On September 28, 2001, the First Presidency sent a letter to priesthood leaders in the United States and Canada which stated: “We desire all young men to strive to earn the Eagle Scout and Duty to God Awards” (emphasis added). But why do the leaders of the Church want young men to strive to become Eagle Scouts? The statement continues: “As youth work on these goals, they will develop skills and attributes that will lead them to the temple and prepare them for a lifetime of service to their families and to the Lord” (Robert D Hales, “Fulfilling Our Duty to God,” 171st Semiannual General Conference, October 2001).
When properly implemented, the greatest value of LDS Scouting is the journey, not the destination. It is not what a boy achieves, but rather what he becomes. Sadly, many parents, and even some priesthood leaders, mistakenly believe the ultimate goal for a Scouting-age boy in the Church is to achieve his Eagle Scout rank. Although this is a wonderful accomplishment, a boy could become an Eagle Scout and still not be the young man the Lord wants him to become.
As I mentioned in Mac’s Message #9: “As an Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leader your ultimate goal is to create conditions and provide experiences that bring young men to Christ. Your second priority is to strengthen the family.” The priorities of Scouting are outlined in the eight purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. Your role is to help your young men to:
♦ Become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings.
♦ Serve faithfully in priesthood callings, and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices.
♦ Give meaningful service.
♦ Prepare and live worthily to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances.
♦ Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission.
♦ Obtain as much education as possible.
♦ Prepare to become a worthy husband and father.
♦ Give proper respect to women, girls, and children.
Scouting activities provide boys with the opportunity to put into practice the gospel principles they have learned at home and at church. Acquiring rank advancement and merit badges can easily be tied to these purposes if you help your boys make a conscious connection between the work they are doing to advance in Scouting and the progress they are making toward their spiritual and temporal development.
If you look closely at the rank advancement requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks, you will see most of the skillsets are perfect preparation to help a young man to “live worthily to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood” and to “serve an honorable full-time mission.” The Star, Life, and Eagle ranks require “meaningful service” and the fulfilling of leadership roles that teach boys to “serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices.” All of the skills learned in rank advancement prepare a young man to “become a worthy husband and father.”
I believe teaching your boys to be leaders through shadow leadership, the patrol method, patrol leader councils, quorum presidency meetings, and the proper use of priesthood keys is more critical to a young man’s future success than an Eagle Scout badge on his shirt. Helping a boy to become a man of God and a faithful priesthood leader is more important than helping him to “aspire to the honors of men” (D&C 121:35).
When done properly, acquiring merit badges requires study, hard work, and testing—the same skills a boy will need if he wishes to “obtain as much education as possible.” Merit badges provide life skills and career development experiences that position a boy for success in his future. They expose a young man to more than 130 possible career choices or unique hobbies that could benefit him and his family throughout his life.
Scouting leader conferences and boards of review before qualifying for an award provide a young man with the opportunity to return and report on his progress. They teach a boy to account for his actions and to be honest in his report. They model the future meetings the young man will have with district and zone leaders, mission presidents, and stake and ward leaders in personal priesthood interviews. They provide perfect preparation for meetings a boy will experience in the business world.
Parents and adult Scouting leaders do a great disservice to their boys when they emphasize rank advancement without making the obvious connection to the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and the true reason why Scouting is such a vital component of the Young Men program in the Church. In the Book of Moses we read: “And behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). Clearly, the purpose of LDS Scouting is to bring young men to Christ, for all things in Scouting bear record of Him.
In the Doctrine and Covenants we learn: “Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal” (D&C 29:34). I pray in your Scouting effort you will not over-emphasize the temporal elements of Scouting—such as rank advancement and merit badge acquisition—above the spiritual significance of those activities. I hope you will strive to achieve the true purpose of Scouting by bringing your young men to Christ and fulfilling the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. When you and your boys realize the true purpose of Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints you will discover one is never “done” with Scouting when the Eagle Scout rank is acquired. The process of turning a young man into a man of God continues long after the Eagle badge is pinned on his shirt.
LDS Scouting is not merely a program path toward an earthly award of an Eagle Scout badge for a young man; it is a spiritual journey toward an eternal reward of celestial life for a man of God. Oh, how I wish I could get this one point across through my blog messages clearly, definitely, and finally. For “I have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of your [boys’] souls” (2 Nephi 2:30).
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Do you recognize why the Church wants all boys to strive to attain Eagle Scout rank?
- Do you focus too heavily on rank advancement and merit badge acquisition in your Scouting program?
- Do you see the connection between rank and merit badge requirements and the purposes of the Aaronic priesthood? Do you help your boys to see this connection?
- Do you use your Scouting leader conferences and boards of review as opportunities to reinforce the spiritual implications of Scouting advancement?
- Do you reward and recognize the spiritual accomplishments of your boys in your courts of honor as well as their rank and merit badge achievements?
- Do you help your boys to realize they are not “done” with Scouting when they attain Eagle Scout rank?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Scouting helps to prepare a boy for honorable fatherhood. It helps to prepare a boy to lead at home. It helps prepare him to take his place in life, in any profession or business or occupation that is worthy. It brings to him personal satisfaction, a feeling of confidence and assurance because he is basing his life on the fundamental principles of righteousness. It helps him to live a full life” (Reed A. Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 1988, 243-244).
-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. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.