This past week I was facilitating one of my custom-designed management training courses for a large client company in the upper Midwest. In attendance were twenty-five front-line managers from that organization. Like always, I could tell within a few hours which of those managers would be successful in their careers and which ones had probably plateaued in their current positions. The “winners” were mentally awake! They were attentive, involved, energized, and focused. They caught on quickly and could connect the dots. The “losers” were withdrawn, passive, complacent, and oblivious. Even the most simple management concepts were perplexing to them.
The Scout Oath encourages a young man to be mentally awake. A Scout pledges weekly that he will be so. But what does it mean to be mentally awake? And how does one keep himself mentally awake?
Perhaps one can discern the answers to these questions best by looking at what it may mean to be mentally asleep—particularly as it relates to Scouting-age young men.
A mentally asleep young man is asleep at the wheel of life. He has no clear purpose. He has no defined path to follow. He wanders aimlessly—mentally and literally—with no definitive goal for the future. Though he may hope for success, happiness, and stability in his life he spends his youth in childish pursuits rather than focusing on bettering himself for what lies ahead. He immaturely hopes life will work out for him without doing anything to ensure it.
Scouting is a program that prepares a young man for the future. The aims and methods of Scouting are designed so a boy progressively matures as he moves from Cub Scouts through Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturing. The intent of merit badges, rank advancement, the patrol method, youth leadership positions, camping, and outdoor activities is to help a young man gain knowledge and experience that will benefit him throughout his life. If he is mentally awake during his involvement in Scouting, he should see the connection between what he is learning and how it will help him become a better missionary, college student, employee, husband, father, and Melchizedek Priesthood leader.
Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, spent 28 years in prison as a political prisoner. When asked what he learned from that experience, he answered, “I came out mature.” (Richard Stengel, Mandela’s Way: Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage, 17). By maturity he meant he learned to control the youthful impulses that had caused him trouble. In other words, he woke up and learned there was a better way to accomplish his purposes. The way he handled himself during his presidency to unite the people of South Africa is a testament of what can happen when one becomes mentally awake—or enlightened through experience. Scouting can be an enlightening experience for LDS young men. It is a time when we help boys wake up to the realization that they can become strong men of God.
We learn in Doctrine and Covenants 93:36 that, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” We gain intelligence by being “instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms” (D&C 88:78–79). This is what a young man is supposed to learn during his Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting years so he “may be prepared in all things when I [the Lord] shall send [him] again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called [him], and the mission with which I have commissioned [him]” (D&C 88:80).
When Scouting is implemented properly, it teaches a young man to think, to reason, and to come to proper conclusions. It causes him to not only understand the things around him, but also to become introspective and learn about himself. Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leaders should continually inspire their young men by asking questions rather than making pronouncements. Reflection at the end of Scouting activities offers boys an opportunity to ponder the deeper meaning of their experiences. When adult leaders sit back and let the boys lead, they work through their problems and increase their capacity to fend for themselves.
The purpose of the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting is to help a young man to come out mature—to grow up not just physically, but spiritually, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. Adult leaders are tasked with the sacred duty to teach a young man to overcome the natural man and “becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19). This is how a boy becomes a strong man of character. This is how a young man becomes a mature man of God.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- How are you helping your young men to be mentally awake? Are any of your youth mentally asleep and in need of a nudge from you?
- Do you help your young men to see the connection between what they are experiencing in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood and what they will experience throughout their lives?
- Do you use reflection and other thought-provoking methods to help your young men ponder the deeper meaning of their experiences in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood?
- What are you doing to help your young men to come out mature from their six years in the Young Men program?
- Are you a mature leader?
- Are you mentally awake?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“There are of course many kinds of knowledge; some of lesser, some of higher value. When Joseph Smith said that a man cannot be saved in ignorance, he meant naturally ignorance of the laws which all together lead to salvation. Such knowledge is of the highest value. It should be sought after first. Then other kinds of knowledge may be added to support and amplify the more direct knowledge of spiritual law. For example, it is a duty of the Church to preach the gospel to all the world. This however requires the aid of railroads, steamships, printing presses, and a multitude of other things that make up our civilization. A knowledge of the gospel is the missionary’s first need, but the other needs, though lesser, help him perform better the divine injunction to teach the gospel to all people” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987], 224).
-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.