Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nephi’s Vision and a Vision of Scouting

Scouting is all about guided discovery, whether it be rank requirements, merit badges, or life experiences. As Scouters, we aim to help the young men we work with understand the meaning of the exercises they go through, and extract life lessons from them. The other day as I was reading in the Book of Mormon, I realized that this model is also a scriptural model. There’s a tidy parallel between Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life1, and Scouting. When Nephi determined to learn the meaning of his father’s vision, he decided to go and find out for himself. He was privileged with angelic instruction, but more than that, he was encouraged to solve the puzzle himself.

The angel asked him what he already understood, whereupon Nephi admitted his own ignorance - he was humble and ready to learn.  The angel then showed him various symbols and scenes, and Nephi himself largely deduced the meaning from that. Sometimes the angel told him directly, but more often than not, he guided Nephi to find the right answer for himself, or gave him an experiential frame of reference to understand a particular symbol. Thus, Nephi learned the meaning of the symbols, and the experience stuck with him. And we are the beneficiaries. But, like his brothers, we don’t get that same experience; we, like they, get it second-hand.

Nephi returned to camp only to find his brothers arguing over their father’s vision. He discovered that they had not deigned to find an “expert” to help them understand, they were simply trying, with their limited knowledge, to make sense of everything. Nephi told them the answers to their questions, but for some reason, just receiving the information wasn’t enough. They hadn’t had the experience of learning the meaning for themselves. In a way, it wasn’t much different from hearing the original, confusing account from Lehi.

Another scriptural example comes into play: that of the different soils in the Parable of the Sower2. In working with youth, we can only spread the seeds – we can’t control where it takes (and sometimes, that’s a big surprise). Generally speaking though, the difference lies in motivation and desire. Nephi wanted to understand, so he took steps to find out. His brothers’ interest was not as compelling as was his. (I’m ignoring his brother Sam, since Nephi never said much about him, anyway, other than he wasn’t antagonistic like L&L.) Likewise, our youth come in different shades of gray – some love Scouting, some can’t stand it. Most are somewhere in between. But by leading them to their own understanding, instead of either dragging them through the ranks or worse, handing them out (giving them the information secondhand, rather than learning it directly), we can play a part in helping each of them grow and realize his potential.

I hear, and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.
-Confucius

Prepared. | For Life.™

1. 1 Nephi 11-16 
2. Mark 4: 3-20

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