Lessons from Idaho – 2001

This article originally appeared in the Autumn issue of Pioneer Magazine, a postscript to the 2001 National in Rexburg, Idaho.  We reprint it here as we come off of the 2021 National Encampment which returned to Rexburg again in 2021.

By Dr. H. Alan Luke

The stories and experiences shared during the 2001 encampment were inspiring, enlightening, and enjoyable.

Encampment 2001 was one of our best ever, held in Rexburg, Idaho, on the campus of what had just become BYU-Idaho, it was very well organized. The food, the programs, and the accommodations were all first class. The tours were enjoyable and enlightening. What we learned about southeastern Idaho and its early days was surprising and interesting.

The Upper Snake River Chapter hosted the event. Members of the chapter were more than busy, extremely courteous and helpful throughout the encampment. Dee Risenmay was in charge, and many others helped, including Loren Grover, Gail Cazier, and Dee’s wife, Emmajean, just to name a few Everyone involved deserves many thanks.

More than 300 people attended the encampment, and I am confident no one left unhappy. Highlights of the encampment included an address by BYU-Idaho President , who talked about the school and the recent name change. He answered numerous questions, including the most popular one: Why is the school abandoning its interscholastic athletic program. The answer is simple, according to President Bednar, It simply costs too much. The school will continue to spend money on athletics, but that money will go to programs that benefit all students. President Bednar even pre- dieted that other educational institutions will follow BYU-Idaho’s example.

We learned much about the history of the school and the history of the community and gained a great appreciation for this area of Church history.

Also included on the itinerary were several optional tours, one of which took us to the site of the Teton Dam, which burst on June 5, 1976. The dam had just reached full capacity and the volume of water released was tremendous. Rexburg was the hardest hit of the cities downstream. Many of us are familiar with the story, but hearing and seeing pictures and being onsite brought the experience to life in a vivid way. The horror of watching homes, cars, cattle, and possessions being swept away in the flood waters was almost unimaginable. People described seeing a wall of water nearly 100 feet high descending on the valley. Thousands of homes and buildings were destroyed, 16,000- 20,000 animals perished, and 25,000 people left homeless.

We were treated to first-hand descriptions from people who lost everything in the flood; we also heard stories from people who rallied to help clean up, salvage, and restore. It was with a great feeling of reassurance that we listened to stories of the generous help freely rendered by thousands of volunteers. “Tears were unrestrained when local people saw buses loaded with men and women, boys and girls, arriving to help,” reported one writer. Government officials trained in disaster clean-up marveled at the throngs of volunteers who came so quickly to help.

The encampment was time very well spent.  Encampments teach us many things, and the association with fellow SUP members and their wives is greatly rewarding. Let’s all increase our participation to help strengthen this great society.

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