100-year-old LDS young women adviser teaches 'gracious' and 'sweet' youth
Two years ago, June Norton Ferrel was kneeling in prayer, asking her Heavenly Father for the opportunity to work with the young women in her ward.
“I was thinking, ‘Oh, I wish I could just bear my testimony to them more often,’ ” recalled Sister Ferrel.
As she continued to pray, she longed and hoped that she could have an opportunity to teach the youth, but at age 98, she thought she was too old.
“No one knew that I wanted to be with them, that I longed to be with them,” said Sister Ferrel. “I’ve worked with youth all my life. I was told [in a blessing] that my life would be extended beyond its normal span and to take care of my health so that the Lord could extend my life so I could still teach the youth.”
To her surprise, though, she was soon called to be a young women adviser.
“We felt very strongly that was what we were supposed to do,” said Bishop Kevin Morris of the Lindon 21st Ward, Lindon Utah Stake. “She shared with us [after we called her] that she had been praying for that because her patriarchal blessing talked about her needing to teach the youth, especially the young women, and share her testimony with them.”
On June 6, Sister Ferrel celebrated her 100th birthday — and she is still teaching the young women.
“When I was set apart, I was told to tell them life experiences over and over and over,” said Sister Ferrel, “and I’m 100 years old — I have a lot of life experiences!”
When Bishop Morris attended Sister Ferrel’s first lesson two years ago, he was in for a treat, not only from her, but from the young women, too. “I just saw how quiet the girls were and the respect that they showed her and just listening with real intent. I think it’s really interesting that the things she would talk about early in her life relate to the same things these girls are going through. Here’s this 98-year-old woman telling them how to deal with things they are going to deal with now.”
Sister Ferrel is quick to credit the young women for their respect and love. “My favorite thing is their ability to love and to be good. I have a saying, ‘I have a good-kid list [and] they’re not perfect, but they’re on it.’ ”
Neighbors, grandchildren and, of course, the young women strive to remain on her good-kid list. “I tell them it’s easy to be good if you’re around good people. And then I say, ‘Anyone been mean to you? I can beat them up! You see that muscle?’ ” said Sister Ferrel, laughing and pointing to her upper arm.
The young women have not only been good learners, but have been helpers as well. Legally blind, Sister Ferrel is unable to see to put visuals on the board or read scriptures, though she said she is able to see the smiles of her girls. She relies on the young women to make sure the class runs smoothly.
“There’s never a time that they haven’t been most gracious and sweet. And most of the time, [they say] ‘I’d love to [help]!’ They are so very kind and nice to me,” said Sister Ferrel. “It’s been nothing but a joy. They’re so respectful.”
Each lesson starts out with the young women reciting the first and second “great commandments,” something Sister Ferrel said teaches them about love for God and others.
“The things that the prophets teach are all [encompassed] in these commandments, and if we obtain that, the love for our God and our Savior, then I don’t think we’re going to want to be very bad,” Sister Ferrel told her class as the eight Mia Maids finished reciting those two commandments from memory during a June 22 lesson.