In order for a Scouting-age youth to fulfill his duty to God he must know how to pray and study the scriptures.
When I first became active in the Church, most of the young adults with whom I associated thought I was a returned missionary. I was very knowledgeable about the gospel because I spent the first year of my activity reading every Church book I could get my hands on. I read over 100 Church books that first year. Since I had a good memory, I could easily quote scriptures and the words of the prophets on almost any subject discussed in the institute classes or young adult family home evening lessons I attended. Yet I never carried scriptures with me and whenever I was called upon to offer a prayer in these meetings, I declined.
I didn’t carry my scriptures because I didn’t own any. I guess I could have bought a set of scriptures, but I didn’t see the need. I could quote almost every scripture I heard in a talk or discussed in a lesson. I hadn’t developed the habit of reading the scriptures because I was so busy learning about the scriptures. I knew what the scriptures meant to others—the authors of the books I’d read—but I hadn’t found personal meaning in the scriptures because I hadn’t read them personally.
Since no one in my family was active in the Church, I had no example of prayer in the home. And, even though one might think I would have learned how to pray by watching and hearing other people pray in church, I lacked confidence and was too embarrassed to pray publicly, or in private. I had been “active” in the Church a little over a year and had never prayed—not once. Yet no one took the time to find out why I refused to pray in meetings.
Because I was a young adult before I prayed for the first time, I can still vividly remember my first prayer. I had no idea what to say. But, one night I quietly knelt at my bedside and simply said, “Hey! Are you there? Because if you are, I need to know.” What followed was an immediate and overwhelming feeling of great joy. I was engulfed in warmth throughout my body. My whole soul was enlightened. And I knew in my head and in my heart that, indeed, He is there. God made His presence known to me.
Brethren, it is impossible for a boy to fulfill his duty to God until he has developed a habit of daily scripture study and meaningful personal prayer. A young man cannot learn, act, and share without the influence of the Holy Ghost. The promptings from the Holy Ghost usually come while praying or reading the scriptures. But some boys may not know how to do either of these. Don’t assume just because he is active in the Church that he is engaged in spiritual pursuits. Don’t assume that just because you’ve heard a boy pray in quorum meetings that he knows how to kneel in fervent, private, meaningful prayer at home. Also don’t assume that because a boy can read a scripture verse at Church that he knows how to search the scriptures diligently on his own.
You may need to teach a young man that prior to studying the recommended scriptures in his Fulfilling My Duty to God booklet he should pray for wisdom and guidance to fully comprehend the things he is reading. He should pray that his mind and understanding will be opened as he ponders the things he reads. After reading he should pray again to seek insight and revelation regarding how to act upon the things he has learned. He should counsel with the Lord and seek His guidance as he develops his plan in response to the promptings he has received. Then, right before he acts, he may want to once again petition the Lord in prayer to guide his actions as he carries out his plan. Finally, when he has completed the work, he should thank the Lord in prayer for His sustaining help and seek confirmation from the Spirit that the work he has done is acceptable to the Lord.
If a boy has been guided by the Holy Spirit during the learn and act stages in fulfilling his duty to God, it will be easier for him to share those experiences with his priesthood quorum members, priesthood leaders, parents, and friends. The joy of having experienced the Spirit while acting upon his plan will stir the desire to bear testimony of the things he has learned while fulfilling his priesthood and Scouting duties.
It has been my experience that you cannot expect a boy to know how to pray or study his scriptures without some private, personal guidance from someone—parents, family, or priesthood leaders. There are some things that cannot be taught in a quorum or group setting. You need to know a boy personally and individually to teach him something that is personally and individually specific to him. You must know him and understand his personal inadequacies. In so doing, through quiet, one-on-one, special moments you can explain, demonstrate, guide, and enable a young man to seek the mind and will of the Lord through personal prayer and daily scripture study. Don’t assume a boy knows how to do it himself. Perhaps, like me, he needs to be taught.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Is each of your young men involved in personal daily scripture study and meaningful personal prayer? If not, do you know the real reason why he is not?
- Have you taken time to meet with each boy to show him how to pray and read the scriptures?
- Have you demonstrated to your young men how to use prayer to help them fulfill their duty to God? Have you shown them how to pray at each step in the Duty to God process?
- Do you listen to the prayers of your young men and provide guidance on how to increase the power of their prayers?
- Do you model proper prayer in your priesthood quorum meetings? Have you shown your boys how to call down the powers of Heaven through meaningful prayer?
- Do you encourage your boys to bring their scriptures to quorum meetings every Sunday? Do you encourage your boys to bring and read their scriptures on campouts?
- What more can you do to help each boy develop righteous personal habits?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God. Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good” (Alma 37:35-37).
-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.