Mac’s Message #2: The Mission of the Boy Scouts of America and the Aaronic Priesthood

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire


Modern day prophets have warned us that the world and the Church are increasingly growing apart.

President Thomas S. Monson said, “I’ve lived long enough to have witnessed much of the metamorphosis of society’s morals. Where once the standards of the Church and the standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it’s growing ever wider.” (April 2011 general conference).

The overarching purpose of the Aaronic Priesthood program is to instill the values in young men that will help them remain true to the faith throughout their lives as they face the challenges of the world. Fortunately there is an organization that has an exquisite, well-designed, beautifully structured program that has the same overarching purpose—the Boy Scouts of America.

The mission of the BSA is “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” This is why Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood are so strongly linked in the Church.

The purpose of the Young Men program is to fashion boys who have “honor” and strive to do their “best.” It is to help young men understand and fulfill their duty to God and to their country. The Aaronic Priesthood years are designed to teach young men how to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.

The Lord wants young men who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. He wants missionaries, priesthood leaders, fathers, and husbands who model these same values in everything they do. He wants boys to learn in their youth how to help other people at all times so it becomes natural for them to do their home teaching and serve their fellow man.

More important, the Lord wants an army of priesthood brethren who are physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. He wants young men whom He can rely on to build the kingdom of God.

When Robert Baden-Powell founded the Boy Scouts this is what he had in mind. He designed the organization to achieve this end. He created a program that he knew would appeal to the hearts, minds, and interests of young men. He knew he could instill proper values in boys by involving them in outdoor activities. This is the purpose of Scouting. This is the purpose of the Aaronic Priesthood.

This is why you need to run the Scouting program the way it is designed. This is why you need to become fully trained in your Scouting duties so you can fulfill the purposes of the Lord.

 Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you run your Scouting programs the way the BSA intends?
  • Do you understand how the mission of Scouting and the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood are aligned?
  • Have you been properly trained in your Scouting duties and responsibilities?


Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  • What will you start doing, stop doing or do better as a result of your reflection?


“There is no religious “side” of the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God. Let us, therefore, in training our Scouts, keep the higher aims in the forefront, not let ourselves get too absorbed in the steps. Don’t let the technical outweigh the moral. Field efficiency, back woodsmanship, camping, hiking, Good Turns, jamboree comradeship are all means, not the end. The end is CHARACTER with a purpose. Our objective in the Scouting movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth by including among youth the spirit and the daily practice in their lives of unselfish goodwill and cooperation.” (Robert Baden-Powell).


-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 these blog messages are solely those of the author.

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  1. Randy Sorensen says:

    Thank you again Mac.
    I was wondering if you could help me and others understand your question,
    “Do you run your Scouting program the way the BSA intends?”
    How does the BSA intend that the church run its BSA programs?
    Does the church really run that program or do we run the program that our traditions teach us to?

    Thanks for your help.

  2. Jason Forbes says:

    In response to Randy:
    Our former Stake President put it this way: “We should walk lock-step with BSA unless there is a gospel-based reason for deviation.” I’m confident that THAT is a solid mantra to live by as an LDS Scouter.

    1. Randy Sorensen says:

      Thank you Jason. Great advise.

    2. Mac McIntire says:

      I agree completely.

  3. Brian Nielson says:


    I think the answer is in Mac’s admonition “to run the Scouting program the way it is designed.” Frequently, in the church, we rely on our traditions to run a program that we label as scouting. As a youth, I experienced the difference between a program where the adult called Scoutmaster had ideas on what youth should do and one where the adult called to serve attended training and applied that training and became a Scoutmaster.

    In the latter, the program as designed, the youth lead and learn through experience and error. They are mentored and trained, and allowed to succeed or not on their efforts. They gain experience and education in a wide range of topics and develop relationships that carry them across troubling teen years.

    The traditions of Scouting from the 60s and 70s are wonderful and valuable, but if we rely solely on those traditions as remembered and carried forward, we do not incorporate the benefits and strengths provided through the Varsity and Venturing programs- both strategically designed to respond to the needs of and retain our boys as their skills, interests, and time available change.

    As an additional note, I have also seen and experienced a perception of the council or district as representing ‘the bsa’, when those groups of volunteers, following their own traditions, provide program that seems to exclude LDS scouts. Often times, a lack of LDS participation and volunteerism leads to apathy and neglect by volunteers who have been given no interaction to suggest a better option.

    1. Randy Sorensen says:

      Thank you for your comments.
      What do you feel should be done to bridge the disconnects between local LDS Scouting leadership (your Scoutmasters), the official church directives (LDS Scouting Handbook etc.) and the BSA programs?

      1. Brian Nielson says:

        I don’t believe there is much disconnect between the BSA program and official directives in goals and principles. There have been some in application, historically. I do believe that ward and stake adults often don’t read or use the official publications or the supporting ones. So I think the first thing we can all do is read and use the resources. The website and the resources at are wonderful.

        When I first became a Scouter (adult), the green Scouting Handbook from the church was 30+ pages long, and did have contradictions to church policy and at times would even seem to contradict BSA policy (in my recollection).

        Then in the late nineties, it was replaced with the most recently printed version- that was only 6 pages long. I remember many people saying ‘how do we know what scouting is supposed to be in the church’ and the answer came clearly in broadcasts and messages- Look to the BSA, and when there are choices, (ie, age v. grade based advancement, uniforms, 11 yr old scouts, etc), the handbook can clarify. Now it is published online, and updated regularly.

        I think it is helpful to remember that President Monson is the longest serving member of the executive board and our Primary and Young Men’s general presidents sit on the board. I think it is telling that as program updates are in the works and rolling out, Charles Dahlquist (former YM General President) is guiding the youth who are leading the effort to make Venturing better.

        My experience has been that most perceived issues (LDS and other scouting as well) stem from a lack of reading and understanding the program. As an example, I was leading a session in Scoutmaster Specifics. I often start by saying ‘the answers to the questions are in the Boy Scout handbook- adults want more detail, so there is a Scoutmaster handbook which has the same information but spelled out’.

        A participant in the class raised some concerns about youth with disabilities, specifically that the family and the youth felt alienated because he could never advance due to physical limitations. We opened the Boy Scout handbook, turned to each advancement record page, looked at the bottom and read the policy that solved the issue. The participants response was ‘perhaps I should get one of these manuals, for all of these YEARS, I have been borrowing a book from the boys.’

        Beyond reading the manuals, attend the trainings. If something seems to disconnect from what you see as the LDS program, ask for guidance in seeing the manual and the area that dictates the disconnect. I venture that you will find the disconnect reflects traditions that are not grounded in the program, but in past behaviors.

        Finally, start to get involved at the district level- attend Roundtables and ask questions. Volunteer to help put on events. Read the Scouting magazine, newsletters (semi-annual now?) and get to Woodbadge.

        If you are in a Stake Young men’s presidency or Stake Presidency- attend a session at Philmont (2 weeks are focused on how Scouting supports the priesthood).

        I strongly recommend Brad Harris’s book- Trails to Testimony.

        I realize this got a little long. As a church, we tend to look internally for our training and guidance, so it is not our instinct to look beyond our walls- but that is the guidance in Section 2.0 of that Green Book.

        I hope there is value for you in this reply.

        1. Randy Sorensen says:

          Thank you for some great advice.

  4. Robert Mortensen says:

    On Saturday, after Leader Specific Training for my new role as COR, I went home and read “Trails to Testimony” by Bradley Harris. What a great book! It captured and put into words the very thoughts that I have had and the things that Dave Pack had taught me. I’m going to personally buy a box of those books and gift them to all of the adult YM and Scout advisers.

  5. Kerry Watson says:

    Hi Randy,
    This speech given by Charles Dahlquist motivates me and has really helped me answer some you are asking. It is a talk I reference often and wish every LDS Scouter would read.

    Strengthening and Vitalizing Aaronic Priesthood Quorums
    Charles W. Dahlquist II
    September 2004 Open House

    I also highly recommend Wood Badge which will open the vision of Scouting.

    Finally, go to Philmont and really experience Scouting in such a unique and incredible way.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Randy Sorensen says:


    2. Randy Sorensen says:


      Tell me more about Wood Badge and your experience with this program.

    3. Mac McIntire says:

      This talk by Brother Dahlquist is wonderful. It should be read by every Stake President, Bishop and Young Men Leader. It summarizes best everything that I could ever say in my Blog messages. Perhaps you can save your time from reading my messages and just read and heed this talk!

  6. Mac McIntire says:

    These are great questions and wonderful answers. This is the exact purpose of this blog, to stir discussion and share the collective intelligence of the many fine priesthood leaders struggling with running the Young Men program the way the Lord intends it.

    Brian’s answer is excellent. There should be no disconnect between how the BSA runs Scouting and how LDS units do it, except in a few policy differences — fund raising, girls in Venturing units, etc.

    Please read my next several blog articles for further explanation of what I mean regarding running Scout units as designed. Interestingly, Message #5 will talk specifically about breaking the traditions of the past regarding how typical LDS Scout programs are carried out.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Randy, it was great talking to you on the phone today.

  7. Lance Stalnaker says:


    I was where you are several years ago with the exception that I was an 11 Year Old Scout Leader before my call to the Bishopric. I let the Bishop know I was still planning on attending the Woodbadge course I had previously signed up for. After attending, he asked how it was, I said great! and…your going…the SM is going…VC is going…11 yr old leader is going….den leader is going, and so it was. He sent 5 more leaders to Woodbadge and now we have 10 leaders in our Ward trained up to and including Woodbadge.

    If you want a successful Scouting program, you must have a Bishop who understands and has a testimony of his role as the president of the Aaronic Priesdthood and you leaders must be left in Scouting for tenure (ten years!), and they must all be fully trained.

    The greatest challenges in LDS Scouting arise where those with Priesthood authority do not fully understand or grasp the importance of Scouting. It can make running the programs according to BSA and LDS standards difficult.

    I have been blessed with a Bishop that “gets it”. In fact he gets it so much that he released me from my calling as B-1c and called me as Scoutmaster. After pondering and praying about it, he looked at me in Bishopric meeting and informed me that the new Scoutmaster would be me. He said,”I hate to lose you as a counselor, but I will be able to replace you there easier than we can find a trained Scoutmaster that understands the program.”

    1. Mac says:

      Wow! What an inspired bishop! He is following the counsel of Church leaders by putting the best men as adult leaders in the Aaronic Priesthood. Yes, he does “get it.” Please send your bishop my compliments!

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