August 13, 2015

Tabernacle Camp

This past weekend I was privileged to participate in a historic, first of its kind, Tabernacle camp. During the four days the young men built the Tabernacle, camped around it, then learned about the various parts, services, and symbolism of the Tabernacle. A special emphasis was placed on the Aaronic priesthood, and on how the Law of Moses pointed to the Savior Jesus Christ. Needless to say, it was kind of a dream come true for me! Below is a short day-by-day review of the activity.

Day 1 - Wednesday

The first day began with the young men being divided into twelve groups, reminiscent of the twelve tribes of Israel. Each tribe was given a letter of the Hebrew alphabet to differentiate the tribes. The young men were then rotated through twelve different activities throughout the day. Six of the classes focused on the symbolism of the lamb, incense, oil, water, the rod of Aaron, and the Hebrew meanings of several words. During these classes, the young men from the tribe took something with them from the class (such as purified water, oil, incense, etc.) that they would then take into the Tabernacle on the third day of the camp. Two of the twelve activities were devoted to having the young men help build the Tabernacle of Moses. These 'shifts' were spread throughout the day so that each tribe was able to participate in building a different portion of the Tabernacle. In addition to the spiritual classes and the building of the Tabernacle there were four relay-type activities.

Young men lifting the support beams in to place for the Tabernacle (photo by Cordell Moon)
Young men hammering in the stakes for the Tabernacle main structure (photo by Cordell Moon)
Lifting the main canopy covering for the sanctuary of the Tabernacle (photo by Cordell Moon)
The Tabernacle nearing completion (photo by Cordell Moon)
I taught the class on incense and helped the young men understand why incense was used in ancient times, and how it relates to modern-day worship. During the class I burned the specific combination of incense that is described in the book of Deuteronomy.

A young man smelling the incense that would have been burned at the Tabernacle (photo by Cordell Moon)
At the close of the first day, the young men all gathered in the almost completed Tabernacle to bring in the furniture into the Tabernacle. The shofar was sounded and several young men carried the menorah, table of shewbread, altar of incense, and the ark of the covenant inside the sanctuary. It was quite the experience! A symbolic 'last stake' was then pounded into the ground by several of the leaders.

The young men gather as they prepare to bring in the Tabernacle furniture
View of the Tabernacle and campsite from a drone as the young men gathered inside the outer courtyard
Day 2 - Thursday

The second day began with an early morning devotional given by the stake leaders. The young men then again participated in twelve activities throughout the day, three devoted to the more spiritual side of things, and the rest part of an intense eco-challenge designed to help form greater unity within the individual tribes. The three spiritual classes consisted of the bread of life, the Tabernacle pieces, and the clothing of the High Priest. I of course, taught the class on the High Priest. As part of the class, I dressed up one of the young men while explaining each of the eight pieces of clothing worn by the High Priest.

Me explaining the significance of the clothing of the High Priest (photo by Cordell Moon)
The bread of life class, each tribe making a loaf of bread for the table of shewbread (photo by Cordell Moon)
Young men carrying a boulder as part of the eco-challenge (photo by Cordell Moon)
Young men carrying one of the members of their tribe as part of the eco-challenge  (photo by Cordell Moon)
The second day ended with a fireside given by an emeritus area authorities, and one of the stake leaders. The winning tribe of the eco-challenge was also then recognized and given an award of a lobster dinner for the following day.

Day 3 - Friday

The third day began with two groups of rafting for the young men, followed by a full tour of the finished Tabernacle of Moses. During this tour, the young men from the tribe took the various pieces they had collected from the previous two days (such as water, incense, oil, etc.), and brought them to the Tabernacle. They first came to the gate, singing a hymn as they entered the outer court (as was done in Biblical times when an Israelite would enter the Temple). They then took their lambs to the altar of sacrifice where they learned of the symbolism of the Law of Sacrifice and how it related to the Messiah (no lambs were actually killed as part of the camp). They next poured their water (that they had purified from a stream) into the laver, and learned about the importance of being clean before entering the Temple of God. The young men then entered the Holy Place and learned of the menorah (adding oil and lighting the lamps), the table of shewbread (adding their shewbread that they had made), the altar of incense (burning their incense on the altar), and the veil of the Tabernacle. They then entered the Holy of Hollies (adding their 'rod of Aaron' to the ark) and learning of the importance of symbolically entering the presence of God.

Young men with their lambs in the outer courtyard of the Tabernacle
Young men leading their lambs around the altar of sacrifice (no lambs were killed)
View showing the altar of sacrifice, the laver, and the Tabernacle sanctuary
A leader teaching the young men about the menorah found in the Holy Place
The young men being taught about the table of shewbread (or showbread)
A leader teaching about the altar of incense within the Holy Place
A view showing the ark of the covenant within the Holy of Hollies
The night closed with a powerful fireside within the outer courtyard of the Tabernacle. The Stake Relief Society president gave perhaps the most powerful talk, saying that she hoped the young men, having built the Tabernacle, would now bring it home with them, just as ancient Israel carried the Tabernacle with them as they traveled in the wilderness for 40 years. At the conclusion of the fireside, the tribe captains stood and pointed towards the back of the sanctuary, where a huge spotlight shown up towards heaven, symbolically representing the pillar of fire. Needless to say, it was quite the experience! As the young men left the Tabernacle, they broke up into wards, and had individual testimony meetings.

One of the tribe captains speaking during the fireside within the outer courtyard
The stake president speaking to the young men during the Tabernacle fireside
People gathered around the lit Tabernacle and pillar of fire after the conclusion of the fireside
The "pillar of fire by night" lighting the sky during the fireside and testimony meetings
Day 4 - Saturday

On the last day of the Tabernacle camp, they young men took down their tents, took down the Tabernacle, and headed back to their homes. Just prior to taking down the Tabernacle, several groups from the stake came and toured the Tabernacle. The young men, instead of their leaders, took many of the parents through, teaching them the things they had learned during the camp. I also had the opportunity to teach two more classes on the clothing of the High Priest to the parents and families who came up for this last day.

The Tabernacle camp was an experience I will never forget. I hope it will only be the first of many, held throughout the nation and world, teaching young men (and I think young women as well) about the importance of the priesthood, sacrifice, the atonement, and the Savior Jesus Christ.

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