OGDEN -- This summer LDS young women ages 12 to 18 have been celebrating 100 years of girls camp all over the world.
The Young Women Camp has come a long way from its humble beginning during the summer of 1912 in the Liberty Stake in Salt Lake City. Now campsites for young women dot the globe.
While camps have expanded and grown as The Church o f Jesus Christs of Latter-day Saints has grown, the message about the reasons for girls camp has stayed the same.
"A camp with the most basic and simple accommodations can become a sacred place where the spirit of the Lord is present, where daughters of God put the principles of the Gospel into practice, and where the glorious blessings of nature are appreciated in happy ways," Young Women General President Elaine Dalton said in a special section of the New Era church magazine earlier this summer.
At that first camp, the entire stake worked together to raise just more than $300 to build a sufficient camp for the young girls, and the girls left with feelings of both sadness and happiness because of the good times they had, and they were eager to come again, according to an article on the youth LDS website.
Dalton encouraged young women's leaders to recognize 100 years of girls camp by planning some special celebrations as the numerous stakes and wards throughout the world planned their camps. Many local stakes and wards took that advice to heart.
Carrie Lund, a stake Young Women leader in the Ogden East Stake, said that on the first Monday night of the stake's camp at Heber Valley Camp, a designated Young Women camp, the stake leaders were reading Dalton's article and having a small presidency meeting. They decided they definitely needed to incorporate some celebrations of the 100 years into the camp.
Dalton had suggested: "Shine 100 lights from a high place at camp to represent your desire to stand for truth and righteousness, and let the light of the Savior shine in your lives."
Lund happened to have 112 glow sticks they were going to use for an activity, so they decided to change things up a bit and took the glow sticks to a lake at the camp.
What transpired was especially memorable for everyone there. As the girls held their lights, a silence fell over the group and a strong spirit was felt, Lund said.
Sierra Lawrence, 17, served as a youth camp leader at that camp and remembers the moment well.
"In that moment, I remember thinking, standing there in the dark in silence, what it meant to reflect heaven's light," Lawrence said.
The theme for the camp was "Reflecting Heaven's Light," she said, and at the time, the girls took a pledge to do just that.
"It was a strong testimony that brought us closer to the Lord."
Cake and balloons
In the Ogden stake, the girls celebrated something relating to the anniversary celebration each night. One night the girls shared cupcakes, and on another they had birthday cake and talked about the importance of girls' camp, why it has been around for 100 years and why the LDS Church feels that it is so important, said Julie Johnson, assistant camp director for her stake.
On another night the girls took helium balloons and put glow sticks inside. They then attached their testimonies to the balloons and sent them off. The leaders stressed to the girls that the camp is a place where many girls gain strong roots of a testimony because all of the regular life barriers are down.
Johnson said the feelings the night of the balloon send-off were very special and spiritual.
"It was really quiet, and as the girls released the balloons, there was just a sense of awe."
Hannah Hoxer was a youth camp leader for the Ogden Stake and loved Young Women Camp this year, just like every other year she has attended.
Both she and Lawrence liked the idea that, when they attend girls camp they are a part of something all young women across the world are doing, especially this year as girls around the globe are sharing in celebrations within their wards and stakes.
Connections form among the girls that aren't found anywhere else, the leaders said.
"It's a great experience on so many levels. Barriers are down and friendships are born," Johnson said.
Lund points out that, as the cliques so many of the girls get caught up in go away during girls camp, it is a magical time of love and sisterhood.
"I love that I feel so comfortable (at camp). It's funny because you are looking your nastiest, but it's OK, because you feel so good," Hoxer said.
Lawrence feels the same way. She said:
"There really isn't anything you can compare to girls camp and the spirit you feel."
For more information about the history of Young Women Camp and for ideas for camp activities, visit https://www.lds.org/youth/article/young-women-camp?lang=eng.