At the Priesthood Leadership Conference at Philmont in 2005, Charles W. Dahlquist announced that 48% of active deacons in the Church never become elders in the Melchizedek Priesthood. Of those boys who remain active and become priests, 33% never become elders (personal notes from the conference). If these sobering statistics remain the same today it shows the six years a boy spends in the Young Men program are crucial in determining his future spiritual and eternal well-being. They are years that cannot be wasted if we want to save our young men.
As I have stated many times in previous blog messages, as a Young Men leader you are in the business of saving boys. Bringing young men to Christ and strengthening their testimony and spiritual resolve ought to be the focus of everything you do. Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood activities are a means to a spiritual end. Acquiring merit badges and becoming an Eagle Scout—even obtaining a Duty to God certificate—has limited value if a young man has not become firmly grounded in gospel principles from his experiences in his Aaronic Priesthood quorum and Scouting unit. This is the purpose of Young Men activities.
Every boy needs to have a “Sacred Grove” conversion experience. The earlier it comes in his life the more anchored his testimony will be, particularly if he continues to have faith-promoting encounters throughout his six years in the Young Men program. The scriptures testify that the Lord can touch the hearts of young men in their youth in such a way that they remain valiant men of God throughout their lives. Samuel, David, Nephi, Mormon, Joseph Smith, and others were “called” in their youth. They were ordinary men who were able to do extraordinary things because they learned wisdom in their youth. They learned to listen to the Spirit and keep the commandments. They learned to act when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. They learned as young men to commit themselves in service to the Lord.
During the period when Oliver Cowdery was transcribing the Book of Mormon as it was translated by the Prophet Joseph he exclaimed, “These were days never to be forgotten” (Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1, October 1834, 14–16). Young men need days never to be forgotten during their Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood years. They need spiritual experiences that they will remember throughout their lives. Hiking, camping, repelling, kayaking, shooting, and other activities in Scouting will have more lasting, meaningful value if there is a spiritual connection between these temporal experiences and one’s testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ. Fun and entertainment may attract boys to the Church, but faith and obedience will keep them firmly rooted in the gospel. This is how you save them!
Through inspired leaders the Lord has designed the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting programs to redeem His young men. You have a sacred duty to consciously and repeatedly focus your boys on the gospel of Jesus Christ. May I suggest just a few ways you can effectively moor your young men in gospel principles through Young Men activities:
- Teach your young men how to keep the oaths and covenants they make at baptism, during the sacrament, when ordained to the priesthood, in the temple, and when reciting the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
- Make a spiritual connection between Scouting activities and gospel principles. Ask yourself, “How does this experience relate to a doctrine or principle of the gospel?”
- Hold brief reflection discussions after every activity to ponder lessons learned from the experience. These activities will have more meaningful value when the boys discuss the significance of the experience to them.
- Hold spiritual discussions—rather than instructor-centered lectures—in quorum meetings using the Come, Follow Me Use the videos in these lessons to evoke a powerful emotional and spiritual connection to what is being taught. Come prepared. Don’t wing it when thought-provoking lessons have been provided to touch the hearts of your young men.
- Always discuss how gospel principles apply to the lives of your young men, particularly in their day-to-day experiences. Young men will become grounded in the gospel when they apply gospel principles in their lives and see the benefit from doing so.
- Ensure the boys are learning, acting, and sharing as they work on their Duty to God opportunities. Don’t just check off the requirements. The learn, act, and share process is more important than merely completing the tasks.
- Provide numerous priesthood and Scouting service experiences so your young men can feel the pleasure of helping others at all times. Teach your boys to do their duty with joy and gladness.
- Create a sense of brotherhood and love in your Aaronic Priesthood quorum and Scouting unit. Boys will more likely remain active in the Church when they feel loved by the other boys and the leaders around them.
- Ensure there is a sense of continuity as young men leave the structure of Boy Scouts and move to the less structured Varsity and Venturing programs. Varsity Coaches and Venturing Advisors should get trained in the Varsity and Venturing programs so they can offer a quality Scouting experience for the teachers and priests.
- Use the resources provided by the Church and the Boy Scouts of America to create quality Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting programs in your ward.
In the movie The Emperor’s Club, the stern and stuffy teacher William Hundert declares, “The end depends on the beginning.” This is echoed in the For the Strength of Youth booklet where our youth are told, “The decisions you make now will set the course for much of what will follow during your mortal life and throughout eternity” (For the Strength of Youth, iii). To strengthen future Melchizedek Priesthood holders we have to begin with the deacons. Perhaps even better, we should start with the Cub Scouts in Primary. Scouting activities in the Church complement the activities done by the Aaronic Priesthood quorums, and therefore should receive strong support from faithful priesthood brethren. The loving support of priesthood leaders is key to saving boys!
The Lord’s young men should be able to rely on their Young Men leaders to do all they can to keep them firmly anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I hope you will be firmly anchored in your resolve to focus on the things that matter most in your calling. The future activity of your young men may depend on you. “O be wise; what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:12).
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Are you doing all you can to save all of the boys within your stewardship?
- Are you firmly grounding your young men in gospel principles?
- Are your Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting activities conducive to inviting the Holy Ghost where a young man might have a “Sacred Grove” conversion experience?
- Are there any of the bulleted items above you can implement to better improve the quality of your Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting programs?
- Can your young men rely on you to keep them firmly anchored in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life” (2 Nephi 31:20).
-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.