“Scouting is not about awards; it’s about experiences,” said Douglas D. Holmes, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency, at the recent LDS-BSA Relationships Seminar held before April general conference. “It’s about experiences that matter.”
The experiences that matter most in Scouting are those that bring young men to Christ and help them “become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 8.1.3). Scouting—particularly LDS Scouting—is all about learning one’s duty to God. It is about connecting young men to heaven, meaning connecting them to their Heavenly Father; His Son, Jesus Christ, and to the Holy Ghost. Scouting experiences should be purposely focused on helping young men feel close to the Godhead.
When Moses was on a high mountain he talked to God and was reminded of his divine heritage. He was humbled by the immenseness of God’s creations. Although he felt insignificant in comparison, he was reminded again and again that he is a son of God (Moses 1:2-6). Perhaps like the Psalmist, he, too, thought: “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, [yet] hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet . . . O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psalm 3—6, 9).
No wonder we want our young men to get out among nature. No wonder outdoor activities are a significant part of the Aaronic Priesthood program, with Scouting as a means to connect young men to heaven. Being out under the heavens—the stars, the sky, sunsets and sunrises—can be an awesome, emotional experience that causes a boy to feel God’s presence. Since the beginning of time, the wilderness has been the location of significant conversion experiences. It has been the place where fulfilling one’s duty to God and accepting one’s priesthood stewardship has been galvanized. Private, reflective, spiritual moments in the woods, out in the desert, or on a mountain top have turned many of God’s children from a world of sin to a life of service.
As I said in one of my blog messages, “The six years a young man spends in the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting program should be a spiritual training camp. During this period, a boy should rub shoulders with spiritually tuned parents and mentors, enjoy meaningful outdoor activities, learn practical leadership skills, pray regularly, and thoroughly immerse himself in the ‘priesthood playbook’ (the scriptures). A well-planned, spiritually-focused, comprehensive Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting experience can help young men permanently capture their elusive testimonies. It can anchor boys to the saving principles of the gospel” (Mac’s Message #10).
A former member of my ward often shared the purpose his mission president established for the missionaries in his area. Their goal was to “Help Others Feel and Recognize the Spirit.” This mission president realized HOFRS (pronounced hoe-fers) experiences were critical to helping people “become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings.” Adult Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leaders ought to be in the business of creating numerous opportunities for HOFRS experiences for young men. Youth are connected to heaven and become closer to God and His Son, Jesus Christ, when they feel and recognize the Spirit of the Holy Ghost while engaging in meaningful priesthood quorum and Scouting activities. Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting activities ought to be a spiritual feast, rather than a mere fun-fest. They ought to focus young men on heavenly things, rather than on the things of the world.
At the recent LDS-BSA Relationships Seminar, Brother Holmes said, “Scouting is a tool to make our young men better disciples of Christ. But it is only a tool.” What priesthood leaders do with that tool, and how they labor in the Lord’s vineyard, can significantly impact whether a boy is firmly connected to heaven. Therefore, let us “Go to, and labor in the vineyard, with [our] might” that we may “have joy in the fruit” of our labors and preserve for the Lord that “which is most precious unto him” (Jacob 5:71, 74).
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Do your Scouting activities connect your boys to their Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?
- Do you regularly take your young men out into the mountains, the woods, the desert, or the plains so they can feel God’s presence through the wonders of the nature?
- Are you providing your boys with numerous HOFRS experiences?
- Do your Scouting activities help make your young men better disciples of Christ?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of [Scouting]; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come” (Jacob 1:6).
-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.