PETERBOROUGH, Ontario — President Thomas S. Monson returned "home" to eastern Canada to dedicate on Saturday a camp that bears his name.
"I can't tell you how wonderful it is to be back in this part of the world," said the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before he offered a prayer to dedicate the camp that covers more than 400 acres about 120 miles east of Toronto near Peterborough. About 15 acres of the camp have been developed; the rest remains as natural habitat.
The property has campsites, each named after a Young Women value: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity and Virtue.
Each site has a shelter with concrete flooring. In addition to constructing the shelters, members in eight participating stakes built 75 picnic tables, cleared trees, cut trails, planted grass seed, built a canoe building, installed soccer posts and a baseball backstop, and built docks and an amphitheater with a stage and seating.
Edward T. Baxter, second counselor in the Ontario Toronto Mission presidency, said, "Just as we thought we were about finished with the work, on June 8, a violent wind storm went through the camp, uprooting almost 80 trees, all of which had to be cleaned up prior to today."
President Monson acknowledged the work and effort that went into building the camp.
It was raining as President Monson arrived at the camp and had been doing so most of the morning. Still, several thousand people gathered, many huddled under umbrellas and sitting on chairs they had brought, some even on the muddy ground. About 150 young women who formed a chorus literally sang in the rain. The rain increased as the program began, but just as President Monson stepped to the microphone under a tarp-covered canopy, the rain stopped. People furled their umbrellas and listened in greater comfort.
"We're here today in this beautiful setting to dedicate the Thomas S. Monson Camp. How honored I am that you would want my name associated with this magnificent piece of property which will serve not only as a camp for the Young Women, but for families and for other groups as well," the church leader said.
"It has been improved and developed so that those who stay here will be able to do so in comfort and safety. A variety of activities is available, including hiking, boating, swimming and, one of my favorites — fishing. I understand that the walleye fishing here is unparalleled."
He expressed love and fondness for the people of Canada and reminisced a bit about the time he and his wife, Frances J. Monson, and their children lived in Toronto three years as he presided over the Canadian Mission, beginning in 1959. Their oldest son, Tom, was nearly 8 years old when the family moved to Canada in the spring of 1959. Their daughter, Ann, was nearly 6, and their youngest son, Clark, was born in Toronto.
"Although many of our dear Canadian friends have passed on, there are those who remain still — as well as the children and grandchildren of those stalwart saints of years ago," President Monson said.
"I am overjoyed to meet with you. Many of you have come into the church or have moved to the area since we left our home here almost 50 years ago. I want you to know that I claim all of you. Wherever I go in this world, a whole lot of you and of Canada goes with me, for the experiences I had here and the friendships I forged are eternal. I also express my love and deep gratitude to the missionaries who served in Eastern Canada during the time I was mission president, as well as to all the missionaries who have served since that time — or even before we were here. Many of you would not be here today except for their willingness to serve the Lord and to share His gospel."
In her remarks on the program, Sister Ann Monson Dibb, second counselor in the General Young Women presidency of the church, said that a camp, such as the one dedicated Saturday, is important because it gives church members an opportunity to build strong relationships: young women (ages 12-18) with their leaders, Scouts with their leaders and children with their families.
"I believe that when we acknowledge the beauty of the earth, we are feeling God's love for us," she said. "We are able to go home (from camp) with a renewal of desire to keep his commandments."
The program was conducted by Elder David Murray of the Seventy.