When I was Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting age I was barely active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My entire family was then, and is now, completely inactive. But, for some reason I occasionally felt compelled to go to Mutual or to get up on Sunday morning to attend church. I probably went two or three times per quarter, if that.
Then one day, when I was a junior in high school, I decided I wanted to be active in the Church. I resolved to attend early morning seminary so I could learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. With my own money I bought the text book and student binder used in the seminary class. The next morning I got up earlier than usual, went to seminary, sat through the class . . . and never returned again.
When I arrived in the seminary classroom no one acknowledged me or made me feel welcome. No one asked me to sit next to them. No one showed me what to do. I felt uncomfortable and out of place. At the end of the seminary class everyone rushed out, jumped into their cars, and drove quickly to school so they would get there on time. I was left standing alone with no ride and only minutes to run the mile or more to school. I arrived late and was disciplined for being tardy. I determined then I would never be late for school again, so I quit seminary after one day and returned to my inactivity in the Church.
Since that time I’ve often wondered what my life could have been like if just one person had latched on to me that fateful morning at seminary. I wonder what blessings I could have had in my youth that I did not receive until years later when I became active in the Church as a young adult.
I believe there may be boys in your Aaronic Priesthood quorum or Scouting unit who are only one heartfelt, sincere, personal contact away from being active in the Church. Likewise, there may be some young men who are on the precipice of becoming inactive, needing to be saved by another young man or leader who notices their wavering and bolsters their resolve to remain firmly rooted in the gospel.
Brethren, we need to be forever vigilant. We need to be aware of the one. We need to know what is going on in the lives of the young men in our Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Scouting units. We need to assertively create the proper spirit, atmosphere, and environment that invite all to come unto Christ. This is why the Lord has called you to watch over a small flock of His precious lambs. He wants you to do everything you can to gather His young men safely in to the fold.
I believe young men are looking for a brotherhood. They seek a bonding connection and sense of belonging with boys their age. Too often they find it in the wrong place. Your young men will be influenced by someone. The question is whether they will be more influenced by their parents, their priesthood leaders, the Church, or their peers. And, if they are mainly influenced by their peers, one hopes it will be by righteous young men from their Aaronic Priesthood quorum or Scouting unit.
I encourage you to do everything you can to create a sense of harmony, love, cohesion, and friendship among your young men. Create opportunities for the boys to work together to accomplish some worthwhile goal. Get them doing hard things that require the combined effort of every boy in order to achieve the desired result. Help your young men to be aware of the shy, withdrawn, less talented, or non-involved boys. Urge them to go out of their way to include everyone. Find activities that appeal to the interests of each of the boys, particularly those who may feel left out.
Be mindful of how the young men interact with each other. Never allow the boys to make disparaging remarks about one another. Nip in the bud any criticisms, snide remarks, or sarcastic jokes that could be hurtful to others. Immediately stop any bullying or disrespectful behavior among the boys. Teach your young priesthood holders to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and cheerful as they interact with each other.
In the inspiring movie White Squall the boy crew of the education ship The Albatross had a unifying motto: “Where we go one, we go all.” How wonderful if this were the resolve of every member of every Aaronic Priesthood quorum and LDS Scouting unit. It means no boy would be left behind. No one would be excluded. No one would be isolated or ignored. No one would feel ostracized or alone. Everyone would be part of the group. Brotherhood and unity would exist between the young men.
I know there are great challenges today with some of the youth. Among your young men there may be behavioral, attitudinal, emotional, or social issues that are difficult to handle, but which you must deal with lovingly as an adult leader. I know it’s hard to touch the hearts of some boys who resist being touched. It’s challenging to find a way to involve young men who refuse to be engaged. It’s arduous to continually keep trying with a boy who has given up on himself and others. Sometimes it’s easy to judge a boy as a lost cause.
I’m reminded of an experience I had a few years ago while driving down a busy street near my home in Las Vegas. Stopped at an intersection, I looked over and saw a dirty, raggedly dressed young woman standing on a corner holding a sign begging for money. Judgmental thoughts immediately entered my mind because she looked healthy enough to get a job. The moment I thought this, I heard a female voice in my head say, “If you knew me, and what I’ve gone through in my life, you’d be kind to me.”
Kindness, and a love for all of God’s young men, is key to creating a brotherhood within your Aaronic Priesthood quorum and Scouting unit. You need to help your boys to truly get to know each other—for if they did, they might be kinder to one another. Teach your young men to “be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10). “Teach them to love one another, and to serve one another” (Mosiah 4:15). Help them to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith [they] are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
I know God loves His children—all of them. He knows them. He knows their needs. He knows their problems. He knows their weaknesses. “But His hand is stretched out still” (Isaiah 10:4) because He knows what they have gone through in their lives. I pray that your hand, your heart, your mind, and your soul will forever be stretched out to the young men you serve. I pray your Aaronic Priesthood quorum and Scouting unit will be safe, spiritual havens where all the young men within your ward will feel wanted, welcomed, and loved.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Are there boys in your Aaronic Priesthood quorum or Scouting unit who are missing the blessings of involvement in your programs? Have you repeatedly reached out to them?
- Are there “active” boys in your quorum or unit who don’t feel a part of the group? Are you doing what you can to involve them?
- Do your boys love one another, include one another, and reach out to those who may feel awkward or different?
- Are you doing all you can to create a sense of harmony, love, cohesion, and friendship among your young men?
- Do you plan activities that will appeal to the interests of and include each boy in your priesthood quorum or Scouting unit?
- Do you love all of your boys? Are you kind to all of them?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“The spirit of brotherhood should be the directing force in all the plans and operations of the quorum. We should encourage each priesthood quorum in the Church to cultivate such a brotherhood” (L. Tom Perry, “Quorum Brotherhood” video).
-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.