WOW! That is the one word I would use to describe the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, attended by nearly 40,000 participants, volunteers, staff and visitors at The Bechtel Summit. In 2010 and 2013 I was on the Family Life merit badge staff at the jamboree. This year I went as staff to sub-camp C3 and was commissioner to four of the contingent troops. I also had two grandsons there, fulfilling a dream of mine to be at a national Scout jamboree with family.
The LDS presence (approximately 2,200 Scouts, leaders, and staff this year) is significant at a jamboree, but the beautiful thing is uniting with Scouts and Scouters who have the ideals of Scouting as their common core of belief. Peace in the heart prevails and smiles and good rapport abound. There is no discouraging word heard there as all strive to create an experience of excellence for the Scouts. New friends are made across the boundaries of faith. Scouting is for all boys and it only really gets good when the Scouts begin to arrive, set up camp, and begin the wonder of the experience. A good part of that experience was visiting the Heritage area of the jamboree, and visiting the Church-sponsored Duty to God & Country exhibit and the Family Life and Genealogy merit badge booths, where I found a strong spirit of love, faith, and brotherhood. Over 5,000 visitors came to the merit badge booths and 737 Genealogy and 520 Family Life merit badges were earned. Especially rewarding was the opportunity to earn the Church-sponsored 2017 Jamboree Compass Award. Over 3,500 Scouts and Scouters earned the award at the jamboree.
In my commissioner role, I served four troops from the Western Region: two from California, one from Utah, and one from Washington State. Working with the senior patrol leaders was a delight as one sees the Scouting method building character and leadership. The Scouts from Utah were more attuned to things of the Spirit. I went into their camp on several occasions where I felt like I was entering sacred ground. They were reading together from the scriptures on two occasions and having a testimony meeting on another to close out their Sabbath day at the jamboree. Powerful! The troop from Mount Diablo Silverado set a new high bar for excellence in functioning as a troop and maintaining a high level of safety, cleanliness, and uniform troop structure. As I interfaced with the boys I gained great respect for the adult leaders who were in the background and had obviously helped the Scouts prepare for the best experience possible. Young men learned what it means to be a man of noble character and clean demeanor from good men whom they could wholeheartedly emulate. I earned the Daniel Carter Beard Recognition (discussion here), developed for Scouts and Scouters by Charles W. Dahlquist, BSA national commissioner, to encourage better familiarity among Scouts and Scouters with the role of the commissioner in Scouting.
The chaplaincy corps served the jamboree with excellence. When I first arrived, I built a strong relationship with a temporary tent mate who was a Methodist minister from Georgia and serving sub-camp C3 as a chaplain. As it turns out, during the 13 days I was at the jamboree I got news of the deaths of four individuals I loved dearly or was close to. Scott Pickering, the Methodist chaplain, ministered to me personally upon learning of these losses and endeared himself to me through his compassion and the spirit of mourning with those who mourn. It led to some significant gospel discussions.
The sacrament meeting, at which Elder Holland and President Owens spoke, was a wonderful blessing. About 2,500 were gathered, and 48 priests blessed the sacrament, which had been spread out on tables across the front of the stadium. Over 100 deacons performed the priesthood duty of passing the blessed emblems to the gathered congregation of Scouts and Scouters. It was likened by one of the speakers to the gathering at the temple in Bountiful, when the resurrected Savior appeared in the New World and administered the sacrament to the people. Great faith was exhibited in both places. Elder Holland emphasized to the Scouts that they will be better prepared in life if they engage now in understanding how the Atonement of Jesus Christ influences and blesses them.
A jamboree is jam-packed with activities that are fun and challenging. While at the fishing venue, my grandsons witnessed a 15-year-old Scout catching a huge grass carp, caught on a long-pole without a reel. Weighing over 22 pounds, it broke the world record. Scuba diving, STEM Quest, and rock climbing were among some of their favorite activities. They also learned that patch trading is really a lot of fun and got into that in a big way. They found the hike up Garden Ground Mountain to be challenging and the variety of pioneer games to be astounding. Every troop at the jamboree spent one whole day in the Messengers of Peace Day of Service. They would take a lunch and depart early by bus to a service site in one of the four counties surrounding The Summit. Over 100,000 hours of service were given in performing more than 200 service projects during the jamboree.
This service rendered was mentioned by President Trump during his visit and speech at the jamboree. The Scouts were cooperative, appreciative, and respectful as the president honored them with a personal visit, the eighth sitting president during a jamboree to do so. The downside of a presidential visit, with the security protocols in place by the Secret Service, is the loss of literally a full day of jamboree activities. The activity for that day became the visit of the president. A great job was done of using the jumbotrons in the AT&T Stadium to keep the Scouts entertained and engaged. Two videos produced by the Church were shown to all the Scouts present during this time—one was the 2013 Duty to God video and the second was a special video on service featuring two Eagle Scout LDS missionaries in Africa and the service they were rendering there through Smile Train. Service was a major theme as is represented in the Scout Oath of doing our duty to country and also the Scout slogan, “Do a Good Turn Daily.”
Each Scout received a passport with suggestions for journaling their jamboree experience. National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek spoke to Scouts via video several times during the jamboree arena events about his 10-year, 21,000-mile walk, “Out of Eden,” which is re-creating man’s journey out of Africa to the farthest reaches of the planet. He is walking to deliberately meet people and feel the environment in which they live. To document our own journey he suggests that we Scouts slow down and take a moment to reflect and develop a plan to be intentional with our time. Part of that plan should include ways to give back to Scouting in the future, and to truly know the planet and the people who inhabit it.
Oh my! The jamboree was so packed with possible activities that one has to be selective and cannot do it justice in one short article. Although I didn’t experience them, some of the high adventure activities that were available are BMX, skateboarding, mountain biking, zip lines, canopy tours, challenge courses, rock climbing, shooting sports, and more (summarized here).
Steve Wood, of Highland, Utah, is a long-time Scouter who completed Wood Badge when he was the stake president of the Morristown New Jersey Stake. He annually helped plan and attended the Hudson-Delaware Regional LDS Scout Encampment with the Scouts from his stake, even after being called as the stake patriarch. He served as a merit badge counselor for the 2010 jamboree at Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia, and at the 2013 jamboree at The Bechtel Summit. This year he served as a sub-camp commissioner for the 2017 jamboree.
Invitation to the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, from the LDS-BSA Relationships Office:
- We invite you to join the Scouting associations of North America to “Unlock a New World” at the 2019 World Scout Jamboree. For the first time, a world jamboree will be hosted by three national Scout organizations: Scouts Canada, Asociación de Scouts de México, and the Boy Scouts of America.
- The 24th World Scout Jamboree will be held at The Bechtel Summit in West Virginia from July 22 to August 2, 2019. Here is a link to the official website and a short introductory video: http://www.2019wsj.org/.
- Here is a link to some great marketing resources: http://www.2019wsj.org/marketing-resources/.