Pulling weeds in a strawberry field may not sound like a way to gain spiritual insight into the early growth of the Church, but to 250 young single adults at a May 24-27 conference in Ohio, it was a history-revealing and faith-promoting experience.
The service project was part of the Zion's Camp conference program sponsored by the Northeast Ohio Institute of Religion Council, held in Kirtland, and attended by young single adults from several nearby states and the Canadian province of Ontario.Emeritus General Authority Hartman Rector Jr. and former Young Women Gen. Pres. Ardeth Kapp and her husband, Heber, spoke at the three-day event. Young single adults participated in tours of Church historic sites in the Kirtland area and workshops designed to reflect the themes of "A Season of Growth" and "That was then. This is now."
"That was then, this is now reflects how we are tied together to the past," said Sunny McClellan, conference chairwoman and Wade Park
SinglesT Branch member. "We are looking at Church history and looking at ourselves. Kirtland in the 1830s was a period of growth. Our spiritual roots are here. As we look back at Kirtland, we see the child of the adult Church."
In the conference's keynote address on the morning of May 24, Sister Kapp reminded the group of the sacrifices of early pioneers, who ensured their descendants the joys of "a season of growth."
"Many may not walk where Jesus walked and feel His presence here as it relates to the Holy Land, but this weekend in this sacred setting with this remarkable group, as we consider where we walk and who has been here, we can feel His spirit. He was here. That spirit permeates this part of the Lord's vineyard where seeds were planted that allowed us to partake of a rich and abundant harvest that we might be prepared to go home, more ready to serve and to forgive, more filled with love and faith and hope, less prone to complain, to doubt and to fear. Let us be as President Nathan Eldon Tanner said, more disciplined and fearless and loyal volunteers, well equipped with the proper weapons of war and with a determination to win."
After hearing Sister Kapp's talk, the group worked through the day to clear weeds from the strawberry fields at the John Johnson farm. The strawberries are picked and processed for distribution through the Churchwide bishops' storehouses.
That evening, after a picnic supper, Elder Rector spoke to the young adults, gathered on the lawn of the Isaac Morley farm in Kirtland. He counseled the young people to "keep the commandments and keep them precisely."
"It is so vitally important for this generation to look unto the Lord for our strength. You are a chosen generation. I am persuaded you are the best generation the Lord ever sent to the earth. You are called out of the darkness of a very dark world. Look to Lord. He will be your light."
Elder Rector cautioned the group to beware of Lucifer's lies and guard their eternal covenants against the onslaughts of the adversary.
The group met Sunday morning for sacrament meeting in the Kirland Ohio Stake Center, and then went to the 160-year-old Kirtland Temple for a meeting.
In the historic building, constructed by faithful Latter-day Saints, the participants heard about the depth of sacrifice it took to build the House of the Lord in the hostile environment of Kirtland in the 1830s.
Karl Anderson, Cleveland Ohio Institute director, spoke from the temple pulpit about the heritage of faith and service to the Lord, established by those who were the forbearers of the Church's message to the world.
The young adults had the opportunity to bear their testimonies in the Kirtland Temple. Many stood and testified of the Spirit they felt and their deep gratitude for the sacrifice of those who laid the ground work for the gospel.
At the close of the meeting, the group sang "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning," together with the "Hosanna" anthem, which were sung at the time the temple was dedicated.
The conference came to a close on Memorial Day, with all participants gathered at the Kirtland Stake Center for a devotional and flag raising ceremony, where Heber B. Kapp spoke of the blessings and responsibilities of freedom.