Ninety years ago, Ella Hoskins turned 12 years old and joined the Young Women. She would have been a Beehive, but that designation would not exist for another 25 years. There was also no Personal Progress program or Young Women Medallion.
But she earned one anyway.
At 102 years old, Ella Hoskins has already seen more days than most of us could ever dream of. She’s lived through multiple World Wars, a Great Depression, and she used to take a horse and buggy to school. Born on October 17th, 1912, Ella has been a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Practicing my faith all my life has brought peace and contentment to me,” she said. “It has strengthened my testimony and given me assurance that God is watching over me.”
Widowed at age 51 (half a lifetime ago), Ella eventually retired from her job as a schoolteacher and served eight different missions for the Church, all between the years of 1980 and 2006. Her unparalleled desire to serve the Lord prompted her to make a habit of giving her all to the callings she received—including her call as a Personal Progress advisor for the girls in her ward.
After a terrible sickness in December, Ella had to relocate to an assisted living home. But she wasn't released from her calling, so the girls came to the home for meetings. One day, one of them suggested that Ella earn a Personal Progress award.
So she got to work. Regularly meeting with the bishop to discuss her progress, Ella put in hours upon hours of spiritual preparation to qualify for the award. “Her mind is very keen,” said her daughter, Patty Preston. “She doesn’t just preach the gospel, she lives it.”
To earn the medallion, a young (or not-so-young) woman must demonstrate mastery of eight Christian virtues. “My favorite value . . . was faith,” Ella said. “Faith is a basic principle for all aspects of life, especially gospel living. Faith has helped me through all the challenges I’ve met.
“The study of faith has helped me understand the atonement more . . . as I try to be obedient to the commandments and improve myself. I appreciate more the great love of my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
Not all the requirements came as easily to her, though. “Knowledge was the most difficult,” Ella said. “But the more I learned—spiritually and secularly—the greater need I had to become centered on others.”
One of the key insights that Ella gained from this experience was the importance of spiritual preparation. She said that because all of us are made up of a body and a spirit, we need to spend time making sure each part of us is prepared to handle life. “Each day you get up, dress nicely, fix your hair, make-up and prepare the physical you,” she said. “You want to look your best whether you are going to school or work. How long does it take?
“Now think about the other you—the spiritual you. Do you spend equal time preparing that you for the day? Prayer, thankfulness, asking for guidance and protection, and reading the scriptures are essential.
“We must each be aware that both yous need attention during the day.”
And because of that focus on her spiritual self, Ella completed her Personal Progress. In a ceremony held by the Dixie Ward in Layton, Utah, she received her Young Women Medallion—in front of all the members of the Young Women’s General Presidency.
Ella meets Sister Bonnie Oscarson, General Young Women's President, at her Personal Progress ceremony. [Photo from Patti Preston]
“I believe that each life is guided much by our state of mind,” Ella said in her remarks at the ceremony. “Be happy and accept life cheerfully. Make the best of all situations, look for the good. Be optimistic, keep busy.”
She concluded her remarks with her testimony, gained over more than a century’s experience of living the gospel. “I know God lives and directs my life. Jesus Christ is his Son. He made the atoning sacrifice for me and all mankind. Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God through whom the Church of Jesus Christ was restored.”
Even though she’ll be 103 in October, Ella continues to happily serve the Lord. She is finding peace and contentment through the work she does in the Church. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the young women,” she said. “It has had a great influence on me.”