Summertime is for going to the lake and camping amid the trees—and sometimes you can do both. My teenage daughters went to girls camp for our ward (our congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and my husband and I got to tag along (since he is the bishop, or the lay leader of the ward). The first night of camp, the young women’s president (the adult leader of the girls) asked if anyone knew why they were at camp. After some girls answered, the leader said, “In a study done by the Church, most young women said the first time they really felt the Spirit was at girls camp.”
This makes sense to me. I remember feeling the Spirit at girls camp when I was a teenager. It was a time to get away from the distractions of life and the neighborhood pool and find the peace and tranquility in nature. Camp is still that way for my girls. We can disconnect from the world and reconnect with God while we’re out enjoying His beautiful creations. We come home changed, rejuvenated and ready to be better people. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said,
I am grateful for Young Women leaders who go to girls camp and, without shampoo, showers, or mascara, turn smoky, campfire testimony meetings into some of the most riveting spiritual experiences those girls—or those leaders—will experience in their lifetime.
That has been my experience with girls camp. Through the smoke, sweat, crafts and cold, friendships are forged and testimonies are strengthened. Not everyone can go to girls camp (especially as adults), but everyone can find ways to reconnect with God in our everyday lives. In fact, a loving Heavenly Father has given us many of them.
Why Disconnecting Matters
It’s so easy to be busy in the world today. After three concussions in two years, my son was still trying to be too busy. So we had to take him back to the doctors to help him understand the importance of disconnecting on a regular basis so that his brain could fully heal. But I realized that my son isn’t the only one who needs to learn how to disengage from the chaos of life. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught,
Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. … They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.
That is the danger with always being busy. We often equate business with productivity, and that’s not always true. President Thomas S. Monson explained,
We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the “thick of thin things.” In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.
The key to prioritizing properly is to put God first. President Ezra Taft Benson said,
When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.
It’s easier to do this when we take ourselves to the great outdoors. But it’s still possible even at home.
The Sabbath day has been, from the beginning, a time to step back from the world and focus on things of the Spirit. God created the earth in sixth days, and then rested on the seventh as the Sabbath—and He commanded us to do the same. Professor Robert J. Matthews, at the time chairman of the Department of Ancient Scripture at Brigham Young University, explained,
The Sabbath has several purposes. It is a holy day specified in the scriptures as a day not only of rest but also of worship. The word sabbath is derived from the Hebrew shabbath, meaning “to break off” or “to desist,” and in this can be seen the idea of rest.
But in the best sense, rest does not mean idleness; it signifies rather a change of emphasis. In plain terms, “keeping the Sabbath day holy” means to cease or to rest from the secular labors of the week and to use the specified day in worshipping God and doing good to our fellow beings. It is a day for spiritual works and refreshment as compared to the secular accomplishments of other days.
Keeping the Sabbath day holy helps us to renew ourselves spiritually and focus our time and efforts on things that matter most. Elder M. Russell Ballard taught,
[Observing the Sabbath day] helps us remain unspotted from the world, provides us with physical rest, and gives each of us the spiritual refreshment of worshipping the Father and the Son every Sunday. When we delight in the Sabbath day, it is a sign of our love for Them.
The doctrine of resting applies in our everyday lives the rest of the week as well. While we only set aside Sunday as a full day of rest, we need to set aside time during the other days to rest and rejuvenate ourselves physically and spiritually.
For Latter-day Saints, the sacrament is a weekly Sabbath day ordinance where we partake of the bread and water in remembrance of the Savior. Elder L. Tom Perry explained,
The purpose of partaking of the sacrament is … to renew the covenants we have made with the Lord. …
When we partake of the sacrament worthily, we remember the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, that He gave up His life and took upon Himself the sins of the world that we may have the blessing of immortality. We take upon ourselves the name of our Savior and promise to always remember Him and to keep His commandments—that is, to “live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:44).
This ordinance helps us to set aside the things of the world and focus on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Elder Perry continued,
From the very beginning, before the world was organized, God laid out a plan whereby He would offer blessings to His children based on their obedience to His commandments. He understood, however, that we would be distracted at times by the things of the world and would need to be reminded regularly of our covenants and His promises. …
During the administration of the sacrament, we set aside the world. It is a period of spiritual renewal as we recognize the deep spiritual significance of the ordinance offered to each of us personally.
As we take the sacrament, we reflect on the Atonement of the Savior and the sins for which we must repent as well as renewing our commitment to do better. And we do this nearly every Sunday, so that we always remember Him.
We also set aside the world as we study the scriptures. Studying is more than just reading—it’s feasting upon the words of Christ. President Russell M. Nelson said,
To feast means more than to taste. To feast means to savor. We savor the scriptures by studying them in a spirit of delightful discovery and faithful obedience. When we feast upon the words of Christ, they are embedded “in fleshy tables of the heart.” They become an integral part of our nature.
Elder Robert D. Hales taught,
… When we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures; for His words are spoken through His prophets. He will then teach us as we listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
If you have not heard His voice speaking to you lately, return with new eyes and new ears to the scriptures. They are our spiritual lifeline.
When we take time to feast upon the words of Christ, we will have the power of the Holy Ghost more abundantly in our lives, and our ability to properly prioritize our time and efforts will increase substantially.
Prayer, Pondering and the Holy Spirit
It is not enough to study the words of God through scripture study. We must also speak to our Heavenly Father in prayer. They go together like peas and carrots, as Forrest Gump would say. Elder Richard D. Scott said,
Choose to converse with your Father in Heaven often. Make time every day to share your thoughts and feelings with Him. Tell Him everything that concerns you. He is interested in the most important as well as the most mundane facets of your life. Share with Him your full range of feelings and experiences.
Because He respects your agency, Father in Heaven will never force you to pray to Him. But as you exercise that agency and include Him in every aspect of your daily life, your heart will begin to fill with peace, buoyant peace. That peace will focus an eternal light on your struggles. It will help you to manage those challenges from an eternal perspective.
Prayer is a vital communication tool between us and our Father in Heaven. Elder Boyd K. Packer taught,
The Lord has many ways of pouring knowledge into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, to correct us, to warn us. The Lord said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (Doctrine & Covenants 8:2).
And Enos recorded, “While I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again” (Enos 1:10).
You can know the things you need to know. Pray that you will learn to receive that inspiration and remain worthy to receive it. Keep that channel—your mind—clean and free from the clutter of the world.
Taking time to serve others is another way we can step back from our own world and focus on more important things. President Spencer W. Kimball taught,
I have learned that it is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves. In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus, that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves. (See Matthew 10:39.)
Not only do we “find” ourselves in terms of acknowledging guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to “find” ourselves because there is so much more of us to find! …
God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other….
At girls camp this year, the young women picked up trash along the lake and campsites as a service project. Also this summer, the youth of our community—as well as anyone over the age of 12—will be invited to participate in a community wood project. In this project, area churches combine efforts to split, stack and deliver firewood to families in need who will use it for heat in the winter. It is another reminder for us to step outside of our lives and help others.
Reconnecting with God
As we disconnect from the world, we reconnect with God. Experiences like going to girls camp remind me of how important it is to step back from the chaos of my life and take time to rejuvenate my spirit. I can feel the same peace and happiness that I have in the woods if I create it in my own life. Elder Richard G. Scott said,
Many voices from the world in which we live tell us we should live at a frantic pace. There is always more to do and more to accomplish. Yet deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and reenergize to prepare for future pressures.
The ideal place for that peace is within the walls of our own homes, where we have done all we can to make the Lord Jesus Christ the centerpiece. …
Regardless of your circumstances, you can center your home and your life on the Lord Jesus Christ, for He is the source of true peace in this life.
Be certain that every decision you make, whether temporal or spiritual, is conditioned on what the Savior would have you do. When He is the center of your home, there is peace and serenity. There is a spirit of assurance that pervades the home, and it is felt by all who dwell there.
As we disconnect from the world—even for a time—to focus on the things of the spirit, we can create a refuge in our own homes and in our own lives where the Spirit of God can dwell. And after all, it’s this peace that is found in the woods at girls camp.