It is summertime and a great time to have your eleven-year-old (EYO) Scouts in the outdoors. Hikes, grand vistas, jumping over streams, seeing wildlife, discovering a bird nest, campfires, and star gazing are all great activities for your EYO Scouts. On July 9 and August 6 there will be a full moon, so the weekends of July 8 and August 5 are great evenings to have your EYO Scouts in the outdoors.
Not every evening adventure needs to and can be an overnight adventure (LDS eleven-year-old Scouts are limited to three one-night camps a year; see Scouting Handbook 6.2). As an EYO Scout leader, I often planned for outings that would conclude around 9:00 or 9:30 p.m. in the summer—long enough for the sun to go down and the moon to come up. Sitting by a lake or the ocean as the moon rises and glimmers on the water with dazzling color is something a young EYO Scout will remember for a long time, if not for the rest of his life. As you look to plan your summertime adventures, see if you can schedule your outings around moon rises and capture the imagination of your young Scouts.
Viewing the Lord’s creations in all their majesty is a perfect setting to begin gospel discussions with your Scouts. At times like this I have used the power of suggestion to get my young EYO Scouts to express their feelings by simple expressions such as: “Aren’t the Lord’s creations amazing!” or “I’m overwhelmed right now as I look at what the Lord created! How about you?” In the cool of the evening under a rising moon, their thoughts will turn to what you suggested and you can begin the conversation. Listen to learn! Ask Bobby what he thinks; then ask Jonah. You will hear sweet testimonies from them, often a reflection of their teachings at home. You will have set the stage for them to confirm in themselves that they truly have a testimony of the gospel.
When we are in the city, our homes, or Church buildings, we are in man’s creations. But when we take our EYO Scouts into a natural surrounding—be it forest, meadow, shoreline or mountain ridge—we are in God’s creations. The Spirit is strong and easily felt. These settings become opportunities to share the gospel with your EYO Scouts.
All this takes planning on your part. If these dates do not work, you might try to schedule your outings at the end of June, July, or August when the moon is in the first quarter—perfect for a night hike. Hiking along a well-established trail or along a shoreline under the moon with your flashlights turned off is an amazing experience for your Scouts. The waxing half-moon is usually sufficiently bright to see and navigate, even with a little cloud cover. I recall one such hike where the EYO Scout patrol walked with me along a logging road in the Virginia forest. We came to a point along the road and I asked the Scouts to stop and just listen and observe. I had chosen this spot because I saw the moonlight filtering through a grove of trees next to the road. Sure enough, after allowing for a contemplative pause of about five minutes, I asked the boys their thoughts. One EYO Scout volunteered that the moonlight in the trees reminded him of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. You could feel the rush of the Holy Spirit as several of the Scouts had tears in their eyes. It was a remarkable moment.
Moments like these happen because the EYO Scout leader sets the stage for the EYO Scouts not to just appreciate nature, but also to relate that appreciation to the Creation. Make sure you not only plan great Scout outings for your EYO Scouts each month of the summer, but also conduct your planning in such a way that magical spiritual moments happen for the youth under your charge.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.