I remember like it was yesterday. I was a 13-year-old girl living in Pewee Valley, Kentucky. My mom and I drove to the stake center in Louisville for the first satellite broadcast just for young women of the LDS church. It was November 10, 1985, and it was the first time the Young Women theme was introduced. I can still remember the feeling of sitting there in the chapel, hearing that theme for the first time and listening to the invitation from Sister Ardeth Kapp, Young Women general president.
For a few brief moments, I was no longer the awkward girl in eighth grade with braces and acne and a really bad perm. No. For a few brief moments I was Laurel, a daughter of my Heavenly Father who loved me. I don’t remember ever feeling that truth before that day.
And to this day, I attribute every good thing in my life to that single simple moment in time.
I have seen in my life and the life of others the power that comes from knowing who we are and whose we are. It’s a pretty incredible thing to know.
The Next Step
For whatever reason, I have had the privilege of speaking to groups of teenage girls for nearly a decade. I’ve met with them in small groups and big groups. I’ve talked to them in chapels and at girls camps. I have felt this deep, passionate desire to help them understand that they are daughters of their Heavenly Father who loves them. Because that was a truth that was so important for me to know as a teenage girl, I thought that was the message they needed to hear from me.
Until last summer.
I found myself at what would be the first of many girls camps I would attend that summer. As I looked out at the group of 150+ girls, a thought came to me in the middle of my message. I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out, but I sensed it was something I needed to do.
“Look around at all the girls here. If you see one of the kindest girls you have ever met, will you raise your hand?”
Within seconds, dozens of hands shot up.
I invited one girl to share who she was thinking of. She said a name and then pointed another girl out. Then another shared and did the same. And then another.
“Okay. And if you see one of the most honest girls you’ve ever met—like this girl has your back—you know your name is safe with her. If that girl is here, will you raise your hand?”
Another group of hands shot up. This time, there was a little bit of emotion both for the girl who was declaring who she felt safest with and for the girl who was finding out someone trusted her that much.
“Now, look around again. Do you see a girl here who is courageous? Maybe she has gone through something difficult and you’ve been inspired by her, or maybe she seems to be able to stand up for what is right even when she is standing alone. If you see that girl here, will you raise your hand?”
This time, in addition to more than a dozen hands of the young women, there was the hand of one of the priesthood leaders who was joining the girls camp that night. I called on him. I’m pretty sure his daughter will never forget the day her dad witnessed to the world that he thought his daughter was courageous. She heard her dad say he thought she was strong.
That experience, played out over and over again at more than a dozen girls camps last summer, got me thinking. I was amazed at how quickly girls wanted to share how they viewed another girl in their circle. They were passionate about it and often emotional. I realized these girls knew exactly who they were in the midst of. And then I started to realize something else.
These girls knew who they were, too.