Rising Hopes


Thousands and thousands of Young Women sent aloft messages of love and hope for peace.

If, on one Saturday morning last October, you had been able to step off the earth and stand out in space where the planet itself looks like a blue and white balloon suspended in the black night, you might have felt an uplifting sensation. On that day, from locations encircling this shimmering earth, rose thousands and thousands of brightly colored balloons, and attached to each balloon was a message, carefully thought out and written by a young woman. Some of the messages talked about how to be happy. Others wished that all people could recognize their heavenly heritage. Some spoke of the brotherhood of mankind. But nearly all spoke of Christ and his sacrifice for the world.

The messages that were hoisted aloft by helium-filled balloons that day in October represented the best hopes and dreams of Young Women throughout the worldwide Church.

Trying to write a message to the world caused some serious contemplation. For some of the girls it was not easy. The words were put on paper only after prayer and thought. Beth Story of the California Saratoga Stake said, “I don’t really know how I came to write what I did. After I found out I would be writing to a stranger about how I felt about the Church, I prayed. I really had a desire to write something that a person would pay attention to if he found it.”

Jennifer Bezzant, a Beehive from Rigby, Idaho, also tells of the time she spent before writing her message. “I was really unsure as to what to write. No thought seemed to come. The Sunday came when we were to write our messages down in church, and I still hadn’t thought of anything. I was getting desperate. My Young Women president let me take my card home to pray about it over the week. On Tuesday of that week, when I knelt by my bed, I asked Heavenly Father to help me write a suitable message that would help someone. As I got up from my knees, I felt impressed to get my pen and write. The words just seemed to come, and I kept writing until I was finished. When I read over what I had written, I was surprised. It sounded so good, I couldn’t believe I wrote those words.”

Heather Thompson of Rexburg, Idaho, also caught the vision of the broader purpose for the balloon event. She found that the thought she invested as she prepared her message was valuable even if no one ever received the copy sent aloft. Heather said, “I feel as if I wrote my message, not only to the finder of my balloon but to myself and my Heavenly Father.”

Young Women in some areas of the world were in situations that did not allow them to release balloons. Many of them sent their messages to Church headquarters, where they were distributed to girls in stakes that were holding balloon events. Shawna Bowcutt was one who asked that someone release her message for her. She wrote, “I live in Kinshasa, Zaire, and our branch has not yet been organized, so I am including my message in this envelope for someone to send up for me. I am one of two Young Women in our branch. Thank you for including me in this event.”

Five Young Women in Egypt put into action an alternate plan. It was inappropriate for them to release helium-filled balloons, so their adviser planned an excursion. They drove through a tunnel under the Suez Canal to the tip of the Sinai. There, following a sunrise service, the girls snorkeled over the edge of the reef and released their messages sealed in bottles into the ocean currents.

In many locations the most touching moment came when the signal was given and the balloons were released. As the balloons rose in unison, a shout of joy sent them on their way. Then it was quiet, but girls’ faces, some streaming with tears, were still upturned watching for as long as they could follow their balloons.

Andrea Smith from the California Saratoga Stake remembers that moment at Coit Tower in San Francisco. “As we let go of the balloons, I think everyone gasped. It was a beautiful sight, and I was overwhelmed with the thought of the wonderful testimonies and messages of the girls.”

Marilee Griffeth was one of 2,000 gathered in Rexburg, Idaho. She shouted with the rest as the balloons were released. “I felt a warm glow when the words were spoken, ‘Girls, release your balloons.’ A part of me rose with that balloon so that I shall never forget that day.”

Lance Wickman, the stake president of the Poway California Stake, wrote, “We watched, transfixed, as the balloons floated steadily heavenward until they disappeared into the clouds still gathered overhead. I cannot express the feeling that I felt—that we all felt—at that moment.”

The balloons made their journeys, and much like the parable in the scriptures, some seeds fell on fertile ground. A message written by Laura West in the Salt Lake Cottonwood Height Stake was found by one who desperately needed her encouragement. Laura had written, in part, “Keep your hopes up and rise like the balloon. Always have faith in Christ and Christ will have faith in you.” Her balloon was found only a couple of miles from where it was released. The man who found it wrote to Laura that he was a member of the Church but had fallen away 18 years earlier while he was in his teens. He told of his struggle to be reunited with his wife and children and the decision he made to come back to the Church. He wrote, “I’ve been reading the Book of Mormon and praying since Sunday night (the day after I got your letter). I went to the bishop of my ward that night and told him I knew it was time for me to straighten out my life. … If only you could feel the peace and tranquility that has come to me since I began the reading and prayer. It’s truly like the difference between night and day. To top off my own feelings that I’m on the right track, I picked up your letter. You said you hoped your letter would brighten my day. It not only brightened my day, it was a godsend! I will remember your letter forever.” He signed it “Your friend you’ve never met” and his name.

All the messages in the balloons were good seeds. Even though every balloon was not discovered and appreciated by someone, the messages still took root where they could be nurtured and cherished. Each message took root in the heart of the girl who wrote it. As Tahneam Merrill of Rexburg, Idaho, said, “I can sincerely say my testimony soared higher and farther than my balloon could ever travel. My message may not be received by anyone, but it was received by me.”

How marvelous it is to have a loving Father in Heaven who has placed us on this earth and who has given us life, a wonderful gift to share with those we love.

Marie-Claude Ferland Quebec, Canada

If we agree to help one another, to serve one another, to love one another, I’m sure that the Lord would agree too. We can all get there, step by step, together! We will get there because we will catch the vision of what God intends for us to become. Commit to it, not this day, not this hour, but this very moment. Rise up for the best and never be the same again.

Rachel Royall Plano, Texas

I hope the following message will inspire you or help you in some way! Perhaps you will want to spread it the same way I did!

Live so that those who know you
But don’t know Him
Will want to know Him
Because they know you.

Annique Jugant

Seoul, Korea

As you read my message I want you to know that Jesus Christ loves you. He loves you and me so much that he suffered to the very core of his being to atone for our sins. I am aware that we are living in a world of sin, confusion, temptation, and problems. But we can make our situation better. Here is some advice I want to share with you. You will meet sin—shun it. You may inherit freedom—protect it. The past is behind you—learn from it. The future is ahead—prepare for it. The present is here—live in it.

Barbara May Romarao Zamboanga City, Philippines

Peace is a value without frontiers, which allows us to go around the world without fear. Love is a value which opens our hearts to forgive and understand our brothers and sisters around us.

Brotherhood is a value which rises beyond race, color, and age. We are all brothers and sisters and children of God.

Laura Guzman Buenos Aires, Argentina

If there was something I could do for the whole world I would give everyone a special book to help answer everyday questions. I myself have read the book and use it almost every day to help answer my questions. I cannot give all the world copies of the book, so I would like someone like you to receive it. It costs nothing; it is a free gift from me. I can have it delivered to you. Please write.

Jennie Hubbard Anchorage, Alaska

I wish that all of us could recognize each other as brothers and sisters, no matter what color or race or nationality. I wish that each person would help someone in need and not be afraid of what others may say.

Bruchele Rajab Kuwait

[photos] Photography by Jed Clark, John D. Luke, Marty Mayo, Brent Petersen, Richard Romney, Janet Thomas, Richard Wickenkamp

[photo] Seattle, Washington

[photos] Rexburg, Idaho; Winnipeg, Canada; Sister Ardeth Kapp; Provo, Utah; St. Louis, Missouri; Elmira Ward, Ithaca, New York; Amherst Ward, Buffalo, New York

[photos] Copenhagen, Denmark; Liecester, England; New York City; Preston, England; Copenhagen, Denmark

[photos] Las Vegas, Nevada; Hawaii; St. Louis, Missouri; Portland, Maine; Hawaii

[photos] Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula; Rochester, New York; Washington, D.C.; Singapore; New Zealand; Jerusalem; Quebec, Canada

[photos] Tucson, Arizona; Vancouver, Canada; Western Australia; Palmyra, New York

[photos] Manti, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; Sydney, Australia; St. Louis, Missouri

[photos] La Paz, Bolivia; Argentina; Manti, Utah; Melbourne, Australia; Elmira Ward, Ithaca, New York