Encampment focuses on 'bridges to eternity'

More than 1,400 young men and their leaders from 11 stakes gathered July 28-Aug. 1 for an Aaronic Priesthood encampment, "Bridges to Eternity."

The encampment, conducted amidst towering coastal redwoods at the Boy Scouts of America Cutter Scout Reservation about 70 miles south of San Francisco, was for young men in the San Francisco California and Danville California regions. It was organized under the direction of the regional representative, Elder Quentin L. Cook, with approval from the North America West Area presidency.Elder Cook and Young Men General Board member J. Larry Bradshaw addressed the group at a Sunday sacrament meeting July 31, emphasizing the importance of gratitude and faith. Special musical numbers were provided by a young men's choir.

Brother Bradshaw also met with the young men in small groups during the first two days of the encampment, spending an hour of teaching and testimony with each of them. He discussed the characteristics of true champions, citing the Prophet Joseph Smith as a champion of integrity, faith, charity and other positive characteristics, and shared powerful stories from Joseph's life.

He concluded his remarks by challenging the young men to become personal champions of faith, virtue, integrity and the other principles of the Scout Law.

Prior to the encampment, Church members in the two regions donated upwards of 6,000 hours making improvements at the campground over a period of 18 months, working in cooperation with leaders of the BSA Pacific Skyline Council. Part of the work included construction of two high-adventure challenge courses - one for Boy Scouts and another a ropes course for Varsity and Explorer young men.

The courses included a variety of challenging obstacles and team-building activities. Several were conducted high in the redwoods under trained leaders, with approved safety equipment and procedures always paramount. As the young men would work together to meet the challenges, they would often receive suggestions about how the lessons they were learning could be applied in everyday life.

Other encampment activities included swimming, merit-badge work stations, archery, black-powder rifle shooting, rappeling, obstacle courses and canoeing.

Friday-evening entertainment at a hillside amphitheater featured LDS musician Michael McLean and others, who wove a variety of gospel messages into their numbers.

Throughout the encampment and during planning efforts, a youth leadership corps of 80 priest-age young men played a key role in preparing and supervising various activities, according to Mark D. Forsyth, encampment vice chairman.

"It was a joy working with these young men, feeling their strength and seeing them grow as they took on important leadership responsibilities," noted Brother Forsyth. "Without their help, we couldn't have made it happen. Of course, there also were hundreds of dedicated adult leaders who volunteered countless hours as well. We all had a great time working together.

"I think hundreds of young men left the encampment with stronger self-esteem and greater confidence in themselves and in their friends. Many of them were able to look around at sacrament meeting and realize they are part of a great army of priesthood brethren in the Lord's service. It was exciting to be a part of it."

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