Thomas S. Monson Camp
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In eastern Canada on June 25, President Thomas S. Monson dedicated a camp bearing his name "for the purpose of providing enjoyment for our members as they come here and experience the beauties and wonders of nature."
Before he offered a prayer to dedicate the camp, President Monson said, "I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be back in this part of the world." The Church leader then dedicated the camp as a place where visitors may feel closer to Heavenly Father and gain a greater sense of appreciation for all that He has created.
The Thomas S. Monson Camp, which covers more than 400 acres, is about 120 miles east of Toronto and near Peterborough. About 15 acres of the camp have been developed; the rest remain as natural habitat.
The property's camp sites are named after values in the Young Women program: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity and Virtue.
Each site has a shelter with concrete flooring. In addition to erecting the shelters, members built 75 picnic tables, cleared trees, cut trails, planted grass seed, constructed a canoe building, installed soccer posts and a baseball backstop, and built docks and an amphitheater with a stage and seating. The camp will serve members of the Ottawa, Oshawa, Brampton, Mississaugua, Hamilton, Kitchener and London stakes and the Kingston District.
Edward T. Baxter, second counselor in the Ontario Toronto Mission presidency, said, "Just as we thought we were about finished with the work, on June 8, a violent wind storm went through the camp, uprooting almost 80 trees, all of which had to be cleaned up prior to today."
It was raining as President Monson arrived at the camp, and had been doing so most of the morning. Still, several thousand members attended the dedication ceremony. Many huddled under umbrellas and blankets. Some sat on chairs they had brought; others sat on the muddy ground. About 130 young women who formed a chorus literally sang in the rain. The rain increased as the program began but just as President Monson stepped to the microphone under a tarp-covered canopy, the rain stopped. People closed their umbrellas, thereby allowing everyone to see President Monson as he spoke. He told the gathering that he had prayed the rain would cease.
"We're here today in this beautiful setting to dedicate the Thomas S. Monson Camp. How honored I am that you would want my name associated with this magnificent piece of property which will serve not only as a camp for the Young Women, but for families and for other groups as well," he said. "It has been improved and developed so that those who stay here will be able to do so in comfort and safety. A variety of activities is available, including hiking, boating, swimming and, one of my favorites — fishing. I understand that the walleye fishing here is unparalleled."
He expressed love and fondness for the people of Canada and reminisced a bit about the time he and his wife, Frances J. Monson, and their children lived in Toronto three years as he presided over the Canadian Mission, beginning in 1959. Their oldest son, Tom, was nearly 8 years old when the family moved to Canada in the spring of 1959. Their daughter, Ann, now second counselor in the general Young Women presidency, was about 5; their youngest son, Clark, was born in Toronto.
He said that he had forged friendships that are eternal, and expressed gratitude to the missionaries who served in Eastern Canada while he was a mission president, and for all the missionaries who served before that time or have served since. "Many of you would not be here today except for their willingness to serve the Lord and to share His gospel," he said.
President Monson spoke of the Young Women Memorial Garden located in the camp. The Aaronic Priesthood young men helped create the garden and will continue to maintain it. One can reach the garden by following the Serenity Trail, eventually holding to a rod and climbing to an area of great beauty. He said he advocates that everyone should have a place where he or she can go to commune with God. "Such a 'Sacred Grove' can be anywhere peace and solitude are found," President Monson said. "I would be honored to know that some of you may find such a spot in the Memorial Garden — particularly you Young Women — or perhaps in other areas of this camp which bears my name.
"As we dedicate the Thomas S. Monson Camp today, may we rededicate our lives to the gospel of Jesus Christ. May we serve Him and serve our fellow man. May we share His truths with others, that they may have the opportunity to embrace the truths that we, as members of His Church, love and cherish, as well as partaking of the countless blessings Church membership provides."
In his prayer of dedication, President Monson made reference to Joseph Smith, who came to Ontario to preach the gospel, and Parley P. Pratt, who found President John Taylor in Toronto. "We thank Thee for the Fieldings and for all of the great leaders, Heavenly Father, who came from this part of the world to establish the foundation of Thy work in these latter days. We know that in the 100th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants Thou didst indicate to the Prophet Joseph that Thy spirit and Thy blessings would be with the people in the regions round about, which certainly encompassed this very ground upon which we stand."
In her remarks on the program, Sister Dibb said that a camp, such as the Thomas S. Monson Camp, is important because it gives Church members an opportunity to build strong relationships: young women (ages 12-18) with their leaders, Scouts with their leaders and children with their families.
"I believe that when we acknowledge the beauty of the earth, we are feeling God's love for us," she said. "We are able to go home (from camp) with a renewal of desire to keep his commandments."
The program was conducted by Elder David Murray, an Area Seventy. After the program for the dedication, he spoke with the Church News of the willingness of several thousand members to sit in the rain to see and hear President Monson.
"Despite the continuing obstacles (of the weather), our hearts were filled with warmth and joy as we participated in the dedication of this camp with the one we love so much, and whose name is given to it. People's hearts were more focused on what was said and why we were here than on the weather."