In 1979, I led a crew of disparate Varsity Scouts and Explorers cobbled from all four corners of the Utah National Parks Council. They arrived as individuals but came together through peak climbing and downpours to be a tight-knit group of friends.
In the beginning of this season, Elder Paul Anderson, LDS Chaplain at Philmont, shared the magic of how the backcountry experiences build quorums:
In 2015 a crew arrived at Philmont full of excitement and eager to hit the trail and experience the magic of hiking the trails in God’s country. As part of their pre-hike preparations they attended an evening chapel service. They listened to the experiences of returning crews and were encouraged by the chaplain to work together, look out for each other and look for those special moments when God could touch each of them.
Eleven days later they came back to chapel service. This time they were asked to share their experiences. First the thorns, which were the mud the rain and the cold, the usual struggles. Then they were asked to share their roses. Four of them spoke up and shared the same experience. It was being together on top of Mount Phillips and the entire crew having their own mountaintop experience.
After the service, one of the advisors came forward to say thanks and then he said that the boys didn’t tell the whole story. “Would you like to hear the rest of the story?” Of course the answer was yes!
Having left the service, [this group] got together to make some goals for their trek. One of the boys, we’ll call him Michael, had a slight physical handicap and it was a little harder for him to hike, so the crew made a pact that they would look out for each other, help each other and whatever they did they would do it together as a crew.
Climbing Mount Phillips is one of the more challenging side hikes and was to test their pact. They began the hike, full of excitement and determination. After a while, Michael started to get a little tired and one of the boys asked if he could carry Michael’s sleeping bag. Later another boy asked if he could carry his tent. Another boy asked if he could carry his crew gear and finally, a boy asked if he could carry his pack. Hiking without being weighed down with a pack and gear, Michael did well for a while, but reached a point where he had no more energy.
In spite of all the encouragement and help from his crew, he could go no further. They were near the top, and two of the advisors looked at each other and one said to the other, “Will you carry my pack?” He gave his pack to the other advisor, and then went over to Michael, put him on his shoulders and carried him to the top of the mountain.
On top of Mount Phillips, that crew knew the meaning of the pure love of Christ. They had worked together and felt the joy of helping someone accomplish something he could not do by himself. They had found the love and joy of working together to do a hard thing. They truly had a mountaintop experience. I pray that each of us who comes to Philmont can have our own mountaintop experience, by working together and loving each other.
May God bless us in everything we do!