Monday, April 1, 2013

Book of Mormon Pageant

"Diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world." - President Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I have been struggling for the past three days trying to pare down all of the amazing things I felt and heard and learned over the weekend into something concise and interesting to read. 

I mentioned a little about how frustrating last week was for me.  There were constant distractions, some of them worthy of my attention, but most of them just unnecessary noise cluttering my head.  There were sick children, field trips, music lessons, baseball uniforms, choir practices, doctors appointments, frustrated teachers insisting that I do something about McKay's inability to pay attention in packing that needed to be done, a house that needed to be cleaned and stocked with food, and a husband who was out of town for the third week in a row.  By Tuesday night, it was all I could do to keep us clothed and fed...and I really wasn't even doing that very well.  Doubt had settled in and I had completely convinced myself that I was NOT supposed to spend the weekend at Camp Wisdom playing around in the woods, and that everything else needed my attention.

By Thursday morning, thanks to some great words of advice from my patient husband, and a decent night's sleep, I had resigned myself to the fact that the Book of Mormon pageant was going to happen and that I was going to have to be there.  There was no way around that.  So, I said a long, desperate prayer, committed to packing and memorizing my lines finally, and at 6:30pm, left for the long drive into the unknown.  I made it to the hotel at 8:00pm, but decided to do a test drive to Camp Wisdom since my roommate and I would have to be there by 6:00 the next morning.  I am SO grateful for GPS systems.  How in the world would I ever get anywhere without mine??  My roommate, Mary, called shortly after I found the Camp, to say that she had been delayed at home and was just leaving her house.  I was a little relieved to know that I had at least an hour to stake my claim on the bed and the bathroom counter before she arrived.  

At 9:00, there was a quiet knock on the door of my room, and in walked the most wonderful, unique, spiritually intuitive woman I have ever met in my life.  She and I instantly connected and loved each other, and we spent the next 3 hours sharing all the little details of our lives.  At 12:10, we decided sleep was more important and we would have to continue our conversation in the morning.  

Five hours later, my alarm went off.  

I was still worried, but comforted by the fact that I had a new friend to help me walk into yet another unknown adventure.  It helped to have driven the route to Camp Wisdom the night before, and I managed to get both of us to the remote pavilion where we would be transforming into Nephites, on time and without any problem.    

Oh, I'm so sorry about these ridiculously bad, blurry, and far away pictures.  I only had my phone with me and I barely remembered or had time to snap a couple of pictures.  This is breakfast after everyone was dressed and ready for the day.  These are a few of the Nephite guards.  About 7:00am Friday morning.
After a nice outdoor breakfast and a quick check of everyone's costumes, we had a beautiful devotional by President Wright, our former Stake President.  He said some amazing things.  He talked a lot about the many hours that had been spent in preparation for this Priesthood Encampment.  It is no small feat to assemble 1500 boys and their leaders in one place and provide 48 hours of worthwhile activities.  He told us that the Book of Mormon pageant was the pinnacle of the events scheduled for the boys over the weekend, and that without it, there would have been no reason to have a Priesthood Encampment at all.  He thanked all of the actors who had committed to being there for the whole weekend, the directors and writers who had put the whole pageant together, and all the many, many hands who had worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen.   And then he said, "There will be someone who is touched today by the things they see and hear during the pageant.  It will change a heart, or change a mind, or redirect a boy who may be heading down the wrong path.  And we don't know who that boy will be."  And then he challenged us to have a personal prayer before each scene and ask Heavenly Father to reveal to us which of the boys in each group needed to have a personal experience.  And then he said, "Most likely there will be someone in each group, or perhaps more than that, but even if there is only one person all weekend who is touched by this experience, all the hours, all the sacrifice, all the time will have been worth it."  And then he reminded us that the Savior made the greatest sacrifice anyone has ever made...for ALL of us, but even if it had only been for ONE PERSON, He still would have done it.  Amazing things to launch us into a day of fulfilling service...

Shortly after that, our "mothers' shuttle" (which was a tan suburban driven by one of the nicest men EVER, who tried ALL WEEKEND to pronounce my name and finally got it as we were all leaving the Camp) drove us and all of our props and personal belongings to our scene out in the middle of the woods.  

Oh, I can't tell you how I wish I had thought to take more pictures.  But, it was probably a good thing that I was thinking about being a Mother of a Stripling Warrior and not about writing my next blog post.  

There were about 12 scenes sprinkled throughout various locations in the Camp.  1500 boys and their leaders were divided into groups of about 40-50 and led throughout the day by "Nephite guards" through the woods to each scene.  There was some hiking involved and climbing a rope ladder up to the top of a bluff, and a little bit of distance between each of us, so they could really feel the experience of walking through the trail and coming upon an authentically depicted scene.  I can't tell you how many boys mentioned what a cool thing it was to feel like they were actually "walking through" the Book of Mormon.  We performed the pageant 15 times on Friday, and another 5 or 6 times on Saturday for each of the groups.  

Imagine hiking through the woods and coming upon this...

This is what our scene looked like...

We had about 20 minutes of downtime between groups, so we had lots of opportunity to really get to know each other.  One of the greatest and most unexpected blessings of this whole experience was meeting these other three women.  I feel like I've made lifelong friends in one weekend.  They are all infinitely talented and have more experience between them than I could have imagined.
This is Helaman sending a quick text to his wife while we waited.  :)
By Friday evening, we were all exhausted but happy.  You know that feeling after you've prepared and successfully delivered a talk for Sacrament or given a great RS lesson?  It was the most fulfilling kind of exhaustion.  The cast was invited to have dinner with the scouts and since I kind of like the Scout Master in our ward, I opted to have dinner with him and all of his little "stripling warriors."  
I was so happy to finally be eating food, and hanging out with my husband and these boys who I love so much.  They were so sweet and had nothing but kind things to say about the pageant.  

After dinner, we listened to some remarks about the day from David L. Beck, General Young Men's President.  He asked a few of the boys to volunteer to bear their testimonies about what they had experienced and 23 of them stood up!  Incredibly uplifting to hear so many of them say that they were touched by the mothers' scene, and that we reminded them of all that their own mothers do for them to prepare them for their own "battles."  Those sweet boys melted my heart and made it all worth it.  

Mary and I drove back to the hotel around 9:30 that night, took showers, and FELL INTO BED.  There would be no slumber party happening for us that night.  

The next morning, we assembled in the same area, had breakfast, had a shorter devotional and prayer, and were driven to our scene in the woods.  The first four groups of boys were HUGE, at least 100 in each.  I think the lingering spiritual high from the day before and the gorgeous weather helped us all to ramp everything up and perform the best handful of pageant scenes in the entire weekend.  Everyone felt the tangible Spirit among us, and sweet Mary said that she felt very strongly that there were other ancestor spirits among us encouraging all of us.  

We finished our official performances around 1:00pm and then had the opportunity to watch a few of the other scenes while they were being professionally video taped.  Taping, still pictures, clean up, lunch, and packing up the pavilion were tedious and exhausting again, but we all felt the exhilarating joy of having spent the entire weekend doing something worthwhile.  

I am in awe of the innumerable blessings I felt over the entire weekend...unexpected friendships, beautiful weather, kind and supportive helpers, the testimonies of all those teenage boys, successfully memorized lines, and an overwhelming feeling that Heavenly Father was happy with the effort I had made.  Had I known in advance that any ONE of those things would happen, I would have joyfully anticipated the weekend instead of worrying about it so much.  

I kept thinking about who those boys might have been who were touched by the Encampment experience, and I really have no idea who they are or how they may have felt, but even if there was only one...and there definitely was at least was totally and completely worth it.  Even if the whole thing were just so that I could have a faith promoting experience and have a testimony of the Savior written more indelibly upon my heart, I'm quite sure that all those people would have done it anyway.  And I am so grateful to have been numbered among that kind of humility and greatness.  

I am grateful to have done something I thought was impossible, to have walked into the unknown and conquered a few fears, and to have had the help of the Lord to fill in all the places where there was weakness.  I am so grateful for the people who brought all of this together and who had the inspiration and vision to put together a Book of Mormon pageant so that SO many of us could feel the Spirit in a powerful and tangible way. 

I can't think of any better place or any more worthwhile thing I could have done with those 48 hours than to have been a Nephite mother in the wilderness.  

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