Using Conference Talks as Inspiration for SM Minutes
After an afternoon of using a compass and map to find their way through the woods, the Scouts gather in a circle where the Senior Patrol Leader takes care of troop business and turns the time over to the Scoutmaster. The Scoutmaster begins, “‘There is an oft-repeated theory that people who are lost walk in circles. Not long ago, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics tested that theory. They took participants to a thick forest and gave them simple instructions: “Walk in a straight line.” There were no visible landmarks. The test subjects had to rely solely on their sense of direction.
How do you think they did?”
“They got lost.” “They walked in circles.” (These Scouts are perceptive)
The Scoutmaster continues, “The scientists concluded, “People really [do] walk in circles when they do not have reliable cues to their walking direction.” When questioned afterward, some participants self-confidently claimed that they had not deviated in the slightest. Despite their high confidence, GPS data showed that they walked in loops as tight as 20 meters in diameter.
Why do we have such a hard time walking in a straight line? Some researchers hypothesize that small, seemingly insignificant deviations in terrain make the difference. Others have pointed to the fact that we all have one leg that is slightly stronger than the other. “More likely,” however, we struggle to walk straight ahead “[because] of increasing uncertainty about where straight ahead is.”
Whatever the cause, it is human nature: without reliable landmarks, we drift off course.’(1)
“As scouts, what are some of the tools that help us know where straight ahead is?”
The Scoutmaster’s presentation is enthusiastic and engaging. The Scouts listen intently and then begin offering their ideas. “A compass.” “A map.” “A big tree or something big in the distance.” (These exceptional Scouts have been paying attention during their activity today) Another Scout looks thoughtful and suggests, “The Scout Law.” Another pipes up with, “The Scout Oath. That is how we walk straight in our lives.” “Kind of like the commandments.” “Like following Jesus.” “Or like the laws of our country.” “Or like the rules at school.”
The Scoutmaster smiles and turns the time back to the Senior Patrol Leader to close the meeting.
As a Scoutmaster for the last three years, I often found myself wondering what I was going to say when it was time for a Scoutmaster minute. During this same time period, I have been working on a goal to study the General Conference addresses more thoroughly. As is so often the case, working towards my goal provided the answer to my problem.
Many of the leaders who speak at General Conference are adept storytellers. They seem to find connections in every aspect of their lives. As I read their addresses I am reminded again how closely aligned the principles of the Scout Oath and Law are to the Gospel of Jesus Christ: service to God and each other, kindness, trustworthiness, effort, and courage, to name a few. Since I am usually reading on the Gospel Library App, I have added a tag labeled “Scoutmaster Minutes” where I keep the stories that I think will be appropriate teaching opportunities for the Scouts. I also add a few words in my calendar to remind me which story I am planning to share each week. Sometimes I read them and sometimes I retell them in my own words. The Scouts find them interesting and always find the more subtle meanings in the stories, sometimes pulling out meanings that I hadn’t even considered.
Troop 352 is not a church-based troop. We are chartered by the Jaycees and we meet at a public elementary school. However, many of our Scouts are active in their various denominations and they often relate what we are doing at Scouts to their religious beliefs. Several of the families in our troop are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I love watching their faces light up as they recognize the stories from Conference. Scouting isn’t really a time for proselyting, but it is a perfect time for sharing faith in God with young people and encouraging them to make ethical and moral choices throughout their lives(2) by giving them memorable examples of living the Scout Oath and Law.
- Dieter F Uchtdorf, General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct 2021
- Boy Scouts of America, Mission Statement