Currently in the Church 7% of young adults who are called on missions return home early. Of that, 3% are belated confessions regarding interactions with a female. The other 4% come home for what is called separation anxiety, which can be described in a couple of ways: homesickness, stress, non-conformity to rules, etc. But the bottom line is that for that percentage of missionaries who come home early, what it amounts to is that these missionaries have not had enough out of home experiences. Consequently, when they leave the nest and go away they are unable to deal with the kinds of pressures that confront them.
So I say to mothers that the Jamboree is an insurance policy against separation anxiety. And if you get your son to a national jamboree you will not have to worry about separation anxiety for your son who goes into the mission field because that problem is solved.
In 2005 I was an assistant Scoutmaster of a troop in Northern Utah County. I had a boy in the troop from Lehi. The Scout had some serious difficulties with being away from home. His grandmother wanted him to go to the Jamboree bad enough that she paid for it hoping to help him overcome whatever was grinding on him psychologically.
Troop meetings begin about a year before the jamboree, about every other month and then monthly the last six months before leaving. At the first jamboree troop meeting he was late coming in. I made a telephone call to the parents to see where they were. They were out in the parking lot and asked for me to come out and help them. I went out and the boy was spread-eagled in the car holding on to everything he could with his hands and his feet, locked in saying “I’m not going to go.” So I helped his dad and grandfather to physically remove him from the car and bring him in. They left and said they would return in 1 1/2 hours to pick him up. That behavior persisted every time we held a troop meeting, every time we held a campout – everything, including the morning of departure at the park & ride in American Fork. This boy refused to get on the bus. We physically removed him and put him on the bus and took him with us to the jamboree. And every day at the jamboree he asked to use my cell phone to call home, and I would tell him each time that my battery was shot. And every day he said, “I’m going to walk home.” Bottom line – he finished the experience.
Crossing the Finish Line
I thought eventually the outcome would be that he would serve a mission. He has not done so at this time but there is still an opportunity for him to serve. But he went on to earn his Eagle badge, he’s gainfully employed and doing things in his life that I do not believe he would have been able to accomplish had he not gone to the jamboree and finished something.
Testimony of Jamboree
I’ve seen it happen to enough boys and heard enough testimonies from moms to see the value of this experience, of going away from home for two weeks and how it strengthens them. And then we add to it a number of things that are directly related to serving an LDS mission: (1) Every kid has a buddy, i.e. companion. Scouts go nowhere by themselves, (2) Wear a uniform everyday of the jamboree which makes the transition to a white shirt and tie easier. (3) If you have ever been to New York City with a group of boys in Scout uniforms you will discover that New Yorkers are not nice. They do not treat the kids really well. They say awful things to them. This experience prepares them to face challenges in the mission field.
One of the major experiences at jamboree is patch trading which takes place on a daily basis. I explain to parents that trading a patch is no different than a door approach. You are going up to someone whom you have never met before in your life and saying, “I’m from Utah. I’m (give your name). I have this patch and I would like to trade it for a patch you have.” You engage in a conversation and negotiate a deal.
Developing a World View
Jamboree is a highly cultured experience because kids attend from around the world. Every free country that has Scouting sends kids to the jamboree. So there are multiple opportunities to interact if you choose to do so. In many cases kids from around the world are in your camp site because you can request a foreign patrol to be in your site. At the last jamboree we had a group from Scotland and a group from Spain.
The Big City
The jamboree visits big cities. The current jamboree trip is going to visit Buffalo, NY, D.C. & Philadelphia. Part of the culture shock for kids from Utah is that the biggest city they have seen is Salt Lake City. Although Salt Lake is a large city these kids have not dealt with large crowds, the noise and public transportation that you have in larger cities. Part of the reason kids come home early from a mission is because the environment is so foreign to them. If you are born and raised in Alpine, Utah you are not used to skyscrapers. The jamboree changes all of that.
We try to get kids on public transportation at all jamborees. I also tell parents that a jamborees is a preparatory time for kids in scouting. By the time a boy is recruited for jamboree and he returns, The Utah National Parks Council has invested in him over 300 hours of extensive training, mentoring and character development. This is six years worth of young men’s activities for these kids. It is a highly, intensive experience.
A major focus of the jamboree is on giving the Scouts opportunities to grow in leadership. We select boy leadership, for example, senior patrol leader, scribe, quartermaster, etc. and expect boys to perform their responsibilities. You give them leadership opportunities, guidance, coaching and support and let them develop and grow in their responsibilities.
We visit LDS and US history sites. One of the reasons we no longer go to New York City is because I believe if you take kids somewhere where they can feel something different than the standard run of the mill that experience will stay with them.
In D&C 109 in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple Joseph Smith mentions feeling the spirit and helping members to feel that spirit. When you take kids to jamboree you cannot go and feel the spirit without feeling something different. You cannot walk around the Liberty Bell and not feel something. You cannot go to Ford’s Theatre or the Holocaust museum and not feel something. On top of that you add the LDS Church sites in upper state New York and along the Susquehanna River. The majority of our boys and leaders are are LDS. Each boy gets an hour to himself in the Sacred Grove. We ask parents to write their son a letter which we give to them as they get off the bus and tell them to follow this path, sit down and read the letter. It is a phenomenal experience for the kids.
Return on Investment
My personal experience with my son, who attended the jamboree in 2001 when he was 12 years old, and had that experience in the Sacred Grove but talked to us about it. We did not find out the impact of the jamboree until after he returned from his mission and in his address said that the single most important experience in his life was in the Sacred Grove. I turned to my wife and said, “That is the best $2500 investment I have made.”
I try to explain to parents that that is what you are getting. Parents are concerned about sending their kids to jamboree because neighbor kids, friends, relatives are not going with them. I try to explain that it is similar to the MTC. When they go to the MTC they do not know anyone. They learn the value of what a group is because you take 36 kids with you who have individual needs and experiences and we have lot of families that do not eat together, pray together. We create the environment at the jamboree around the group and not the individual. That is important for a kid to understand before going to the MTC. We challenge each kid to place a Book of Mormon. Jamboree provides an opportunity to manage a budget. Jamboree may be the first time this Scout has to do laundry by himself which is a little different at jamboree: Five gallon bucket, laundry detergent, and plunger.
These kinds of experiences grow a boys’ testimony. I believe that there is no better preparation for a young man who is looking for direction in his life than to attend the jamboree. This experience broadens his understanding of the world around him, of the people around him and their needs. It removes them from their comfort zone and teaches them that they have the strength to overcome challenges in their lives.
Author: Ron Nyman, Director of Field Services, Utah National Parks Council