“Nephites in Georgia,” New Era, July 2005, 40
What was it like to be a stripling warrior? Nearly 90 young men from the Powder Springs Georgia Stake learned a little about being stripling warriors when they spent a week reenacting stories from the Book of Mormon during Scout camp.
Camp #175 sits on the shores of Lake Allatoona in northern Georgia. Upon arriving there, the Scouts’ first order of business was to construct a fort, similar to those Moroni designed, as described in the Book of Mormon (see Alma 49). Before camp, leaders and young men chopped and cut timber. Eight trailer loads of timber were then hauled into camp. Then on the first day of camp, the work of building the fort began.
The boys lashed together tall timbers with rope. Soon, the trenches around the fort took shape. It was a rainy week in Georgia, but the men and boys worked 4 or 5 hours a day, and sometimes 10, in the mud and rain to finish the fort in three days.
“During the first days of camp when the fort was being built, I would walk by it and see boys working on it, even during their free time. They were determined to get it done!” says Brett Cannon, first counselor in the stake Young Men presidency.
“Building the fort helped me get a better understanding of what it was like when the stripling warriors lived,” says Andrew Carter, a priest in the Mars Hill Ward.
Bryon Cheney, a priest from the Lost Mountain Ward, also worked many hours on the fort. He said, “Doing the physical labor of building the fort made me realize how much the stripling warriors had to go through. It definitely made me want to be like them. They were not only physically strong, but spiritually strong.”
The Scouts participated in many other activities, like the “Teancum Challenge,” which involved scaling the fort and throwing a spear at a target (see Alma 51:31–37), and the “Antipus Course,” an obstacle course teaching the Young Men about Antipus’s army’s three-day march (see Alma 56).
“We learned how Antipus and the stripling warriors lured the Lamanites out of their fortress,” said Harrison Snyder, a deacon in the Ensign Ward. “We have to be strong and keep our fortress of righteousness around us. If we do, it will be easier to stay on the path and return to our Father in Heaven.”
As the young men went through the challenging obstacle course, they gained a greater appreciation for the Nephite warriors in the Book of Mormon. Bobby Blind, a teacher in the Powder Springs Ward, said, “I started to understand what they did and why. They were defending their families, homes, friends, and freedom.”
Throughout the camp, signs were posted to instill confidence and remind the young men of their potential. Moroni’s “Title of Liberty” hung in a prominent place (see Alma 46:11–20). And each evening, they were treated to firesides where they learned about family life, Native American lore, the Savior’s visit to the Americas, and other subjects.
They also worked on Scouting merit badges and Duty to God requirements; many activities at camp helped them accomplish both. There was even some free time each day and an occasional mud fight.
Bright and early on the last day of camp, about 30 young men chose to compete in the “Iron Warrior Competition.” Participants swam one mile in Lake Allatoona and then ran two miles through the woods. Like other activities at camp, this one could be used to fulfill both Scouting and Duty to God requirements.
At the beginning of the year the boys received the challenge to read the Book of Mormon. If a young man completed both the Iron Warrior Competition and read the entire Book of Mormon by the end of Scout camp, he received the Captain Moroni award—a five-foot high metal sculpture of a man in armor. “It was taller than I am!” says Max Carter, a deacon from the Mars Hill Ward who earned the Captain Moroni award. “The Iron Warrior Competition was hard. I was just happy to accomplish it.”
Matthew Clough, a deacon from the Ensign Ward, also earned the Captain Moroni award. “It was the first time I had read the Book of Mormon all the way through. You can read about the warriors in the Book of Mormon, but doing some of the things they did, like building the fort at camp, made me feel like I was a part of them.”
The Iron Warrior Competition was difficult for Matthew: “I wasn’t sure I could do it, but when one of the boys kidded me about getting picked up and hauled back to camp in a canoe, I knew I had to do it. It taught me that even though I feel like one of the weakest people in my ward, I can do things if I try.”
On the last evening, a tired but happy bunch of young men gathered for awards, the closing campfire, and testimonies. They listened as their stake president, Keith Giddens, spoke to them from a tower made of lashed timbers that had been constructed during the week.
President Giddens reminded the tired Scouts to be “firm and undaunted” (Alma 57:20) in choosing the right and that they could all do hard things if they put their trust in the Lord and made righteous choices.
Now, back at home after a great experience at camp, the young men in the Powder Springs Georgia Stake are busy building their own personal spiritual fortresses.
“And they were all young men, and they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted.
“Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.”