LDS International Video Contest Winner
Amateur US and Canada Category
“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
At the age of 22, I was called to be a Young Women president in the Sierra Madre Ward in Monterrey, Mexico. At that time I had lived in the country for about 9 months. I initially felt uncomfortable leading a group of girls when I was not fluent in the Spanish language.
Something as simple as offering a prayer or reminding them about Mutual took premeditation and planning. I quickly learned that even if I didn't have all the words, I had all the love I could show them instead. I just kept hugging, squeezing, and kissing all the girls every week. I smiled a lot and played with their hair. I would give them nudges and winks and began to build relationships, as well as my Spanish vocabulary.
Brooke Romney was one of my Laurels. Her father was called to be the mission president of the Monterrey West Mission, and we had been living in Mexico for about the same amount of time. I knew I was tall and stuck out a little in Mexico, but Brooke was taller. She was confident, always smiling, and we shared the same shoe size. We hit it off well.
I was relieved to have a youth from Texas whom I could freely talk to without mixing up my words. Throughout my first year as Young Women president, I got to know all the girls better and more personally. I listened to Brooke's passion for sports at her high school, as well as her involvement in musicals and drama.
I was amazed with how truly she was growing where planted. She had no inhibition and was outgoing and friendly to all around her. She knew she was different and wouldn't let people feel uncomfortable about it.
When she earned her Young Womanhood Recognition award, she inspired the other girls in our ward to work harder on theirs. They had never seen someone finish her Personal Progress and receive a medallion. Soon after, we asked Brooke to be our Personal Progress advisor, to which she happily agreed.
I remember receiving several e-mails from families and friends advertising the Mormon Message video contest. I had considered video editing as a hobby since high school, and at the time, had recently bought my first Digital SLR camera. I knew I didn't want to let the opportunity pass me by, but I could not pinpoint a theme. I felt the responsibility to create something inspiring and meaningful, and I knew I wanted it to touch the hearts of all faiths.
When I decided to make a Mormon Message intended for youth, I reminisced about my teenage years growing up in Pittsburgh and Rexburg, Idaho. I lived in Pittsburgh until I was 16 years old, and I was one of the few Mormons in my school. I had my friends at church whom I saw twice a week, and friends at school who were not LDS.
I attended early-morning seminary and spent many study halls and lunch hours doing informal Q&As about Mormonism with curious classmates. Most of the time people were looking for a good laugh, but I never felt ashamed or embarrassed to be a Latter-day Saint teenager. When I moved to Rexburg, I faced a different challenge. Everyone was Mormon. I struggled with individuality and feeling special for who I was. Brooke's confidence, friendliness, and adaptability inspired me, and I knew it could encourage others to be proud of who they are.
I headed over to the Romney home on a Saturday afternoon, planning on filming Brooke having fun with friends and asking her a few questions about what it's like to be a tall blonde in Mexico. I met her close-knit group and felt inclined to ask them a few questions too. None of them were members of the Church. The responses I got and the spirit I felt in that living room quickly became the real Mormon Message I did not see coming.
It was evident that Brooke was leading by righteous example on a daily basis after I listened to what her friends had to say about her. I decided to simply ask each friend "What makes Brooke different?" The general consensus was "Brooke is tall and inspires us to be better." I filmed them baking cookies in the kitchen and saw an eclectic group of friends being their happy selves.
As I drove home, I realized how fortunate Brooke will be to hear such deserving compliments from friends. Not many people get the opportunity to have friends sit in a chair and talk about what they really think of them. The American School Foundation of Monterrey (ASFM) permitted me to film Brooke at the end of a school day, when the last bell rang. Brooke told me which room she would be coming out of, and I set up shop at the end of the hall. I got the exact shot I was expecting—Brooke towering over a crowd of people, surrounded by friends.
I couldn't be happier with the exposure “Stand Tall” has received. I think those who watch it are a little happier to “stick out” for the right reasons. This experience has taught me what it means to be a true disciple of Christ. It is one thing to follow Christ, and another to exemplify His very teachings and love to everyone around us. After this experience, I am happy to not only stand for what I believe in, but happily “stick out” while doing it.