FORT WALTON BEACH — Three busloads of youths and their advisors from the Fort Walton Beach Stake and Northwest Florida traveled across the U.S. to visit sacred sites where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints began.

The trip was the culmination of four years of Early Morning Seminary education, which included a study of church history. This excursion to upstate New York was to visit the sights and soak in the ambience of the Sacred Grove.

The group arrived at the Susquehanna River, where the priesthood was restored. After dark, they attended the famous Hill Cumorah Pageant, where over 800 volunteer performers acted out events of the Book of Mormon. Those included when Nephi built a ship; his brothers rebelled and tied him to the mast while the wind and rain beat down. Various other scenes were also portrayed under dramatic lighting.

Near the temple was the Sacred Grove, where church founder Joseph Smith first prayed asking his Heavenly Father to which church he should belong. In this temple, the window was clear so one could look out and see the Sacred Grove. Many who walked through these woods, were very moved by the memories they had of learning of this historic event.

McKayla Balden of Destin said she was able to visualize what happened to Smith as he prayed, that it was very tangible and that questions she had before the trip were answered in a spiritual way.

They then toured the Book of Mormon printing press and were impressed by the long process it took to print the first copies. They traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, where the first temple was built, and took another tour.

The young members really felt the spirit when they sang the song that is the theme for Temple Dedications, "The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning."

The culmination of this stop was bearing their testimonies in the tiny schoolhouse, one bus at a time. Will Curtis said he felt the spirit here was very strong and many wept as they spoke. He enjoyed being with kids with the same beliefs and the experience of learning together.

Balden said she was better able to understand what was sacrificed for the Book of Mormon, what was done so that it existed today.

"If there is anything I have learned on this trip, it is that we are children of God and He loves us so much," she said.

Karen Jones, Amy Hart, Darcy Boden, Jared Foley, Paul Grow and Scott Burbidge, stake young women presidency and the stake young men presidency members, organized the outing.