Young in the Bluegrass

Lexington, Kentucky, is the heart of bluegrass country. Set in rolling hills crisscrossed with the white fences of horse farms, it is the home of equine aristocracy. It is a land of deep skies, horse barns as elegant as manor houses, and Kentucky bluegrass—whose blossoms seem to mist the green hillsides in blue smoke.

Secretariat lives there, as do a host of other topflight Thoroughbred racers with blood as blue as the grass they graze in. It’s Daniel Boone country, “My Old Kentucky Home” country, Kentucky Colonel country, a land you can be homesick for without ever having been there.

For the young latter-day Saints who live there it’s a cornucopia of things to do and see and be—hiking and camping in the Daniel Boone National Forest; swimming, fishing, and canoeing on lakes and rivers (canoes reportedly have a way of mysteriously capsizing on almost every trip); hay riding; roller skating; and riding horses through the lush meadows where, of all the meadows on earth, horses were meant to be ridden.

It’s also getting up at 5:00 in the morning to attend seminary. That’s pretty early, but there are fringe benefits. “We acted out a lot of incidents from Church history,” said one young lady with a sigh. “Guess who got to be the horses, and the oxen, and the wall Heber J. Grant threw the baseball at?”

Mormons are a very small minority group in the local schools. “It helps you to watch what you’re doing,” reported one young man, “because you know they’re going to judge the Church by you.”

The bluegrass country also provides a rich field for missionary work. The recent baptism of one young friend can be traced directly to an invitation to go along on a camping trip.

There are no cliques, no in-groups and out-groups. Just being a Latter-day Saint is a free pass to the friendship of every other Latter-day Saint, a friendship based not on looks or athletic prowess or which side of town you live on but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church is the dominating influence in their lives. “Everything we do is a Church activity,” a priest declared. “I don’t know what we’d do if the Church weren’t here.”

A group of young men and women busily feeding a work crew at a ward chapel gave up a few of its members to show a New Era reporter a thing or two, including the Kentucky Training Center where many Thoroughbred owners train their horses and where Aaronic Priesthood groups make money for service projects by cleaning and caring for the stables, a pasture complete with horses, and an Argentine stallion worth a million and a quarter. In the process of the visit there were a few bonuses such as a Sousa march played on blades of grass, a couple of handmade clover necklaces, and a horseless race from a convenient starting gate.

They’re wonderful young men and women who love the gospel, each other, and the life they live in bluegrass country.