These Dauphin Branch youth are spread out across many miles, but their hearts are all in the same place.

Dauphin, Manitoba, is called the city of sunshine. And in Manitoba, Canada, you take all the sunshine you can get whenever you can get it. The people are warm and friendly but, unless it’s the middle of summer, the weather is just plain cold.

The Latter-day Saint youth in Dauphin (pronounced “dawfin”) and the surrounding areas don’t mind the cold though. They’re used to five-hour trips to winter stake dances in Winnipeg, long horseback rides in the snow for fun, and two-hour car rides on icy roads to get to church.

The youth don’t live near each other, either. But the distance between their homes doesn’t stop the Dauphin Branch from being close. “Coming that distance to church in the first place helps,” says Ian McIntyre, a priest. “I guess the distance makes us closer.”

Adam Fox, who just got back from serving a mission in Utah, says, “Going on a mission and coming back, I can see a big difference. It’s a lot more important to have the closeness in a branch that is so small. If you don’t have that closeness, it’s a lot harder to stay strong in the gospel.”

How They Do It

Since the youth live so far from each other, they don’t have Mutual every week. About the only time the Dauphin youth get to see each other is on Sundays, so they try to make the most of their time at church. Sunday is also seminary day for these youth who do home study the rest of the week.

Kayleen Ulrich, a Laurel, says, “We basically just see each other at church, but we try to do things in between when we can.” Those things usually involve lots of work and lots of fun. “In the summer we do things like branding cattle. We come and help each other. And we have the branch campout at Dauphin Lake.”

Most of the youth in the branch also have sports as a common interest. Kayleen and her brothers, Tyson and Quinton, all play school sports, and they sometimes see their friends from church who play on other schools’ teams.

Kirsten Fox, Adam’s sister who’s 14, says, “We have a lot in common. We all like to ride horses and do farm stuff.” The main thing they all have in common, though, is the gospel. “We just try to stay close to the gospel,” Kirsten says. “People in the branch are always there for you, and if you’re in a tough situation they’re only a phone call away.”

Getting together takes lots of time and planning, but Kayleen says they “set dates and stick to them” because if they don’t, they won’t see each other as often. “It’s hard,” she says. “You just have to make yourself do something so you can get together.”

Why They Do It

Working and playing together seem to work for the teens in Dauphin, even though it would be much easier to just spend time with their school friends all the time.

“You don’t have a lot of choices about who you’re going to be around at church, so you might as well have fun together and get along,” Kayleen says. “It’s easier to get along in church when you have different experiences with each other outside of church. And then church is more interesting because you know people better.”

The youth like to get together often because there are so few of them, and they need to strengthen each other in the gospel. And, in addition to relying on each other, the Dauphin teens say they are very close to their families because they spend so much time with them.

Finding New Friends

Besides working on fellowshipping, the youth spend a lot of time doing missionary work. The full-time missionaries in Dauphin started teaching Sherry Sinclair the discussions. “She didn’t really want to come to church, but she came one time,” says Kirsten. “Kayleen and I said, ‘Hey! Another person! This is great!’ So we got to know her, and she’s a really cool person. She and I just connected, and we’re awesome friends now.”

Kayleen says, “We tried to welcome her. It’s not very often that we get new people, so it was exciting for us. We tried the best we could to make her feel comfortable and encourage her.” Sherry joined the Church last year.

Now Sherry brings her brother Jeff Shewchuk to church with her. Quinton Ulrich, 14, says, “Jeff is really close to my age, so usually we try to get together and do things we both like.”

Even though they’ve found some new friends, the Dauphin youth still find it hard to do missionary work in their schools. James McIntyre, Ian’s 15-year-old brother, explains: “I try to talk to my friends about religion, but it’s hard to bring somebody to church when the branch is in Dauphin. We live in Roblin, and it’s hard to persuade them to drive an hour to church.”

Quinton agrees that it’s not easy to share the gospel, no matter where you live, but it’s important to try your best anyway. “Try and find other people to introduce to the Church, and try to get people interested. If you can’t find anybody, just be nice to everybody, and be a good example and a good friend.”

Like a Family

It’s challenging to be a teenager and a member of the Church in Dauphin, but the youth there know they are not alone. “They have a lot of challenges out here to stay strong. But they stay strong because they have that desire,” Adam says. “It’s great to see how the youth can get together and stay strong even though they are so far apart. They get together and have fun together. It’s just like a family.”

Sherry’s brother Jeff has decided to take the missionary discussions—and the long ride to Church, too. The Dauphin youth are hoping to have a new family member soon.

[photos] Photography by Shanna Ghaznavi and courtesy of the Ulrich family

[photos] Whether it’s branding cattle or riding horses, the Dauphin youth share work and fun times. They also share the gospel and their good examples.

[photos] Kayleen Ulrich (left), along with Jeff Shewchuk, Tyson Ulrich, Quinton Ulrich, Kirsten Fox, Monica McIntyre, Adam Fox, James McIntyre, and Ian McIntyre (below, left to right), knows the strength that comes from being friends in the gospel.

Shanna Ghaznavi is on the Church magazines staff.