In the October 2016 general conference, Elder J. Devn Cornish shared an experience he had after graduating from medical school and was in a pediatric residency training in a high-powered, competitive program. He was faced with a challenging assignment and felt unqualified to meet it. In his despair, he alternated between sobbing and sleeping and had no idea how to proceed. Just at that moment, a senior resident in the program put his hand on Elder Cornish’s shoulder and asked how he was doing. After Elder Cornish poured out his frustrations, the senior resident responded in a way that Elder Cornish said changed his life. Elder Cornish described the senior resident’s response as follows: “He told me how proud he and all of the other senior residents were of me and how they felt like I was going to be an excellent doctor. In short, he believed in me at a time when I didn’t even believe in myself.” (“Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It?”)
Do we believe in our Scouts? Do we trust them enough to let go and let them lead? Do we believe in them when they do not believe in themselves? If the adults are dominating and controlling the meetings and activities of the troop, what does that tell our Scouts about our trust (or lack of trust) in them?
When Helaman was faced with a life-and-death situation for many of his people, he turned to a group of his young men and asked them for guidance. How old were they? The record does not tell us. But it does tell us that they were “very young.”
“And now, whether they were overtaken by Antipus we knew not, but I said unto my men: Behold, we know not but they have halted for the purpose that we should come against them, that they might catch us in their snare;
“Therefore what say ye, my sons, will ye go against them to battle?
“And now I say unto you, my beloved brother Moroni, that never had I seen so great courage, nay, not amongst all the Nephites.
“For as I had ever called them my sons (for they were all of them very young) even so they said unto me: Father, behold our God is with us, and he will not suffer that we should fall; then let us go forth; we would not slay our brethren if they would let us alone; therefore let us go, lest they should overpower the army of Antipus” (Alma 56: 43-46). (Emphasis added.)
Often, when telling this story, we rightly focus on the courage and bravery of these young men. However, there is another lesson to be learned if we focus on Helaman as a great young men’s leader, a great Scoutmaster we might say. Before this group of young men could exercise their great faith and courage, Helaman had to give them a chance to make a very difficult decision. He warned them of the dangers but he did not order them, he asked them what they should do. If he had ordered them into battle, he would have robbed them of the opportunity to grow. Helaman trusted these young men, his stripling warriors, and was richly rewarded. If we will trust our young men, we will be richly rewarded, as well.
Once, when I was in a priesthood leadership meeting, a great leader addressed the question of whether we should take a chance in giving so much responsibility to our young men. This great leader responded, “Why not? The Lord took a chance on you.”
-Bill Chapman lives in San Clemente, California, and 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.