The role of Aaronic Priesthood holders as modern pioneers, and their responsibilities to spread the gospel and continue the legacy of those who have gone before were emphasized during the Oklahoma LDS Scout Encampment Oct. 16-18.
Approximately 600 Young Men attended the encampment, the largest gathering of Aaronic Priesthood holders ever assembled in Oklahoma, according to event organizers. The encampment was representative of many gatherings of Young Men this year commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Pioneers' arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.Hosted by the Stillwater Oklahoma Stake, the encampment included Young Men from Norman Oklahoma, Lawton Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Oklahoma South, Tulsa Oklahoma, Tulsa Oklahoma East and Fort Smith Oklahoma stakes. It was held at the Church-owned Sooner Cattle Company ranch near the city of Pawhuska, the site where the first Boy Scout troop in the United States was chartered.
The event's theme was "Faith in the Heartland – the Legacy Continues."
The highlight of the encampment was the Thursday night campfire program where the Aaronic Priesthood holders were addressed by Elder D. Todd Christopherson of the Seventy and a counselor in the North America Southwest Area presidency. Elder Christopherson assured the Scouts that "if the Lord knows when a sparrow falls, he certainly knows that you are here tonight."
Prior to his remarks, Elder Christopherson performed in an impromptu skit with Pres. Michael Applegate of the Stillwater Oklahoma Stake.
Other encampment objectives included strengthening commitment to the ideals of Scouting and of the Aaronic Priesthood and providing an opportunity for boys to associate with a large number of LDS Scouts. In many areas of Oklahoma, LDS youth find they are the only members of the Church in their schools. Activities such as the encampment serve to help them feel that they are not alone in their treks through life, said camp organizers.
The event helped strengthen not only the youth but also helped rekindle the Scouting spirit in the adult leaders and give them vision of what can be accomplished. The challenge was given to all to go back to their stakes, wards and branches and recommit themselves to excellence and to let the spirit of the encampment live on through their service.
The young men participated in a variety of activities including tug-of-war, shooting, timber toss and traditional cooking and Scouting activities. Displays included a pioneer campsite reminiscent of the 1840s, exhibits of early Scouting in Oklahoma, native tall grasses of the plains and artifacts contemporary to the Book of Mormon, sponsored by the Church Educational System.
Educational materials from Boys' Life and the United States Mint were also made available. Leaders had the opportunity to participate in the Boy Scouts of America "Fast Start" and "Safe Swim Defense" training.
Prior to the awards campfire program Friday evening, the entire population of the camp gathered for a picnic-style dinner featuring smoked beef and pork that had been prepared by the staff.
At the close of the Friday night campfire, all Aaronic Priesthood holders in attendance were asked to commit to live worthy lives and prepare to serve missions.
The idea for the encampment was formulated by Jeff Sutton and Jamie Murray of the Stillwater Ward, Stillwater Oklahoma Stake.