Sixty young men and young women from the Bennion Heights (Utah) 2nd Ward converged on a stake welfare ranch in western Utah, transforming the tranquil spread into a hub of activity Aug. 3-5.
As part of a "super service activity," they replaced a stretch of old fence posts with new ones, painted corral fences and a barn, pulled weeds, and cleared a new pasture for cattle to graze. They performed other typical ranch-hand duties, such as cleaning a barn and removing debris from a small pond.Bishop Alan Miller said he and other leaders in the ward have been interested in getting the young people involved in various kinds of service activities. "They already knew how to have fun; we wanted them to learn how to serve and have fun at the same time," said the bishop. He and about 25 other adults went along on the service project.
As leaders began planning the activity several months ago, they contacted Ray Hansen, manager of the Tooele Utah Stake Welfare Ranch at Vernon, about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Hansen and full-time ranch hands supervised the service projects, often working alongside the youths.
Ward Young Women Pres. Marilyn Porter said the three-day activity at the ranch provided the youths an opportunity to "work hard and play hard. The days were divided into work periods of about three hours each morning and each afternoon. They kept busy."
The young people did not need to wait for organized activities to have fun. Spontaneous water fights broke out among those clearing the pond. A corral fence-painting project looked like a scene from Tom Sawyer as more than a dozen young people lined up with paint brushes and buckets to race through the job.
Planned recreational activities included a square dance at which a local couple, Marvin and Ruth Yates, taught participants how to "promenade, do-si-do, and allemande to the left." A "regular" dance was held after the square dance. The young people also went on hay rides, rode horses and generally enjoyed being in the country.
Young Men Pres. Herb Robertson said the project at the ranch provided the young people a setting for "service that is not superficial."
"The work they did here has been something that was really needed," he observed. "We figure that what these young people have done would be equivalent to one man working eight hours a day, five days a week for four-and-a-half months."
The super service activity was a hit with the young people. "I would rather come here again than go on an activity to the lake," said Melinda Porter, one of the young women.
Young men, young women experience the blessings of helping and serving others
Service should be a key ingredient in every local Young Men and Young Women program throughout the Church, according to Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone, Young Men general president, and Sister Ardeth G. Kapp, Young Women general president.
The two spoke with the Church News Aug. 14 about the need for young people to experience the blessings of helping others - through organized activities and in everyday life.
"I know of no better healing process, no matter what the malady, than to serve," emphasized Elder Featherstone. "The objective of the Aaronic Priestood could be summed up in the words of King Benjamin:
"And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17.)
"We would hope that every leader would have a balance in activities, with the main focus on service. Our young people are converted to the gospel when they serve their fellow men."
Sister Kapp added, "Service contributes to feelings of worth. Service can be fun. Our youths want to have fun - and they should - but fun is an attitude, and not an event. When you are happy, feel good about yourself and enjoy what you are doing, it is fun.
"When young people are involved in service, the welfare of the one served and the one who serves can be affected in a most significant way. Over the years as I have asked many young women what activity stands out as being most enjoyable, almost without exception they refer to some activity that involved service.
"It is through service that our young women feel their divine nature and their individual worth. Young Women leaders are helping young women experience joy as they draw nearer to the Savior through their service to others."