What happens at girls camp doesn't stay at girls' camp. What happens at girls' camp bonds the girls to each other and to their leaders. It jump starts latent testimonies, plants seeds of faith and friendship, shows young women what being faithful can look like (it looks like Mother Gooney Bird, kind of), fosters camaraderie that we are all in something together, and garners a whole lot of good will from the young women towards priesthood leaders that show up and help—priesthood leaders who will ask the young women to attend early meetings, show up happily for service projects, babysit for the relief society, graduate from seminary, go on missions, and—possibly—confess their sins to them.
I just got back from a week at girls' camp. There are people who love and look forward to girls' camp all year. I honestly wonder what that would feel like. Instead, I get mildly depressed during the weeks leading up to girls' camp and fantasize about breaking my arm—just seriously enough to keep me home from camp and on prescription pain meds with a couple of refills. Of course, this is silly because I willingly choose to go to girls' camp as part of my calling. And it's always a good thing. So is scouting.
Before I had sons I would probably have been against scouting. It's expensive and the paperwork is dumb. There are also political concerns that I am fully aware of. On paper, Boy Scouts is not my bag. But in action with committed leaders, it turned my son into someone great. He had leaders who put their money where their mouths were and took work off to sleep on the hard ground. They taught him things I didn't know how to teach him and showed him that being one in purpose (whether the purpose was fording a stream, getting dizzy and throwing a bunch of glow sticks in the air, or living the gospel) transcends personality types, age, and background. Now he's on a mission and the people he went on those campouts with are the people he misses and the things he learned on those campouts are the tools he uses to get along with companions and move forward when he doesn't feel like it.
As a middle-aged person who is faithful in the church, I look back at my life and see that besides my mom's example, Young Women leaders were the most instrumental people in forming my testimony. I remember every youth conference and camp we went to along with details about my leaders' lives, courtships, kids, and jobs. They were awesome and I loved them because they did things with me. I, personally, am not an awesome or inspiring leader. I can never think of things to say and I'm a big party pooper. I am not changing anyone's life by being at camp. But, of the leaders who have meant the most to me and my kids, not all of them have been inspiring and great. Some are just mediocre normals—like me. And I have found that mediocre normals are indispensable to me in helping me raise my kids.
When my kids were getting just old enough that I couldn't physically force them to do things anymore, I wondered about free agency and what my job was as a parent. When your kids are little, you put them where you want them. Strap them in the car seat and go. But when they're 12 or 13 you can't just carry your kids to church. My wise neighbor told me that children need to be enticed to do good because evil is certainly offering its fair share of enticements. Parenting older kids is all about persuasion. Let me tell you, helpful leaders who are committed and involved make this job a whole lot easier. My shy son's scout leader taught him to look people in the eye and shake hands just by being a nice guy who shook Sam's hand every week. Ellen's primary teacher made her stop hating church and throwing fits about going to primary by bringing her a treat. I need the help the church gives me in raising my kids. I know that other people need it too.
Which is why I'm adding this post as an addendum to my last post wherein I suggested that as LDS wards and stakes we should carefully and intentionally plan activities and not be afraid to do fewer things or to do different kinds of things. I don't like doing everything that gets planned for me to do, but I don't always know what's good for me. I sort of hate camp, but I recognize its value.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson explains why we need the community of the church and can't just be Mormons in isolation in his talk Why the Church? He says:
It's important to recognize that God's ultimate purpose is our progress. His desire is that we continue "from grace to grace, until [we receive] a fullness" of all He can give. That requires more than simply being nice or feeling spiritual. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism of water and of the Spirit, and enduring in faith to the end. One cannot fully achieve this in isolation, so a major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the "strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life."If you think you have nothing special to add to (or gain from) the community that Elder Christofferson is talking about, here's the most important thing I did at camp: The lady next to me in our cabin has bad knees and her inflatable mattress would deflate at night so she couldn't get up. She industriously tied a rope to the leg of my cot and used it to pull herself up and out of bed in the middle of the night when she had to use the bathroom. Laying in my cot provided the counterweight she needed to get up and out. If I hadn't been there, she'd be stuck. Being cot weight was, literally, the very least I could do. But it helped and I was happy to oblige. I bet you add more than just cot weight but even if you, like me, are cot weight, that's still enough to help someone out. Laying in my bed in isolation is one thing—I like it. It's fun. But doing the exact same thing at girls' camp was better and more meaningful. I think that's an important part of being a Mormon.