Young Men Challenged to “Aspire Higher”

Contributed By Jason Swenson, Church News staff writer

  • HINCKLEY SCOUT RANCH, UTAH

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, recognizes Brigham Skinner, a young man he told a story about in his April 2016 general conference talk, "The Greatest Leaders Are the Greatest Followers," at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016.  Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • Don’t squander potential and happiness with poor decisions.
  • Exercise faith, remain hopeful for future blessings, and become missionaries long before the mission calls arrive.

“Repentance is always positive. It leads us to doing what the Savior wants us to do.” —Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President

Today’s world could aptly be called “Distraction Days” for the youth of the Church. Electronic devices, social media, smartphone games, and many other diversions all vie for the attention of young men and young women alike.

But as more than 1,000 young men and their leaders recently learned, it’s still possible to set such distractions aside and lock on to the things that really matter.

Aaronic Priesthood holders from 10 northern Utah stakes gathered July 11–15 at the remote (and cell-coverage free) Hinckley Scout Ranch in the high Uinta Mountains. They were joined by dozens of bishops, Scoutmasters, and Young Men leaders.

Entitled “Aspire Higher,” the encampment offered participants an opportunity to worship and learn together. Throughout the week, the young men gathered regularly for prayer and scripture study and to listen to wise words from a variety of instructors and presenters.

And, yes, there was plenty of time for fun. The Hinckley Scout Ranch—named for Bryant S. Hinckley, a Church education leader and father of President Gordon B. Hinckley—is a popular destination each summer for thousands of youth looking for high adventure activities and camping. Whenever “Aspire Higher” campers were not receiving some sort of priesthood instruction, they were likely working on merit badges or enjoying backcountry adventures.

But the purpose of the camp focused on the young men and the sacred priesthood they hold.

The highlight of the week was a July 15 campfire devotional held under vast evening skies. The boys and their leaders sang and prayed together and listened to instruction and encouragement from a variety of leaders.

Young Men General President Stephen W. Owen marveled at the power of seeing Aaronic Priesthood holders gathered together for a common purpose. “You are helping one another to come unto Christ,” he said.

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, speaks to young men at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Brother Owen spoke of the importance of making wise choices. Two men from the Old Testament—Samson and Joseph—were defined by the choices they made. Samson should have become a great leader, but his sinful decisions undermined his potential, his happiness, and even his very freedom.

Joseph, meanwhile, came from humble circumstances. His brothers sold him into slavery. But he made wise and obedient decisions and became one of the most powerful and influential men in all of Egypt.

Don’t squander potential and happiness with poor decisions, counseled Brother Owen. “You need to know who you are—you are sons of God.”

Make the decision now to keep the commandments before being tempted, he added. Brother Owen shared experiences from his own life where he witnessed young people around him making decisions. Some made right decisions, and there were consequences. Others made poor decisions. Again, there were consequences.

He assured the young men that Christ’s Atonement allows for repentance because it can help people move beyond bad decisions.

“Repentance is always positive,” he said. “It leads us to doing what the Savior wants us to do.”

Brother Owen also encouraged the young men to exercise faith, remain hopeful for future blessings, and become missionaries long before their full-time mission calls arrive. Exercise the “power of the priesthood” through righteous living, he taught.

Garth Fielding III, right, leads young men in a camp song before dinner at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Matthew Quinney grills steaks for dinner at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, eats dinner with youth and leaders at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Bishop Dan Adams of the Little Cottonwood 20th Ward plays baseball during a break at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Steven Sullivan from Troop 713 carries the American flag during a ceremony at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

With other young men from the Kamas Utah Stake, John Sampson, front, sings “I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go” at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

At the Aspire Higher Priesthood Encampment closing devotional at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016, are leaders, from left, Elder Mark P. Durham, Area Seventy; Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President; Brother Douglas D. Holmes, First Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency; President Brent J. Hillier of the Utah Salt Lake City East Mission; and others. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Eric Christiansen applauds at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

President Brent J. Hillier of the Utah Salt Lake City East Mission speaks at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, speaks to Scouts at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, delivers an address at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Owen Nagel, right, listens to speakers at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Brayden Miller, left, and Jacob Quinney, center, present an American flag for a final salute before it is retired at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.

Brayden Miller, left, Jacob Quinney, center, and AJ Loertscher, right, retire an American flag at Hinckley Scout Ranch in Utah, Friday, July 15, 2016. Photo by Hans Koepsell, Deseret News.