He’s not a bad kid. He’s actually a pretty good kid. But over the last several months, as my son Landon approached his twelfth birthday, I’ve wondered exactly how hairy the highly anticipated teen years would be. What I didn’t realize was the change that could take place in a short 5 day time period during the summer. You could almost call it a priesthood “enhancement.” From July 23-28, 19 stakes from the greater Denver area participated in an Aaronic Priesthood Encampment at Peaceful Valley Ranch, and my son was one of the lucky ones who went.
To begin with the end, you might want to know that at the end of the week, he celebrated his first night back in his own bed by waking early to attend a 7 am stake priesthood meeting. He came home singing. There was no sulking or dragging about after a week of sleep deprivation. As I heard the phrase “Rise up O men of God!”(and every subsequent lyric) reverberate throughout our home, my heart rejoiced along with his. Here are the blessings I have seen:
“Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things.”
It’s a big time commitment to leave before dawn on Monday and stay through Saturday morning. So many other things can pull at your schedule. yet the opportunity to spend all day, every day surrounded by faithful priesthood holders who have set aside their agendas to be at encampment is priceless.
“Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of Kings.”
Over the past 2 years of preparation for the camp, church leaders selected a theme and plan that was inspired. “Qualified for the work,” from Doctrine and Covenants 4, became the theme, and from sunup to sundown, this was at the forefront of activity.
All the boys can report that the weather did not hold off for this week of camp. There were times when it was rough. But for all who stuck it out, their offering of “mind and strength” paid off in “heart and soul.”
“Rise Up, O men of God, in one united throng.” What happens when 19 stakes of young men, their leaders and their fathers gather under the direction of priesthood leadership? One benefit is strength. Our boys know they are not alone. For 51 weeks of the year, every time they walk down the halls of school, skip parties they know don’t hold their standards, or leave sports tournaments before Sunday’s championship games, they’re reminded that they are different. But for 5 days, surrounded by each other, they could unite in faith and brotherhood. Encampment rang in the day and closed out the night singing these very words. Every day. Twice a day.
“Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.”
Their days and nights were bookends of brotherhood. Every morning started with a devotional. And every evening featured inspired fireside speakers. Luckily my son is my talker. He tells me all sorts of things. I heard a bit about shooting, hiking, and adventure activities. But the events I heard about in greatest detail were the nightly firesides. Guest speakers and musicians ran came from a variety of backgrounds. A couple included former NBA player Jimmer Fredette, and Bill Tolbert, whose personal experience with the Challenger is a story worth hearing. Another speaker shared his story about surviving a bear attack. He taught those listening about the benefits of listening to the Holy Ghost, and the tender mercies and miracles found even in terribly hard things.
“Rise up, o men of God! Tread where his feet have trod. As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up o men of God!” Leaders at Camp included President Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy, and Charles Dahlquist, national commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America, and former Young Men General President. What a privilege to have them among the ranks.
One day my son and his quorum friends happened to eat lunch with these leaders, and the ensuing conversation added more fuel to the young boys’ fires. As these new deacons talked with, answered and asked questions of their own, they were reminded once again of the awesome responsibilities that come with being a priesthood holder. Their 15 minutes with fellow brethren who have long before started on the path of discipleship wasn’t spent discussing the weather (though they could have. The rain – oh the rain!). Instead, they discussed who in their quorum needs fellowshipping, what they are doing to help, and other topics on a similar vein. As Landon recounted the story, I offered a silent prayer of gratitude for the example of righteous men, even at a simple lunch.
Qualified for the Work
My son came home ready to pitch in. He came home ready to lead out. He sits on his bed every night, writes in his journal and reads his scriptures. As I see these new habits come into place, the same we’ve been modeling and talking about for years, I see how his time at Camp is helping qualify him for the work. Certainly, all who attended heard the message, and I know at least one young man was inspired to “Rise up!”
Additional photos from the week can be seen here:
Photo credit: Royd Despain