Imagine a heavenly place where faithful, stake priesthood leaders—along with their families—meet in a beautiful mountain setting to learn why Scouting is so crucial to the Primary and Young Men programs in the Church. Now imagine another outdoor setting where faithful Scouting leaders—both members and non-members of the Church—learn how to conduct the Scouting program as designed by the BSA to instill the values and characteristics the Lord desires in primary-age boys and Aaronic Priesthood young men.
Fortunately, no imagination is necessary, because both of these places exist. And both are easily accessible.
The premier Scouting training for priesthood leaders in the Church is the week-long Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting held annually at the Philmont Training Center in New Mexico. The premier training for Scouting leaders in the Boy Scouts of America is the week-long Wood Badge for the 21st Century course. This training is held regularly in BSA councils throughout the country. Together these programs provide a foundation from which adult Primary and Young Men leaders can establish highly successful, results-oriented Scouting units that are firmly rooted in priesthood and Scouting principles.
The purpose of the Philmont training is to provide stake presidencies and stake young men priesthood leaders with a thorough, spiritual understanding of why the Church uses Scouting to instill proper values within the young men of the Church. The focus of Philmont is on the eight purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and how Scouting helps to fulfill each purpose. Participants learn about Scouting in the Church, act upon what they have learned, and are encouraged to share their experience by holding a “Little Philmont” training in their stake.
The purpose of Wood Badge is to show how values and character are inculcated through the aims and methods of Scouting. The focus of Wood Badge is on providing an experiential Scouting environment that explains, demonstrates, guides, and enables Primary and Young Men leaders to be effective Cub Scout and Boy Scout mentors. Working in dens and patrols, the leaders learn by doing. Unlike Philmont, where the training is mostly conducted inside classrooms (albeit in a very gorgeous setting), Wood Badge is typically held outdoors, stressing that Scouting is the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. Wood Badge emphasizes that outdoor Scouting activities should be purposely planned to be both fun and meaningful, with the ultimate aim of creating strong young men of character. To earn one’s “beads” after the Wood Badge training, participants must complete self-selected “tickets”—or tasks—that enhance the experience in the Scouting unit(s) under their stewardship.
Both the Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting at Philmont and Wood Badge training sessions are inspiring experiences. Participants at Philmont feel the Spirit of the Lord as they rub shoulders with other priesthood leaders and the general Primary and general Young Men auxiliary leaders of the Church. Participants at Wood Badge feel the spirit of Scouting as they rub shoulders with enthusiastic Scouting leaders from their local council, particularly those of other faiths. Both experiences change hearts and minds, often inspiring once-reluctant or less-fervent Primary and Aaronic Priesthood leaders to enthusiastically engage in implementing the Scouting program properly within their wards and stakes.
Imagine how powerful the Scouting programs would be in your ward and stake if all of your adult Primary and Aaronic Priesthood leaders attended Wood Badge training. Imagine having your entire stake presidency—and your stake young men presidency—attend both the Priesthood Leadership Conference at Philmont and Wood Badge. Imagine the power of having well-trained leaders, firmly rooted in both priesthood and Scouting principles, who run the Primary and Young Men programs the way the Lord intends.
Throughout the scriptures the Lord uses the mountains and wilderness as places for contemplation and learning about the most important aspects of His gospel. Likewise, it is in the remote areas of New Mexico and local councils that the important elements of Scouting are revealed. I pray you will take advantage of these great learning experiences that are readily available to you. I promise your life—and the lives of boys—will be changed when you do.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Have your stake leaders been to the Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting at Philmont? If not, how can you encourage them to go?
- Have your ward Primary and Young Men leaders been to Wood Badge? If not, how can you encourage them to go?
- If you have been to Philmont and/or Wood Badge, have you applied what you learned by making the Scouting experiences within your stewardship more effective?
- How will you continue to feel the spirit you felt at Philmont and/or Wood Badge?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song[s of Philmont and Wood Badge], I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:20).
-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.