Personal Progress Helps Build Bridge to the Temple

  By Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president

  • 19 February 2013

A young woman in traditional Guatemalan dress stands outside the Quetzaltenango Guatemala Temple. Sister Elaine S. Dalton challenges teens across the globe to “build bridges” of safety that lead to the temple.  Photo by Jason Swensen.

Article Highlights

  • The Young Women program helps girls to build bridges of faith leading to the temple, both for themselves and for future generations.
  • Personal Progress inspires young women to incorporate the principles of faith, divine nature, and virtue into their lives.
  • While Personal Progress is individual, it also builds bridges by encouraging youth to support and serve one another.

“The bridges each of you build will help span the tide of worldly influences—for when you save a girl, you save generations.” —Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president

When I was a little girl, my grandfather lived next door to our home. He ate his meals with us and his presence in my life tutored me. He read me a bedtime story every night in a big overstuffed wingback chair. He also taught me many poems which have stayed in my memory to this day. Some of them have guided my thinking as I have served in Young Women. He was a second witness, of sorts, to everything my parents taught me.

As I was leaving President Thomas S. Monson’s office on the day he called me to be the Young Women general president, he pointed out a small sculpture sitting on a table by the door. It was of a bridge which spanned a tumultuous river. As he showed me the sculpture, he mentioned one of the poems my grandfather had taught me, “The Bridge Builder,” by Will Allen Dromgoole. In fact, he recited it to me, and I mouthed the words along with him.

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day;
You never again must pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide —
Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head:
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”

(Quoted in Thomas S. Monson, “The Bridge Builder,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 67.)

In my service as the Young Women general president, I have kept that poem in mind for over four and a half years. Everything we do in Young Women must build a bridge that leads to the Lord and His holy house. We can be the ones who build bridges to span the rising tide of moral pollution as we help every young woman prepare to make and keep sacred covenants and be worthy to receive the ordinances of the temple. In the turbulent moral climate of today’s world, our precious young women will need help from parents, leaders, bishops, peers, and other exemplary women who can mentor them and help them stay on the path that leads back to our Father in Heaven. So, how can we assist in building these bridges of safety?

The Young Women theme summarizes the direction and preparation for each young woman. It gives vision and answers the questions “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What am I to do?” and “Where am I going?” It ties together doctrines, standards, and core values which are so essential to strong individuals and strong families. These core values include faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity, and virtue. These values have everything to do with living the standards in For the Strength of Youth. They are not separate. They are integrated with the curriculum the young women are now studying and with the core principles on which Personal Progress is based. These principles include faith in Jesus Christ, identity, worthiness, the companionship of the Holy Ghost, preparation, and covenants.

Young Women general president Elaine S. Dalton shares her thoughts on the importance of Personal Progress in encouraging young women to become strong individuals.

As mothers work side by side with their daughters in helping them become all that Heavenly Father intended them to become, Personal Progress is a wonderful blessing and tool. Doing Personal Progress together can not only increase faith and testimony of the Savior but also strengthen the eternal relationship between a mother and daughter.

The values, experiences, and projects in Personal Progress are fundamental in strengthening individuals, families, and societies. They are Christlike attributes. Personal Progress is not an activity program but rather a tool that encourages private religious habits and individual progression. It also fosters righteous relationships in families and with peers. Personal Progress helps a young woman develop holy habits, make a commitment, carry it out, and report her success to a parent, leader, or mentor. It makes it possible to establish a relationship of trust with her mother and others. Together they learn what it means to have faith, to understand our divine nature, and to remain virtuous. Personal Progress helps a young woman act on the knowledge of the doctrine she learns while participating in the new youth learning experiences in her Young Women class, as she studies and marks the foundational scriptures recommended in the required value experiences. As a young woman acts and applies the doctrine she learns in her life, the Holy Ghost helps her know of its truth.

Personal Progress also helps a young woman come to understand her identity and purpose. It helps her understand her place in the plan of salvation and helps her to understand the covenants she has already made at baptism and the covenants she is preparing to make when she is ready to go to the temple to receive her own endowment. It is practice in making and keeping commitments and thus preparatory for her making and keeping sacred covenants.

In addition, doing Personal Progress—although it is personal and individualized—can involve peers and others, including the young men. As a young woman plans and organizes projects in conjunction with the eight values, it gives her the opportunity to serve, to learn leadership skills, and to associate with others in the community and in her school. It helps her act on the values and incorporate them into her life. And when a young woman finishes all the value experiences and projects, she can earn an Honor Bee by reading the Book of Mormon again and mentoring other young women in their Personal Progress. Thus, she becomes a “bridge builder.”

Young Women who complete the Personal Progress program are eligible to receive the Young Womanhood Recognition medallion.

Bridge building takes effort. It takes pure love. It takes time. But in the end it is always worth it. The vision for every young woman is clearly stated in the Young Women theme that is recited around the globe. It is to help her know her identity as a daughter of God. It is to help her prepare to stand as a witness as she accepts and acts on the values so important to building strong and worthy individuals and families. It is to strengthen home and family and to be prepared to make and keep covenants in the temple. It is the covenants that will keep her tethered on the path, and it is the temple that will exalt her.

Every day, bridges are being made as parents and leaders pray and then obey promptings to call or visit or reach out to a young woman. The bridges each of you build will help span the tide of worldly influences—for when you save a girl, you save generations. I think that was what President Monson wanted me to know—and to do.