Two young scouts make their way to their next activity

He’s not a bad kid. He’s actually a pretty good kid. But over the last several months, as my son Landon approached his twelfth birthday, I’ve wondered exactly how hairy the highly anticipated teen years would be. What I didn’t realize was the change that could take place in a short 5 day time period during the summer. You could almost call it a priesthood “enhancement.” From July 23-28, 19 stakes from the greater Denver area participated in an Aaronic Priesthood Encampment at Peaceful Valley Ranch, and my son was one of the lucky ones who went.

To begin with the end, you might want to know that at the end of the week, he celebrated his first night back in his own bed by waking early to attend a 7 am stake priesthood meeting.  He came home singing. There was no sulking or dragging about after a week of sleep deprivation. As I heard the phrase “Rise up O men of God!”(and every subsequent lyric) reverberate throughout our home, my heart rejoiced along with his. Here are the blessings I have seen:

 

“Rise up, O men of God! Have done with lesser things.”

It’s a big time commitment to leave before dawn on Monday and stay through Saturday morning. So many other things can pull at your schedule. yet the opportunity to spend all day, every day surrounded by faithful priesthood holders who have set aside their agendas to be at encampment is priceless.

 

“Give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of Kings.”

Rain pours over Peaceful Valley Camp

 Over the past 2 years of preparation for the camp, church leaders selected a theme and plan that was inspired. “Qualified for the work,” from Doctrine and Covenants 4, became the theme, and from sunup to sundown, this was at the forefront of activity.

All the boys can report that the weather did not hold off for this week of camp. There were times when it was rough. But for all who stuck it out, their offering of “mind and strength” paid off in “heart and soul.”

 

Boys and their leader pause for a “groupie”

“Rise Up, O men of God, in one united throng.”  What happens when 19 stakes of young men, their leaders and their fathers gather under the direction of priesthood leadership? One benefit is strength. Our boys know they are not alone. For 51 weeks of the year, every time they walk down the halls of school, skip parties they know don’t hold their standards, or leave sports tournaments before Sunday’s championship games, they’re reminded that they are different. But for 5 days, surrounded by each other, they could unite in faith and brotherhood. Encampment rang in the day and closed out the night singing these very words. Every day. Twice a day.

 

“Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.”

Hundreds gather under a beautiful Colorado sky for a fireside

Their days and nights were bookends of brotherhood. Every morning started with a devotional. And every evening featured  inspired fireside speakers. Luckily my son is my talker. He tells me all sorts of things. I heard a bit about shooting, hiking, and adventure activities. But the events I heard about in greatest detail were the nightly firesides. Guest speakers and musicians ran came from a variety of backgrounds. A couple included former NBA player Jimmer Fredette,  and Bill Tolbert, whose personal experience with the Challenger is a story worth hearing. Another speaker shared his story about surviving a bear attack. He taught those listening about the benefits of listening to the Holy Ghost, and the tender mercies and miracles found even in terribly hard things.

 

A scout gets a photo op with leaders, including Charles Dahlquist and Elder Thomas Priday

“Rise up, o men of God! Tread where his feet have trod. As brothers of the Son of Man, rise up o men of God!”  Leaders at Camp included President Stephen W. Owen,  Young Men General President, Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy, and Charles Dahlquist, national commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America, and former Young Men General President. What a privilege to have them among the ranks.

One day my son and his quorum friends happened to eat lunch with these leaders, and the ensuing conversation added more fuel to the young boys’ fires. As these new deacons talked with, answered and asked questions of their own, they were reminded once again of the awesome responsibilities that come with being a priesthood holder. Their 15 minutes with fellow brethren who have long before started on the path of discipleship wasn’t spent discussing the weather (though they could have. The rain – oh the rain!). Instead, they discussed who in their quorum needs fellowshipping, what they are doing to help, and other topics on a similar vein. As Landon recounted the story, I offered a silent prayer of gratitude for the example of righteous men, even at a simple lunch.

 

Qualified for the Work

My son came home ready to pitch in. He came home ready to lead out. He sits on his bed every night, writes in his journal and reads his scriptures. As I see these new habits come into place, the same we’ve been modeling and talking about for years, I see how his time at Camp is helping qualify him for the work. Certainly, all who attended heard the message, and I know at least one young man was inspired to “Rise up!”

Additional photos from the week can be seen here: 

Photo credit: Royd Despain


On August 11th, the Denver Colorado Stake comprised of a number of LDS congregations in the city, participated in the city of Denver’s annual city celebration of community and service — Denver Days.

Five years ago Mayor Hancock set aside the first week of August as a week to encourage neighbors to get to know their neighbors by hosting block parties, picnics, and service projects with the focus on small organic gatherings.

The church members teamed with Denver Parks and Recreation to mulch, weed, pick up trash, and paint a large city park adjacent to a Denver LDS Church Building. With the help of about 50 members from the stake and 20 missionaries from the Denver North Mission, we spread 24 yards of mulch, used 1 gallon of paint, and collected 165 gallons of debris.

One of the highlights of the morning was a visit from the Mayor of Denver, Mayor Michael B. Hancock. He spent about 30 minutes visiting with members, missionaries, and local LDS leaders including Stake President Peter Krumholtz, public affairs leaders, and Elder Thomas T. Priday of the area Seventy.

It was a morning of hard work and many smiles from all who participated, old and young!

In response to the service from church members, Denver Parks and Recreation sent the following kind words. (more…)


High school seniors across Colorado will be graduating next week, and youth from the Brighton stake took a special moment to honor the teachers who helped them along the way.

At their annual teacher appreciation event, “Oh the Places You’ve Inspired Us to Go,” 18 seniors from the LDS youth program expressed gratitude to a teacher who has had a positive impact on their life. The teachers honored included a wide range from high school teachers to coaches, religious instructors to middle school teachers, and all the way back to some of the students’ elementary teachers.

“A teacher’s work is difficult and demanding,” said Peggy Robertson, a member of the Brighton Stake Public Affairs Committee. “It is a rare and highly treasured event when a student says ‘thank you.’”

The seniors wrote tributes to their teachers, which they read to the audience. Some teachers had made such an impact on their students that they were honored by more than one.

Robertson said, “It was a wonderful evening filled with gratitude for work well done.”

(more…)




On Tuesday, March 20, the Reverend Shawn DeBerry Johnson was a noted guest of honor at “The Lamb of God” oratorio held at Denver University’s Newman Center. Performances are opened with a word of prayer, and Reverend Johnson honored the show by offering Tuesday’s invocation. Reverend Johnson serves as the Director of Community Affairs, a senior adviser to Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. She was joined by friends Jackie Brian and Pastor Lily R. Richardson from My Father’s House International Christian Discipleship Center in Park Hill. Elder Thomas T. Priday, Area Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his wife Marva hosted the Reverend and her guests, and as Reverend Johnson reports, “it was a true joy!”

An oratorio that has become an Easter staple in the Denver area, “The Lamb of God”  was composed by Rob Gardner and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in 2010. With local effort from the Colorado Mormon Chorale and Orchestra, Denver area residents have been able to attend performances every Easter season for the last four years. Depicting the final week of the life of Christ and his resurrection, Gardner’s goal is to “bring to life for you the events depicted from the final days of the Savior’s life, and even more, how ‘in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.’”

Audience members and performers alike shared glowing sentiments. Shalee Jenkins of Centennial, Colorado said, “The talent of everyone involved was incredible…It was an excellent way to feel of the spirit of Easter. We’ll be sure to attend again next year!” Annie Sullins portrayed Mary Magdalene this year (and was a soloist in 2016) said of her experience, “It has strengthened my testimony that God knows me and cares about me and has a plan for me…The music is tremendous and it was such a privilege to be in it!” Not only could Reverend Johnson start the evening off with her prayer, but she also saw Gardner’s goal realized; her take on the performance was that it was “a very moving celebration of the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”


Worldwide missionaries love to share the message of Jesus Christ in Song. Pictured here are Mormon missionaries performing at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh Scotland

On February 11th from  7 pm to 8:30 pm Mormon missionaries in the Denver area will present a special musical presentation called “Why I Believe.”

The presentation will feature musical performances from sister and elder missionaries serving in the local area as well as messages which will be shared by recent converts to the Mormon church in Colorado.

The Musical Performance or “fireside” is open to everyone in the community, both members of the faith and those who are not currently of the Mormon faith.

“It promises to be an experience that will build one’s faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and only way back to the father,” says Jacob Paulsen of the Denver North Public Affairs Council. “Come worship the Redeemer through song and testimony!”

No registration or tickets are required to attend. The presentation will be held at a Mormon meetinghouse located in Denver at 2710 S Monaco Pkwy.


While the many Christian denominations in Colorado have unique doctrines and different approaches to worship, they all share a fervent belief in Jesus Christ and a tradition of praising him in song.

 

Late in 2017, four congregations in the southwest suburbs of Denver gathered to do just that. The 20th Annual Interfaith Concert featured around 225 musicians from the Columbine Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the Columbine United Church, St. Frances Cabrini Parish and St. Philip Lutheran Church. Around 600 people attended the performance.

 

“This is a wonderful event that brings us together to make a joyful noise as we focus not on our differences but on our common faith in Jesus Christ,” said Rev. Brad Doty, assistant pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church.

 

The unique event began in 1997 with only two churches participating: The Columbine Stake and St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Parish. For twenty years both churches have continued to perform together, while welcoming up to three other local churches to join every year. Held in the fall, the Interfaith Concert has become a beloved start to the holiday season. (more…)