In many parts of the world, spring sunshine is still just a dream—snow and ice will cover the ground for several more weeks. However, you don’t have to visit Arizona or Australia to find things in full bloom. All over the world, wherever people are anxiously engaged in a good cause, you’ll find that, just like a well-tended flower garden, they flourish and grow.
And what could be more English than a beautiful garden? England is home to many extremely talented youth, such as the four presented here. Their abilities in music, dance, academics, and missionary work are not only enriching the lives of those who participate, but are also nourishing the seeds of the gospel.
Mark Grant, a 16-year-old in Nuneaton Ward, Warwickshire Stake, thinks there’s something magical in pursuing his talents. You see, among other things, Mark is an amateur magician and he has a way of making surprising things happen in other areas of his life, too.
When Mark was 11, he told his mother, “When I’m grown up I want to be a lawyer in the morning, a prime minister in the afternoon, a magician at night, and write books in my spare time.”
Mark is already well on his way to political leadership in England, recently winning “most outstanding prime minister” at a youth Parliament competition in London. The rest of his lofty goals haven’t changed too much in the past five years either.
Magicians never reveal their tricks, but Mark isn’t shy about sharing at least a few of the secrets of his success. Doing the things he knows are right—attending seminary, accepting callings and assignments from the bishop, and preparing for a mission—will help in his career preparation as well. What will Mark do if he gets where he is planning to go?
“I have a desire to change many things. I see a lot in society that’s wrong. Many of my beliefs are motivated by Church membership and would have an effect on the things I’d like to do,” he says.
Ema Melanaphy knows what it takes to create harmony in her life. She loves to play stringed instruments, especially the cello. She also loves the other kids in her ward, her family, and her schoolwork. Finding ways to juggle all of these things, plus working on finding a university to attend, has given 18-year-old Ema a chance to develop a deep love for Heavenly Father and the gospel.
“My faith in the Lord has helped me through a difficult time. It has been scary lately for me, with lots of difficult decisions to be made. I have been going for university interviews on long train journeys alone and felt really nervous, but after prayer I knew everything would be okay—and it was.”
After putting in some research and seeking the Lord’s help, Hull University in the northeast of England seemed an excellent choice for Ema. She will take a music degree followed by postgraduate study at a conservatory.
“I feel it is important for Church members to be involved in music,” says Ema. “Being creative and developing talents are part of the gospel.”
And the gospel is always at the core of whatever Ema does. She knows that her testimony, like her talents, must be constantly nurtured and attended to.
“It would be very easy for me to get caught up in music and not take time for other things. But it’s important for me to prioritize and stay strong in the gospel.”
Wilford Woodruff set a standard of excellence in missionary work in England. Today, youth like Mark Pope, a 16-year-old from Haarlow, Essex, are doing their part to keep the missionary spirit alive.
Mark has always been what you might call a self-starter. He taught himself to play the piano, guitar, oboe, and flute. He taught himself Ninjutsu (a martial art) by reading about it in books. This kind of self-discipline comes in handy for all kinds of things, but especially when it comes to sharing the gospel.
“There was only me in the Young Men program for a long time,” Mark says, “so it seemed a good idea to bring in my school friends.” Mark works with the local missionaries during school holidays and after school. He also gives out copies of the Book of Mormon to teachers and has brought two friends into the Church.
Mark says his love of the gospel and his desire to share it with others comes from many places, including seminary.
“It’s a warm feeling being there with your friends, knowing they believe the same things as you,” Mark says. “Before I started seminary I was a bit nervous when talking to people about the Church because everyone has such different ideas. Now when they ask me questions it flows out. It’s really good.”
Seventeen-year-old Kathryn Broadribb loves to dance. She finds freedom in the flowing movements of classical and modern ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, and national dance. Kathryn also finds a different kind of freedom in living the gospel.
Since Kathryn studies at the Northern Ballet School in Manchester, she lives away from her home in Norwich. Living away from home as a teenager might be too much responsibility for some people to take. But, like most other things, Kathryn handles it gracefully.
“The other girls from the ballet school live in a hostel and go pubbing and clubbing,” says Kathryn. “I don’t live close enough to be involved, and my friend Kate and I prefer church dances.”
Following the Word of Wisdom and keeping other commandments, like reading scriptures, helps give Kathryn the physical and mental strength to handle the rigors of her dance training.
“Often the pressure of it all is too much. I’ve wanted to give up a couple of times,” she admits. But it is what she wants and perseverance wins.
“All the pain is worth it when things go well and you pass your exams,” says Kathryn.
Like Kathryn, all of these youth know that hard work eventually brings results. Fatigue, frustration, and pain aren’t what they remember when they see their work paying off. Just like tending a garden, getting some dirt under their nails, and perhaps even being stuck by a thorn or two, the pain and inconvenience are quickly forgotten when a beautiful rose scents the air and pleases the eye.
It was someone else from England, the poet John Keats, who once wrote “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Youth in England are combining that knowledge with their gospel knowledge that we are here on the earth to find joy, and they are using their talents to create the beauty to do it.