Scouting is simple. Boys organize into patrols. The patrol leader leads. The patrols plan their own activities. They have fun with their friends. They are responsible for making things happen. They pack their own packs. They plan their own meals. They are responsible. They cook, camp, hike, swim, and climb. Mostly in the great outdoors. They do the things Scouts do. They learn by doing. They strive to fulfill the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. They live the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, and the Outdoor Code. They do a good turn daily. They are prepared.
Why do they do these things? Because they like the adventure of the outdoors. They want to be with their friends. They want to have fun. But to get what they want, they have to play by the rules. The rules are the Scout Oath and Law. They must do the things that Scouts do. They are not a baseball team. They are not a football team. They are a quorum and part of the Boy Scouts of America.
One time I asked one of our Scouts why he liked to go camping. A big smile grew on his face and he said, “Because my Mom’s not here.” This is not a put-down on moms. It is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that teenage boys are at a point in their lives when they start feeling the need for a little independence. And, that is a good thing.
There is an unwritten compact. They play by the rules and we get them where they want to go. Freedom for a young man is exhilarating. He will make many sacrifices to try his hand at doing things his own way. When challenges occur, he will rise to the occasion. He will surprise us with what he can accomplish.
He will fight to get a stove going at altitude when it is 20 degrees. He will hike through the mountains when he is hungry, tired, and cold. He will share his food with his buddy when his buddy spills his in the dirt. He will clean up a campsite because it is his duty. He will collect fast offerings and attend the Temple. He will show respect to women, girls, and children. He wears his uniform. He does all of these things because he feels responsible. He has an ownership interest in his patrol.
A Scout feels responsible when he has helped plan an activity, has helped make decisions, and knows his friends are counting on him. If he fails, he learns he can get up and do it again. When a Scout takes responsibility, he develops character. As he learns he is part of a team, he becomes a good citizen and a good quorum member. This is learning by doing, not academics. It is different than reading a book. In school, a boy learns from books. Reading and learning from books is a good thing. But in Scouts, a boy learns by going outside and making his way. Boy Scouts go places and do things. They live life.
The “Aims of Scouting” are “character development, citizenship training, and mental and physical fitness.” Ironically, the aims are achieved when things go wrong. When things go wrong, young minds are challenged to come up with solutions. They must overcome obstacles to make things happen. Determination is developed.
When we focus too much on the outward appearances of the program, we lose sight of our purpose. Our purpose is to change hearts. To change hearts we must love our Scouts. We must be patient. We must be forgiving. We must trust them. When we focus on the simple things of Scouting, lives are changed. Hearts are touched. The aims of Scouting and the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood are achieved.
-Bill Chapman lives in San Clemente, California, loves to surf, trail run, backpack, camp, do anything in the outdoors, and watch young men achieve the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood through the Scouting program. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.