Twenty-three years ago, the Scout troops of the St. David Arizona Stake were at a turning point, and Calvin Allred knew that it was going to take strong leadership to move things in the right direction. Though scouting supports all religious groups in fostering the tenants of their religions, Allred felt that more was needed to support the youth of northern Cochise County.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, boys are given incremental responsibilities starting at age 12. They are first charged with visiting families with adult companions, and with passing the sacrament (emblems of communion) to the congregation through the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood. As they mature, more responsibilities are added according to their worthiness. By the time they reach 18, they have the opportunity to share in all the responsibilities of adult males, including serving as full-time missionaries.Calvin Allred knew that it was going to take strong leadership to move things in the right direction. Calvin Allred had served as the leader of the St. David Mormon congregations in the 1980s. His duties in that role, plus the fact that he and his wife had raised five sons, made him well acquainted with the needs of youth. He felt that more must be done to help the boys prepare for their spiritual futures.
In the summer of 1990 he attended Philmont Scout Ranch Leadership Training where he discussed with other leaders what might be done to enhance the local program. It was then that the model for the St. David Arizona Stake Aaronic Priesthood Camp was born.
Allred remains a leader in the St. David scouting program. Though in the beginning he was cautioned that such an intense camp experience is hard to sustain, he is gratified that the program has become a staple in the St. David area. He expresses his heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for members of the St. David Stake and to the Catalina Council of the Boy Scouts of America for their support of this unique gospel-based camp experience.
St. David Stake Camp now includes “family” (unit) prayers and daily scripture study to provide a model of daily habits encouraged by the Church. Evening activities are designed to include fun and entertainment, but there is also a spiritual aspect to every program. Scriptural references and spiritual themes are entwined in the activities of each day, and unique spiritual experiences are provided by unit leaders.
The boys, 12 to 17, have held their camps on Mount Graham for the last 20 years. Among other activities, they hike to the Spencer W. Kimball Tree, a quaking aspen that is over a century old.
Kimball, who would one day serve as president of the worldwide Church, roamed the mountains of the Gila Valley in his youth, and found much spiritual strength there. His recognizable signature is carved in the tree, dated 1911, making Kimball 16 years old when he placed it there. Curtis Nolan, who now serves as the leader for the members of the Church in the St. David Stake, explained, “We take the boys there and have a spiritual experience, teaching them to pray for answers they are seeking.”
The impact on the lives of the boys is clear. Derrick Chaffey of the Willcox 2nd Ward said, “I could feel the spirit there. I felt close to God. You really felt it more as you were close around the tree. We took time to read our scriptures there. I prayed and got some of my questions answered.”
Ricardo Cuevas of the Winchester Branch said, “Camp was fun… you learn a lot and have a lot of spiritual experiences.”