Weathering life

A youth leader walked across her ward’s Young Women campsite, located high in the mountains. The rain and wind had made most of the activities planned for camp that day impossible. Everything was muddy.

She thought of “Campalot,” the camp’s theme drawn from Camelot. During the weeklong activity, the young women — like King Arthur’s legendary court who lived in the famous castle Camelot — were to participate in activities intended to remind them of their royal birthright and heritage. The goal was for each young woman to return home with a greater sense of her worth.

But no one had planned for cold and rain.

Now the leader gathered up wet crowns, made earlier by the youth, and threw them away.

Like the crowns, the leader’s spirits were damp. She had spent the last hour replacing tent stakes and dealing with wet sleeping bags.

She sat in her tent and listened to the storm; hail pounded the tent walls. She knew the young women in her ward were safe and warm and dry, but feared they were missing some of camp’s most valuable lessons.

Then everything went quiet. As she sat listening to the silence, the leader realized it was snowing.

At first she feared the storms had ruined camp. But then she came to a different conclusion.

Life — like this Young Women camp — has storms, she thought. Perhaps the greatest lesson of camp is that even though the gospel doesn’t insulate us from storms, it can help us weather turbulence.

President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, said a person only needs to glance at a newspaper or at the television to realize that we live in stormy times.

“Life will have its storms,” he said. But “we can and must have confidence. … A foundation built on truth and illuminated by the light of God will free us from the fear that we might be overcome” (BYU devotional, Aug. 15, 2000).

A good example of weathering physical storms — and learning lessons from them — was that of the Willie and Martin handcart companies, whose members started their journey to the Salt Lake Valley late in 1856 and were caught by heavy snow and severe temperatures in central Wyoming. Despite a heroic rescue effort, more than 210 of the 980 pioneers in these two companies died along the way.

Francis Webster was 25 years old when he traveled to Utah as a member of the Martin Handcart Company. Years later, during a Sunday School class in Cedar City, Utah, he would rebuke other Latter-day Saints for criticizing the Church and its leaders for permitting the handcart companies to cross the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan could carry.

“I ask you to stop this criticism,” he said. “You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. … We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities! …

“Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No! Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company” (“Our Mission of Saving,” President Hinckley, general conference, Oct. 1991).

This principle was taught in biblical times by the Savior Himself:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

President Hinckley said in a Sept. 25, 1973, BYU devotional that there is something of a tendency among many of us to think that everything must be lovely and rosy and beautiful without realizing that even adversity has some sweet uses.

That’s the take-home message for the youth leader at Young Women camp, who today has “sweet” memories of the experience.

The most vivid memory came as part of the testimony meeting held just before the ward packed up a day early and left for home.

During the meeting, a new member of the Beehive class talked about being afraid during one of the storms that hit the camp. She talked about gathering with the other Beehives in the tent and praying for safety and peace. After the prayer, she said, she knew they would be just fine.

The leader realized that all had not been lost. The young women in her ward had learned of their royal birthright and heritage.

It was a subtle lesson that could not have occurred while making paper crowns in a large gathering.

Instead, it had been communicated in a quiet tent during a storm.