Temple Focus Strengthens Local Ward’s Youth
By Heather Whittle Wrigley, Church News and Events
At the beginning of 2011, leaders and youth of the Kearns Utah 34th Ward were in a bishop’s youth committee meeting, looking for activities that could spiritually affect the ward’s youth that year and throughout their lives.
Seventeen-year-old Zack Ohlwiler raised his hand and proposed regular temple visits.
“I knew the temple was the house of God,” he said. “I’d been going a lot and I’d had strong experiences as I began going more. I just decided it would be cool if we could do that.”
Over the course of 12 months, youth and leaders set aside all or a part of 14 days to do temple work, and along the way they learned priceless lessons about the importance of temples and family history.
An Inspired Idea
Because of the commitment it would require, the bishopric considered carefully. After committing the youth to work on their own family histories, they gave their approval.
“It just felt like it was the right thing,” Bishop Tony Tippetts said. “I thought, ‘Even if we have just two young men or young women go, it will set an example for the rest of their lives.’”
According to Lewis Nielson, second counselor in the bishopric, the goal was to get the youth interested in going to the temple in hopes that it would impress upon them the importance of temple work.
Young Men president Sean Faussett emphasized that although such an activity may not be for every ward, several factors made it appropriate for their ward.
It began roughly. Trips weren’t being scheduled; the youth weren’t making themselves available to go on the trips. But as leaders made the effort to involve the youth and as the youth chose to sacrifice their time—sometimes missing sporting events or dances—they began to appreciate the temple more.
Melanie Guevara, 15, is a member of her school’s marching band. She gave up attending some important games to attend 11 of the temple trips.
“We did have to sacrifice to be able to go to the temple,” she said. “It’s really hard to take the time out of your day even when the temple is right there, but I feel like we need to sacrifice more time to go more regularly.”
On average, 15 or so young men and women participated in each temple visit.
“By the end of the year, [we] could feel a change in our youth—little things where I felt the depth of their understanding and friendships changed,” Bishop Tippetts said.
Thirteen-year-old Chloe Tippetts attended nearly all the temple trips. “When I went to the temple, I always wanted to be better, do Personal Progress more or do scripture reading more, be kinder to people,” she said.
Prior to entering the temple, leaders would teach the youth different details about the temple’s history and the sacrifices people made for it. On one visit, leaders had the youth look at cards with the names of those for whom they were doing temple work.
“We had them look at it and see how long these people had been waiting,” Brother Faussett said. “It made it more personal, not just a name. It impressed upon the youth that we were doing something for them. That, I think, is when it really sunk in.”
In some cases, individuals who didn’t have temple recommends were able to sit outside the temples, tour the grounds, and discuss what happens inside temples.
Brother Faussett said that at the end of the yearlong experience, the testimony and personal commitment of those who attended grew.
“To see the sacrifices these youth made was amazing—they knew what we were there for and didn’t want to distract,” he said. “It will impact the youth and their testimonies of the temple. They appreciate it more and understand the temple is for them just as much as for adults who are endowed.”
When 2011 came to a close, the youth of the Kearns Utah 34th Ward had made 13 visits to do temple work, completing close to 1,000 temple ordinances—about one-fourth of which they did using names they had found themselves through family history work.
Zack found he was related to Church President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) through his father’s line. On his mother’s side he is related to William Draper, the founder of a nearby city.
Melanie discovered a great-grandmother and several great-aunts and great-uncles from Mexico through her father’s line.
Perhaps most importantly, the faith of each who participated was strengthened.
“Being able to go to the temple once a month and have that feeling of relief was overwhelming,” Melanie said. “To have that warmth and security and to feel our Heavenly Father’s arms around us is such a blessing—it’s just calmness.”
Melanie said she now tries harder to read her scriptures every night, and she feel inspired to go to the temple on her own and find more family names.
“The temple brings me such a peace in my life,” Zack testified. “It’s something that can’t be compared to anything else and that you have to experience for yourself. Because of your sacrifice, God will bless your life. There’s no way I possibly could or ever would deny it.”
According to Bishop Tippetts, 2012 isn’t the end of the ward’s efforts to strengthen the youth. They have already come up with a new goal for this year—to focus on serving locally. So far they have projects lined up to serve food to the homeless, visit elderly people in a care center, and serve at a nearby children’s hospital.