By Community Submission
May 01, 2016

Why No Campfire Program Should be Without a Testimony

Have you noticed that when you gather united in a purpose, you bring the spirit with you? Are we giving youth enough opportunities to gather together, teach, and invite the spirit into our activities, lessons, service projects, and campfires?

Yesterday at the Northfield Pleasant Grove Stake Wood Badge Course, President Krist McFarland spoke on gathering together united in one purpose (much like they were doing at Wood Badge) and being prepared to teach and be taught by the spirit.

Pres. McFarland said when the new Sunday school curriculum, Come, Follow Me, was first coming out, a leader expressed doubts that his 14 yr-old boys would step up to teach, reflect and share the lessons. Pres. McFarland then said to this leader, “I promise you not only will it or can it [happen], but it will and it will be powerful. You watch, you let them.”

The strategy he suggested was to let the silence go by. “As the teacher we jump in because we are not comfortable with that silence, they figured out they are off the hook and you are toast. So, you have to retrain them. I promise it will work. I promise this will work around the campfire,” he said.

Here you can listen to his entire message or scroll down below the video for a transcript:I

He asked us to begin by reading from the Book of Mormon, 3rd Nephi Chapter 11:

“And now it came to pass that there were a great multitude gathered together, of the people of Nephi, round about the temple which was in the land Bountiful; and they were marveling and wondering one with another, and were showing one to another the great and marvelous change which had taken place.”

Here you can listen to his entire message or scroll down below the video for a transcript:

There’s several reasons I decided to start with this chapter this morning. One, when missionaries go out, one of the first invitations they give to those they are teaching is to read 3rd Nephi Chapter 11. This is where the Savior comes to the American continent. Just a couple of chapters preceding 11, we understand and learn that there has been tremendous destruction; mountains are valleys, valleys are mountains, entire cities were sunk into the ocean. Cities were burned, of course. Countless numbers would have been either lost or certainly wounded. That’s the scenario. That’s the position that we find ourselves in when we go to 3rd Nephi Chapter 11. As we read, I’m going to read at an intentionally slower pace and I would like you to be thinking “Me, Here, Now”. How does this apply to Me…Here in my day,…Now in this time.

Northfield Stake Wood BadgeAs I have read, in preparing this morning and thinking about what I might share, I had a couple of insights about this idea of ‘gathering.’ Us gathering here today, making the efforts that we have is maybe part of the reason why it was on my mind. There is power in gathering. When we had the privilege to be called as the stake presidency, Elder Strizer was the presiding authority. He came and he taught us a powerful principle. It was Bishop Keech at the time who asked him, “How do you come into a stake, and within just a relatively short few hours, determine who the stake president is and accomplish all of this, when many times for callings it will take us weeks and even months?”

And he said, “Let me teach you a principle. When you gather, when you come, you bring a spirit with you. Ours is to find out who brought that spirit with them, who the Lord would have.”

That principle I have come to so appreciate. When we gather as a stake council there is a spirit that comes because the stake council brings that spirit with them. When we gather, in high council, gather in our presidency meeting there is power, literally power, that I have felt in gathering, as we gathered and as we talked. It’s been fascinating to watch you and to watch this process of you gathering. Have you felt it yet? When you gather? When you’re unified in a vision and direction?

There is power in gathering. There was power in these early saints to gather; to gather at the temple and it was not a mistake.

He then asked us for our insights or thoughts about gathering:

Audience Member 1: “I think in the rest of that verse you see what’s destructive for the first time. As they gathered they were marveling and wondering and were showing one another the great and marvelous changes that has taken place. And I thought, that’s the whole purpose for the church is for us to gather, to change, to discuss with each other those changes, to share the struggles of those changes, and it seems to be a great type for us today.”

Thank you and great insight. It would be easy at, one level, to interpret this or apply this. They’re gathering and discussing the great and marvelous change of mountain and valley. Can you imagine, in our homes, looking over to Valley Timpanogos? Folks, that’s what happened. Valley Timpanogos, that’s certainly what they would have been talking about, in part.

I gained a great insight as well. This great and marvelous change which had taken place right here. And between the two, I testify to you that this change of heart is a greater change.

Brother Meryl: “That’s exactly…. You said, “Here, Now”, put ourselves here now. I think the changes that have taken place in myself in these last two and a half days.”

May I ask a follow up question?

Brother Meryl: “Please.”

I love Brother Meryl. I knew I could. Would you describe a little, if you could, of the change that you felt?

Brother Meryl: “I’ve been in Scouting off and on for the past 37 years in Pleasant Grove. When I was a Scoutmaster I did basic training and thought, boy I have learned a lot. I don’t need any more. Now, to be at Wood Badge I am making some commitments. I know what a couple of my ticket items will be. I won’t miss the once a month meeting every first Thursday. I won’t miss that anymore. I’ve run out of excuses. I’ll be there.”

Thank you. Other insights? Please, Bishop.

Bishop: “Just looking at the chapter before that and how the Lord said, “How oft do I gather you as a hen gather her chickens under her wings…”

Pardon me just a second. I love that and I was there this morning too. Folks, could you turn there? 3rd Nephi Chapter 10, verse 6. I didn’t want everybody else to miss it. Go ahead.

Bishop: “It says, “If you repent and return unto me with full purpose of heart…” I think, how we are here at Wood Badge, we keep talking about are we all in. I think the Lord does that too, how he gathereth his chickens. Are we all in with full purpose of heart?”

Thank you. May we not be the ones who would not come because part of that verse too was, and he would not. Thank you, good insight. Please, others?

Audience Member 2: “Going along with that, I think that level of commitment is the thing that I felt the most change about me personally, that desire to want to be all the way in.”

Anyone else? Please, Sister Martinelly.

Sister Martinelly: “I’m thinking about meetings and how we all feel like, oh another meeting. If we go with a feeling of ‘oh I have to go to another meeting’ we don’t bring the spirit there. But, if we bring the spirit there, that committee meeting, that pack meeting, that den meeting, that ward council, it becomes a teaching, learning, loving environment. Oh, we’ll just skip that meeting because we don’t need it, it skips that opportunity for the spirit to be there and grow.”

Thank you. For the first time in my church life, and I have shared this with a few, it was about five years ago, I was asked to give some remarks in a priesthood leadership meeting. I share this with you, I promise not with a badge of honor, but because it caused me some serious reflection. Over the years I calculated conservatively how many hours I spent in bishopric meetings, presidency meetings, BBC meetings, councils, etc. and it was well over 2,000 hours. A work year of 40 hours a week is 2,800 hours. I have spent a work year of my life in meetings. The sad part was, I asked myself, what do I have to show for it? Were they meetings and how did I go prepared?

We actually have brethren of the high council come up to us and say, I’m really sorry I’m going to be out of town and I’m going to miss high council meeting and I hate missing these meetings.

Brother: “It’s true. I love coming to meetings. I had to miss one a couple of weeks ago and I felt so bad about being somewhere else with my family on vacation. When I was on vacation I thought about missing that meeting and I was concerned about that.”

Could you elaborate just a little bit? Why?

Brother: “Well, because whenever I go there’s a wonderful spirit there that carries with me, that strengthens me, allows me to do my calling.”

Thank you.

Brother Meryl: “You know, you talk about the power of those meetings. A year ago I was on a Scout campout and I had a zipline break on me and I fell and I broke 5 ribs. The next morning, Sunday morning, was high council meeting, I was on the high council at that time, and I called President McFarland on the way home and I apologized saying, I don’t think I’m going to make it to the meeting. That was one of the longest nights of my life. I can sit in a recliner for two hours of General Conference and never move a muscle, be sound asleep. I had to sleep for eight hours. It was a long night but at the end of the high council meeting I felt the strength of the high council praying for me. I didn’t intend for them to do that but I know President McFarland had them write my name down. The high council prayed for me and I felt that change at that time. There is power in gathering and power in prayer of the saints together.”

Thank you. Last comment.

Audience Member 3: “I’ve been in those meetings where much of the power is the power of teaching. The teaching that is similar to this teaching and learning that is going on that is led, but happens by all and is proceeded by preparation that brings the spirit with. For me that is part of the power. I think we can replicate at campouts and other gatherings of all sorts.”

Thank you and amen. When we gather, we preach the word and all have an equal privilege that all may be edified of all. We appoint a teacher among us each meeting.

I quoted Doctrine and Covenants Section something and something else from eighteen-something. I don’t know about you but if I had any artifact in my house from eighteen-anything, I wouldn’t call that new. Would you? This principle of instruction, as we’ve just done here, is not new curriculum. It’s not new. This is the way the Lord designed for us to be edified of all. This has always been the pattern. Through traditions of fathers and feeling intent to do the best and the right thing, we became talking heads in the church and sit up and yak, yak, yak and over prepare and when somebody tries to comment you say, sorry you can’t because I got to get through the material. You just missed the whole thing.

I’ll bet you, with very little effort, we could go another 15 minutes, maybe a half an hour, processing this verse among us.

What I have come to recognize of feelings of the spirit, come at different ways in my life. Sometimes I’ll get a tear in my eye, not a lot, but I find the older I get the more easily tears come. Testosterone levels are dropping I guess. Sometimes I get a chill down the back of my neck. Most of the time I just feel elevated and the spirit teaches me what to improve; what to repent on. I had some of those feelings here as some of you shared as we read the verse.

I testify to you that there is power, one, in gathering. There’s power, two, in teaching the Lord’s way. This is not new curriculum. This come follow me curriculum has been around since the 1800’s and it is scriptural.

When we introduced this in our stake, I had a brother, I was at the stand, at the podium, he sat right over there in the chapel and he was teaching a group of fourteen-year-olds, and I was demonstrating this. He raised his hand and said, because we offer questions, of course, and push back, I welcome that, he said, “I have a class full of fourteen-year-old boys, ain’t no way that what you just demonstrated is going to happen with them.” I said, I promise you not only will it or can it, it will and it will be powerful. You watch, you let them. They just figure out pretty easily that if we let a little silence go by, and as the teacher we jump in because we are not comfortable with that silence, they figured out they are off the hook and you are toast. So, you have to retrain them. I promise it will work. I promise this will work around the camp fire.

I worked in the missionary training center for twelve years. During that time, and this is not scientific, but I interviewed thousands of missionaries in that time. Easily, half of them claimed they had never felt the spirit. Shame on us. That’s the fish syndrome right? Swimming around a bunch of water and saying what water? If you haven’t taken the opportunity to help them to understand. So don’t say what you’re feeling right now is the spirit but identify it for yourself as I did and then ask if you have had any kind of similar feelings today.

If I ask you that question, if you had any kind of similar feelings today that I described or something that you may associate with the spirit? Not a rhetorical question…. Please.

Audience Member 4: “I brought my journal up with me to write, and I didn’t have any chance to write until last night, and low and behold I didn’t even realize that it was the last page of my journal that I started about six years ago. Because the journal has journey looking things on it, like worlds and maps, I call it my ‘journey journal’ for things for the last six years. It ended last night. I was writing in it some thoughts that I had during the day and some conversations that we had in our group, it was just very, very impactful that as I was putting a close, it was like I was a snake, I shed some skin last night. When I closed that book, figuratively and literally, I was closing that chapter and putting it behind me and starting something new. It’s been very, very powerful to fill it up. We’ve talked about all activities and all the things we are going to do with youth. Like what Brother Meryl was just saying, it’s here. This is where I’ve got to go home and work on so that the other one will have more meaning and more value.”

Thank you. You felt the spirit in a way of leaving behind some old ideas and some old thoughts and starting fresh. Thank you. And other kinds of feelings like that I associate with the spirit. Thank you.

This is an example of a fireside with the boys. Can you do this? I know you can. I promise it will be powerful. Would you take a few minutes to reflect at your tables, with your patrols, how you might apply this or like principles in whatever your stewardship is. I tried to give you a fireside example, there’s lots of applications. Take a few minutes if you would and decide how you’re going to apply this in your own.

President McFarland
Author: Krist McFarland | Northfield Pleasant Grove Utah Stake President


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One thought on “Why No Campfire Program Should be Without a Testimony

  1. AvatarKeith Nash

    President McFarland taught me how to read the Book of Mormon when I worked with him at the MTC. I have no idea how I just stumbled upon this article and video but it was like I was just sent back 25 years. I also felt the Spirit from this message as it was whispered to me again that the Gospel is true. There is a calm and a peace I understand from being a part of gatherings like this. I have benefited from knowing this and my children have as well. Thank you Krist. You have been on my mind all week with several reminders and memories. Obviously the Lord has been guiding me to find this. I am glad to see you are doing well.


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