It’s a hot and humid day in Yamaguchi, Japan, but inside a white tent, people are smiling and laughing. “Forget the heat and humidity,” says Jim Greene, FamilySearch staff member from Salt Lake City, Utah. “We are happy!”
His remark aptly describes the faces of those who tour through the Church’s exhibit in the Faith and Beliefs area of the 23rd World Scout Jamboree. With 35,000 Scouts representing 150 countries, those who enter the tent represent a diverse group of nations and cultures.
Inside the large tent, a huge map greets visitors where they can place a pin to mark their hometown. Within the first day, pins are crowded on every continent, and by the end of the first week, over 3,000 pins have been placed. Marking their home on the map is the first requirement to receive the Thomas S. Monson award—a special Scouting medallion created just for the jamboree.
Next, participants can click on a nearby iPad, choose from 14 languages, fill in any family history information they choose, and then email a colorful “My Family” booklet to themselves.
“Family history work is a blessing to both the living and the dead,” explains Brother Greene. “When youth understand their legacy and their heritage they can cope with life better.”
In the main room of the tent, huge photo panels depicting the life of Jesus Christ greet visitors. Additional panels portray the temple and explain the importance of family.
“Many of the youth tell us it feels so good in here near the pictures of the Savior,” explains Brother Greene. “This is a first contact with the Church for about half of the visitors. The Spirit opens the door to have great gospel discussions with some of them. Even though formal proselyting is not part of the exhibit (Church literature is not handed out nor is contact information collected), the Spirit is present.”
Paula Call, Church service missionary at the jamboree, explains, “When Scouts see the picture of Christ sitting next to the young man who was lost, they can relate to that. Youth often want to stay in here. They linger because of what they are feeling.”
Benches and electric fans encourage visitors to sit and visit, ponder, or just enjoy a break from the outdoor humidity. If they want to complete their Thomas S. Monson award they can take a “Selfie with the Savior” against one of the photo panels, read a talk by President Monson (available there in several languages), and meet three other Scouts at the jamboree who they didn’t know before.
The tent is set up under the direction of the Church Priesthood Department, with support from the Young Men general presidency, Family History Department, Temple Department, and LDS-BSA Relationships office. Staff includes Church service missionaries, LDS Scouting chaplains and service team members, and Church staff from both America and Asia. Similar booths have also been sponsored by the Church at past world and national Scout jamborees.
“We’re grateful for the Church presence at the jamboree,” says Mark Francis, LDS-BSA Relationships director. “The tent is not just part of the Faith and Beliefs area here, it’s also a home base for our LDS chaplains and any LDS Scouts who attend the jamboree.”
During the 10 days of the jamboree, stories of inspiring experiences with visitors abound.
“A young man from Tahiti came the second we opened. He said, ‘I’m here from Tahiti, the only member in my contingent.’ He wanted to know when church and family home evening would be held,” shares Brother Greene.
Four years ago, at the 22nd World Scout Jamboree in Sweden, one young 14-year-old Danish Scout came to the Church tent often. “He had so many questions about the Church that I finally gave him a Book of Mormon,” remembers Sister Call. “On the first day of the jamboree here in Japan, he walked into the tent. Now he is 19 years old and an international service team member. He came back to find the Church exhibit and said, ‘Remember me?’ Then he opened his backpack and showed me that he had read the entire Book of Mormon.”
The Church tent is not just a benefit to visiting Scouts at the jamboree, but also opens hearts in other ways. “We have about twenty religions represented here in the Faith and Beliefs area,” explains Sister Call.
Six of the religions worship the Abrahamic God, including Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, LDS, Orthodox, and Islam. The other 14 include Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, and several Shinto religious sects. Fellowship opportunities among the religions are another blessing.
“It’s wonderful to be surrounded with so many good religious Scouting brothers and sisters,” says Sister Call. “At our opening devotional our neighbors here in the Faith and Beliefs area, the Won Buddhists, came and joined us. As an LDS staff we also went over to their tent and participated in their opening service. Just like the pictures on our panels all point to the family, we are all one family together—Heavenly Father’s family.”
~Contributed by Nettie H. Francis