Rondo Fehlberg, President of the Utah National Parks Council, BSA tells us why Scouts in his neighborhood and Scouting units, call their high adventure experiences: “Leaving Jerusalem.” He does this as he points out the value of high adventure in helping young men learn to do hard things:
It all started a few years ago when I returned to my home ward after serving for a few years as a Young Single Ward Bishop. My bishop asked me if there was something I would like to do in the ward. I said, “Yes there is. Some of my sons have come through Scouting during the time I was serving away from the ward. I have watched their experiences with some concern. While there has been a lot of activity, very little of it seemed to me to be ‘high adventure.’ They have been on a lot of nice boats and four wheelers, rock crawlers, snowmobiles, and stayed in a lot of expensive cabins.” But I knew these kids needed to get away from all of that in order to have true high adventure experiences. They needed to learn to do hard things, not just have fun.
The bishop said, “Well, would you like to do one now?” Well, the summer was just about over but I said yes, and we began to plan.
A couple of months later, over UEA weekend, we had our first high adventure trip. We went to Zion’s National Park and did several of the great hikes there. It was a terrific experience, a hard experience, and the boys – well, I think some of them thought they were going to die. But after it was over, they were exhilarated. We did the Subway, we did the Narrows, Angel’s Landing, and the West Rim Trail. It was a tough experience, but a great one.
When I got home the bishop called me to be the Varsity Team Coach, and he said, “You need to start planning for next summer’s high adventure.”
We decided to climb King’s Peak. On the second day, in our base camp at Henry’s Basin, we gave each of the boys the name of a person from the Book of Mormon. We gave them each a Book of Mormon and asked them to go off for a couple of hours on their own and find that name, study, and come back and tell us what that name meant in the Book of Mormon context. It was a good experience for them and a great experience for us. After those reports, we then explained to the boys that the men and boys that carried those names were part of the greatest high adventure experience in the history of the world.
We explained that the Lord organized an amazing high adventure as he took Lehi and his family away from their comfortable life in Jerusalem—the Jerusalem of Jeremiah and the other prophets who had been giving such dire warnings about what was happening there. But the Lord knew what to do. So he took Lehi’s family away and prepared them through a 15-year preparation hike around the Arabian Peninsula. Then He took them on the real high adventure trip—it’s called the Book of Mormon. We taught those boys how the names they’d been given fit into that great story. That became the beginning of the tradition in our ward of “Leaving Jerusalem.”
We’ve called all of our high adventure trips “Leaving Jerusalem” ever since. We’ve gotten better at it over the years. Now we give these young men their identity a little earlier, so they have time to study and get into character. We have them do vignettes in the evenings around the campfire from the time and period of the names that they carry. It’s a remarkable thing. When they’re exhausted and tired, when they’ve done some hard things, the Spirit can teach them—some of them for the first time in their lives. They come home different. It’s an amazing experience for a whole ward.
That Sunday, as they come back home, one of the leaders stands to read off the names, and, with that roll call from all over the chapel, boys and men stand one by one as their names are called. They’ve had a true high adventure experience. They’ve had a high adventure with the Lord.