Around the world needles have been slipping through satins, calicos, muslins, and velvets, stitches taken tiny and neat. No ordinary sewing projects, these—they’re works sewn from the strong threads of testimony, thankfulness, love of family, and all the lovely feelings a young woman holds sweet in her life.
What’s the occasion?
The young women of the Church have made banners to celebrate the Church’s 150th anniversary!
“A banner lets you express what’s important to you,” explained Shauna Stebers of the Northwest First Ward, Chicago Illinois Stake. “It’s not just a sewing project—it’s a part of your personality, of what’s important to you and how you feel about the gospel. And it’s a special reminder of the Church’s sesquicentennial that you’ll be able to pass down to your children and to their children.”
If you could float your thoughts or goals high above the crowd for the world to see, what would you show them? Some young women quilted or sewed slogans on their banners like “Plant happiness and love will grow,” or “I love and sustain our prophet,” or “Prayer is so simple it’s like quietly opening a door.” Other young women filled their banners with symbols of their heritage and goals. And all of them spent long hours designing, planning, and sewing the banners (often with the help of mom, dad, brothers, or sisters).
And the stories the banners tell! Marylynne Aposhina of the Hunter Ninth Ward, Hunter Utah West Stake, designed her banner after an oriental rug her great grandfather, Zadik Moses Aposhina, had made. A wealthy rug designer, her grandfather was forced to flee Armenia because of persecution against Christians. He lost his wealth, and some of his family members were sold as slaves in Mexico, but after overwhelming struggles, they finally reached the Salt Lake Valley.
“Making the banner helped me appreciate my heritage even more,” said Marylynne. “My mother and grandmother and I had fun together doing it, too. I don’t get to do things with both of them very often.”
Teuila Matua, a Mia Maid from the West Jordan 24th Ward, West Jordan Utah South Stake, whose first name means “Ginger Flower,” is Samoan, and her banner reflected her heritage. Her banner was symbolic of a taupaou (handmaiden) of Samoa, who must be of royal family, must be pure, and have dignity.
Teuila explained, “My heritage and the work of the Lord go hand in hand. First, I am born of the royal birthright of Christ. Second, I have purity in keeping clean thoughts and maintaining moral standards. Third, I have dignity in studying the scriptures, attending Church meetings, and keeping the commandments of the Lord.”
Mary Lou Beilfuss, a Laurel from the Holladay 17th Ward, Salt Lake Olympus Stake, earned the money for her banner by working at a grocery store. The theme of her banner was eternal life.
“It helped me understand more about the recent death of my father, because I studied more about eternal life. The subject was on my mind a lot, and the banner gave me the opportunity to express it on material.
“My mother and sister helped me make it. We are very close already, but working together helped us share our love. I feel close to them because they’re always willing to help. We also shared tears together because the banner had a very special meaning. It made my sister and I think of our father and my mom of her husband.
“I learned from making this banner that I am a daughter of God and that he is there when I call. It has helped my self-image and helped me grow closer to my Heavenly Father. Also, it comforted me about my father’s death,” said Mary Lou.
Many of the young women earned the money needed for the banner by themselves. Others made their banners from materials they already had. LeeAnn Cox of the West Jordan 36th Ward, West Jordan Utah Stake, raised the money by babysitting, giving rides on her horse, and selling bread.
And the excitement of making the banners was often contagious. Annett Pemberton, a Laurel from the Bluffdale Second Ward, Riverton Utah Stake, spread her enthusiasm for the banner to her friends and family. “I included everyone as I prepared my banner—mother, father, all 11 brothers and sisters, 5 friends, my basketball coach, and my sewing teacher at school. I learned that friends can make a big difference in a person’s life if you give them the chance to help.” Annett’s brothers and sisters each made a quilted patch with their name on it for the bottom of her banner. The patchwork symbolizes love, purity, and loyalty to the gospel, Annett explained, and her theme is “A Quilt for My Lord.”
And there are many, many other stories that the banners tell. LeeAnn Cox’s banner was in honor of her pioneer ancestors whose son was lost while they traveled across Nebraska. The mother pinned a red shawl on the shoulders of her husband who was to search along the trail for the lost son. The bright shawl waving in the evening sun let a mother, sick with worry, know that all was well.
Kjersti Harward’s banner honors her grandparents in Sweden who dearly wanted to come to America after they joined the Church. Even though they saved enough money, they decided they couldn’t leave their parents, who were unable to make the strenuous journey. Her grandparents sacrificed by remaining in Sweden until their parents no longer needed them.
Displaying the banners has been just as exciting as making them, many of the young women have found. For the Pioneer Day Parade in the Salt Lake Valley, 1,500 young women dressed in white marched up Salt Lake streets, heads erect, banners pointed towards the sky. Thirty-six young women dressed in costumes from around the world marched alongside. And a band of 76 young women playing flute, drum, and clarinet accompanied them all by playing hymns.
In Pasadena, California, at the Rose Bowl, 400 young women dressed in white displayed their banners to the audience gathered for a regional dance festival. And throughout the Church, programs are being held in special meetings where the young women have the opportunity of displaying their banners and bearing their testimonies.
“Making the banners can bring you special opportunities and blessings, even if you can’t march in the 24th of July parade like we did,” said Alyson Barlow of the Monument Park 16th Ward, Salt Lake Monument Park Stake. “It lets you say how you feel about the gospel and brings you closer to whoever helps you.”
Lanette Madsen of the Butler 16th Ward, Salt Lake Wasatch Stake, agreed. “It’s helped me grow so much and can be a great missionary tool. We were able to display our banners and explain them to the people who attended the World Conference on Records. Thousands of people were there, many of them non-Mormons, and I think we were able to touch the hearts of the people who saw us. Many of them were from other countries, and even if they didn’t know our language, they could still feel our spirit.”
“It gives you a good opportunity to spread the gospel, because people ask you what your banner is about. It’s an easy way to talk to them about yourself and the gospel and what you believe,” said Becca Briggs of the Oak Hills 5th Ward, Provo Utah Oak Hills Stake.
For many of these nimble-fingered seamstresses, their banners have pulled a shower of blessings down from the sky. It’s given them the chance to learn more about their heritage, to get closer to their families, and to pass their testimonies down to future generations. And to top it off, they’ll have a lasting reminder of the Church’s 150th birthday.
As Jeannie Winters of the Taylorsville Utah North Stake, 14th Ward, put it, “I think all the young women should make banners, because if they don’t, they’re passing up a great experience they’ll remember all their life.”