It was midnight. Piled on the back of a pick-up truck were myself and a bunch of young women who were assigned to my group. It was a beautiful summer night in Washington state. We weren’t far from Olympia; yet we were in the thick of the woods. Even though you could see the stars; it was still very dark. After driving slowly for what felt like forever, we arrived at our destination. We all jumped out. Our instruction, “Stay in a group.” And to me, “counsel the girls on how to get from the drop-off, Point A, to Point B otherwise known as ‘the light’.”
Easy enough, I thought. Even though, the night before, we leaders had walked through this activity.
Earlier that year I had been called to lead a group of young women of our church, even though I was still a very new member. I remember thinking and even saying, “Bishop, are you sure you’ve got the right person? I mean, I don’t know even how to sew or cook or …”
“…just call people who know how to do those things” he said. And so I accepted the call even though I felt overwhelmed and inadequate. I did eventually get some super awesome sisters to help though. A few of them were at this girls camp with me. But the night of this midnight activity, I was all alone with a group of young women, none of whom I knew.
“Okay girls,” I began. “Our goal is to find the light. We’re to head down the path looking for light. Stay on the path. Feel the tall grass on each side. That will guide you. If you are walking into the tall grass, you will know you are off the path, and I want you to pray. Pray that you will get there safely. Keep going on the path until you reach the light. Talk to your Father in Heaven and let the spirit guide you.”
“Can we go together?” one asked.
“No, you must go alone. Actually, each one of us much go alone. Yet, remember, you won’t be alone.” I said. Yet, I heard whimpers and, “I’m scared.” I was too, but wasn’t going to tell them. See, I had never felt comfortable in the woods. Years back, growing up in New York State, we had at one point lived next door to a doctor and his family. One of the son’s was a pedophile and had previously approached my sisters and I in the woods and also outside our home. Also, growing up I had watched a few scary movies. Even today, they sometimes play in my mind. Yet, this exercise of walking toward the light, was one in faith, trust, hope, endurance, listening to the spirit, and the power of prayer.
“We can do this,” I said. “We all can do this,” I told them hoping to spark confidence not just in them, but me too. “Let’s stand in a circle.” We then put our arms around each other’s shoulders.
“Here’s what we are going to do. One at a time, each of us will leave the group. You will stay on that path until you see the light. We’ll sing songs until it is time for another one of you to leave the group. If you have trouble on the path, call out for me. I will come help you.” After the first volunteer left, I waited a few minutes and then let another young women head off. As each one left, I felt like my gut was being ripped apart as I let them go. I prayed, though, for them to stay on the path and safely reach the light. Even though we continued singing loudly, we heard someone crying. I told the girls to keep singing. When I finally found a young woman on the ground, she was crying because she was scared. She, like I, had also watched scary movies and was afraid to keep going.
“You can do this. You’ve got this. Do you believe you can do this?”
“I’m just scared,” she cried.
“I know. But Heavenly Father is aware of you. He’s with you. He’s guiding and protecting you. Trust him. Listen to the spirit and just keep moving forward toward the light.”
After a few minutes, she was on her way. I joined the group at Point A again, which was getting smaller and smaller. Yet, we continued singing until we heard one more young women yelling out. So, once more, I left the group and went to find a young women who, when I found her, was in a fetal position on the ground and terrified. She told me that she had been raped before and was afraid to go on. We talked for a little bit until she felt confident to proceed.
When it was finally my turn. Standing there all alone I had to tell myself, “You’ve got this. You’re okay. Heavenly Father’s here with you. He’s heard you. Just follow the light and you will be alright.” Once the light became brighter, I found all of the girls at a campsite. As I walked into it, they cheered when they saw me and we hugged each other. This, because we had all made it. Other leaders where there and of course, snacks. We each shared our experience of walking in the dark, and not seeing where we were going, but trusting we would be alright. I found out that some girls had helped and encouraged each other along the way. We talked about how my position represented the Savior and how he let’s us go into the world; yet, when we need Him, He is there to rescue us. It was also an exercise in staying on the right path.
That night, I learned more about the power of prayer and listening to the spirit. I learned about believing in others and in myself. I learned about how uncomfortable and fearful I felt in the dark, but how wonderful I felt in the light, even peaceful. I learned to focus
on what people were doing right instead of what they were doing wrong. I learned about how much it mattered that others were cheering you on. I learned about love, and even though none of us knew each other in that group, we did by the end of that exercise. But most of all, I learned that anything is possible. That all things are possible if you believe, trust, do the right things, pray and listen, and keep going. Because, if you follow the light, you will be alright.
Allen, B. (August, 21, 2013). Retrieved from http://brackenallen-thinkonthesethings.blogspot.com/2013/08/in-him-is-no-darkness-at-all.html
Camp Gallery. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/locations/camping/sites/gallery?lang=eng
LDS Media Library. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/meme-stanfill-light-1578536?lang=eng
LDS Media Library (2017). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/media-library/images/mormonad-look-to-the-light-1118312?lang=eng
Reier, M. (n.d.). As cited in Hales, R. D. (1996, November 3). Choosing right from wrong. Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/new-era/2017/03/choosing-right-from-wrong?lang=eng