Sister Marriott: Girls Camp Strengthens Faith, Friendships
Contributed By Sister Neill F. Marriott, second counselor in the Young Women general presidency
This summer, thousands of LDS youth head off to camp or to trek, leaving cell phones, computers, and all digital connections behind them. They are discovering that to disconnect with the world and to reconnect with nature draws us closer to the Creator Himself.
Young Women camp, usually three or four days long each year, plays a powerful part in allowing young women to feel the beauty of the Lord’s creations and His gospel truths. Testimonies are shared around campfires, during handcart pulls, and on hiking trails.
A Laurel from Colorado, Melaine S., says, “I feel an abundant peace when I’m at girls camp, maybe because I’m away from the distractions of my normal daily life and my cell phone! I start feeling the truth that the Lord created this beautiful world for us. It’s easier to feel close to Him and get spiritual impressions when I’m surrounded by His pure creations. I remember looking at trees more carefully, for example, and actually relating them to myself, thinking about the Lord and Heavenly Father’s plan for how we grow. It helped me write my feelings in my journal and be more grateful for Him.”
Such feelings of oneness with the Savior can come when the girls leave behind the worldly voices that constantly call, enter the quiet of nature, and allow the Holy Ghost to whisper to their hearts. The same can be true for all ages, if we will make the effort to find some quiet place to let our thoughts focus on Jesus Christ and His message to us. Camp can offer the youth a quiet spot, a new location, a different perspective, and a deeper understanding of others’ feelings as the Spirit opens their hearts.
Young Women camps look different all over the world. In Peru, the girls may pitch their tents in an open field. With activities and devotionals, they grow in friendship and faith and return to their homes strengthened by the unity they felt.
In Anchorage, Alaska, in June of this year, 900 young women gathered from all across the state to an “encampment” on the state fair grounds. Leaders a thousand miles apart “met” throughout the year by conference calls, and 21 statewide committees created perhaps the largest girls camp on record. With the theme “Become One,” leaders and young women planned dozens of stations for all 900 campers to learn and live spiritual truths—as well as complete service projects, outdoor cooking challenges, and crafts. During the year, the young women of Alaska prepared spiritually for their camp by completing their reading of the Book of Mormon and memorizing “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles.” Strength, unity, and faith flowed through a huge exhibition hall as they stood and recited this inspired document from memory.
A camp in Utah was interrupted by a surprising heavy snowfall during the night. Tents sagged and collapsed, temperatures dropped below freezing, and leaders had to take the young women back to the city to their homes. Though not surrounded by the beauties of nature, the girls and leaders gathered the next morning and continued their “camp” in the stake center. After a hike in a canyon, they were driven to nearby cabins for a night, then finally back to their original camp. The girls called their camp experience a “traveling circus camp,” and yet they testified of the experience as being the best camp ever. They spoke of coming to understand how much they needed to rely on one another and on counsel from leaders. They learned that by working together, they could overcome great adversity. These young women shared the workload, stayed flexible, laughed, and came to know that the Holy Ghost can teach and uplift even when changes come to the best of plans.
In the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” we sing of the wonders of God’s creations and end with the declaration “My God, how great thou art!” Camp for the young women of the Church can be created in almost any place and in all degrees of simplicity or complexity; what is most important is the spiritual nature of the gathering.
While being in a pristine, quiet spot, removed from the world may sound ideal, the Lord can and will walk beside young women in every possible camp situation. Young women around the world feel that blessing even when “forest glades” are not available.