Some 5,000 LDS Scouts and hundreds of their leaders will celebrate Scouting's centennial by gathering at Virginia's Ft. A.P. Hill July 26-Aug. 4 for the National Scout Jamboree.
Tens of thousands of boys will don the familiar olive uniforms and converge on the U.S. Army base from all areas of the country for several days of fun, adventure and fellowship. This year's Jamboree will again have a prominent Church presence. Boys from all religious backgrounds will enjoy the opportunity to learn more about the Church, receive gospel instruction from Church leaders and even earn an LDS-sponsored Scouting award created exclusively for the Jamboree.
Veteran LDS Scouters say the Jamboree will again offer far more than Scouting memories. New friendships will be forged, and leaders will have unique opportunities to interact and counsel with their charges in an outdoor setting far removed from their typical day-to-day activities.
"The Jamboree truly is a life-changing experience because of the time you have to change the life of a boy," said Ronald Nyman, a professional Scouter and member of the Church who will be participating in his sixth National Scout Jamboree. "It's tremendous preparation for a young man preparing for a mission."
David Pack, the director of BSA-LDS Relations, said the Jamboree will afford LDS Scouts countless opportunities to strengthen their testimonies even as they enjoy the myriad Jamboree adventures. The Church will again sponsor an inviting LDS-themed exhibit. One display to be featured in the exhibit is entitled "The Symbol of our Faith" and will introduce Jamboreers to the history and basic tenets of the Church. Another display celebrates the Strength of Youth program. Plenty of pamphlets and copies of the Book of Mormon will be available for all who are interested.
The Church is also hosting activity tents where Scouts can earn the Genealogy and Family Life merit badges. Even those who have already earned the awards can research their own family history and enjoy fun genealogy instruction.
A new, Jamboree-specific LDS medallion will also be earned by Scouts of all backgrounds. Boys can claim the George Albert Smith Award by fulfilling a series of requirements in genealogy and family life. They will also be asked to read the story of George Albert Smith — the Church's eighth president and a champion of Scouting — along with President Thomas S. Monson's beloved Scouting story "Run, Boy, Run!"
LDS Scouters at Ft. A.P. Hill will also have an opportunity to receive instruction and, perhaps, shake hands with general Church leaders. The Young Men general presidency — David L. Beck, Larry M. Gibson and Adrian Ochoa — will participate in most or all of the National Scout Jamboree. Meanwhile, Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve is expected to preside at an outdoor sacrament meeting that will be attended by thousands of uniformed Scouts and their leaders. The massive sacrament meeting is a favorite National Jamboree tradition, as young priesthood holders worship together and receive precious gospel instruction. Deacons, teachers and priests will be enlisted by the dozen to help administer the sacred Sabbath ordinance. Others are asked to sing in the Scout choir.
"The sacrament meeting is a remarkable experience," said Brother Nyman.
Brother Charles W. Dahlquist II — a former Young Men general president and president of Scouting's Great Salt Lake Council — will serve as the Jamboree's head chaplain, overseeing some 120 volunteer chaplains of various religious backgrounds.
Brother Nyman said the Jamboree provides LDS Scouts, many of whom will be away from home and family for the first time, an invaluable opportunity to meet and mix with thousands of people who come from varied backgrounds, cultures and religious traditions. As they swap Scout patches and team up for high-adventure activities, the boys will learn how to interact with folks who are different from themselves. It's a skill that will serve them well on missions and throughout their lives.
Many of the LDS Scouts who will be at Fort A.P. Hill are also being challenged by their local leaders to bring an extra copy of the Book of Mormon to give to a new friend and exchange "Pass-Along" cards each time they trade Scout patches.