Tex is guest posting in honor of the 101st Anniversary of Boy Scouts of America. Tex is a Junior at Tennessee Technological University majoring in Civil Engineering on a ROTC Scholarship. Tex served a two year mission in the Texas Houston Mission. He currently serves as a Elders Quorum instructor and Stake YSA Rep.
In the minds of many people scouting is about camping or playing army, but truth does not always equate to public opinion. Uniforms and camping are simply a means to an end. That end is turning boys into men. There is a reason why scouting is the Young Men’s program of the church. I believe, Scouting has been inspired by God to teach boys how to follow Lehi’s council to “arise from the dust… and be men, and be determined in one mind and in one heart, united in all things, that ye may not come down into captivity;” 2 Nephi 1:21
When I was a scout, my Dad was a scout leader from Webelos until I achieved the rank of Eagle. He was also a Scoutmaster for my eighteen year old brother. Dad was an overworked accountant, and yet I cannot think of a camping trip he missed until I earned my Eagle. He passed away in 2009; my favorite memories of him are what we did in Scouting. This was quality time for me, to be with my Dad and learn from him. He has been an example to me of what it means to work very hard and overcome adversity. He taught me what it means to be a man.
Not only did I get to know my Dad because of the time we spent together in scouting, but I also was influenced by other Scout leaders, good men who have also inspired me in my life. I don’t know what my future holds, but currently my experiences in the Boy Scouts of America have had a more profound effect on the decisions I have made in my life than anything else. I am, who I am, in a large part, because of the Scouting Movement.
I love camping and the outdoors, but when I first started Boy Scouts I was very much a little wimp. The first time I went rappelling it scared me to death and I would not go near the cliff, but over time I forced myself to face my fear and just go down. When I started on the Personal Fitness Merit Badge, it took me thirty minutes to run a mile. I began to run on my own, and the next time I ran with the troop, I ran at a reasonable time. The first time I went shotgun shooting, I was afraid of the kick and only shot once and wouldn’t shoot again. We went on more shooting trips; with practice I overcame my fear. My first few summers at Scout Camp, I had a very hard time passing the swim test, and even when I did, I was still afraid to go into the deep waters of the lake. Again with practice, I overcame that fear. I look back on who I was at 12 and 14, and can’t believe how much of a wimp I was. My experiences in the Boy Scouts gave me an opportunity to meet and face my fears and weaknesses and become strong (see Ether 12:27). These experiences taught me, if I allow fear to thwart me, I would miss out on so much.
When my dad was a Scout leader he always reached out and made a special effort to help the boys who didn’t have fathers. He believed that they needed someone to teach them how men lived and acted. Scouting is an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of our Savior Jesus Christ. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless … in their affliction,” James 1:27. My hope is others will do the same for my eleven year old brother. He just went on his first Scout trip this past December; he needs to learn to be a man. There is no hurry for him to grow up, but when he does, I want him to have overcome his fears, to stand up for himself, and to live his life to the fullest. This will not happen if he spends his life in front of a TV playing videogames, and never has any positive male role models in his life.
From my perspective, there are too many men in the world and even more boys who are not living up to the Scout Oath, Scout Law, and the Outdoor Code. People are withering away in front of the TV instead of living life and building character. How can we expect boys to grow into fine priesthood leaders when they lived their childhood with a Game Boy in hand, instead of experiencing life? How can a young missionary relate to the people they teach, if they have only conversed through texting, and social networks?
I once told my Mission President, the best mission prep I had was working at Boxwell Scout Reservation. Prior to my mission, I worked at camp for three summers. In that time, I taught young men who were not much younger than myself. I also interacted with Scout Leaders who were much older than me. As valuable as those teaching, leading, and interacting experiences have been to my development, my Scouting experiences outside of Scout camp were also very valuable on my mission. I earned my Eagle at 15 and shortly after was made the Troop Guide. My job was to help teach the new 11-year-old Scouts and be a mentor to them, I kept this job till I turned 18. This was my first experience teaching. I did this before I even thought about working at camp, so by the time I went on a mission I had years of experience teaching and planning lessons and interacting with others.
The Scouting program of the Church is not an extension of the Young Men’s Program, but rather Scouting is the core of the Young Men’s program with a few religious things added in. There are four men in a ward who hold keys of the priesthood: the Bishop, the Elder’s Quorum President, the Teacher’s Quorum President, and the Deacon’s Quorum president. The Bishop and his councilors and the Elder’s Quorum President and the quorum both have a responsibility to plan, organize, and solve problems. However the deacons and teachers don’t really have any responsibilities other than the Sacrament. The Aaronic Priesthood is known as the preparatory priesthood for a reason. The boys are supposed to prepare to be priesthood leaders in the future. Scouting, when done right, gives boys the opportunity to plan and prepare campouts and other activities. It also gives them the opportunity to solve the problems they face in the outdoors and while earning badges, thus preparing them for the problems they will face in their priesthood callings. The uniformity of the Boy Scouts teaches the young priesthood holders about leadership in the church and how to work over and under people. The various troop jobs such as Chaplain’s aid, librarian, and Quarter Master prepare young men to take on responsibilities in future jobs and callings. Scouting gives boys the opportunity to work together in a quorum setting. Without the Scouting program the Young men would still have the responsibilities of the sacrament, but only basketball to learn about priesthood leadership.
Many, in and out of the church, have negative feelings towards Scouting because they feel it has a connection to the military. This is very far from the truth. In Britain the Scouting Movement was started by a war hero, however the Boy Scouts of America was founded by businessmen and was based more on Native American traditions than on the military. There is no Marching Merit Badge or any mentioning of the military in any of the current Scouting books (I only say current because I don’t know if there is stuff in the old books or not), however there are Indian Lore and American Heritage Merit badges. The last time I checked, identifying plants and animals and being conservation minded are Native American, not military ideals. In fact, I think making Boy Scouts into military prep takes the fun out of it. Patterning Scouting after the military would take away the opportunity for boys to lead themselves, which is the purpose of Scouting. Some of the leaders I looked up to as a boy were former military, but I also had one who was a hippie. As a general rule the best Scoutmasters were fathers of the boys.
Currently my eleven year old Brother hates it when I drag him from his video games and make him go to Scouts, but I have watched him overcome his fear of meeting new people and afterwards he even admits that he had fun. I’m glad he is learning new things and gaining some courage, but what I hope he realizes when he is older is, even though I am very busy with school, I still am willing to go out in the woods and spend time with him. I know my Dad loves me because he was willing to spend time with me. I am doing the same for my youngest brother. That is what Scouting is about, men mentoring young men that they care about, and helping them become strong men in the gospel.