By Cecily Markland
Based on the Church-wide theme for 2013, Young Women around the world were challenged to “Stand Ye in Holy Places.”
That theme—and the number 22—were not only taken to heart, but were put into meaningful action by the Young Women of the Elmwood Ward, of the Mesa Central Stake.
According to YW President Tana Alldredge, “Even before the theme was announced, we started wanting to do a simple walk with the girls to the Mesa Temple. It soon became bigger and much better.”
They were inspired by the story of John Rowe Moyle, as related in the DVD “Only a Stonecutter,” who, for 20 years, walked 22 miles to work on the Salt Lake Temple, even after losing a leg in an accident.
“Based on that, the Young Women leaders planned a 22-mile walk from the Gilbert Temple to the Mesa Temple. They also challenged the girls to do baptisms for 2,200 family names, to memorize ‘The Living Christ,’ and to index 22,000 names,” says Damon Wheeler, second counselor in the bishopric.
“The challenges encouraged the girls to grow mentally, socially, physically and spiritually,” says Sister Alldredge. She added that over the course of the 10-month effort, “The girls far exceeded the goals—we completed more than 3,000 baptisms and indexed more than 38,000 names.”
Hallie Shill, 18, and a Laurel, made it a goal to do baptisms for the dead each week. “As time went on, it became a habit,” she says. “I love going through the temple doors, leaving aside the stress, worries, schoolwork, and everything else, and just focusing on the temple and the sacredness of it and the spirit I feel.”
Kendyl Wolfe, 17, also a Laurel, found an added bonus from participating. She says, “It has given me a reason to go and do temple work, all while becoming closer to all the Young Women who would come with us every Saturday morning.”
For 17-year-old Laurel, Maci Hiatt, “Each time I did baptisms for the dead, I could feel the Holy Ghost so strongly and it strengthened my testimony that the temple is truly the House of God.”
Sage Wheeler, 16, and a Laurel, also enjoyed indexing names for FamilySearch.
“It’s not very often that a teenage girl would get excited over indexing public records from the 1800s, and even though at first it was difficult and challenging, it soon became second nature and surprisingly really fun,” Sage says. “It gave me a good feeling to know that I was helping people around the world find their ancestors. I plan to continue indexing even though our challenge is over.”
According to Brother Wheeler, families were invited to support the girls in their efforts.
“A neat part of the whole thing was to see brothers, sisters, moms, dads, everyone got involved,” he says.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, at 9 a.m., the 30 Young Women and their leaders gathered at the Gilbert Temple site for their culminating event—the 22-mile walk to the Mesa Temple.
“We had prayer before starting out, and it was a really neat thing to see all those girls who had been working together for all those months,” Sister Alldredge says.
The walk itself taught Maci, “We can do hard things. After the 15th mile, my legs were on fire, I was tired, and the idea of stopping sounded appealing. However, I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and eventually made it to the Mesa Temple.”
She compared this to life’s lessons, saying: “No matter the difficulty of the trial that comes in our path, we will be able to overcome it with the Lord on our side.”
Sage agreed, saying, “Walking 22 miles from temple to temple was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The walk provided us the opportunity to not only grow together as a Young Women’s group, but also to grow closer to our Heavenly Father.”
Kendyl, too, felt the importance of working together. She says, “Each one of us is on our own journey in this life, but we can’t reach that goal without all the support and love from everyone around us.”
“After a while, you started to ignore the pain of the blisters and the soreness of your feet. all you could think about was reaching your finish line, the temple, Hallie says, “I learned that the temple should always be our finish line. It should always be our goal, to be worthy to enter into our sacred home.”
“As we were running towards the temple, and I saw all of our families cheering us on,” Kendyl says, “It strengthened my testimony that the temple is the one place that families can be together forever; it truly is heaven on earth.”