For 100 years, Brighton Girls Camp has served as a mountain refuge for young women — a place apart from the noise of the world where they could hear the Lord’s voice.
“If the walls and trails of Brighton Girls Camp could talk, what would they say?” asked Sister Michelle D. Craig, first counselor in the Young Women general presidency, during the camp’s centennial celebration fireside on Sunday evening, Aug. 21.
“Surely they have seen thousands of young women whose testimonies of Jesus Christ have been strengthened, counselors and adult leaders who have had testimony-strengthening experiences, and some perhaps who have felt the Holy Ghost for the first time,” she said.
Nestled at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon southeast of Salt Lake City, Brighton Girls Camp is believed to be one of the oldest youth camps in the Church. Church President Heber J. Grant presided over the official opening of the M.I.A. Girls’ Summer Home at Brighton on Aug. 18, 1922.
A three-day Brighton Girls Camp Centennial Celebration was held Aug. 19-21 to commemorate this event. Hundreds of former Brighton campers and staff members participated. Sister Craig spoke at the closing fireside, held at the Salt Lake Parleys Stake center.
Sister Craig centered her message on seeking the Lord in life’s mountains — intentionally setting aside quiet time to hear His voice amid the myriad voices in the world.
The purpose of each Young Women camp — including Brighton Girls Camp — is to strengthen testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ, Sister Craig said.
She read the following from the Young Women Camp Guide: “Young Women camp — whether it is in a forest, in a park, on a beach, or in a meetinghouse — can become beautiful to the eyes of all who gather there. … Young women need a place where they can gather together, separate from worldly influences, feel the Spirit of the Lord, grow in unity and love, and strengthen their faith and testimonies of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
Sister Craig added: “Located at the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Brighton camp has become a beautiful place to many. Not simply because it is beautiful, but because many there have come to a knowledge of their Redeemer, Jesus Christ.”
President Russell M. Nelson has said this about mountains: “Mountains are not easy to climb. Then, as now, the Lord has called His disciples to climb mountains to emphasize the efficacy of effort and obedience. He will ask the same of you, figuratively and possibly literally, also.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ who have made covenants, Sister Craig said, “we should expect to climb mountains — at least symbolically.”
Sister Craig told a story of her father and brothers who climbed a steep mountain in Switzerland. When her father was intimidated by the vertical ascent, the Swiss mountain guide offered this advice: “Don’t look down. Put your feet exactly where I put my feet and you’ll be OK.” Her father followed the expert’s counsel and made it up the mountain.
“We are all climbing, aren’t we?” Sister Craig said. “It may not be visible, but everybody is climbing a mountain. We want to do good, we want to be good. And sometimes we feel unequal to the task that is before us. We feel like we’re lagging behind. But I know that each of us, we’ve made covenants. We love Jesus Christ. We have a desire to follow Him, to follow in His footsteps.”
When President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the First Presidency, was young and if he would complain that things were hard, his mother would tell him, “If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.”
To choose the Lord’s way is to choose higher ground, Sister Craig said. “Through hard things we can come to know and love Jesus Christ. We can become more like Him. …
“President Nelson has talked about higher and holier ground. That is the ground we need to seek. With the Holy Ghost as our guide, and bound to Jesus Christ through covenants, we can make it. We can climb those mountains.”
The Holy Ghost is the best instructor for climbing life’s mountains, she continued. “As we are seeking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, He can prompt us with things we should do, things we should not do.”
Sister Craig underscored the importance of intentionally setting aside time “to connect with heaven, to seek the will of the Lord.” That is the beauty of Young Women camp — a place apart from the noise of the world, she said.
Even Jesus Christ took time to leave the crowds and noise. Quoting Matthew 14:23, she said, “He went up into a mountain apart to pray; and when the evening was come, he was there alone.”
The Sermon on the Mount was given to those disciples who left the crowd and climbed up to the Savior, she added. “There may be times that likewise as disciples of Jesus Christ we need to separate ourselves from the crowd and ‘climb up’ to seek Him, to feel His Spirit. …
“I know that as we seek this time, set apart from the crowds and from the noise of the world, that the Holy Ghost can teach us how to follow the One who has walked the path before, and who has climbed mountains and will help us as we climb our own.”
Sister Craig invited members of the audience to stand and share words they feel describes the Savior they have come to know and love. Responses included “counselor,” “best friend,” “comforter,” “peace giver” and “healer.”
“This is the Jesus Christ [who] we can follow as we’re climbing our mountains,” she testified. “And we just need to put our feet where He has put His. …
“I want you to know that I know that we are beloved sons and daughters of Heavenly Father. I know that Jesus Christ lives, that He has a Prophet on the earth today.”
The spirit of Brighton
Prior to Sister Craig’s remarks, this summer’s Brighton staff performed the 2022 Brighton theme song “Desire To Rejoice.”
Kate McCubbins, 18, and Courtney Loertscher, 23, were two of the counselors who sang. They spoke to the Church News about what Brighton Girls Camp means to them.
“Brighton to me is a place to get away from the world because you just go up in the mountains and everywhere you look is God’s love and God’s creations,” McCubbins said.
Loertscher added: “It’s a place where you can connect with other girls your age and then also be able to teach and inspire people. These campers, you’ve been there. … You can connect on a spiritual level and it’s amazing.”
Other activities during the Brighton Centennial Celebration included an opening meeting in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square featuring a new video and book on the history of the camp, on Friday, and an open house at Brighton Girls Camp on Saturday.