Appalachians camp hosts Scouts from 12 stakes
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Spanning three national forests and the Hiwassee River Basin, more than a thousand Boy Scouts of America, their leaders and fathers met July 16-23 at Camp Rainey Mountain in the foothills of the Appalachians near Clayton, Ga., for an LDS Aaronic Priesthood Encampment to experience high adventure, earn merit badges and learn about duty to God, family and country.
At four sites where Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee meet, Scouts from 12 stakes learned more about nature and about leadership, but the most important thing they learned, according to the camp host President Tom Owen of the Powder Springs Georgia Stake was more about their sacred duty to God; that they are priesthood bearers of God and that — no matter where they come from — every young man learns where he goes from here and how to do it.
Early Sunday morning, July 17, Stewart Amphitheater was over capacity with an energetic and enthusiastic crowd of boys as services got under way, but as the air swelled with male voices singing in unison, "I Am a Child of God," the fidgeting and whispers subsided. Young men and leaders alike experienced the joy of the Spirit and of God's creations as handcrafted sacrament trays were passed silently in the outdoor backdrop. Along the banks of Lake Toccoa, the water reflected a thousand images that seemed to touch the sky and mountain as three youth leaders spoke on the 2011 theme of "Our Duty to God."
Morgan Clark, a deacon from the Sugar Hill Georgia Stake, said, "We are priesthood holders with a responsibility to come closer to Heavenly Father by strengthening our testimonies and relationship with God, learning and fulfilling priesthood duties and applying the standards found in the booklet 'For the Strength of Youth.' All these things prepare us to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and go on a mission."
Phil Henderson, a priest in the Marietta Georgia East Stake, spoke on duty to family. "We live in eternal families," he said. "When we obey and honor our parents we are promised that we will live long on the earth, have joy and prosper. Walking uprightly before God and following the prophet will hold our families together, and family is the cornerstone that holds society together."
Daniel Blount, a priest in Atlanta Georgia Stake, spoke on duty to country; of honor, respect, and patriotism and of love, unity, and strength in faith. He spoke of Captain Moroni who made of his coat the title of liberty, "and wrote upon it — In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children," and then "bowed himself to the earth and prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should be a band of Christians remain to possess the land" (Alma 46: 12-13).
Daniel said, "As we fulfill our duty to God, we strengthen our families, and out of strong families come a strong nation."
During the week, evening firesides were held under the stars, complete with bonfire and an impressive lineup of guest speakers, including coaches, former MLB, NFL and NBA players, armed forces leaders and heroes, and business leader Elder Robert C. Gay, an Area Seventy.
A favorite fireside of the week was of Major General William "Terry" Nesbitt, Adjutant General of Georgia, who arrived by helicopter. He has several major military awards and honors, is responsible for the state's Department of Defense. He and wife, Letha, are members of the Oostanaula Baptist Church of Calhoun, Ga., where he serves as a deacon.
Joseph Phillips of Athens, who gets around by wheelchair, came with his father, Dennis, for the week. Joseph said, "Pretty much my highlight during the week was the fireside with the Major General who came swooping down in a helicopter. That was pretty cool." Joseph enjoyed Maj. Gen. Nesbitt sharing his military experiences but said when he "was lifted up to the cabin of the helicopter, that was awesome!"
On the final evening fireside, guest speaker Brother Ron L. Anderson of the General Young Men Board invited a few young men who converted to the Church to answer his questions about their conversion. Many shared that their conversion began with an invitation, and, not without fear and feeling different, when they accepted that invitation. Brother Anderson said it was up to all young men to "strengthen their faith and their testimony, become closer to Christ, understand and love Him and ourselves better." And, he said, "The easiest missionary invitation you can offer is to invite your friends to an Aaronic Priesthood event like this encampment."
He asked who in the audience was not a member of the Church but was invited by a friend. Many raised their hands. "I am certain Heavenly Father is looking down now very pleased," Brother Anderson said.
After asking everyone to join in singing "Called to Serve," President Owen closed the evening with an actual call to serve for each young man, saying, "Brethren, we know our mission and it has already started. You know who needs to be invited. You know them; we need to rescue them."