Las Cruces Encampment
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“Las Cruces Encampment,” New Era, June 2011, 38

Las Cruces Encampment

“Are we prepared to fulfill our Duty to God?” came the call through the mountain air of New Mexico’s Gila National Forest. A resounding “Yes” echoed in the hearts and minds of 60 young men and 40 leaders gathered for a three-day Aaronic Priesthood camp. Forty-one of the boys and 19 of their adult leaders had completed a full year of age-specific Duty to God activities in preparation for this day. The Las Cruces New Mexico Stake encampment, appropriately named “Aaronic Priesthood—Fulfilling Our Duty to God,” was underway.

The nine wards were divided into six groups to participate in six round-robin events: building King Benjamin’s tower and wall climbing, geocaching, mountain biking, team building/missionary preparation, handcart pulling, and service projects. Another key element of the encampment experience was the campfire program each night, followed by ward devotionals around their own campfires. Each campfire program ended with 12 men dressed as prophets teaching the young men how they can magnify their priesthood and do their duty to God by living the 12 principles of the Scout Law.

Valian Fowler, a priest from the Rio Grande Ward, sums up his experiences from the encampment in these words: “I honestly can’t think of a campout when I felt the Spirit stronger. My father is a nonmember, and he came on the encampment with us. It was a great bonding time for us. He was in charge of the service project and spent most of his days at the encampment painting fences and cutting down trees and putting them in the gullies to help prevent erosion. We did many challenging and fun activities, but I can’t think of a time when all of us were smiling bigger and felt the Spirit stronger than when we were doing the service project. It was very challenging. We were all covered in sweat and rain, but I knew that we were doing the right thing. I could feel it in my heart. I finally know what they meant when they said ‘there is no greater happiness than when you’re serving others.’ I loved it.”

Photographs courtesy of Michael Giles