This year, 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 (and adults) from more than 50 countries have accepted Elder Andersen’s challenge by adding their names to the Challenge Counter at the Temple Challenge website. Behind every number on that counter is a story. The story of the young men in the Leeds England Stake is one of developing both spiritual and physical strength.
The Temple Run Challenge
Inspired by counsel from Church leaders to perform temple ordinances for our own ancestors, James Whitehead, the Young Men president of the Bradford Ward in the Leeds England Stake, created a project he hoped would develop leadership qualities and perseverance in the young men and, more importantly, help them feel the spirit of Elijah.
He decided to align the idea of the Temple Challenge with a temple run. He invited each young man 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 meetinghouse to the Preston England Temple—a distance of almost 70 miles—all in one day.
“When our Young Men president first put forward the idea of us running to the 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 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.”
Brother Whitehead added, “The young men of our faith are capable of great things. They simply needed to be challenged to reach beyond their perceived limitations.”
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 them find a name in need of temple ordinances. They also held an event in which consultants taught a larger group about family history. Each young man left the activity with at least one card to take to the temple.
“Before the challenge began, none of the young men had even registered for an LDS Account,” said ward member Annette Stewart. “And now each of them is able to participate fully in the work of salvation for those beyond the veil. “
Besides being an activity that helped hasten the work of salvation for the dead, 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. The nonmember husband of a sister in the ward shared his knowledge of the area to map out the route. The bishop’s nonmember friend followed to take pictures. And the contributions go on and on.
“How wonderful it was to see the way in which the temple run 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.”
On the day of the run, the group started at 6:00 a.m. The young men ran in pairs so they were never alone, and they ran legs of three-miles each before switching off.
“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 Stewart. “No one was left behind or left out of the running. With battered bodies and straining spirits, they eventually caught sight of the temple through a break in a hedgerow. “
“This was the moment when the dream had truly become a reality,” said Brother Whitehead. “Working hard to fight back the tears of joy, I hugged every member of the crew.”
Twelve-and-a-half hours after the run started, the young men finished their journey. They gathered around the Preston England Temple president and jointly handed him the relay baton containing the names of those they would be baptized and confirmed for in the morning.
Youth Jamie Walsh said, “It was an experience 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 strengthened the bonds between us and also our ancestors who we were able to be baptized for.”
They’ve gained a testimony of what Elder Andersen said comes as a result of doing work for our own dead.
“When we see ourselves in perspective of our family, those who came before us and those who came after us, we realize how we are part of a wonderful link that connects us all together,” said Elder Andersen. “As we search them out and take their names to the temple, we bring them something they cannot obtain without us. In doing so, we are connected to them, and the Lord through His Spirit confirms to our soul the eternal importance of what we are doing.”
Click here to accept Elder Andersen’s Temple Challenge, and share your experiences in the comment section below.