A monsoon was approaching, and from the look of the black clouds overhead, it promised to be an ugly one. While most of the youth guides from the Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center in Mesa were enjoying a Mexican dinner at the home of one of their leaders, a few diehards were spending Saturday night at the center giving tours of the gardens to anyone who was willing to brave the storm.
As the monsoon worsened, the guides went inside and knelt in prayer. In behalf of those who might learn about the gospel while touring the grounds, the guides asked the Lord to abate the storm. The putting their trust in the Lord, they ventured back outside.
While wind and raindrops rippled the surface of the reflection pool, the temple grounds were virtually unscathed by what local newspapers called the worst monsoon of the season. The guides, grateful for what they considered a miracle, gave tours to the few visitors they found.
Emily Good was one of the guides on that blustery Saturday. It was her “Set a Date” night—she had made the goal to teach a nonmember about the gospel, and that night was her deadline. At first, she thought the monsoon was going to thwart her efforts.
In the gardens, she saw a man and asked him if he would like to go on a tour. She got to the last stop, where the guides talk about the Book of Mormon, and bore her testimony. “The words just came out. I felt like I was pouring out my whole soul to him.” The man checked the box on the referral card indicating that he wanted the missionaries to teach him more about the gospel.
After the man left, Emily talked to the other guides, excited about sharing the gospel and meeting her goal. The other guides mirrored her enthusiasm.
From the events in the garden that night, it was obvious that this was no ordinary opportunity for youth and that these were no ordinary tour guides. The spirit there was powerful and the events in the garden helped reaffirm everyone’s faith in the power of the Lord.
Faith, goal setting, and prayer are just a few of the things that make these guides effective. Their overriding desire is to bring people to Christ, and that’s just what the youth guides do.
In 1985, priesthood authorities asked Brother Robert Bowden to revive a program he started back in 1968 when he was a volunteer guide—using young people to act as tour guides in the temple gardens. He started with only four or five, but in the past few years, the program has mushroomed. Now over 100 young people ages 17–19 are involved, with more eager to join.
Using youth guides accomplishes two objectives: sharing the gospel with visitors at the temple, and preparing the young people to be better missionaries.
Being a guide is not easy. Brother Bowden says, “These young people know right from the start that they’re going to have to mature quickly. They’ve got to have an understanding of the scriptures and be able to talk to the people who come into these gardens.”
The first step in the guides’ training is to memorize scriptural answers to common questions nonmembers ask about the Church. In addition, they memorize a presentation for each of the five stops on the tour and their gospel applications. If that isn’t enough to keep them busy, they also spend 30 minutes a day studying from the scriptures, the Missionary Guide, or other Church literature. Another weekly requirement is to attend Sunday night training meetings. They also hand out five invitations to take a tour of the gardens.
The guides sometimes find the last requirement the hardest to complete.
“It’s so hard to just go up to somebody and tell them you’re a guide at the visitors’ center and invite them down for a tour,” says Keith Bacon. “But you’ve got to do that type of thing five times as much in the mission field.” Everywhere the guides go, they look for the opportunity to invite someone to tour the temple gardens—waitresses, bank tellers, people at the airport, shoppers at the mall, co-workers, anyone who might seem approachable.
One of the great things about the youth temple guide opportunities is that it helps the guides gain a greater testimony of missionary work. They are always eager to share their experiences among themselves and with other people.
Shaleigh Kimball points out that “the Church teaches about faith and diligence, and if you have both, your works will turn out to be good. I knew that before, but being a youth temple guide shows that principle in action. It’s a lot different when you can really see it working rather than just knowing that it’s true.”
“You’re doing something spiritual every day. That’s what’s so neat—you always have something to do with the gospel and your Heavenly Father,” says Trevor Barrett. “You learn to be spiritually in tune every day and not just three hours on Sunday.”
Not only do the youth guides learn the importance of being in tune with the Spirit; they also experience the joys of doing missionary work.
“A lot of people don’t realize how important missionary work is,” says Mark Barsocchini. “All members need to find out exactly what missionary work is about and how they can do it.”
“Thanks to being a youth temple guide, I hit the mission field running,” says Dennis Stout, who served in the Washington, D.C., area. “It’s easy for the directors to say, ‘This experience will prepare you for a mission’ but I can tell you, I’ve served a mission and I know it did.”
“I learned about faith and how to set and work for goals,” says Paul Gibson, who is serving a mission in Idaho. “I consider my service at the visitors’ center a great blessing, and I hope that other teenagers will be able to learn what it taught me.”
It’s hard to overlook the impact that being a youth temple guide has had on the young people who participate. As guides, their lives revolve around the temple and doing missionary work. And through their efforts, they change people’s lives.
“It doesn’t just change other people,” says Trevor Barrett. “It also changes you. When I first started in the program I thought it was really cool. I started reading more and doing more Church stuff instead of worldly things.”
“And it’s not necessarily that we’re all gung-ho spiritual people when we first come,” says Leslie Parker. “But you become that way.”
“You see the guides change and grow and become more spiritual,” says Catherine Pitts. “It’s good for everybody—members, nonmembers, and guides.”
The Lord blesses the guides with many faith-promoting experiences, but a few will go down in youth guide history—the ones that all the guides share whether it was their personal victory or the accomplishments of someone else.
Paul Whetten and Tim Penrod shared such an experience. They saw a man walking around the garden and asked him on a tour. He had been divorced recently and had come to the temple because he missed his family.
The importance of families is stressed in the tour, and the family is compared to the strong root system of the decorative sour orange trees found in the gardens. Tim told the man that the Church is based on the family unit and that we believe families are forever.
“The Church has so much to offer this man,” says Paul. “To see him ask for missionaries and to know that the gospel is something that could totally change his life—it’s hard to describe.”
After watching the youth guides in action, it’s easy to tell that these young people are serving the Lord with all their might, mind, and strength. All their efforts are directed toward their ultimate goal, and they strive every day to live up to the
“There is no greater joy than the joy we feel when we receive the assurance that we’re doing the Lord’s will. Ultimately, the only thing that really counts is to be worthy for him to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”