As of January 1, 2016, new Boy Scout requirements place a greater emphasis on Scouts being physically active. New requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class ranks challenge Scouts to improve their physical stamina through various activities. Scouts will have to track their progress while performing physical exercises over a set period of time.
When the Boy Scout program was founded, physical strength was required in most personal and professional endeavors. Many youth were raised on farms or ranches. Young men could expect to work in professions that required heavy labor—such as mining, manufacturing, or construction. Physical fitness was not just one of the three aims of Scouting, it was a necessity of life.
Today many young people live a more sedentary lifestyle. They spend many hours indoors and are less involved in strenuous outdoor activities. Physical education classes are optional in many public schools. Obesity continues to be a problem for many youth. When I was a Scoutmaster the majority of the Scouts in my troop could not pass the swimming test for summer camp. Even if they knew how to swim; they couldn’t go the distance. Long hikes were out of the question for some of my young men. Over half of my Scouts were taking medication for ADHD or autistic spectrum disorders, which some healthcare professionals have linked to poor dietary habits.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints know our physical bodies are critical to our eternal progression. Our spiritual well-being is connected to our physical well-being. Isaiah tells us that good health and physical strength result when God’s spiritual laws are obeyed: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). Paul explained the connection between the spirit and the body when he asked, “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
If a young man’s body is a temple, then he must be taught to keep it pure, holy, and healthy. Scouting requirements and activities are designed to do just that. Merit badge booklets and the Scout Handbook provide instructions on how a young man can better care for his body and increase his physical strength. The scriptures provide insight into the Lord’s health codes—particularly the Word of Wisdom found in Doctrine and Covenants 89.
The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet explains: “When you are obedient to [the Word of Wisdom], you remain free from harmful addictions and have control over your life. You gain the blessings of a healthy body, an alert mind, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. You will be prepared to serve the Lord. Never let Satan or others deceive you into thinking that breaking the Word of Wisdom will make you happier, more popular, or more attractive. To care for your body [you should] eat nutritious food, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Practice balance and moderation in all aspects of your physical health. Also, avoid extremes in diet that could lead to eating disorders. Do not intentionally harm your body. Avoid dangerous activities that put your body at risk of serious injury” (page 25).
The Lord has commanded His children to take care of their physical health. Scouts make a weekly pledge when they recite the Scout Oath to keep themselves physically strong. Young men should be taught in their youth to make regular exercise, proper eating habits, and avoidance of unhealthy substances a part of their daily routine. Adult Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leaders can show youth how to safeguard their physical and emotional health so they can fulfill their divine potential as sons of God.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Do you teach your Scouts how to develop healthy habits that will keep them physically strong?
- Have you discussed with your young men the Word of Wisdom and the section in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet regarding physical and emotional health?
- Do you provide an abundance of physical, outdoor activities for your young men?
- Do you encourage your youth to exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, and avoid unhealthy substances?
- Are you a model of one who keeps himself physically strong?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” (D&C 89:18-20).
-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.