As Elder Neil L Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued a challenge to Latter-day Saint youth around the world to “help prepare as many names for the temple as baptisms they perform in the temple” thousands of youth from more than 50 countries have accepted Elder Andersen’s challenge by adding their name to the ‘challenge counter’ at the Temple Challenge website. Behind every number on that counter is a story. For young men in the Leeds Stake, their story is one of developing both spiritual and physical strength.
Inspired by this recent counsel the Young Men’s Presidency of the Bradford Ward in the Leeds Stake, created a project to develop leadership qualities and perseverance in the youth, and more importantly, bring to life the Spirit of Elijah.
It was decided to align the idea of the Temple Challenge with a Temple Run. Each young man was invited to research and find at least one family name to take to the temple. They would then put those names in a relay baton, and run it from the Bradford Chapel to the Preston Temple – a distance of almost 70 miles – all in one day.
“When our Young Men’s President first put forward the idea of us running to the Preston Temple as a youth project we looked on the map at how far away the temple actually is and most of us thought that it would be impossible, especially given the fitness levels of the youth at the time,” said youth Jamie Walsh. “Nevertheless we started to train for it, to prepare both physically and spiritually for an event which turned out to be one we’d never forget.”
To prepare physically, the young men used quorum activities for training runs to gradually increase their endurance. They invited Ward family history consultants to youth nights to share the resources available on FamilySearch.org to help find a name in need of temple ordinances. Each young man left the activity with at least one name to take to the temple.
The Temple Run served as a good missionary tool as well.
The young men handed out missionary pass-along-cards to those who asked them why they were running. Less-active members came out to drive support vehicles during the run. A non-member husband shared his knowledge of the area to map out the route and the bishop’s non-member friend followed to take pictures.
“How wonderful it was to see the way in which the Temple Run had reached out to so many people outside of the Young Men’s group itself,” said Bradford Ward Bishop, Andrew Hillary. “These good people will also never forget their experience too”.
On the day of the run, the group started at 6am. The young men ran in pairs so that they were never alone, and they ran legs of three miles each.
“Throughout the afternoon, the youth and adult teams had to dig deep, cover extra shifts due to injuries and drag out each energy-sapping mile,” said Sister Stewart. “No one was left behind or left out of the running. With battered bodies and straining spirits, the Preston Temple was eventually within sight through a break in a hedgerow”.
Twelve and a half hours after the run started, the young men finished their journey. They gathered around the Preston Temple President and jointly handed him the relay baton containing the names of those they would be baptized and confirmed for in the morning.
“I am grateful to the boys for their sacrifice and efforts on behalf of these people,” President Murray expressed in appreciation.
Jamie Walsh said, “It was an experience that none of us will ever forget and it was definitely worth it. We gained so much from the experience such as physical fitness, but also a strengthening of the bonds between us and also our ancestors whom we were able to be baptized for”.