*In honor of my ward’s YW girls camp starting this week, I am posting the story of the worst ever girls camp that I did not attend. Yep, that is right – keep in mind as you read this I Did Not End Up Going. I am telling you that up front so you don’t have to wonder and get distracted from the story. And you’re welcome. I believe in helping out my readers whenever possible.

The Year I Just Could Not Do It

One year, the Stake leadership in my stake really had their acts together. They called the YW girls camp director in October for the following summer. That gave her ten months to pray, consider, organize and execute the most amazing July YW girl’s camp ever. In short order this wonderful woman chose and had officially stamped her top tier of camp leadership. By February of the amazing camp year, I got tapped to be the girl’s camp leader for my ward. I reluctantly agreed only because I had two girls who loved going to camp and I always follow the rule if my kids are benefiting from the activity I should be willing to help.

In March I got the first of a flurry of emails that signaled this was going to be a very different experience from previous years of camp torture I had stoically withstood without a peep. This was going to be Special! Unforgettable! and Life Changing! according to the emails. I had a sinking feeling. I had enough experience going to girls camp to know that expecting anything beyond teaching the basics of actual camp skills and learning how to stay alive in 100% humidity while the very real threat of tornadoes and Lyme’s disease hung heavy in the air, was way beyond reason.

About two weeks into emails setting up a ridiculous schedule of pre-camp meetings ( I didn’t have that many meetings to plan my wedding for heaven’s sake!) the email that changed my life arrived in my “You’ve Got Mail” box. The email unveiled the overall theme of that year’s girl’s camp. Honestly, I have never understood the need for a girl’s camp theme. Isn’t the obvious name of the activity enough to hint at the theme? Girls. At Camp. Camping. Whatever.

The theme of our fabulous camp was “Women in History” or some other nonsense close to that. The gist was that all ward leaders would be expected to borrow, make or otherwise procure a pioneer dress suitable to be worn at all camp activities for the week of camp while we portrayed significant women in church history. In July. In the Midwest, where summer temperatures hover around 100 degrees with 2000% humidity and it never cools down at night because we are sleeping in corn fields masquerading as camps, not the cool mountains of the Utah clime. And if we could get a wig or let our hair grow out so we could have the same hair styles as our assigned characters, that would be just swell.

Really?

(Notice and appreciate the way I am politely holding back, even years later as I retell this true story.)

As I was pondering the craziness of this plan, which included decorating wheelbarrows like pioneer handcarts to unload girls luggage and haul it into the campsites, cooking all meals over camp fires and finding every possible way to make a miserable week even more intolerable for camp leaders, I saw the attached paperwork regarding my assigned character.

Holy Cow. Holy Cow, Holy Cow, Holy Cow. I was to read the attached 10 page history of Zina D.H. Young and be familiar enough with her life that I could tell stories of her life in first person accounts, including quotes attributed to her. Not only was I responsible for getting girls and all their stuff to camp, keeping them physically, emotionally and spiritually safe while at camp, teach them enough camp skills to pass their required camp tests (the real reason for camp if you are a boy, not enough if you are a girl) now I was going to have to transform myself into a Broadway Actress and Church Historian because whatever came out of my lips would be seared on the girls hearts forever.

Before I started reading the official camp authorized version of Zina’s life, I hadn’t paid much attention to her. No one taught me the history of women in the church in Primary, YW, Seminary, Institute, Sacrament Meetings, Conferences, etc. I could see the value in teaching girls this interesting aspect of our collective history. That was my attitude as I began reading. Then I got to the part about Zina being married to Jacob and while still married to her very much alive and present husband, she became Joseph Smith’s polygamist wife. When Joseph died and she was pregnant with her second child with Jacob, she was transferred to Brigham Young’s spousal care. Ummmmm………Which part of this messy life story was I supposed to act out in a spiritually uplifting and informative way? Which of her famous quotes, including,

“…women expect too much attention from the husband and…become sullen and morose….a successful polygamous wife must regard her husband with indifference, and with no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy.”

was I supposed to pretend was enlightened thought? And have I mentioned lately that my one and major hang up with church history is the Polygamy issue?

This was going to be ugly. There was no way I was going to be able to portray Zina as an example of Womanhood to those Young Women. There were too many nuances to her life story that I was not going to touch with a ten foot pole.

I started putting out subtle hints that I was not going to be able to fufill this assignment. I explained that my husband (very conveniently, I might add) was applying for a new job and if he got it, we would be moving out of state. They should probably be thinking of finding a replacement for me. My hints were ignored. Two months before camp I got notice that my costume should be in the finishing stages. I hadn’t even started mine. My husband got the new job offer and it was official, we were moving the week after girl’s camp. I sent an email explaining the new developments in my life and gave my apologizes. I received no reply to my notice.

A month before camp I got a call from the camp director, double checking that I was ready for camp. I reminded her of my move and said I was not attending camp. She was shocked and said that she and the Stake Priesthood Leader over girl’s camp had been praying and they were reassured by the Lord that I would find a way to attend. I hated to do it, but I had to burst her bubble and explain that there was no way in HE double -hockey -sticks I was going to camp. I was moving. Sorry.

I don’t know the details of how camp played out that year. I do know that the poor sister from my ward that got called to fill- in my place was completely overwhelmed and not happy. I heard rumors that a lot of girls got sick from the extreme heat and that in the history of girl’s camps, this one was the biggest flop ever.

I am so glad I dodged that bullet on every level. I don’t regret for a second my decision to be a non-super human woman and that I focused on moving my family out of state for a new job, rather than killing myself trying to do it all for everyone. Turns out I am not a good representative of Zina Young, who managed to be involved in women’s church leadership, the women’s suffragette movement, a mother, a polygamous wife and who know what else. I can only handle one husband and one family at a time. Sue me.