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Young women 'read-a-thon' helps promote personal scripture study

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 5:15 p.m. MDT

Hannah Kessler studies during a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. (Provided by Susan Turley) Hannah Kessler studies during a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. (Provided by Susan Turley)

PRATTVILLE, Ala. — The Young Women in the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake, participated in a 15-hour Book of Mormon read-a-thon aimed at helping them develop a personal scripture study habit.

Maria Lawniczak, the Prattville Ward Young Women president, said the event was suggested by a new move-in to the ward who had participated in a similar event in California.

“She said it was great because it helped her to focus on her reading,” Lawniczak said.

For the readathon, the girls gave up not only an entire Saturday but also all their iPods, cellphones and all other electronic gadgets, except for a CD player playing reverent music. They dressed in sweats and pajamas, arriving at 7 a.m. on Jan. 7 to get comfortable with sleeping bags, blankets and pillows in the cultural hall. Some sprawled on the floor, others snuggled up on couches moved in from the foyer.

Masey White, left, Emily Lawniczak and Marah McCombs during the a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. They started at 7 a.m. at the church and brought pillows and blankets. (Provided by Susan Turley) Masey White, left, Emily Lawniczak and Marah McCombs during the a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. They started at 7 a.m. at the church and brought pillows and blankets. (Provided by Susan Turley)

The event — especially the “no-electronics” rule — had its skeptics in the ward.

“I thought it was going to be really lame,” said Hailyn Bryant, the 15-year-old daughter of Jeff and Suzanne Bryant.

Kasey McCombs, 14, the daughter of Daniel and Kimberly McCombs, said her first reaction was, “Are you kidding?”

Both girls, however, had entirely different viewpoints the next day, saying the read-a-thon was an experience unlike any other they’d had before.

“I felt the spirit. It was really spiritual,” said McCombs, adding that she read at least 15 chapters of her Book of Mormon. She feels like she and the other girls got more our of their reading than normal “because we were doing it because we wanted to,” not because they were expected to.

Hannah Kessler, left, Jayne Budge, Kendra Fenn and Brianna Williams during the a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. It was from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and also included the girls turning off iPods, cellphones and other electronics. (Provided by Susan Turley) Hannah Kessler, left, Jayne Budge, Kendra Fenn and Brianna Williams during the a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. It was from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and also included the girls turning off iPods, cellphones and other electronics. (Provided by Susan Turley)

Bryant said that she had a hard time at first, “but when I started reading my scriptures, I felt good. Nobody was talking, and I liked that everyone was really serious about reading.”

When the day ended, the young women and their leaders shared their feelings about the experience.

“Whether the girls got a lot of reading done or a little, they all felt the Spirit and the importance of reading their scriptures,” Sister Lawnizcak said. “A lot of them had a specific lesson that they had learned that really seemed to stick out.”

Cameron Lawracy, the Young Women secretary, echoed that sentiment.

“I re-read something I had never understood before, and I got it this time,” she said. She added that she thought the Relief Society ought to do the same thing.

Kendra Fenn, front, Anatevka Ah Loy, and Emily Clark, back, during the a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. (Provided by Susan Turley) Kendra Fenn, front, Anatevka Ah Loy, and Emily Clark, back, during the a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. (Provided by Susan Turley)

Although not all the girls were able to stay the entire day until 10 p.m., a total of about 17 young women participated throughout the day, Lawniczak said. She said she was struck by the number of new Beehives involved: “That was a long time for a 12-year-old to be reading.”

The leaders provided snacks, meals and unobtrusive supervision — but the girls needed little to no correction, she added.

“They were all very respectful of each other. . . . There were hours when they were just engrossed,” Lawniczak said. However, Lawniczak said, if she ever holds a similar event again, she will bring “less junk food.”

The read-a-thon was also special because it was one of the last times that group of young women would join as members of the Prattville Ward. Just about a week later, the Prattville Ward was divided to create the new Millbrook Ward.

Young Women president Maria Lawniczak, front center, Hailyn Bryant, back left, and Kasey McCombs during the a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. (Provided by Susan Turley) Young Women president Maria Lawniczak, front center, Hailyn Bryant, back left, and Kasey McCombs during the a read-a-thon by the Young Women of the Prattville Ward, Montgomery Alabama Stake. (Provided by Susan Turley)

Susan Turley is the media relations director on the Montgomery Alabama Stake public affairs council.

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