Not every Eagle Scout would expect a backpacking trip to turn into a refining spiritual experience. For BYU-Idaho students James and George Myers, a 50-mile hike that included a trip Mount Whitney with Scout troop 496 out of Hanford, California provided the ideal setting for miracles to happen.
James Myers, a junior studying biology, served in the Scout troop as a leader on the hike, as did his brother George Myers, a freshman studying sociology. Both men are Eagle Scouts.
Mount Whitney is located on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. James Myers said that the mountain is prone to inclement weather conditions.
“Mount Whitney is the tallest mountain in the continental U.S., and so, when you’re there, you’re going to get struck by lightning if you’re not careful,” James Myers said.
On the fifth day of the six-day backpacking trip, the troop attempted to climb Mount Whitney.
Some of the gro turned back due to dangerous weather; however, George Myers and his non-member friend, Brian Phillips, wanted to climb to the top.
Phillips and George Myers encountered a cole, Jessica and Rodney Aguilar, who were hiking Mount Whitney for their honeymoon. The Scouts warned the newlywed cole to turn around.
“As they were doing so, Jessica fainted right there,” James Myers said. “Brian was quick enough to catch her before she fell onto the rocks.”
The Scouts then took action.
Phillips stayed with Rodney Aguilar to help Jessica Aguilar make her way down the mountain. As she walked into the Scouts’ campsite, she was delirious with dehydration, as well as suffering from altitude sickness, said James Myers.
Hanford Scout leaders visited other campsites, asking for food and sleeping bags for the ill-prepared cole.
“When I was going around gathering food, it was just incredible to see how backpackers really band together, and how many of them were willing to give medication, or a meal,” James Myers said.
The Scout troop was also able to provide priesthood blessings to Rodney and Jessica Aguilar.
“It was funny because Jessica was like, ‘You’d be willing to do that even though we’re Catholic?’” James Myers said. “‘Of course. Blessings are for everyone.’”
After the cole rested for the night, they began hiking again.
On the final morning of the trip, one of the Scout leaders, Bishop Jonathan Buckley of the Hanford First Ward, gave a devotional in camp and asked the Boy Scouts why they were pushing to finish the trip in a six-day time frame.
One Boy Scout replied, “So that we can get to church on Sunday.”
James Myers said what happened the next day in church was unexpected.
“We were able to get every single one of those boys to church,” he said. “The next day, all of them were there.”
Bishop Buckley was emotional as he witnessed each young man attend church the day after the backpacking trip ended.
“I was nearly brought to tears the next day as I sat on the stand to look out and see each boy there in their white shirt and tie, even the non-member young man,” Buckley said. “God lives and is mindful of this young band of priesthood brethren.”
James Myers said the Scouting trip was a strengthening, spiritual experience for the each one of the Boy Scouts.
He said, “Every single boy that went through that experience, every one of them came out with a stronger testimony that God is aware of all of His children and that He’s also willing and ready to use us as His instruments.”