About 210 youth from the Highland Utah East Stake worked July 22 to help fix up pioneer structures built by some of the thousands of people who settled the West.
The teens spent the Saturday before Pioneer Day applying stain, lacquer and paint, and making and installing adobe bricks to many of the century-old structures at Pioneer Trails State Park, located on the east side of Salt Lake City."We had three goals in mind as the stake youth committee planned this service project," said stake Pres. Stephen M. Studdert. "First was to give service, second was to connect with our pioneer heritage in a personal way, and third was to adopt a Utah centennial project, as the First Presidency asked us to do in its January letter to local units."
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve paid a visit to the youth as they worked on the project. "Elder Ballard's unannounced visit was a highlight," explained Pres. Studdert. "These modern-day Latter-day Saint pioneers were taught by an apostle of the Lord. Elder Ballard shared in a very informal way his testimony of the Savior, and his deep personal honor for the pioneers."
Jay Sitterud, second counselor in the stake presidency, said Elder Ballard walked from work station to work station and even spent one-on-one time with some of the youth.
Pres. Sitterud added that because of the large turnout, most of the work projects were done sooner than expected, and the teens has time to reflect on Elder Ballard's words and on the pioneers' journey.
Dan Jones, stake Young Men president, said the service project not only made the youth feel good but also taught them about the trials endured by early LDS settlers. He said Elder Ballard talked to the youth how Brigham Young knew this was the right place, and had the teens imagine how the Saints must have felt the first time they came into the Salt Lake Valley.
"A number of them came to me and said,
How did they build these?'What did they live in while they did?' `How difficult it must have been the first winter,' " he said. "They not only learned about their heritage, but also about all the difficulties the pioneers had to go through."
Amanda Nelson, 17, of the Highland 2nd Ward said she could not believe the response of the youth. Once they got to the park, the teens had to find a place to put their paint brush, Pres. Sitterud added.
Amanda said the youth enjoyed the project because it was different from other service projects in which they have participated.
"It was like going back in time and doing the repairs needed for that time - like making adobe brick and stripping the bark off of fences," she said.
She said she would not have traded the day for any other activity. "It is a little pay back to make this park better for those people who sacrificed for us," she said. "It was nice to spend some time remembering them."
Pres. Studdert said, "This was a wonderful experience of service and heritage. The young men and young women gave of themselves at the very place where President Brigham Young, upon arriving in Utah, said, `This is the right place.' Standing on that very site, the youth saw a modern version of what Brother Brigham saw. Hearts were touched, their love of Utah was strengthened and their gratitude for pioneers became more personal."