Life is hard; and it’s getting harder. I marvel at the challenges our young men in the Church and Scouting face each day. And, as prophets have warned us, those challenges will exponentially increase in the years ahead. Our youth today have to be tough. They have to be able to stand up for what is right when the world is skewing even further toward the wrong. They must be “steadfast and immoveable, always abounding in good works” (Mosiah 5:15). In tough times young men must be physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
When I was in the military in Korea the world was in chaos. The Vietnam War had ended. Watergate had taken center stage. Trust in the “establishment” had diminished. The future looked bleak. At that time I was good friends with New Zealand’s ambassador to South Korea. One day, in a discussion with my friend, I was bemoaning the conditions of the world. I still remember his response: “This is not a bad time to live; it’s just a bad time to be a sissy!” Although pejorative, his meaning was clear. A person can persevere through difficult situations if he is capable of doing hard things and his feet are firmly planted on solid values. That’s what Scouting is all about!
Scouting should not be easy. Achieving Eagle rank should take hard work and perseverance. Earning required merit badges should push boys beyond their perceived limits of their abilities. Strenuous outdoor activities should test the mettle of boys, exposing their untapped capabilities. Leadership responsibilities should require boys to unselfishly give of their time and talents. Sadly, some adult leaders limit the potential of their boys by expecting little from them.
Several years ago I attended the Priesthood Leadership Conference at Philmont. Then Young Men General President Charles W. Dahlquist suggested boys occasionally need to encounter “near death” experiences in Scouting to bring them closer to the Lord. As I mentioned in my message last week encouraging you to never cancel a Scouting activity, harsh weather and difficult situations—like class-four rapids on a whitewater rafting trip, strenuous hikes up a steep mountainside, 100-mile bike rides in strong headwinds, and freezing winter campouts—can cause boys to pleadingly petition the Lord for guidance, strength, and safety through the ordeal. The testimonies of many boys have been forged in the fire of Scouting experiences that required them to do hard things. Faith and gratitude are reinforced when boys reminisce about the misery, pain, and—hopefully—success of a shared Scouting adventure.
Adolescence shouldn’t be a vacation from responsibility. When implemented properly, the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting programs give boys experience in their youth to lead, serve, sacrifice, and give of oneself in a multitude of situations. Scouting teaches boys to be honorable, when honor is becoming more fleeting in society today. It teaches boys to do their best in a world where trophies are given to every boy regardless of his effort. Scouting requires boys to do their duty—to stretch themselves and fulfill requirements—in order to build character and instill values. Scouting is hard because making the right moral and ethical choices throughout one’s life often places boys in difficult situations.
Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood ought to establish a firm foundation for life and a clear pathway for a young man’s future. They are perfect programs to mold young men into spiritually- and morally-hardened future missionaries, husbands, fathers, and priesthood leaders. Doing hard, but achievable, activities builds persistence, resilience, and confidence—exactly what is needed in young men today.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Do you ever reject or cancel a Young Men activity just because it seems too hard for the boys?
- Do you ever step in too soon rather than letting your boys struggle when they are faced with challenging situations?
- Do you push your boys to go beyond their perceived limitations by encouraging them to do hard things?
- Do you recognize that adversity provides opportunities for profound object lessons?
- Do you push yourself so you, too, can grow and develop alongside your boys?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these [hard] things” (Jacob 4:7).
-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.