The temple is the holiest place on earth, and at a time of shocking and bitter tragedy, it may be the most comforting. Thus it was that on Sunday, Nov. 20, Young Men and Young Women leaders of the South Mountain 8th Ward, Draper Utah South Mountain Stake, felt the spiritual prompting to arrange a session at the Draper Utah Temple for the youth under their watch care to be baptized for the dead.
Only hours before, one of their number, 16-year-old Lexie Fenton, had perished in a horrific automobile rollover accident in Draper that also claimed the life of a member of their stake, Ethan Fraga, 16. Both were ejected from the vehicle and died at the scene.
Three other 16-year-old members of the ward — Hayden Gale, Romey Kelly and Lexie's twin sister, Lauren — were treated at a hospital for injuries received in the accident and then released.
In accordance with the plans made Sunday, two dozen of the youth and their leaders assembled at the Draper Utah Temple — not far from the scene of the accident — on Wednesday, Nov. 23, to do the ordinance work. With them were Bishop Travis Fenton — Lexie's and Lauren's father — and their mother, Natalie. Lauren and her brothers Kaden and Mason also attended.
"Our good Young Men and Young Women leaders were inspired to rally the young men and young women in support of our dear Lexie and just thought this would be the right place to be in our time of mourning," Bishop Fenton said.
"In light of the tragedy, we had combined our Young Men and Young Women for a special meeting during the third hour (of Sunday;s meetings)," explained Susy Cotterell, ward Young Women president. "It was while we were there that we felt inspired that we needed to gather our youth to the temple, both for their healing and to feel close to Lexie."
Bishop Fenton said, "The past couple of days have been our worst nightmare, and to be here, I felt peace, I felt love, I felt that everything's going to be OK."
Sitting in the chapel of the temple's baptistry, he and Lauren had read from Alma 40 in the Book of Mormon about the doctrine of the resurrection. "We just talked about how Lexie's in a good place, and all will be well," he said.
He added that he had felt Lexie's presence in the temple "without a doubt."
"I just know that we will see her again, and I know that coming to the temple has given us all a peace and comfort that we've needed," Sister Fenton said. "And we know that she's fine and that she's in a better place and that we will see her again. Families are forever."
Sister Cotterell said she had felt the Spirit in a very strong way. "This has affected a lot of people, and I just can't think of a better place to gather, where we felt the Spirit, and, like the bishop said, felt so much peace and comfort. It was just a very special day. I'll never forget it."
Erin Halverson, a friend in the ward, expressed her assurance that Lexie is happy right now. "As I've prayed about it and read the scriptures, I've had it testified to me that Lexie is always going to be with Lauren and her family."
Dusty McMullin, ward Young Men president, said, "It's hard to see one family you care about go through something, and we've seen four families that we just love and care about who are all directly affected by the same tragedy."
The ward and neighborhood are tight-knit and are filled with young people who have grown up together, Brother McMullin said, "so they're all experiencing one of the most tragic things that can happen in life, together for the first time." They are very close to the family of the young man who died in the crash, he said, as his father is the stake Young Men president.
The experience at the temple was meaningful, he said, for the spiritual perspective it brought. "Last names kind of go out the door here, and you see each other as brothers and sisters."
Kaden Fenton, Lexie's brother, said he could feel his sister's presence in the temple.
Younger brother Mason, a deacon, said it was his first time doing baptisms for the dead.
"I wanted to do it with Lexie, but ." His voice trailed off as emotion overcame him. His mother then embraced him and declared, "I know she was here today. She wouldn't have missed it. Wouldn't have missed it!"
Bishop Fenton expressed gratitude for the indescribable love that has been shown the family by the ward, stake and community. "We're mindful of the Fragas and the Kelleys and the Gales too," he said. "We know they're struggling too. They're in our prayers.'"
One particular expression of love came from Lexie's group of 27 Young Women.
"She was so righteous and always strived to do what's right," Sister Cotterell said. "She was very close to finishing her Personal Progress and receiving her Young Women medallion."
All she had left to complete was her Book of Mormon reading. So the Young Women in the ward divided up the reading assignment to 16 pages each "and we read those for Lexie," Sister Cotterell said. "Then we were able to present her family today with her Young Women medallion. We felt that was something we could give back to her because she has given us so much."
The love extended to the departed kin in the Fenton family. Youth in the ward researched names in the family's lineage, and some of the proxy baptisms done at the temple session were for those names.