Young Women: Let's give them s'mores
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Definition: a s'more is a traditional nighttime campfire treat consisting of a roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker.
Recently, I met with a Young Woman camp leader from Chicago who wanted to share with me what they had done at camp this summer. She said, "There was a noticeable difference this year. It seemed as if the young women were more hungry than ever for spiritual food." Then she shared that the Spirit seemed to pour out on everyone. I know what she said is true because as I have visited camps and I too have felt that strong spirit. Then this Young Women leader described the detail that went into the planning and the many people who were called upon to help, including and especially the Laurels as Youth Camp Leaders. Then she shared with me some of her secrets, which I would like to pass on to you. She said, "I believe what made all the difference in camp is that our theme and everything we did focused on the Savior. It was all about Him."
These leaders had used the 2011 Mutual theme as their focus and the theme of their camp was "The Power to Believe" and each day had a sub-theme. Their five days at camp included: "Believe in Yourself" (a focus on identity as daughters of God), "Believe in His Love," "Believe He Has a Plan for You," "Believe in the Atonement," and "Believe He Will Come Again." These young women were changed when they departed camp and I believe their relationships with their families, with their friends and with each other will remain changed forever. Through their experiences at camp they were strengthened for the coming school year.
Indeed, this wise Young Women leader knew what each of us know — it truly is all about the Savior. Everything we do in the Church is to help individuals "come unto Christ" through receiving the saving ordinances of the gospel by the proper priesthood authority. "Every activity, every lesson, all we do in the Church, point to the Lord and His holy house" (Elder Russell M. Nelson, "Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings," Ensign, May 2001).
This Young Women camp leader, Cindy Harris of the Naperville Illinois Stake not only helped kindle the fire of testimony in each young woman's heart, but she was on fire! She was not exhausted, but energized. She said the exhaustion she felt after camp was akin to a spiritual exhaustion. The Spirit was so strong that it was exhilarating. So what do we, as leaders, do after such a spiritual high? May I suggest what Sister Harris suggested, "Give them s'mores!" In other words — don't stop now. After all you have done this summer to create a setting where the Spirit can create a mighty change of heart, give them "some more!" Continue to prepare yourselves spiritually so you can build upon the experiences you have had at camp, youth conference, trek or in a cultural event. Don't let the event end. Don't let the fire of faith flicker and become faint or extinguished. Give them "some more."
Just like the marshmallows roasted over a fire, the fire of your faith will soften hearts. The gospel will become delicious to them. And they will remember these preparatory years with joy. So in the coming year, give them s'more!
Give them s'more opportunities to feel the Spirit.
Give them s'more opportunities to bear their testimony.
Give them s'more opportunities to accomplish hard things.
Give them s'more opportunities to serve others.
Give them s'more opportunities to lead.
Give them s'more experiences with the Book of Mormon and the words of the living prophets.
Give them s'more temple experiences.
Give them s'more love.
In the 2004 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said it best, "… do everything you can to create or to provide the circumstances for a spiritual experience. … Nothing we do for them in our various programs will matter as much as that, and I promise you it is what they will remember and treasure the most" (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Bishops and the Aaronic Priesthood," June 2004, 15).
Each young woman in the Naperville stake came away from their camp experience changed. At the end of camp, each young woman was given a card with her name on it and a picture of the Savior. On the back were scriptures that had been shared at camp for them to keep close and to remember. I too received a card. It is a treasure to me. It contains scriptures that answered my personal prayers and I now carry it with me in my scriptures. Each time I see it and read a scripture, it warms my heart. Here are a few of the scriptures on my card: Doctrine and Covenants 6:36, Doctrine and Covenants 19:23, Doctrine and Covenants 24:8, Doctrine and Covenants 25:3, Doctrine and Covenants 38:7, Doctrine and Covenants 64:33, Doctrine and Covenants 68:6, Doctrine and Covenants 84:88, and Mark 9:23.
What I have learned this summer is simple — you have changed the world! This summer you have hiked, unfurled virtue banners, camped in rain and snow, trekked and pulled handcarts like pioneers, forded rivers, cooked on campfires, danced in dance festivals, made scenery, and borne your witness of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in word and deed. You have loaded and unloaded your car filled with food, camping equipment, dusty shoes and dusty, tired young women. You have done things that have stretched you personally and taken you beyond your comfort zones. Many of you have involved your husbands and your entire family in helping you fulfill your callings — you must be exhausted! Once you get home, you still stay up late on Saturday evening to prepare yet another lesson to be given on Sunday — why? Because you love the Lord. You have a testimony of His divine Son. You love the young women and see the hope of the future and their divine potential in their eyes. As Young Women leaders, you have exemplified what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. You have kept your covenant to "always remember Him" (Moroni 4:3). You are extraordinary!
Many of you will never know the difference you have made. Many of you will silently keep doing what you are asked with gratitude that you can be a part of this great work. As a Young Women presidency, we want to personally thank each one of you and pray that the Spirit will convey to your hearts the gratitude our presidency feels to be your associates in this great work.
Thank you for your lives of preparation and devotion to the Lord. Thank you for your examples to the young women and to us of faith, hope, charity and virtue. Thank you for being women who have accepted and acted upon the Young Women values and exemplified them in your homes and in your lives. Thank you for being virtuous women who are modest in dress and actions. Thank you for being women who have made sacred covenants. You are spiritually sensitive women of faith. Thank you!
President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, "When we save a girl, we save generations" ("Our Responsibility to Our Young Women," Ensign, September 1988). And it is true! Keep loving them, keep mentoring them and keep smiling while being secure in the knowledge that this summer you have changed the world!