Ouch! Have you ever been caught by a jumping cactus? Cholla cactus segments “jump” off to stick to your clothes, skin, or whatever else they can get their spiny claws into.
The LDS youth of New Mexico know how difficult it is to detach themselves from a prickly cactus. They got some extra practice though, as they cleaned the temple site in preparation for the Albuquerque Temple groundbreaking. Armed with shovels, rakes, and gloves, youth from four stakes assembled on a hot Saturday morning to rid the property of sagebrush, garbage, and cholla, so the weeds could be mowed and the ground would be safe to walk on for those attending the groundbreaking.
“It was hard work, but it was totally worth it for the temple to come,” says Robyn Sampson, 15.
Before the temple plans were approved, the youth fasted and prayed for a solution to the problems the temple’s project manager faced when he presented the plans to city officials. Now they say they are fasting and praying for the temple builders. But the prayers and the cleanup are only part of the work the young people of Albuquerque are doing in preparation for the temple. They are also working to make certain their own lives are clean.
Despite the burrs on their socks and an occasional scare from a snake or lizard, the Albuquerque youth succeeded in clearing the future temple site of every spiny cactus and broken bottle in sight. It might seem strange, but the youth actually enjoyed pulling cactuses and loading trucks full of sagebrush.
“We’re just so happy we will have a temple here. We thought it would never happen,” says Rosalie Campbell, 12.
Amber Chee, 17, looks forward to doing baptisms for the dead and getting married in the Albuquerque Temple someday. “It was really fun coming here. I felt the Spirit,” she says.
Both Rosalie and Amber have been to the temple to do baptisms for the dead before, but opportunities for trips to out-of-state temples come only once a year for the Albuquerque youth. They have to travel for at least eight hours to get to a temple in Denver, Colorado, or Mesa, Arizona, so they can do baptisms for the dead.
“Temples were always a faraway thing,” says Neil Peterson. As 16-year-old Neil wipes his brow, he says he enjoys helping out with something so important, even if it’s hard work.
Michelle Williams, besides concentrating on the cactus plants, was also thinking about what it will mean to have a temple in her area and about why she was cleaning up the temple site. “It’s very symbolic,” she says. “You have to be clean yourself to go to the temple.”
Logan King just turned in his mission papers and is waiting for his call. He won’t be able to go to the Albuquerque Temple before his mission, but he realizes the importance of having a temple close by and being worthy to attend it. “We need to clean all the cactuses out of our lives before we can go to the temple,” he says.
Researching family history is another way the Albuquerque youth are preparing for the temple. Many of them are more excited about doing family history now since they will soon have a temple in their area. Albuquerque’s Family History Center missionaries, Sister Wilcox and Sister Hatfield, say the temple will really strengthen the youth. Sister Wilcox says with the large number of young people in the area, there’s a “big push for genealogy.”
Sarah Sego, 17, loves doing baptisms for the dead and can’t wait for the temple to be built so she can continue to do baptisms. “I know it’s the right thing to do, because all those people are waiting,” she says.
Sarah is also helping others to learn more about why she loves going to the temple so much. She tells her friends about the temple and even tactfully shared her testimony of temple work with her high school current events class.
Sarah is not alone in her missionary efforts. Many Church members are having more and more opportunities to explain the gospel to others because of the temple.
“I think the temple will make people notice us more,” says Lisa Willis, 14, who also says she’s been telling her friends all about the temple. “The best part [of building a temple] is having people ask about it.”
Albuquerque’s full-time missionaries were also at the cleanup working hard. They say members in the area feel the temple will bring many blessings to them and to all the people of Albuquerque.
“While tracting, we stopped by a house and a woman opened the door and said, ‘Hey, I heard you guys are building one of those temples.’ That allowed us to get in the door and talk to her about the Church,” says Elder Moyer, from California. Many of the missionaries had similar stories.
The temple will actually be built in a valley where it can still be seen from faraway. In fact, it’s the same valley the Mormon Battalion came through on its famous march from the Missouri River to California. Coincidentally, the number of youth at the cleanup was about the same as the number of men who were in the Mormon Battalion.
At the groundbreaking ceremony, many young people who had been at the cleanup also sang in the youth chorus. The strains of “High on the Mountain Top” and “Holy Temples on Mount Zion” rang out over the crowd of thousands which gathered to see the temple ground dedicated.
“We all joined together to celebrate our temple,” says Tyler Lindsey, 16. “I knew that it was right and the ground was holy. I don’t know if we sounded good, but the Spirit was there.”
The Spirit is there. The spirit of service, of missionary work, and of love can be felt strongly in Albuquerque. Whether pulling cactuses or doing baptisms for the dead, the youth of Albuquerque are carrying out the Lord’s work with His Spirit to help them. The youth don’t know all the ways the temple will continue to change their lives, but they are looking forward to that day in the year 2000 when they can visit the Lord’s house in their own city.