A group of young women came to the Jordan River Utah Temple to do baptisms for the dead. As they were waiting, their leader started thinking. That day they were doing baptisms by proxy for people who could not do them for themselves. She starting thinking about a Laurel in her ward who, because of a terrible traffic accident, was not able to earn her Young Womanhood medallion for herself.
Could they all help? Could they do something like Personal Progress by proxy?
The leader, Suzanne Rentmeister, and the Young Women of the Prairie 13th Ward in the West Jordan Utah Prairie Stake, made a plan. First they went to their bishop and stake president. After receiving an enthusiastic OK, they felt they needed to talk to Laura White, the Laurel who would be the one to receive their gift of service. Even though Laura cannot speak, her bouyant smile answered louder than words that she loved the idea. The other girls in Young Women were asked if they wanted to participate but were told they didn’t need to if they were too busy or did not feel the desire. Every girl and every leader wanted to be involved.
The Young Women leaders created a chart with all the value experiences and projects on it. Then they held something like an auction. Girls could pick which value experiences and projects they wanted to do.
“Who wants Good Works #7? Who will take Divine Nature #1?” The chart filled up as fast as they could write. Taylor Ligman, 13, remembers that Sunday. “Our leaders pulled out this chart. It was like names were everywhere. I signed up for four of the experiences.”
Before things got going in high gear, they all agreed on three rules: (1) The girls could not do double duty; (2) working on the experiences they chose could not count towards fulfilling their own Personal Progress—they had to sacrifice their time; and (3) they had to keep it a secret from Laura’s parents. Laura’s younger sister, Amy, a Beehive, agreed that doing the project as a surprise for her parents was a fun idea.
“We were really excited,” said Bailee Bloomquist, 14. “I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to do much service. This was a cool experience. I had to spend 10 hours on a talent. I practiced a piece on the piano to play for the program when Laura would receive her medallion.”
Alexa Pengue, 14, said, “I chose to focus on living righteously following For the Strength of Youth for three weeks. I just wanted to keep going.” Alexa will get the chance because she did this experience for Laura and has yet to do it for her own Personal Progress.
“It feels good to do this for Laura,” said Arienna White, 13. “It makes you feel good that you’re helping someone who couldn’t do it for herself.”
“It doesn’t seem fair that we can just pass things off and get it done and Laura can’t,” said Braygan Berrett, 15. “I thought our Young Women president was totally looking out for her. The only way she could earn it was through us.”
Actually Laura was able to do one Personal Progress experience for herself. She was able to participate in family home evening and family scripture reading. Her leaders were thrilled to sign that off for her.
How Do the Young Women Feel about Service?
When the girls all volunteered to help and as they were dividing up the experiences, Sister Rentmeister said, “Laura was with us in that meeting, and she was just beaming. She lit up.”
This experience has brought all sorts of blessings to these Young Women. For example, all the other Laurels in the class wanted to receive their medallions at the same time as Laura, so they went to work and finished the requirements for their medallions.
The Mia Maids reported having some of their most spiritual experiences working on the experiences they volunteered to complete for Laura.
And the Beehive leader reports that the Beehives have been “just crazy” about service ever since. They want to do something every week—pull weeds, help with the food drive, anything anyone needs done.
On the ward’s Night of Excellence, Laura and Amy’s parents wondered why their six sons with daughters-in-law and grandchildren had traveled into town for the program. When Laura was wheeled to the front and lined up with those who were to receive their medallions, everyone in the room understood. It was a visible lesson of what it means to do something by proxy, doing something for someone who cannot do it for themselves.
Photographs by Janet Thomas