Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scouting as Missionary Preparation

Part of a series correlating the Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood with the Ideals of Scouting.

"...I will do my duty to God;" "A Scout is ...obedient, cheerful, thrifty...reverent;" "Be Prepared"

The fifth purpose of the Aaronic Priesthood is to Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission.  Much has been said in recent years of "raising the bar" of qualification for those who would accept the call to missionary service.* 
"The bar was raised by the leaders of the Church, and now the minimum standard for participating in missionary work is absolute moral worthiness; physical health and strength; intellectual, social, and emotional development [physically strong, mentally awake, morally straight]. In every high-jumping competition there is a minimum height at which the competition starts. The high jumper cannot ask to start at a lower height. In the same way, you should not expect the standards to be lowered to allow you to serve a mission. If you want to be a missionary, you must be able to clear the minimum standards." (L Tom Perry, October 2007 General Conference)
Apostles have also spoken about why it's necessary to set our sights above the minimum standard, and of 2,060 inexperienced but trustworthy, brave, obedient young men who achieved great things for their people, because they had done just that.  Scouting can help a young man overcome many of the difficulties that may arise, not just by teaching basic skills like cooking, sewing, or time/money management, but by preparing him for the less tangible challenges as well.

It is often cited (but no definitive source given, other than “a talk given by President Charles W. Dahlquist”) that the main reasons missionaries return home early from missions are (1) no work ethic, (2) no leadership experience, and (3) no away-from-home experience (homesickness). According to the received wisdom, Worthiness and Testimony don’t even make the Top Three. So the question becomes, how to help Young Men better prepare for, work through and mitigate those challenges? Here’s a list of steps young men should take, given by President Ralph W. Smith, former MTC president, in a talk from June 18, 2010 ( indicates where Scouting can play a role):

16 Things to Help Youth Prepare to be Effective Missionaries
  1. Understand that serving a mission (for the guys) is the Lord's expectation and commandment. Decide early to serve a mission and hold to that decision.
  2. Read the entire Book of Mormon and pray for a testimony of its truth.
  3. Make time daily for personal private practices (sincere personal prayer and scripture study). These make all the difference between an average missionary and a powerful missionary.
  4. Learn how to be obedient and take counsel and correction from parents and leaders. Have an attitude of obedience in all areas of your life. (These are the best missionaries)
  5. Be careful who you choose as your close friends. Ask yourself, "are my friends helping me prepare to be a missionary or the opposite?" If it is the opposite, kindly get rid of them!
  6. Always attend seminary. Take a missionary prep Institute class before leaving for the MTC.
  7. Learn how to work and accomplish hard things. Learn to challenge yourself and take pride in a hard day’s work. There is a reason it is called "missionary work."
  8. Look for and take advantage of opportunities to serve your family and others.  This is the essence of being a missionary.
  9. Be involved in Scouting. Work towards becoming an Eagle Scout and take every advantage to be away from home for camps etc. The more you are away from home now (on organized excursions) the easier it is when you leave for two years.†
  10. Avoid consecutive dating and stay away from serious relationships. No good can come from having a serious girlfriend now or while you are on your mission.‡
  11. Learn to overcome separation anxiety. Learn to deal with stress without your parents, music, video games, etc. None of these will be available to you on a mission. Learn to trust in and turn to the Lord when life gets hard.
  12. Learn to cultivate good social skills. Missions are mostly talking to people.
  13. Learn to take pleasure in the success of others. Get rid of the "it's all about me attitude." There will be no place for that on your mission.
  14. Learn and understand the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Be able to briefly explain basic concepts such as the apostasy, restoration, prophets, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
  15. As your mission gets closer, study and become familiar with Preach My Gospel. Especially study sections about the importance of the Holy Ghost and His role in learning and coming to Christ. Make sure you understand what it means to repent and be cleansed of sin.
  16. Make sure that all serious sins (if any, and especially pornography) are confessed to the proper priesthood authority and purged from your life before you enter the MTC.
A strong, balanced AP + Scouting program (as opposed to focusing too closely on one or the other) can help young men accomplish many of these points.  And from a cursory glance, they all seem to take place outside of a classroom (excepting seminary/institute attendance).  I would also posit that these sixteen points will help young men prepare to be successful adults (meaning post-mission), as well.

By building a program that is itself committed to high standards for both "arms," adult leaders can help Young Men rise to, and above, the higher bar spoken of.  That means we have to set for ourselves, and rise to, a higher standard as well.  Scouting, done right, "fulfills many DTG 'requirements'." The same cannot be said of weekday, churchy meetings followed up with Duty to Spalding pick-up games, regardless of how long a boy sits squirming through an adult-led lesson waiting for tip-off time; that's a pretty low bar to reach for.  Scouting, at all levels, is a practical application lab, and when overseen (not controlled) by competent, trained and “bought-in” adults, will go a long way toward accomplishing the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood.  It provides a venue for Young Men to develop the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual fitness they will need to be effective emissaries of the Lord.  (Now, just restore it in wards across the globe…)

L. Tom Perry, Raising the Bar, October 2007 General Conference
Gordon B. Hinckley, To the Men of the Priesthood, October 2002 General Conference
M. Russell Ballard, The Greatest Generation of Missionaries, October 2002 General Conference

†This certainly does not exclude YM in countries where Scouting is not part of official Church activities. Scouting is available in many countries, and anyone can join a Scouting organization and work toward the equivalent awards, just as easily as they can join a football (soccer) club, which is also not an official Church activity.

‡A note on #10:  years ago I had a Gospel Doctrine teacher, who was also seminary teacher, who said that he told all his students, "every dollar you spend on a girl before your mission is a dollar spent on someone else's wife.")

Scoutmaster CG Podcast #116 - discussing independence


Tory said...

Fantastic! I'm giving a copy of this to all my young men leaders. Thank you.

tinita said...

Great! this is all what I need, thanks for posting this it sure can help the new one :)

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