Church headquarters. He said the volunteers worked on Temple Square, on grounds surrounding the Family History Library and the Museum of Church History and Art, at the Beehive House, on the grounds of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and on the plaza between the Church Office Building and the Administration Building. They also worked at the Kimball Cemetery, a half block north of the Church Office Building, and the Brigham Young Cemetery, a half block east.

Brother Lassig called the efforts of the youth and adults "a significant gift to the Church."

"We have to plant and dig out tens of thousands of flowers every six months," he explained. "We normally do it with about 15 people, and it normally takes us about six weeks each time. The work these members have done enabled us to do the whole job in about two weeks."

He added that it takes about 900 man-hours to do the job, "and that's about what these people put in."

Despite the hard work, the youth and their parents and leaders reported many heartwarming moments while working. Before picking up their rakes and shovels to go to work, the volunteers watched the Church film "Legacy." The 53-minute film, being shown at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, portrays the sacrifices of the early Saints in establishing Zion.

" `Legacy' was a great, powerful, moving show," said Tom Anderson, 17, of the Bountiful 34th Ward, Bountiful Utah Heights Stake. "Just as the pioneers sacrificed and went through many hard labors, we have sacrifices and work that we need to do.

"It's not the same type of work - thank goodness," he added. "But this is a way for us to experience the same type of fellowship with each other and also do some service."

The youth performed the work despite adverse weather conditions, said Pres. Ron B. Garrison, second counselor in the Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake presidency, who supervised the planning of the project. On the morning the young men cleaned out the flower beds, the weather was cold. On the next week, it had rained for about five hours before the young women arrived. It had also rained the night before, so the flower beds were muddy, explained Pres. Garrison.

"Some of the young ladies took their shoes off because their shoes sunk in the mud," he related. "This was touching moment for me."

Valerie Hatch, 14, of the Orchard 6th Ward, Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake, said that when she got home after planting flowers "my socks were soaked with mud and water. But it was worth it. It was special for me because we got to be right next to the temple. While we were planting, a bride and groom came out to the east doors of the temple. We'd look up and watch them."

Working alongside Valerie was her mother, Maureen, who related: "I was with my older daughter when the Jordan River Temple was dedicated in 1981. She was 8 years old at the time, and she has always remembered that. For Valerie, this experience of working on the grounds of the Salt Lake Temple will be something she will remember all her life."

Pres. Garrison told the Church News this service project was a culmination of months of such projects at Church headquarters. He explained that Elder Blaine Jensen, the regional representative serving the Bountiful, Woods Cross and Val Verda Utah regions, had encouraged all the stakes in the regions to provide Church and community service. In response to his request, and with the approval of stake Pres. Mark S. Francom, Pres. Garrison contacted Brother Lassig to offer the services of the stake. As a result, in May, young men and leaders from the stake dug out the spring flowers on Temple Square in preparation for the planting of summer flowers.

Upon hearing of the service project, other stakes in the regions wanted to become involved. The stakes combined their efforts this fall to replace about 100,000 Christmas light bulbs in preparation for the Christmas lighting season on Temple Square. The traditional lighting ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 26.

Kerry Belnap, Patrick's father, of the Bountiful 34th Ward, said of the service projects: "This just kind of typifies the whole voluntarism of the Church and gives us a chance to serve the Lord and serve our fellow man."

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