Mac’s Message #28: The Power of Reflection

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

If you have read any of my blog messages prior to this one, you will have noticed that each message concludes with an opportunity for you to reflect upon what you’ve read. Questions are provided at the end of the article to stimulate your thinking. Hopefully those questions stir within you the desire to take action on the promptings you’ve felt while reading. Through reflection you ponder and learn. Hopefully, your contemplation then motivates you to act. The successful implementation of your actions may then inspire you to share your experience with others. Through learning, acting, and sharing you become a better Scouting and priesthood leader.

In the scriptures we find many examples where, after a significant spiritual event, the person was left to ponder in their mind and heart the deeper meaning and personal implications of the experience.

“Mary pondered these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19). “And it came to pass that Nephi went his way towards his own house, pondering upon the things which the Lord had shown unto him” (Helaman 10:2). “I reflected on it again and again” (Joseph Smith—History 1:12). “While we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings” (D&C 76:19). In every example of reflection in the scriptures we learn that introspective, contemplative pondering after an event brings further revelation and understanding.

Young men grow the most when they are inspired. Reflection is crucial to self-discovery and personal revelation. Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood activities provide numerous opportunities for reflection. “In Scouting, reflection is simply the process of the Scouts talking about their experiences immediately after an exercise or activity with a little bit of wise moderating” (Introduction to Leadership Skills for Troops, BSA No. 511-016WB [2011], 9). During reflective discussion you explore the “meaning” of the experience, the “moral of the story,” or the “lessons learned” from the activity. Through refection boys ponder the values and morals that are subtlety experienced during a fun adventure or activity. Reflection allows the Holy Spirit to expand the understanding of a young boy’s mind and heart. Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood experiences prepare young men to have “many revelations daily” (Helaman 11:23) by teaching them how to reflect upon the meaningful experiences of their life.

One of the reasons members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been counseled to keep a personal journal is to encourage us to reflect upon the events we encounter throughout our lives. The best reflection is self-reflection, or introspection—the ability to look within oneself to discover how lessons learned apply to one’s own life. Journal-keeping is a wonderful exercise to implement at your Scouting activities and campouts. Journal writing forces a boy to find a quiet, uninterrupted spot where he can write down his innermost thoughts without fear of criticism or censor. Being alone allows the Spirit to enter a boy privately. It is in these quiet moments, particularly on a high mountain or in a secluded forest, when a young man is most likely to be “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord” (1 Nephi 11:1).

President Thomas S. Monson said, “Scouting helps our boys to walk uprightly the priesthood path to exaltation. Along the path there will be turns and detours, requiring decisions of utmost importance. Heavenly inspiration will provide a road map that will ensure the accuracy of our choices. There comes a time in the life of every young man for serious contemplation and wise evaluation concerning his future—for decisions determine destiny” (Thomas S. Monson, “The Upward Reach,” Ensign, November 1993).

I humbly encourage you to allow time after your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood activities for your boys to reflect upon the experience. I hope you are taking a few moments after you read these messages to answer the questions at the end. I hope my messages stir within you a desire to more fully magnify your calling, just as I hope the reflective experiences you have with your boys causes them to experience a “mighty change” in their hearts (Alma 5:14). It is through reflection that you mold boys into strong men of God one lesson at a time, “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30).

 

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you take time after each lesson, experience, or activity to allow your boys to reflect?
  • Do you ask thought-provoking, open-ended questions that cause your boys to go deep within themselves to find meaning and application from the experience?
  • Do you encourage your boys to regularly write in a journal?
  • Do you pray after each reflection to allow the Spirit to continue working on the hearts and minds of your boys?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

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

 

“Looking behind, I am filled with gratitude. Looking forward, I am filled with vision. Looking upward, I am filled with strength. Looking within, I discover peace” (Maria Yracébûrû, editor, “Writing on the Water,” Prayers and Meditations of the Quero Apaches, 2004).

 

-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 this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. Scott Smith says:

    I just want to add my witness to the powerful tool of reflection and its use in Scouting. As a beginner Scoutmaster, when the Scoutmaster minute portion of the troop minute came around, I would just read one of the minutes provided in the Scoutmasters handbook. Later, as I learned about trying to incorporate ideas from the Sunday Priesthood lessons into my weekly activities, I would turn to the lesson material or the scriptures to provide my minute. However, once I went to Wood Badge (1995) and was taught the concept and the practice of reflection, that is where I believe I really began to have effective minutes, using reflection as the backbone to that portion of the meeting. With practice, I began to utilize it under the direction of the spirit in all aspects of my Scouting activities. I am very grateful for this tool that invites the spirit to touch lives.

    1. Mac says:

      A wonderful example of the progressive path from knowledge to wisdom. I’m sure this spiritual development came about after much reflection along the way.

  2. Bill Chapman says:

    As always, great post, Mac. We hold our PLC for 30 minutes after each troop meeting. We try to mentor, coach and train our scouts by asking them questions. Sometimes these are open-ended where we have time for them to think and “discover” things for themselves or, if we do not have as much time, we will ask more leading type questions where the answer is suggested in the question.

    It takes a lot of patience to train our scouts by asking questions. If if we are either impatient or do not trust our scouts to come up with the “right” answer or the one we want them to discover, we will be tempted to spoonfeed them to get where we want them to be more quickly. I think your suggestion of using reflection as a learning tool ties in with D & C 121:41-42:

    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
    42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

    By asking questions instead of giving directions or making commands, we also avoid the potential pitfall of exercising “unrighteous dominion.” D & C 121:39.

    Although it is a more time-consuming process, asking questions with gentleness, meekness and love unfeigned, trusting our scouts to get it right themselves, invites the spirit to work on the scouts and help them (and us) have a more spiritual experience in their/our scouting adventure.

  3. Randy Sorensen says:

    BP said Scouting is a “Game with a Purpose”.
    It is during reflection that we help our youth to understand the purpose.

  4. Just Trying to Serve says:

    Mac, Thanks for your leadership and example. I thought I’d share this idea in case it helps others…

    As my Troop was huddled under a tarp shelter eating our Mountain House and Cup-O-Noodles lunch during a recent District Camporee, I was trying to think of a way to really get the boys to stay positive for the last half of the day. It was one of those cold trips where it had rained nearly the entire time and it would be REALLY easy to get discouraged. Our end-of-day “reflection” is typically guided by a Philmont-style “Roses, Thorns & Buds” format with everyone participating, and we also add a “Miracles” element as taught by the Philmont LDS Chaplain, but I could tell we were going to need something more than that with this trip….

    So, what I can only credit to inspiration and an answer to a silent prayer hit me and I threw out a challenge to the boys. I challenged them to be thinking (during the afternoon of Scout-skills competitions) about just one thing they will have learned from this Camporee that they can tie into a gospel principle. They were to pretend that they were going to be asked to give a talk in church next week and they should have a cool Scout story to share that tied to their gospel topic. Then they were to be prepared to share when we re-convened for dinner that night. They took the challenge and off they went through the storm!

    I was amazed beyond belief with what the boys came up with when they reported back at dinner! There is not enough space to share all of them, but my favorite was shared by a very meek and shy new 12yo Scout who rarely talks, but the boys had recently elected him as our Chaplain’s Aid. When it was his turn he was uncharacteristically very excited to share! He blurted out, “when we were doing the lashings competition I couldn’t help but think about how we should work hard to lash ourselves to the Savior. Learning how to lash properly is like learning the Gospel properly so we are tight to the Savior.” I teared up, as did nearly everyone present. We then encouraged the boys to journal each of the lessons they learned so they would have their own personal book of Gospel lessons they learned through Scouting. The boys have since named this process the “Chaplain’s Challenge” in honor of this Scout and insist we do it every camp out. We also have charged the Historian/Scribe with keeping a notebook of all the “Chaplain’s Challenge” lessons we learn for the Troop. It has become something that the Troop really looks forward to and it is not uncommon for the boys to be pointing out “connections” between the Gospel and something that happens right in the middle of the activity, which is usually followed by the rest of the Troop chiming in “cool, but you can’t use that one tonight, you have to find another one!” :-)

    I guess my point is that “reflections” don’t have to be elaborate, they just have to be guided by the Spirit, and while the initial spark may come from the Scoutmaster, they become most meaningful when the boys develop their own message.

  5. Just Trying to Serve says:

    Mac, Thanks for your leadership and example. I thought I’d share this idea in case it helps others…

    As my Troop was huddled under a tarp shelter eating our Mountain House and Cup-O-Noodles lunch during a recent District Camporee, I was trying to think of a way to really get the boys to stay positive for the last half of the day. It was one of those cold trips where it had rained nearly the entire time and it would be REALLY easy to get discouraged. Our end-of-day “reflection” is typically guided by a Philmont-style “Roses, Thorns & Buds” format with everyone participating, and we also add a “Miracles” element as taught by the Philmont LDS Chaplain, but I could tell we were going to need something more than that with this trip….

    So, what I can only credit to inspiration and an answer to a silent prayer hit me, and I threw out a challenge to the boys. I challenged them to be thinking (during the afternoon of Scout-skills competitions) about just one thing they will have learned from this Camporee that they can tie into a Gospel principle. They were to pretend that they were going to be asked to give a talk in church next week and they should have a cool Scout story to share that tied to their gospel topic. Then they were to be prepared to share when we re-convened for dinner that night. They took the challenge and off they went through the storm!

    I was amazed beyond belief with what the boys came up with when they reported back at dinner! There is not enough space to share all of them, but my favorite was shared by a very meek and shy new 12yo Scout who rarely talks, but the boys had recently elected him as our Chaplain’s Aid. When it was his turn he was uncharacteristically very excited to share! He blurted out, “when we were doing the lashings competition I couldn’t help but think about how we should work hard to lash ourselves to the Savior. Learning how to lash properly is like learning the Gospel properly so we are tight to the Savior.” I teared up, as did nearly everyone present. We then encouraged the boys to journal each of the lessons they learned so they would have their own personal book of Gospel lessons they learned through Scouting. The boys have since named this process the “Chaplain’s Challenge” in honor of this Scout and insist we do it every camp out. We also have charged the Historian/Scribe with keeping a notebook of all the “Chaplain’s Challenge” lessons we learn for the Troop. It has become something that the Troop really looks forward to and it is not uncommon for the boys to be pointing out “connections” between the Gospel and something that happens right in the middle of the activity, which is usually followed by the rest of the Troop chiming in “cool, but you can’t use that one tonight, you have to find another one!” :-)

    I guess my point is that “reflections” don’t have to be elaborate, they just have to be guided by the Spirit, and while the initial spark may come from the Scoutmaster, they become most meaningful when the boys have time to think and develop their own message.

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Wow! What a powerful experience and a wonderful example to others. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  6. Mac McIntire says:

    Read a great talk today by Elder Robert L. Backman called “What the Lord Requires of Fathers.” It can be found in the Sept. 1981 Ensign. The article contained some great comments regarding turning Scouting activities into spiritual experiences. Here is what he said:

    In some way fathers must learn to take advantage of the teaching moments that come, and even to create such moments. That takes time, meaningful association, and communication with our children.

    At a recent Eagle Scout recognition dinner, I heard an outstanding Eagle Scout talk about his relationship with his devoted father who was also his Scoutmaster:

    “On those trips our Scoutmaster talked of things other than merit badges. He talked about Paul when we were hiking, Nephi when we were sitting around the fire, Abraham when we were looking at the stars, and Jesus of Nazareth just before we said our prayers and went to sleep. And at one time or another, he sent us each out alone to pray as Joseph Smith had prayed.

    “I listened very closely to our Scoutmaster and tried to do what he said. My Scoutmaster is my father, and I want to be like him.

    “If I can remember what I learned on those hikes up and over and down and into the mountains, I believe I can make it through the journey of life. The journey will not always be easy. My Scoutmaster knows that. But perhaps some day in high school or college or on a mission or at some later time, if ever I am discouraged, if ever I begin to doubt myself or wonder if I can go on, if ever I think I can’t take another step—these words will come back:

    “‘Come on now, you’ll get your second wind,’ ‘It’s just around the next corner,’ ‘Only 200 yards more,’ ‘Make your mind tell your body what to do,’ ‘Be not weary in well doing,’ ‘When you help a friend to the top of a mountain,’ ‘Tell me what you think about when you don’t have to think,’ ‘Boy, this is really livin’.’”

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