Mac’s Message #37: The Support Roles in the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

As an organizational development consultant, I marvel at how perfectly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is organized. The structure within the Church is exquisitely designed to ensure no one need fail in his or her calling. When implemented as the Lord intended, there are numerous levels of support for Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood leaders. Inspired leaders have created a perfect structure of communication, training, and support to ensure you succeed in your leadership role in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood.

To me one of the most poignant scriptures in the New Testament is found in John 14:18. Prior to Christ’s Atonement He petitions His Father to send the Comforter to his disciples so they will always have His Spirit to support and sustain them. In doing so, Christ says, “I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you.” The Lord then lovingly declares, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

As an adult leader in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood you have not been left to fend for yourself as you fulfill your calling. There is a hierarchy of support available to you. When these support roles are fulfilled as designed by the Lord you should never feel comfortless, troubled, or afraid. As shown in the graphic below, there always is someone available to “teach you all things” (John 14:26) and help you in your duties and responsibilities to the young men. Over the next few weeks I will explain each of these roles in the Church hierarchy.

Macs blog 37


As I have stated numerous times in previous Mac’s Messages, the purpose of Scouting in the Church is to establish within the Lord’s young men a firm foundation in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. LDS Scouting also is designed to achieve the vision and mission of the Boy Scouts of America, which are respectively to “prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law” and 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” (BSA Mission & Vision). Scouting in the Church also helps achieve the three aims of Scouting—character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness. These goals are achieved when LDS Scouting leaders properly implement the eight methods of Scouting within their Scouting programs.

The Scouting unit committee plays a vital role in relieving the heavy burden placed upon the shoulders of Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood leaders. The Scouting unit committee is designed to provide the resources necessary to run a quality Scouting program so the Young Men leaders can focus on the boys instead of worrying about the logistics of their Scouting program. In my next blog message I will explain how to ensure you have a high-functioning Scouting committee.

In the temple we are clearly taught how the Lord operates on a system of return and report. We see this pattern repeated at the ward level in priesthood executive committee meeting, ward council, and personal priesthood interviews. Scouting leaders report to the ward Young Men presidency. The ward YM presidency is supported by members of the bishopric. The bishop typically oversees the priests and the Venturing program. Generally his first counselor supports the teachers and Varsity Scouts while his second counselor assists the deacons and Boy Scouts. The ward primary presidency is responsible for the 11-Year-Old Scouts and the Cub Scout program. The bishop assigns one of his counselors to serve as the chartered organization representative (COR), who acts as a liaison with the BSA local council and district.

Members of the stake Young Men presidency serve in a dual training and mentoring capacity within the hierarchy of the Church and as unit commissioners within the Boy Scouts of America. Their role is to help bishops, CORs, ward Young Men presidencies, quorum advisers, and Scouting leaders to be as effective as possible. They should be a vital resource of information, tools, and methods for how to properly implement the Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood programs as outlined in the Church handbooks. They are assisted in their efforts by the high council representative assigned to oversee the Aaronic Priesthood. Both the high council representative and the stake Young Men president report regularly to a member of the stake presidency regarding Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood matters.

Some adult leaders at the local level may not be aware that an Area Seventy is directed to implement an LDS-BSA Relationships committee within each BSA local council. This committee is made up of members of stake presidencies within the council and is either chaired by the Area Seventy or a designated stake president. The purpose of the LDS-BSA Relationships committee is to build relationships between the Boy Scout executives and LDS leaders within the council. They coordinate activities and address the needs of both the Church and the BSA within the council.

The BSA local council and district provide numerous tools, resources, materials, training opportunities, and other programs to help adults become effective Scouting leaders.

Perhaps one of the least tapped support sources are the parents and family members of the young men. In an upcoming message I will explain how to engage and utilize these valuable resources. I also will share examples of how to identify the vast resources available within your “ward family”.

My last message in this series will offer guidance on how to engage and encourage priesthood leaders and parents who may not have yet embraced Scouting as the Lord’s program for his precious young men. I will offer suggestions on how you can help “those in authority” to catch the vision of Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As you can see, if each of these support roles is carried out as the Lord intended, you have a plethora of support to make your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood calling much easier. I humbly invite you to read each of my messages in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully these messages will provide you with the comfort of knowing you are not alone as you endeavor to implement your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood programs the way the Lord has designed.


Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you fully understand your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood role? Are you fulfilling your role as the Lord intended?
  • Are you supported in your calling by those in authority over you? If not, have you tried to engage that support through inspired and loving intervention?
  • Have you solicited guidance and training from your stake Young Men presidency?
  • Are you fully utilizing the parents and family members of your young men, as well as the many resources available from your “ward family”?
  • Are you sharing the burden so you don’t have to carry the full load of your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood program alone?


Turn Your Reflection Into Action

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


“And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, . . . and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.(Mosiah 24:14).


-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. Randy Sorensen says:

    Thanks Mac.

    I would love to hear stories, from this blogs followers, of how they have experienced the support Mac refers to.

    1. Jason says:

      I would love to hear stories also about how this works. I don’t see much of it in reality. AWOL YMs adult leaders, little care at how the program operates, and a bishopric that really doesn’t see the youth programs as a priority seems to be the norm in our ward. It’s been this way for a long time. I was actually hoping the church would drop scouting during conference, not because I don’t think the program is great but because I’m sick of it not being taken seriously in the ward.

      1. JD says:

        Jason – I wrote a nice response that didn’t get posted because it had links.

        There is an article on Blog.UtahScouts called “Ours is a Broken Culture” April 9, 2017. It’s really good and expresses what you feel.

        What I have found is that adults who had good experiences as boys, usually support Scouting, while those who didn’t usually are reluctant to support.

        “If there was a better program on planet earth to do that, we would do that one instead” Brother Steven J. Lund of the Young Men’s General Board – “What Does it Mean to Be with Them?” Nov 4, 2016 (Blog.UtahScouts)

        I’m in the process of “selling” Scouting to those LDS leaders in my Council. I’m focusing on the desired outcomes and benefits of implementing the program – Fulfilling the Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. There isn’t a better program to help to that. Mission Prep, Outdoor Skills, Teamwork, Leadership, etc. Then there are the “soft skills” that Scouting (specifically Varsity & Venturing) really does well at. People usually get fired from jobs because of lack of “soft skills”. (Planning, vision, taking initiative, communicating, 7 Habits type stuff, etc).

        Don’t give up on it. They boys and leaders need a Scout Missionary who will lead them to the light. “who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—”

  2. Randy Sorensen says:

    Thanks again Mac.

    I would love to hear stories, from the followers of this blog, on how they have experienced the support Mac speaks of.

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Or how they have NOT received such support. Both sides of the issue would be interesting and helpful.

  3. James Francisco says:

    I’m afraid that, based on my experience with scouting in the church, my impressions and thoughts about the way that the organization of the church functions is radically different than Mac’s. Looking through the social psychology perspective of my academic training, focusing on how scouting programs are managed, I see a terribly dysfunctional warping of structures and staffing practices that guarantee mediocrity if not outright failure in the outcomes of the scouting program.

    Let’s consider the unit committee, Because of the way that the church organizes scouting, unit committees are totally powerless to function in the responsibility assigned by the Church Handbook to ensure that Church and BSA policies are followed. Unit leaders, because they are the YM presidency, they feel empowered to ignore the Committee’s efforts to ensure compliance with policies and procedures. Bishops do not support these committees, even to the point of ignoring church policies themselves. As an example, the ward that I am currently in has not registered a leader before sustaining them in sacrament meeting in more than two years. I have served on ward scouting committees several times and become more frustrated each time. After my last stint as a scouting committee chair I was so upset at the lack of support that I got from the bishopric as I tried to bring the ward into compliance that each Sunday was a struggle to control growing anger. I’ve been able to calm down over the last couple of years, but I doubt that I will ever accept another calling to work with LDS scouting.

    1. Randy Sorensen says:

      James, I am sorry that your experiences with Scouting and the church have been less than they should be. I feel your pain and your anger as I have experienced both as you described. I have however on very limited occasions experienced Scouting and the church function with the harmony Mac describes. It is a beautiful thing.
      Mac, I think this is a fundamental problem that Scouting leaders face in the church sponsored units. Too many Ward and Stake and Area leaders give minimal scouting support to their YM leaders even to the point of wishing the Scouting program would somehow go away. Far to many really great Scouters have found that they serve Scouting best outside of the church. What can be done to fix this disconnect?

      1. JD says:

        Randy – #1 reason leaders don’t put Scouting as a priority is that they don’t fully understand it, know how it is part of the Aaronic Priesthood, and have a Vision of how the program is the best program to help build quality young men. It’s a Vision issue. As they begin to see the Vision, the way the Lord wants us to see it, then it will become a priority in the lives of those who are involved. Trails to Testimony is a great book that can help instill this vision. Wood Badge and serving in District Leadership will also help. The best way to fully understand it, begins on the knees of those in key leadership positions. It doesn’t have to start with the Church as a whole, a Stake, or event the Bishopric. It can start with 1 leader who, under the direction of the spirit, will magnify his priesthood calling and begin to work within his sphere of influence. Then, the leader can work to expand his sphere of influence to the rest of the Ward + Bishopric, then the Stake, then Council. Change takes time, but it is worth the Journey. Mine has been 3 years and is completely worth it. Each Council has an LDS-BSA Relations Committee that has Stake Presidency Members and a few Scouters. This is another good resource as well.

        1. Randy Sorensen says:

          Mac, What you say is so true. Most of our church leadership do not understand Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood and have not taken the time to “learn their duty”. Our visions change as we learn.
          I must however partially disagree with your statement about the power of one person having the ability to influence the needed change. In my experience, a lowly scoutmaster has very little ability to change the culture of his bishop or stake president or the area or the church. Those types of changes need to occur from the top down. The training needed to make those changes needs to occur from the top down. One great scoutmaster can influence the youth he has stewardship over in a significant way but to think he can influence those who serve “above him” is a dream.

          1. Mac McIntire says:

            I think you are responding to JD’s comment.

          2. Randy Sorensen says:

            Sorry Mac. Please feel free to comment though.

          3. Mac McIntire says:

            I’m interested in other people’s comments. So I am sitting back and letting others share their experiences.

          4. Randy Sorensen says:

            That is a good plan. I hope though at some time to hear your take on this important point.

          5. JD says:

            Randy – As for the “dream of change”, yes that is where it started. Leaders start with dreams and work to make them a reality. Many times, most people don’t dream big enough which is why big things don’t happen. As for the lowly Scoutmaster…I started as the lowly Cubmaster. Let me share my experience.

            April 2011. I was called to be a Cubmaster. The previous Cubmaster did A+ Pack meetings. She was great. I learned my duty and read everything I could find and got trained ASAP. I didn’t know what I was doing (I hadn’t really done Scouts since I was 14). I went to Roundtable, which was horrible (and didn’t go back for 9 months).

            Jan 2012 – After 9 months of struggling and doing what I could I wanted to do more. I wanted more, but didn’t know how. I went to our Regional LDS Training and was introduced to the LDS BSA Relations. A week later we had our Council University Of Scouting/Pow Wow (Awesome!). This helped me out. Next was to get on my knees and ask for additional help. I was impressed to look into this thing called Wood Badge. I went (Mar 2012) . My Stake YM Presidency, our Stake Presidency Councilor, and High Councilor were there. Unfortunately, by August the Presidency was dissolved as the President had some career changes. Part of my Wood Badge Goals towards my ticket were the key to growth and influence.

            Fast forward to now. My Bishop was that HC on my course. He is on board, but really busy. He has a great Committee Chair, who is also now our District Trainer (awesome guy and trainer). Our Roundtables have improved because several of us had Wood Badge goals to improve the program. I am the District Commissioner and we recruited our Stake Councilor to be the District Chair. It took him 6 months to catch the Vision but now he is growing in his duties and is doing a great job. We found a wonderful LDS Cub Scout Roundtable Chair, and helped our newer Stake Primary Presidency to embrace Cub Scouting. 4 years ago, we didn’t have this, but influence, encouragement, time, and the Lord can make miracles happen.

            What are we working on now. Varsity and Venturing as well as bringing the Vision to the rest of our 15 Stakes in Council. This will be through having great Assistant Council Commissioners for LDS Cub Scouts, LDS Boy Scouts, LDS Varsity, and LDS Venturing. Those Commissioners then will work to inspire and lead change by finding willing Bishops and Stake Leaders (Primary, YM, and Stake Presidency) who see the Vision of Scouting or are willing to help the adult leaders and boys grow. Outside of the Unit Leader, the Bishop is the best person. He has the keys. You don’t need Stake leaders, they can only help and enhance (and our are striving to do that).

            Dream big, work hard, and find those who love working with the boys (they don’t need to love Scouts…that will come). The motivation comes through the love Heavenly Father has for me, with the Spirit that guides and directs and allows me to feel love for these boys and adult leaders. The program is just as good for the boys as it is for the adults. Both allow us to grow in the Priesthood and become more like Christ.

            It can be done. I was just a Cub Leader.

          6. Randy Sorensen says:

            JD, That is a great story. That is the way Scouting should grow in the church. I do not want to take anything away from your work but your story is an example of my earlier point. “Top down” You stated ” I was impressed to look into this thing called Wood Badge. I went (Mar 2012) . My Stake YM Presidency, our Stake Presidency Councilor, and High Councilor were there.” The change in your ward and stake came from the top down. You had stake and ward leadership that was willing to be trained and converted. Wood Badge can do that. If you alone would have tried to make these changes from a Cubmaster position I fear you may not have had the success you have seen. Thank you for all you do to make Scouting work in the lives of our youth.

          7. JD says:

            Randy – Yes we had a dynamic YM President who persuaded his Presidency to go. But within 4 months they were all gone and we had to start over. The same happened a year later with the new presidency and while they didn’t go to Wood Badge, they went to the LDS Philmont Week and came home only to get a job transfer 30 days later. Now we are on our 3rd Presidency since 2011 and not making much progress. What I learned was that we don’t need them to make any progress. I have gone to other Ward and sought out those who want to do the program and worked to help them. Having the Bishop on board is such a great help but not required. Having Stake leaders can help, but are not required. Pooling resources, and Roundtables, help. It all helps, but not getting Top Down doesn’t mean it can’t work. I went sideways and looked for people who wanted change. I then worked to grow that influence through the District, and now Council (in a volunteer role). In Scouting you can work to be in the Top Down in Scouting and work to influence within the Church. The key is to grow your influence, however you can and use that influence to help others for good. Don’t wait for others to change (from the top), in order to make change.

        2. Randy Sorensen says:

          JD, Your service is outstanding and your dedication is an example.
          I would ask two questions of you:
          1. How do you feel your experiences relates to the topic that Mac introduced in this blog? Mac speaks of support for a scouting leader from many different levels of church leadership. Your experiences show me that the system can work when that support is not there.
          2. How much more effective do you feel you could be as a new cubmaster if the support systems Mac speaks of are in place and functioning? Is the primary focus of a cubmaster, or any other unit leader, to build the scouting programs of the ward or stake or district or council? I would hope that a new unit leader would be able to focus his or her efforts on the youth they are asked to serve and that new leaders would be flooded with support from their church leadership. Am I dreaming?

          1. James Walter Taylor says:

            I think there is a wider point.

            We are called to be Scouters. We are called to positions described in the Church guide as positions within the BSA – we are called to be part of a community which sets high standards, which parallel those of the members of the Church. As Mac quoted: “prepare every eligible youth in America to become a responsible, participating citizen and leader who is guided by the Scout Oath and Law”.

            The best way to teach is to demonstrate those principles, then guide and enable the demonstration of those principles on the part of the Scouts. Mac and JD describe an active application of those principles. You as a leader are a member of a community, so demonstrate your role as a citizen in that community – and get your Scouts to understand their role in that same community.

            You may find a barren, unsupportive Ward, or a great and exciting one filled with enthusiasm for Scouting. You’ll never be able to build a scout unit, and demonstrate the principles you are called to teach, operating completely isolated, focused on the YM.

            Show them how to build community, using the methods of scouting. That leads the YM to the tools and experience be productive citizens, effective fathers and quorum members, and strong missionaries. Activity and work bring the YM to this knowledge, bring the YM to know your care and trust of them, and their participation brings them to Christ.

          2. JD says:

            Randy –
            #2 – Yes, being able to focus on just the one role would be awesome for a new leader. This is what I struggled to do for 9 months before going to Wood Badge. I had some council from a leader that said Cub Scouts don’t do Outdoor Events (and a few other things). There were no LDS Leaders going to Roundtable (0 out of 2 stakes, an occasional 1 would come). Wood Badge and my struggle opened my eyes to the need to fix what was/is broken.

            #1 – Mac stated: “As an adult leader in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood you have not been left to fend for yourself as you fulfill your calling. There is a hierarchy of support available to you” . While this would have been great, there was no support so I was left to fend for myself. There is a hierarchy, of support but it wasn’t found at a District or Council level (for LDS). Eventually as I found answers and solutions, I could see where support “should be” and have been working to add the support where we need it. However, there is still a lot of resistance from people because of their lackluster experience they had as a youth (a pattern I have found between those that support and those that don’t). As for changes, we are working with our Council and hopefully the LDS-BSA Relations (soon), Stake Leaders, Ward Leaders, Unit Leaders, the Parents, Scout Committees, and boys (through Youth Leadership Development). It is NOT a top down approach it is an all out blitz at every level of Scouting. I went through a model program as a youth and I want others to experiences the good the program can do, as it did for me. It is a goal I set when I was 13. 26 Years later, I am making good on that goal.

    2. JD says:

      James – Bishops traditionally have not been properly trained on how the Scouting program should operate. Most don’t know that they should get approval before Scout leaders are called.

      As for the Anger…that can cancor the soul. Frustration maybe, anger – never. Anger leads to the “darkside” (according to Yoda).

      As for staffing and warping of structures, that is a individual problem that is usually from a lack of training, breakdown of Commissioner Staff within the Church, or just outright rebellion (which I doubt is the case).

      You can be a catalyst for change. I have found that encouraging words and actions, rather than demanding and venting anger, works better to create change. I get frustrated that the change process doesn’t happen quick enough. I do know that leaders want to do what is bes. Many times have other pressing issues – like families on the brink of divorce, members with health or employment issues, or word of wisdom/chastity issues to deal with, as well as their own personal lives that all are more urgent than Scouting.

      The biggest challenge I see with the way the current program is setup is the lack of enough adult volunteers/callings to help support the program. Also, the design we use tends to be Cubmaster/Scoutmaster (CM/SM) leader heavy, which means that when they are released it puts a great strain on the whole program. We have seen success by combining resources of several nearby units thus allowing a CM/SM + Assistant who can take over (even if just temporary until another leader is called) in the case of a CM/SM is released for 1 of a million reasons. THis allows the program to move forward rather than suffer a setback. This is one of the biggest differences between Community Units and LDS Units.

      You can be a leader for positive change…or not…but that is up to you.

    3. James Walter Taylor says:

      I’d like to echo James’ concerns. I share them as a Unit Committee Chair myself. I can only suggest strategies.
      – The committee may enlist scouters, outside callings. I have had great luck involving teachers and active outdoors folks in the Ward. Work at supporting the units, by the book. Become essential, by your service.
      – Promote and evangelize. Point at the Church guide to scouting, this website, and the myriad trainings and the reason to train: the YM.
      – Call “key three” meetings. Meet with the Bishop. Meet with the Committee. Show up at Ward Council. Call you unit commissioner (Stake Young Men’s Presidency). Scouting works by “return and report”, “reflection”, “roses and thorns”, etc. Use the process, and point to the parallels between this and the current “Duty to God ” program.
      – Use all the parallels. The buddy system and companions. Quorums and troops, teams and crews. Recruiting and missionary work. Scout Law and Scripture. “Be Prepared” vs. study then pray. One hundred years ago the Church thought that Scouting was an inspired and natural part of the Church, today Pres. Monson serves on the National Board.
      – Use other resources, buy them and pass them out if you need to. “On my Honor”, “Trails to Testemony”, this website, and similar hosted on LinkedIn. Point to the pertinent articles. Educate.
      – Advocate to hold on to leaders. “Tenure means ten years”. Re-training leaders is slow and expensive. Point to the Church guide, put the cost of training on the ward. Push all leaders, Cub to Crew, the Committee too and the Bishop to go to Wood Badge.
      – Keep happy. Enjoy it – and try to recommend and push for leaders who enjoy doing and staying active. The boys will not stay and have fun unless the leaders are. The leaders won’t stay if they aren’t having fun. Remember you are doing it wrong if it’s not fun.

      1. JD says:

        Great insight, James.

        You must me a great Unit Committee Chair. Keep up the great work! :)

  4. Greg Hart says:

    Very much looking forward to this series and all the comments. Particularly, guidance on how to engage influential aaronic priesthood leaders who don’t identify as scouting leaders. Thanks for these messages, Mac.

  5. Greg H. says:

    Very much looking forward to this series and reading the comments, particularly how to engage influential Aaronic Priesthood leaders who don’t identify as Scouting leaders. Thanks for these messages, Mac.

  6. Marla Thomas says:

    Effective programming, activities and youth experiences really start at whatever level/position a person has been called to. There is truly a higher power involved. As individuals if we are obedient, prayerful and humble we will have the insight we need to do what has been asked of us by Him. Each calling is a learning adventure – a time to be refined and led to success if the heart is willing. If there is not a teachable and willing heart –anything goes! This applies to ALL callings and positions. The very first step to receiving a calling is to go to the manuals, leaders and other guidance and then to pray and sort out just exactly what you as an individual should proceed with the intent of spreading the light and truth of the gospel. Of course in my 38 years as an adult BSA leader (and 7 years as a Girl Scout leader) I have had to learn about the “refiner’s fire” especially in my scouting callings because of so much “tradition” to change and so much interaction with other faiths and scouters from other walks of life. Since I am a female LDS sister who has been involved as an adult scouter in the BSA since 1987 in some form or another I will probably make quite a few short posts on this thread rather than one long post.

  7. Mac McIntire says:

    Thank you all for your comments to this blog message. The entire purpose of my blog messages is to try to help priesthood leaders (even just one) to “get it” when it comes to Scouting in the Church. It’s amazing how powerful the Young Men program can be when leaders see that LDS Scouting is a PRIESTHOOD program, not merely a BSA program. Consequently, if these leaders had a vision of how powerful the PRIESTHOOD could be in the lives of young men, they might be more diligent in using Scouting as a means to achieve the priesthood ends the Lord desires for his young men in the Church. In other words, in many cases it’s not just Scouting that is weak in wards and stakes; their Aaronic Priesthood program is also weak because they don’t run their Aaronic Priesthood quorums properly either — with boy-lead quorums, quorum presidency meetings, assigned priesthood duties, quarterly plans, service projects, well-organized and purposeful Mutual activities, etc.

    It’s amazing to me how Scouting gets a bum-rap when, in many cases, it’s actually weak discipleship that is the problem.

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