At first glance, it looks like a rainbow is running wild. It’s twisting and turning and flowing all over a lush green hillside, in seemingly random motion.
But take a closer look, and you’ll see that the rainbow is made up of hundreds of girls in brightly colored T-shirts. They’ve come to this campground near Richmond, Virginia, for a three-day mother-daughter gathering, and each stake has been assigned certain colored T-shirts that correspond with each of the Young Women values.
The motion of the rainbow is actually being orchestrated by a small airplane flying overhead. It’s strafing the girls with packets of candy, and they follow its erratic flight over the hillside in hopes of catching extra sweets for their mothers and friends.
The theme of the encampment is “A More Excellent Way,” and all the activities, meetings, and programs focus on how living the Young Women values can help make lives better.
Included are songs, dances, talks, cheers, and even a rap by “Run LDS” that stresses the Young Women values.
But nowhere are those values more apparent than in the lives of the girls themselves. They are the values personified, each adding her own unique color to the rainbow that could only be formed when nearly 1,000 LDS women collect in one place.
Most doctors would be stunned to see Maria Turman at the encampment. As a matter of fact, they would be surprised to see her alive and smiling at all. Just a few short weeks ago, they were sure she was dying of brain cancer.
“I could barely stand the thought of what she would have to endure through whatever time she had left,” said her mother. “So we went home and called everyone we knew and asked them to pray for her. People of every faith joined us in prayer, and her name was in many of the temples.”
People fasted for her. People prayed for her. And they supported her in other ways too—like those who stood by her in the hospital, and the friend who told her that if she had to shave off her beautiful hair, he would shave his head too and, who knows, maybe they’d start a fad.
After a grueling two weeks of treatment and testing, her doctor came to her in total shock. “There’s been a miracle,” he said. “This girl does not have brain cancer. She does have another disease, but it is not fatal.”
Through all this Maria and everyone involved developed an incredible amount of faith—faith in the power of prayer, faith in the power of the priesthood from which blessings came that said she would be restored, and faith in the power and love of Heavenly Father.
Maria adds a sparkling, pure white to the rainbow.
Things don’t always go perfectly for everyone. All prayers aren’t always answered in the way we expect. Such was the case for one Laurel who would have given anything to have her non-LDS mother at the encampment with her.
“I prayed all summer long that my mom would share this weekend with me,” she said. “She didn’t. I cried, and I felt pretty down. I saw all the love between the mothers and daughters here, and I wished I could have that too. I have a friend here who was in the same position, so we decided to kneel down, just the two of us, and pray.
“I’ve never felt the Spirit so strong in all my life,” she continued. “I knew that Heavenly Father was right there with me. I knew that I’m his daughter and that I’m loved by him.”
Her mother did not attend the encampment with her, but she was able to learn about the love of another Parent. Knowing of that love and of her own divine nature will sustain her through trials for the rest of her life, and enables her to add a magnificent blue to the rainbow.
The women in the Perkins family were sorely missed back home. Their men were sitting silent in their plantation house at the end of a long, dirt road. The family plays bluegrass music together, but Susan, who plays the piano and upright bass, wasn’t around.
Lynda, the mother, who had never been separated from her husband except to give birth to a child, wasn’t there either. And Stacey, who adds the smile and sparkle, was also absent.
With the fuss the men put up about their leaving, there was no doubt in the women’s minds about their individual worth.
But they knew they needed to learn more about their lives as daughters of a Heavenly Father who loves them.
So off they went to the encampment, where they add their vibrant red to the rainbow.
Knowledge made the difference in Denver Mendiola’s life—knowledge of the English language, which she learned only two years ago, and, most important, knowledge of the truthfulness of the gospel.
Twelve-year-old Denver has not had an easy life. She was born in the Philippines, and her family was introduced to the gospel by missionaries tracting there. When Denver was ten, her mother was shot and killed, and her family divided. Denver came to the U.S. to live with her sister.
But Denver is not bitter. In fact, she was one of the happiest, most energetic girls at the encampment. Even when a minor accident caused her to need stitches, she was smiling and had a ready laugh. She’ll tell you it was because the doctor who sewed her up was gorgeous, but her positive attitude goes deeper than that. “I know that I’ll see my mother again, and that makes me happy,” she says. “I love being Mormon, and I know that the Church is true.”
That knowledge gives Denver a merry green to add to the rainbow.
It’s a critical time for Leah Guzman. The decisions she’s making now will affect her forever.
For most of her life, Leah attended her father’s church. But recently, since her parents split up, she’s been going to church with her mother at the Virginia Beach Third Ward. Although she’d attended LDS meetings when she was younger, it’s still a bit new to her, and she’s in the middle of deciding just how important the Church will be in her life.
The decision to come to the encampment was a big one for her, and she’s happy she made it. “I’m glad I came,” Leah said. “At the other church they had carnivals once a year and a church fair, but nothing like this, where you really get to know each other and learn things. I’ve decided to start coming to this church all the time. It’s different and I like it.”
Leah has many other important decisions ahead, but the one she’s already made adds a beautiful, bright orange to the rainbow.
Shanon Graber of Virginia Beach is the type of person who dives right into things with energy and enthusiasm. That’s why she was so successful with the fund-raising projects the youth in her ward sponsored all year long.
They did pizza sales and Valentine cookie sales and doughnut sales and garage sales. The girls in the ward needed money for girls’ camp and youth conference, as well as the mother-daughter encampment, and it was taking an awful lot of work.
But Shanon shined. She put her shoulder and her heart to it and ended up making more than enough to cover her expenses. So what did she do with the excess? “Sister Murdock?” she asked her adviser, “do any of the other girls need any help?” Shanon, a Mia Maid, ended up donating enough money for two more girls to come to the encampment.
Those good works help her add a brilliant yellow to the rainbow.
“It was the first time I’d performed in public in four years,” said Gretchen Williams, from Newport News, when talking about her performance the night before in the opening program. She danced a ballet solo while a friend sang a song. What most people didn’t know is the she’d given up her beloved ballet several years earlier because she was afflicted by painful arthritis.
When Gretchen arrived at the encampment, she discovered that the stage would be much smaller and shaped differently than the one she’d rehearsed on. It would have been easy to back out, using her physical pain or the unfamiliar stage as an excuse. After all, under the given circumstances, there was no way she could perform her best, and hundreds of people would be watching. But Gretchen wouldn’t think of pulling out.
She realized, as the program she performed in said, “Integrity is doing what you know you should do, even it it’s inconvenient or difficult.”
And with that she adds a deep, rich purple to the rainbow.
Each girl at the encampment contributed her own, unique shade, and the mothers helped mix them together. “This is so good for our girls—being able to come here and share with so many other people who have the same morals and standards as they do,” said Linda Floyd of Waynesborough. “We’re all just walking around about two feet off the ground.”
Nothing could dampen their spirits, not even the warm Virginia rains that came and ended the encampment a day early. The rainbow colors ran a bit, but only to become beautifully blended.
People worked together to make sure that everyone left dry and happy.
“It’s programs like these that make mother-daughter relationships that last for eternity,” said Tara Romney, from Newport News.
The commitments, the decisions, and the loving relationships that were made and cultivated that weekend certainly do have eternal significance. They create a brilliant, beautiful rainbow that will span from this life into the next.