'Duty to God' program anchors instruction at Philmont conference
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.
The annual LDS leadership conference at eastern New Mexico's Philmont Scout Ranch is, at once, an intensive training seminar and a spiritual gathering of like-minded youth leaders and their families.
Many come to the Scout training perhaps second-guessing their decision to burn a week of vacation time to sleep in tents and spend hours each day sitting in classroom instruction. Many more leave this storied ranch with spirits soaring after having known "a Zion's experience."
This year's Philmont LDS Conference "helped me see a vision of how Scouting and Duty To God should be able to function in Aaronic Priesthood Quorums. ... I am feeling specific revelation to implement. You've taught, I've learned and now I act and share," wrote Rob Finch, a stake Young Men president from Yakima, Wash.
Each year local priesthood leaders from across the country gather at Philmont conferences to be instructed on how to best implement Scouting in their respective wards and stakes even as they help young men become "priesthood men" and learn their duty to God. The conferences are presided over by Brother David L. Beck, Young Men general president, with the assistance of his counselors, Brother Larry M. Gibson and Brother Adrian Ochoa. The Primary general presidency, including Sister Rosemary M. Wixom and her second counselor, Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, also participated in this year's sessions, held June 25-July 1 and July 2-8.
"Philmont was spectacular," reported Brother Beck. "It was so positive."
Classroom sessions offered counsel on how wards and stakes can best utilize Scouting to help young men fulfill their priesthood duties. Operating effective Varsity Scouts and Venturer programs was included in the instruction, along with direction for local Cub Scout leaders. Much of this year's instruction was anchored to the revised Duty to God program.
"There was a great desire among the leaders to become more familiar with Duty to God," said Brother Beck. "The leaders were very appreciative of the instruction they received."
The annual priesthood leadership session, held high in the mountains above the ranch, was again a conference highlight. Referencing Doctrine and Covenants Section 84, Brother Beck reminded the participants of the importance of Aaronic Priesthood leaders developing relationships of trust with the young men they serve.
While the leadership conferences provide essential Scouting training, the Philmont experience is also defined by families and new friends. While most of the participants had never met prior to arriving at the ranch, a sense of unity quickly developed. One evening Brother Gibson enjoyed a dish of ice cream with two couples, one from Texas and the other from Wyoming. The couples had just met, he said, but they conversed and laughed like old friends.
"At Philmont you make friends that you feel you have known forever," said Brother Ochoa.
Children's parades, a camp-wide family home evening, and even a viewing of the classic Scout flick "Follow Me Boys" ensured that families spent precious time with one another.
Sundays at Philmont were again sacred days for conference participants. The Sabbath is spent away from the classroom and recreational events as families come together for worship, quiet reflection, scripture study and gospel instruction. The encampment functions as a traditional ward, with participants fulfilling "callings" to teach Primary, priesthood quorum and Sunday School lessons. Others are enlisted to bless and pass the sacrament during sacrament meeting.
The best part of the Philmont "ward"? "We have 100 percent attendance at every meeting," said Brother Gibson, smiling.
The Young Men and Primary general leaders also participated in outdoor sacrament meetings with older youth participants in the mountains high above the ranch. The youth were spending a week in the back country enjoying a mountain trek with Philmont staffers.
"The most important feedback we received was that people felt the Spirit," said Brother Beck.
In future issues, the Church News will feature summaries of several classroom instruction sessions.