It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
A century ago, a contingent of early Scouters from the United Kingdom traveled to western Canada and met with Nathan W. Tanner, the bishop of Alberta's Aetna Ward.
Bishop Tanner was impressed with what he learned about the boy-centered program and its guiding principles of service, outdoor adventure and moral living. He formed a troop in his ward that consisted of a few boys, including his 13-year-old son, N. Eldon Tanner, who, decades later, would serve in the First Presidency. The Aetna Scout Troop was to be the first LDS group of its kind in Canada.
From that charter troop has evolved a proud tradition of LDS-sponsored Scouting in Canada. To celebrate the centennial of the organization of that first troop, an army of LDS Canadian Scouts and their leaders gathered July 4-9 for a multi-day encampment at Camp Impeesa near Pincher Creek, Alberta. In all, more than 3,300 people participated, enjoying several days of fun and instruction anchored in gospel principles and the teachings of the Book of Mormon.
Dubbed "Helaman's Encampment," the gathering "was a rare event," said President Stephen Miller, who presides over the Calgary Alberta West Stake. "When the camp ended, many of us wanted it to continue."
President Miller played a pivotal role in organizing the massive encampment. He and several other local priesthood and Scout leaders spent several years planning for the historic encampment that would commemorate 100 years of LDS Scouting in Canada. They found an ideal locale at Camp Impeesa with its natural amphitheater, water features and scenic mountain hiking trails. Aaronic Priesthood boys and leaders from 26 stakes in western Canada participated and, over the course of the encampment, prepared more than 57,000 meals.
As expected at a Scout camp, there was plenty of high adventure fun. The boys enjoyed backwoods navigation exercises, crossed lakes on improvised rafts and tested their agility on challenging obstacle courses. Many also completed a strenuous mountain hike.
Camp organizers hope the LDS Scouts will remember the gospel-themed lessons of each activity long after tired muscles stop aching.
"Each of the activities had a Book of Mormon backstory," said President Miller. The water crossing, for example, allowed instructors to teach the boys about the faith exercised by Nephi when he obeyed the Lord's commandment to build a ship and cross the sea.
Each evening the boys would gather at the amphitheater to listen to fireside messages presented by a variety of priesthood and Scout leaders. The Scouts and their leaders did not have to strain to see and hear each speaker. Massive television screens and speakers allowed even those seated near the back of the theater to hear each and every word of instruction.
Fireside speakers included Brother David L. Beck, Young Men general president; his predecessor, Brother Charles W. Dahlquist II; Elder Gifford Nielsen, Area Seventy and former BYU quarterback; Elder Richard K. Melchin, Area Seventy; and Ed Mulitalo, an LDS pro football player. Brother Jim Tanner, the 93-year-old son of the Church's first Scout leader in Canada, James Tanner, also spoke to the boys.
"Each speaker talked about making the decision to stand for faith," said President Miller.
In his fireside message, Brother Beck included a video clip of President Thomas S. Monson's 2010 general conference talk challenging young men to live worthy lives and prepare for missions. The youth leader reminded the boys that they had already been called to the work, "and I told them that they can impact the lives of others." He also challenged the boys to invite their friends and family members to come to Christ.
Brother Beck said "Helaman's Encampment" was an event that offered all the best that Scouting offers — combined with the eternal messages of the priesthood and gospel living. At the end of the camp, every young camper signed the canvas sign that hung over "Helaman's Encampment." The boys then handed the sign over to Brother Beck, who promised to deliver it to President Monson when he returned to Salt Lake City.
Leaders believe each young man returned home from "Helaman's Encampment" with inspired memories that will serve them well throughout their lives.
"The camp showed the young men that being a member of the Church is a great adventure," said camp organizer James Evanson, president of the Lethbridge Alberta East Stake.