Friday, August 18, 2006 Observation:
Back in the seventies -- some of us can remember that far back -- I was a full-time Institute teacher/director in Southern California. In those long-ago days we signed a nine-month contract with CES (Church Education System) and were basically unemployed from June through the end of August. Many of us did a variety of creative things to try to bring in some income during that three-month period.
Along with several other Institute teachers, I spent several summers working at a day camp as a counselor. Each of us was assigned an old Volkswagen van, and each summer morning we would drive through the beautiful streets of San Marino, picking up little rich kids that we would then entertain all day long. When we were doing this, San Marino had the highest per capita income of any community its size in the United States. For those of you who don't know, San Marino is adjacent to Pasadena. The kid's parents had gone to the same Summer Camp -- Camp Sheanee, an Indian name for "Summer People" -- when they were young. I'm sure they paid an arm and a leg to have their children entertained all summer, and because of it they did expect their children to be entertained!
Camp Sheanee was a concept more than a place. We used many venues each day: public parks, an archery range, a horseback riding stable, a very large swimming pool at the back of a very large home in Pasadena, etc. The owner of Camp Sheanee, earning the bulk of his yearly income during that three-month period, was anxious that the little rich kids have a great experience each time they came to camp. I thought what he had us do at the end of each day was pretty savvy. Our final activity of the day took place at the swimming pool. After the kids were dressed and ready to be delivered to their mansions, we would have them sit in a circle around us and begin to review all of the great activities they had just participated in, as well as how much fun they had all had. When they were dropped off at home a few minutes later, and a mother asked them about the day, they were well-prepared to give a glowing report about their experience at Camp Sheanee. If they had fun, in the eyes of the kids and their parents, Camp Sheanee was a great success.
Through the years I have frequently thought how different Camp Sheanee is compared to the program our Heavenly Father has designed for us during our lives in mortality, which is a little bit like an extended day camp. I think it's OK with Him if we have a Camp Sheanee experience from time to time, but I doubt He measures His success by how much fun we have in mortality. At the end of the day I don't think his first question to us will be, "Did you have a good time?" So many of us however, much of the time, have a "Camp Sheanee" mindset regarding life.
I'm sure many of you have had the experience of reading a passage of Scripture a number of times without thinking too much about it, and then on another reading have it leap off the page at you. This happened to me several months ago as I was reading Doctrine & Covenants 24:8 for who knows how many times. "Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days." Of course, the Lord was directing his words to Joseph Smith, who was a very young man at the time. It was not really a "happy" prophecy regarding his future, but as it turned out it was very true. The thing that leaped off the page at me this time around is the Lord's words about Joseph's impending afflictions: "... but endure them..." He didn't commiserate with Joseph and tell him how sorry he was that he would have many afflictions and that He was sorry they wouldn't be much "fun", He simply told him to be patient and to endure them! He didn't seem to be very concerned that Joseph have a Camp Sheanee experience. It was like He was saying to Joseph, "Your life is going to be pretty tough but "buck up ", "gird up your loins "; you will get through this and I will tell you why: "... for, lo, I am with thee unto the end of thy days!" Joseph needed to know that he would be able to get through any difficulty or affliction that life would bring his way because the Lord would be with him always. Later in life Joseph was taught that "even if the very jaws of hell gaped open wide after him" that all of these things would give him experience and be for his good. [Doctrine & Covenants 122] However, they would only be for his good, if through his afflictions, he patiently sought the Lord, experienced His power and love in his life and in doing so came to know Him better.
We have been counseled to "liken" or "apply" the Scriptures to our own individual circumstances. I believe what the Lord told Joseph about being patient in afflictions because he would have many, probably applies to all of us. As afflictions come to us, and they will be different for each individual, the Lord is not lacking in empathy, pity, or sympathy, but with great wisdom He simply says "... endure them..."
I feel too often as parents we want our children to be happy, and feel that happiness comes through enrolling them in a perpetual Camp Sheanee experience. Are we successful as parents if our children are only happy? I believe we could learn a great deal about parenting from the counsel the Lord gave Joseph so many years ago.