Over the last several months our presidency and board members have had the opportunity to visit numerous Young Women camps. From Greece to California, by the seashore or in a forested mountain or even in a backyard, camp is an opportunity for young women to gather together, separate from worldly influences. Camp is where young women can feel the Spirit of the Lord, grow in unity and love and learn to lead in righteousness. They have fun while strengthening their faith and testimonies of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and help others to do the same. The experiences at a simple and Spirit-filled camp that direct the mind and heart to the Savior in relevant ways will bless young women when they return to their homes, schools and work places.
President Howard W. Hunter taught principles that are a clear guide to Young Women leaders. He said, “Our great task is to ground these [young women] in what can go with them through life, to point them toward Him who loves them and can guide them where none of us will go. Please make sure [their] loyalty… is to the scriptures and the Lord and the doctrines of the restored Church. Point them toward God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and toward the leadership of the true Church. … Give them the gifts that will carry them through when they have to stand alone. When you do this, the entire Church is blessed for generations to come” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter , p. 285).
Camp is an opportunity to give young women the gifts to carry home with them so that when they do stand alone, they remember who they are and the covenants they have made. They remember Jesus Christ and their commitment to keep His commandments so that they may continually have the Spirit of the Lord to be with them. Every camp activity, from the most adventurous to those that dissolve into happy, wholesome laughter, should point to the Savior and the blessing of living according to His word. Consider the gifts young women receive when camp activities demonstrate Christlike attributes, teach gospel principles, and distill upon the mind the need to be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
While visiting a Beehive camp, I met a young woman who felt the Lord’s love for her through the example and the teachings of her leaders. She learned that meaningful service and extending loving kindness in the Savior’s name to friends and strangers made her feel good. As she listened to a devotional talk centered on Jesus Christ and what He has done to help her overcome sin and sorrow, that He has prepared the way for her to come unto Him, she drew a beautiful picture of the Savior. His image represented the love she felt and which was imprinted in her heart.
Another camp provided an opportunity for young women to learn to rappel down the side of a steep cliff. Though frightening to me, I watched as each girl received proper instruction from a certified climber at the top of the cliff. They learned how to communicate with the belayer below. With helmet, harness and rope securely in place, each young woman safely rappelled down until she was standing on solid ground. Together the girls shared their experience overcoming fears, following instructions, and using the equipment properly. As they talked, the girls related what they had learned and felt to the saving power of the word of God if they would just hold fast to it.
A historic Young Women camp held at a summer home in Marathonas, Greece, opened with a devotional by two youth camp leaders. Activities included Olympic- themed events that taught physical, mental and spiritual endurance, a service project, scripture study and kayaking in the sea. On the last evening, the campers gathered around a portable fire pit, and a young woman who had recently been baptized and another who recently decided to be baptized, stood for the first time and bore sweet simple testimonies. For each of them it was a leap of faith to do so, but they were surrounded in love and unity by the young women and their leaders. At the first young women camp in Greece, these young women learned that they do not stand alone when they stand as witnesses of God.
When camp has concluded, let us consider the ways we will help young women carry forward the gifts they have received at camp. Armed with increased faith in Jesus Christ and the companionship of the Holy Ghost, our young women are capable and prepared to lead and strengthen others and bless the Church “for generations to come.”