Building Zion in the Alaskan wilderness


The morning of the three-day camping trip began with pouring rain and high winds — typical for the middle of June in interior Alaska. It would have been easy to cancel the trip, but the young men of the Delta Junction Ward of the Fairbanks Alaska Stake were eager to field test the 72-hour kits they had made as part of their Scout training.

“We have been counseled by Church leaders to be prepared and have emergency kits,” said Colin Barnard, ward Young Men president. “We really wanted to see if we could last three days and two nights on a standard 72-hour kit and not just last, but do so comfortably and cheerfully.”

With that in mind, six young men and three leaders —Brother Barnard; Justin Whitehead, Scout committee chairman; and Dallen Wrigley assistant ward clerk —hiked into remote Craig Lake with fishing gear, fire starters, paracord, pocket knives, rain gear, MREs, emergency space blankets and other survival gear.

By the time they headed back home Saturday, June 21, they had caught trout, cooked wilderness stew with wild rhubarb, constructed a tarp-wrapped teepee, erected personal shelters and, most important, learned about what Brother Barnard calls “living simply and simply living the gospel.”

“The more time the young men spent outdoors, the more they taught each other, learned about leadership and grew together as a quorum,” said Brother Wrigley. The outing was not only an opportunity to practice the skills learned in Scouting, but also a chance for the young men of the ward to connect with their priesthood leaders.

Fifteen-year-old Kyle Enderle experienced both sides of being prepared during the three-day excursion. He was able to share his fishing rod to allow some of the young men to catch their dinner, but he also faced the consequences of not being prepared when his water filter didn’t work.

Fifteen-year-old Liam Barnard realized, “When you prepare for reality, you should also prepare spiritually for all purposes. Whether it is missionary work or just talking to kids at school, you should always be prepared.”

On the second day of the trip, campers were happy to wake to sunny, 70-degree weather. They fished, swam, hiked and learned more about surviving in wilderness situations. During an evening fireside, they read scriptures and talked about preparing spiritually for their lives.

Tanner Michie, 15, summed up what he learned by saying, “When you are prepared physically and you are ready for challenges you might face, you learn about being prepared spiritually so you can face temptation and trials.”

“We were glad we had the faith to push forward because the reward was amazing,” said Brother Barnard. “The boys learned a ton about what worked and what didn’t in a survival situation, and we grew strong in fellowship. You don’t have to live in Alaska to be able to experience something like this.”

Hiking back in the pouring rain, the young men continued to work together and help each other.

“During our camping trip, we learned that there is joy in the simple things at hand — a shelter that doesn’t leak, a fire and catching a fish,” said Brother Barnard. “When we focus on subjects or issues beyond our control or out of our stewardship, our spirits become depressed. We find peace when we focus on and practice the basic principles of the gospel.”

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