Packets of seeds in bundles were scattered all over the floor. Mixed in were Bibles, copies of the Book of Mormon, and hymnbooks in Russian. The girls of the Bountiful Hills Ward, Bountiful Utah Central Stake, were busy packing both plant seeds and seeds of the restored gospel into boxes ready to make the trip to Armenia. With food scarce, Armenians are turning to small gardens to supplement their family’s diet. With religious freedom so new, copies of scriptures are hard to come by.
Amy Poulton, the Young Women president of the Bountiful Hills Ward, can look back and see how a series of small miracles led to the girls in her ward being able to help new Church members in Armenia. Seeds just happened to be on sale at an incredibly low price right when they needed to buy 6,500 packets. A person was found who could take the seeds and books personally to Armenia with him. The little branch in Yerevan, Armenia, became real people to them as they began to correspond.
Their own copies of the scriptures became more precious as the Young Women thought about the girls their age who are just learning about the truths of the gospel. “Reading the scriptures has changed my outlook on things. I don’t take things for granted, especially after doing this project,” said Heather Bodily, 18. “I think it’s exciting to see people opening their minds and listening to the gospel. The seed is planted. Now it just needs to mature and grow.”
As the girls in the Bountiful Hills Ward looked at pictures of the Armenian branch Young Women with their flags of value colors displayed and a picture of Christ on the wall, they felt a connection. These girls are like them. They love the Lord and his gospel too.
“Now when I read the scriptures, the message jumps out at me and says this is for you. They are talking directly to me” said Jennifer Petersen, 18. And somewhere around the world, some other girls are thinking the same thing.
“She’s at the garden.”
That’s what a lot of families in the Tempe Arizona West Stake Tenth Ward are hearing when they are looking for their teenage daughter. In starting their Experiment upon the Word project, the Young Women chose to read the New Testament and to raise a garden. Each girl would have a row where she could grow what she chose. She would be responsible for keeping it weed free. She was also responsible for reading each day and for bringing her scriptures to church each week.
There were some surprises waiting. What was unexpected was how the garden made these girls feel. It turned out to be a place of peace, a refuge where they could go to be quiet and get away from the world. Sally Painter, 18, said, “I’ve always thought of my home as a haven, but the garden turned into a second haven to get away from the world. It’s always quiet.”
And the scriptures became the same type of refuge, something that made the girls feel better and more peaceful. “I had hardly ever read my scriptures,” said Alison Johnston, 14. “Now I read every night. I finished Matthew and was so proud of myself. I understood it a lot better.”
There was a lot of preparation for both the garden and the scripture reading. In the garden the girls had to haul in truckloads of manure and sand to prepare the soil. They even brought in earthworms and tried to coax them to stay in their rows.
Before starting to read, the girls held a fast. Amanda Romney, 13, said, “This was the first time I had ever fasted for anything specific. It was a lot easier to pray when you knew what you were doing it for.”
As their garden began to bear fruit, the Young Women battled bugs and weeds. In their reading, they have battled fatigue and procrastination. And the peace is something they have grown to love. Sara Painter, 15, said, “The garden gives you a peaceful feeling just like you get when you read the scriptures.”
Even though Rachael Eucker, 15, is a city girl, she and her friends and Young Women leaders from the Lindsay Ward, Val Vista Arizona Stake, had just planted an acre and a half of corn by hand. It was part of their Experiment upon the Word project for the Young Women. At the beginning of the year, Rachael and the Young Women in her ward agreed to take on a challenge. They would read the Book of Mormon and devote two Saturdays a month to a Gardening for Humanity garden. These gardens use empty lots in city areas to raise food for homeless shelters and food banks. Rachael committed to read the Book of Mormon. Then she went the extra mile and committed to help in the garden every single time her ward went.
The day after planting corn, Rachael was stiff and sore, but she knew that the good feelings she got from service would last longer than the pain. She was also able to compare her repeated days in the garden to the scriptures. “We had talked about the lasting effects of service and how you feel the effects of what you do for a long time after. That made sense to me. I was thinking that it was like when you read the scriptures and feel the Spirit. Eventually that feeling goes away, so the only way you can keep having that feeling is by going back and reading more and more.”
Then the corn didn’t grow. It had been bad seed. Again the girls were able to draw a conclusion when they heard that all their hard work was wasted. Lynn Allred, the Young Women president, told the girls, “Even though we did all we need to do—we watered it, nourished it—it didn’t grow because it was bad seed.” Now Alma 32:32 will always be vivid to them.
After spending a Saturday morning thinning carrots, Elizabeth Lassetter, 16, said, “I think the gardening we are doing is completely connected to what we are doing with the scriptures. Everything is related to how the Lord teaches through nature.”
The corn was replanted, and the melons were starting to form in another plot. The girls were busy helping to keep the weeds under control, watering daily, waiting for the day they could harvest. Again the lessons in the garden compare to the scriptures. Becky Payne, 15, said, “When we do the work, we can harvest. With the scriptures, you have to work hard to get results. You have to be consistent and put constant effort into it.”
The day for the harvest would come, and the girls would pick the fruits of their work and donate to those who are hungry. As for themselves, with their reading, the harvest is one of faith. They will “pluck the fruit, … which is sweet above all that is sweet, … and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not” (Alma 32:42).