With young men now leaving for a full-time mission at an earlier age—many just out of high school—the six years a boy spends in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood are vital preparation for a full-time mission and a lifetime of priesthood service. Young men need leadership experience long before they become trainers of “green” missionary companions, district and zone leaders, or perhaps even a branch presidency member while in the mission field. Imagine the skills an 18- or 19-year-old branch president must have to lead his small flock in righteousness.
Leadership training starts early in Scouting. It begins with the buddy system stressed at campouts and outdoor activities. The buddy system is more than a safety measure; it’s preparation for working in tandem with a companion on one’s mission. The buddy system teaches a boy to be responsible for more than himself. It teaches him to stay with his companion, to watch after and be responsible for him, and to work together as one. It teaches a young man that going two-by-two is a model of priesthood service.
Youth leadership roles in the Scouting program teach future missionaries how to plan, organize, direct and lead in a variety of situations. Senior patrol leaders, Varsity team captains, Venturing crew presidents, and their assistants learn to lead and empower others to achieve a desired outcome. Quartermasters learn logistics. Scribes and historians learn record keeping. Squad leaders and program managers learn planning, implementation, and follow-through. Each youth leadership role teaches a young man patience, tolerance, acceptance of others, the need to be flexible, and the reality that not everything goes as planned.
Future missionaries must have the ability to communicate verbally with others. They need to know how to talk to people face-to-face, to look people in the eye, to actively listen, and to interact in a real and meaningful way. Missionaries need a commanding visible and verbal presence that causes people to be interested in their message of Jesus Christ. Too many young men have been so engrossed in and attached to video games, iPods, and text messaging that they have not learned how to interact with others. This is why the use of electronic devices on priesthood and Scouting outings should be limited. We need to keep the earphones out of the boys’ ears and the video screens away from their faces so they can learn how to communicate with real people in real situations.
Enhancing the communication skills of our youth is also why we like to have teacher-age boys ushering at the chapel door on Sunday greeting everyone who enters. One of the reasons why we assign young men as home teachers is so they can get used to making appointments, doing the door approach on visits, and teaching gospel-centered lessons to people of all ages. It’s also a reason why we want the priests to take the sacrament to homebound people. Every interactive Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood experience a young man has with unfamiliar adults will make it that much easier for him to relate to those with whom he comes in contact on his mission.
There is a missionary purpose for almost everything we do in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood. There is a reason behind every Duty to God requirement that asks the young men to invite their friends to Mutual, to share gospel messages with their family, to speak in sacrament meeting, and to bear their testimony at least once each year. There is a reason why we want the priest-age boys to go on splits with the missionaries. There is a reason why we want the boys to bring their Preach My Gospel manuals to the Young Men missionary training offered by most stakes.
There is a reason why service to others is a core value in both Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood. Young men need service opportunities that helps them experience the power that comes when one willingly sacrifices himself for others. Boys need spiritual experiences where they see the impact of how magnifying their priesthood blesses others. They need experience reaching out to the less active and inactive within their quorum so they know how it feels when they help a person turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sadly, far too many missionaries suffer from depression and anxiety because they have not learned how to cope with “hard knocks” before entering the mission field. We need to provide opportunities that push our youth and get them to do hard things. They need to get in physical, mental, and spiritual shape. Everything in the Young Men program is designed to that end. This is why outdoor activities are so vital to properly run Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood programs.
Brethren, we need to help the young men do their duty and not let them shirk these responsibilities. Our Aaronic Priesthood quorums need to be quorums of spiritual learning where the boys learn solid gospel principles and doctrine. We need to stop feeding the boys candy or treats on Sunday and, instead, let them feast on the words of Christ.
As Young Men leaders we need to be obedient in our callings so we can teach obedience to the boys. We need to be faithful priesthood leaders ourselves so the young men will see what it means to magnify one’s priesthood. We need to constantly and consistently talk about the gospel, share scriptures with the boys, and teach the boys properly so they will know how to teach the gospel to others on their missions.
I challenge you to recommit yourself to do your calling the way the Lord wants it to be done. I challenge you to get outside of your comfort zone to do those things that are needed to prepare your young men for the future. I encourage you to pray about your calling. I invite you to ask the Lord to bless you with a vision of how the Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood programs are supposed to be run. Mostly I hope you will seek the Lord’s help in magnifying your calling to the extent that the Aaronic Priesthood youth under your stewardship are fully prepared, not only for their missions, but for their future lives as holders of the Lord’s holy priesthood.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Are you helping your young men to become better leaders by using the buddy system and the leadership roles in your Troop, Team, or Crew?
- Are you teaching your young men to interact and communicate well with others by restricting the use of electronics at your Scouting meetings and activities?
- Are your teacher- and priest-age boys assigned as home teachers so they gain experience going two-by-two into peoples’ homes to teach the gospel?
- Are you giving your young men opportunities to serve and do hard things that require them to give more of themselves to others?
- Are you modeling the leadership traits and characteristics you want future missionaries to emulate?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Determination and the ability to make a commitment and then to stick to that commitment, no matter how difficult, give life meaning and teach discipline. That discipline—the ability to get up on time and keep going when it’s raining, when it’s hot, when it’s cold, when it’s miserable, and to go out and do what you need to do—is an important factor to success in running and in the mission field” (Elder C. Scott Grow, “My MTC: Missionary Commitment,” New Era, March 2008).
-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.