Today everyone seems to be familiar with the book, The Hobbit, even if only from having seen the trilogy of Hobbit movies. In one passage, Gandalf separates from Bilbo and the dwarfs at the edge of Mirkwood Forest to go slay a dragon. Before he departs, Gandalf leaves with a stern warning, “Don’t leave the path.”
Ever since some policy changes were implemented within the Boy Scouts of America and the announcement of the discontinuance of the Varsity and Venturing programs in the Church, some stake and ward adult Aaronic Priesthood leaders seem to have lost their way. Repeatedly I’ve heard this puzzled inquiry from priesthood leaders, “What do we do now?”
The path for developing our young men in the Aaronic Priesthood program used to be very clear. Accomplishing the eight purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood was the goal. Character development, citizenship, and fitness were our aims. Our methods were to put the boys into small groups so they could develop their leadership skills, work on advancement, associate with adults, and grow personally by modeling certain ideals. We got the young men involved in outdoor activities that tested their mettle. We even encouraged them to wear uniforms that would give them a unique identity and make them stand out as a visible force for good.
We wanted our young men to be honorable. We expected our youth to do their best to do their duty to God, to their country, and to their fellow man. We encouraged them to help other people at all times. And we expected them to keep themselves physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
We sought to instill the values of being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. We wanted our young men to always be prepared and to find a way to do a good turn daily. We even had them raise their right arm to the square and pledge that they would do so. We repeatedly emphasized these ideals week after week hoping the reiteration would firmly plant these qualities within our youth.
To those who may think the Young Men program in the Church has changed, I would admonish you to not leave the path. There is no reason to wander off into a fog of disorganization, lack of focus, or purposeless activity that merely entertains or occupies the time of your young men. The path is still there. The aims have not changed. The methods can still be used. The values and ideals remain relevant. The need for repetition and weekly reinforcement is essential.
I encourage you to evaluate your current Young Men program and activities. I invite you to carefully and prayerfully re-read the paragraphs above to see if you’ve left the path. If you have, danger lurks ahead.
Your Heavenly Father has entrusted you with the development of his precious young men. He is counting on you to magnify your calling and do all you can to save the young men under your stewardship. The purposes and outcomes of the Aaronic Priesthood have not changed. We hear echoes of the Lord’s counsel to us when Gandalf stresses to the Hobbit, “No matter what may come, stay on the path.”
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Are you on the right path in your Aaronic Priesthood program and activities?
- Do you have a clear purpose, a well-thought-out plan, and specific methods to achieve your desired outcomes?
- Will the things you are doing help to save your boys?
- Are you instilling within your young men the qualities and characteristics that will help them to become effective missionaries, husbands, fathers, and priesthood leaders?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path” (Psalms 27:11).
Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and an 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.