Summer signals the time for Young Women camp. For many young women, they look forward to this time all year. And, if you ask a young woman what she likes best about camp, inevitably she will reply, "All of it!" But specifically, she will reply that she loves the testimony meeting.
Young Women camp is an opportunity for leaders to plant the gospel deep into hearts. It provides an opportunity to develop trusting relationships, provide spiritual experiences, teach skills, develop leadership and have fun. Camp takes a young woman out of the noise of the world. It takes her away from a very technologically connected world into nature where she can connect with her peers, her leaders and herself. Most important, camp allows each young woman to be still and connect with the Spirit and her Father in Heaven. It is a time to "be still and know" (Doctrine and Covenants 101:16).
Camp is a time when everything a young woman has been taught in her home and on Sunday can come into focus. It is a time when a young woman might offer her first kneeling prayer, or receive an answer to a problem that has worried her as she attends a morning devotional.
It is a time when a young woman may realize that she can do hard things as she completes her first five-mile hike or certifies on the confidence course. And, it is a time when each young woman can feel the joy that serving others brings into her life.
Young women camp is not optional. It is an essential part of a well-rounded program for young women ages 12 to 18. Camp is a catalyst for growth spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally.
When we think of mountaintop experiences, we think of Nephi who said, "I … did go into the mount oft, and I did pray oft unto the Lord; wherefore the Lord showed unto me great things" (1 Nephi 18:3).
We also think of Enos, the Brother of Jared, Joseph Smith, and many others including Moses who went to the top of a mountain or into a forest and there came to know their identity and purpose.
The scriptures teach us that when Moses came down from the mount, he was changed because of the spiritual experience he had there. His face shone. He knew he was a son of God. He knew God knew him by name. He had a basis on which to judge the counterfeit voices of the world. When confronted by Satan, Moses replied, "I will not cease to call upon God ... for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee" (Moses 1:18).
Eliza R. Snow once said, "You may talk to the [Saints] about the follies of the world … til dooms day, and it will make no impression. But … place them in a position where they will get the Holy Ghost, and that will be a sure protection from outside influences" (Woman's Exponent, 15 Sept. 1873, p. 63).
So what can each Young Women leader do to ensure that happens at camp?
First, make sure every young woman feels loved and included.
Second, make sure every young woman has the opportunity to feel and recognize the Spirit.
Third, testify often in formal and informal ways.
Fourth, have fun, the kind of fun that promotes friendships and lasting relationships.
Fifth, remember this is not about a camping program; it is about a precious young woman. It is not about camp, but conversion. It is not about certification, but what I like to call "certain-ification."
It is about gaining a testimony of the Savior and of our Heavenly Father. And, it is about each young woman coming to know, individually, that she truly is a daughter of our Heavenly Father and that He loves her.
Simply put, camp provides each young woman with an opportunity to practice patterns of gospel living away from worldly influences and the challenges they may face during their daily lives. Everything we do at camp can help a young woman draw closer to the Savior, recognize and rely on the Spirit, prepare her for her divine roles and understand her identity.
Personally, I will never forget such a moment. As we reached the peak of a high mountain in the Grand Tetons, one of the leaders in our group recited the following poem:
"I looked upon a mountain high
in grandeur rising to the sky.
And then I contemplated me,
how very small I seemed to be.
Yet, in this fragile frame of mine
God chose to house a soul divine.
Not in that glorious, sun-crowned peak,
but in this body, frail and weak.
God chose to give to you and me
the promise of eternity.
A child of His can such be small?
A soul is surely Heaven-tall.
No, the mountain stands that I might see
how greater is the soul of me" (Helen Lowrie Marshall, "The Gift of Wonder").
When young women return home from participating in camp, they will have an improved understanding of their identity and of their relationship with their Heavenly Father — an understanding similar to Moses after his experience on the mountaintop.
And as you, their leaders, return from camp with sunburned noses, muddy shoes and smelling like a camp fire, I hope each of you will feel appreciated and loved for what you are doing to bless and strengthen our Heavenly Father's daughters. And I hope that, like Moses, your faces will shine.