This summer thousands of young women across the globe continued a 100-year tradition by leaving the world behind, getting dirty and learning they can do hard things.
Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president, said Young Women camp is important because it lights a fire of faith in the hearts of young women.
"At camp they can disconnect from all the technology, from all the peer pressure, from even the pressure to wear makeup and look good all the time," she said. "And they can connect with their Heavenly Father and with their true identity."
It's a tradition that started long before cell phones or iPods.
In the summer of 1912, 82 young women from the Liberty Stake in Salt Lake City participated in a week-long rough-out camp — the Church's first. They slept in a cabin and learned about flowers, insects, birds and plants. With the help of 15 leaders, they cooked and ate outdoors and built a swimming hole.
This summer Latter-day Saint young women did many of the same things.
Laurie McIntosh, Klein Texas Stake Young Women president, said it is hard to pin down the specifics of her stake's camp. "You get me talking about girls' camp and I may not stop," she said.
She called her camp experience peaceful, despite stormy weather. It was an opportunity for the young women in her stake to learn about themselves. "They learn to be good leaders," she said. "They see they are not alone, and they make lifetime friendships."
Jenn Halvas, camp director in the Lone Tree Ward, Castle Rock Colorado Stake, also left camp reminiscing about the sisterhood and love she had witnessed. "Being there with no distractions, being in nature, being with other girls that believe the same" is something she knows the young women will cherish.
It's the connection between young women and their leaders that makes camp special, said Julie Huntsman, Young Women president in the Shelley 10th Ward, Shelley Idaho Stake.
"You are in the trenches," she said. "You get that sisterhood connection. It is not leader-to-young woman connection but it is sister-to-sister."
Emily Gold, Nashua New Hampshire Stake Young Women president, said camp is an opportunity for the young women to experience things they normally would not. "You take them out of their comfort zone and put them in a different environment," she said. "They do things more difficult than they normally would do, and they find they can do it."
For her the highlight of camp came the last morning during a testimony meeting by a lake. She realized the young women in her stake "understood who they are and [at camp] got a little glimpse of heaven."
Sister Dalton said camp is different for young women across the globe. But, she added, "wherever camp is held, one thing is sure: young women love to go to camp."