FIRTH, Idaho — The "Rise Up" Scout Camp delivered all that it had promised for the more than 10,000 Scouts and leaders who converged upon this agriculturally rich region of southeastern Idaho.
"Rise Up" was, unmistakably, a full-fledged Scout camp. Boys from all corners of the Grand Teton Council spent four days (June 26-29) enjoying the outdoor adventure that has defined Scouting for more than a century. Days here were spent in one of the camp's three action centers. Under a broiling summer sun, Scouts sprinted from one activity to the next to secure a spot in line to scale the climbing tower, ride the zip line, pulverize a clay pigeon on the shooting range or wage pugil stick "wars" inside a bouncy, inflatable octagon.
The BMX race course and the geocaching challenges were counted among the most popular activities at camp. From a distance, it was hard to distinguish Scouts from Scoutmasters, as "boys" of all ages joined in the fun.
Meanwhile, a 300-acre section of rural Firth was transformed into a tent city. By midweek, the massive encampment could almost be called homey. Several campers strung up hammocks between tents to catch a few lazy winks between trips to the action center. And the aroma of hamburgers, grilled chicken and other delicious Scout fare drifted across the open camp.
This was Scout Camp with a capital S and a capital C. But it was much, much more.
The 2013 "Rise Up" encampment was aptly labeled "An Aaronic Priesthood Encampment Celebrating 100 Years of Scouting in the LDS Church." At first glance, the camp's namesake was a challenge for boys to "rise up" and enjoy Scouting in full. But on a higher, more meaningful level, "Rise Up" was a sacred call to gospel duty for legions of Aaronic Priesthood holders from 58 stakes across western Wyoming and much of Idaho. Camp organizers hope the priesthood principles taught, emphasized and celebrated at camp will remain in the hearts and testimonies of boys long after zip lines, shooting ranges and bicycle races have relegated to digital photo albums.
"This encampment speaks to the values of Scouting for the young men of the Church — the relationship is stronger than ever before," said David Smith, chairman of the historic event.
The highlight of camp was the inaugural offering of the Thomas S. Monson Award. The name of the Church's 16th president is, of course, synonymous with Scouting. He's a recipient of the prestigious Silver Buffalo Award and is in his fifth decade serving on Scouting's National Executive Board. But the camp award that bears his name is primarily a priesthood award. The handsome medallion includes a portrait of President Monson and a nod to the Church's 100-year-old association with Scouting.
The Thomas S. Monson Award is the anchor of the "Rise Up" Scout Camp, declared Brother David L. Beck, the Church's Young Men general president. The award, he said, offered young men a unique opportunity to learn more about their prophet while making life-altering commitments to serve in the gospel.
Campers were asked to complete two general requirements — along with several elective activities — to earn the award. Included was a requirement that each Scout read or listen to President Monson's defining Scout talk "Run, Boy, Run" (General Conference, October 1982). Scouts were then asked to discuss with their troop or leaders the things they learned from President Monson's teachings. The campers were also required to visit one of the several LDS Visitors' Center tents at camp and discuss what can be learned inside each center with the folks staffing the tents. Counted among the staffers were several elders from the Idaho Pocatello Mission. Award electives included time spent reading and reviewing the Aaronic Priesthood-themed Section 13 of the Doctrine and Covenants, getting to know Scouts from other areas of the Grand Teton Council, learning about family history research at the camp Family History Center and learning and utilizing President Monson's counsel on preparing for missionary service.
"I've had a great time here with all the activities — but the best part of camp has been earning the Thomas S. Monson Award," said Caleb Rhodes, a 15-year-old Scout from Idaho Falls. "I've come to know more about President Monson and the award has helped me decide to set a date on when I will serve my mission."
Numerous leaders joined the boys in earning the Thomas S. Monson Award.
Scouters also enjoyed a break from the noise and bustle each day as they gathered at spots throughout the camp for quiet devotionals presided over by stake presidents and other local priesthood leaders. Then each night the entire encampment migrated to a rolling natural amphitheater to enjoy talent shows and listen to counsel from Scout and Church leaders.
On June 27, Brother Beck told his audience of 10,000-plus Scouters that "Rise Up" was the Church's largest encampment in 2013. He warned the young men of complacency and accepting mediocrity in their lives. Develop divine gifts, he counseled. Follow the dutiful example of President Monson and wear the award engraved with his name as a reminder of the prophet's example of service to others.
Wayne Perry, president of the Boy Scouts of America and a Church member, encouraged the young men to be on the lookout for that one boy who might be missing from troop or quorum activities. Search for and then rescue that Scout and bring him back to full fellowship and activity, he encouraged the youth. Brother Perry also saluted Scouting's century-long partnership with the Church, saying the program offers "extra armor" of protection for boys. "Scouting," he added, "is an inspired program."
For thousands, Camp "Rise Up" marked a week of fellowship, fun and recommitment as young men and their leaders focused on the opportunities and principles of the Aaronic Priesthood. For at least one Scout, "Rise Up" also offered moments of eternal perspective. Just three days before the first day of camp, Boy Scout Jacob Hymas, a 12-year-old deacon from Idaho Falls, was involved in a small airplane crash not far from the camp site. Jacob survived the crash and was not seriously harmed. His father, Brian Hymas, and the plane's third passenger, Mark Shell, 64, were both killed.
Brian Hymas, 43, loved Scouting and being outdoors with family — so to honor his father, Jacob chose to attend camp even as he recovered from his injuries.
Being at camp allowed Jacob to feel close to his father, said his mother, Ann Hymas. "We know [his father] is here with us."
Hanging around Jacob's neck was the Thomas S. Monson Award. On the flip side of that medallion are embossed a prophet's words promising comfort long after the camp's conclusion: "Look to the lighthouse of the Lord. There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what its beacon light can rescue."
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