As a female I have concern for the building of young men because one day a young man will be the spouse of my daughter, or the father of my grandchildren. I firmly believe in David O. Mackay’s saying, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” That means helping young men grow up to be morally straight, honest and hardworking citizens first and foremost begins in the home. However, knowing that it took a village to raise me, young men need to be able to also look to their ecclesiastical and Scout leaders for help and support as they strive to become their best self.
How To Be Better Leaders To Our Youth
I sat in on six plus hours of a 20-hour long conference with Elder Dale H. Munk at the Little Philmont conference in Mount Pleasant Utah. As one of three women in attendance, I sat hungry for answers to questions such as Why is the General Young Men’s President of the LDS Church running a Little Philmont? Why do bishops, stake presidents and other priesthood presidencies come to this two-day meeting? And, How can LDS leaders meet the needs of youth by using Boy Scout resources?
Why is the General Young Men’s President of the LDS Church running a Little Philmont? Why do bishops, stake presidents and other priesthood presidencies come to this two-day meeting? How can LDS leaders meet the needs of youth by using Boy Scout resources?
Among those in attendance were bishops, stake presidents, and young men presidencies. These men are farmers, executives, fathers and grandparents- all eager to learn how they can be better leaders to adults and youth in their wards. I felt privileged to witness their genuine care and concern for the youth of today. I, too, wanted to hear instruction about what the Young Men’s and Young Women’s leaders need to do in order to best help our youth in all of the Church’s youth programs.
To better help our youth, Elder Dale H. Munk taught us, “Leaders are first and foremost teachers,” and we need to follow three principles in teaching our youth:
I have worked with youth at at-risk groups in the mountains, pushing hand-carts, instructing at BSA camps and even guiding them in international Scout groups in the Swiss Alps! The youth I have worked with were not all LDS but they did have one thing in common: they all had a capacity to achieve more than they were being challenged with. There is much more potential in a boy than many leaders think! Leaders have to take a step back- sacrificing control and micromanagement- and let their youth rise up to the challenge of planning, teaching and leading others on their own.
While leaders let their youth lead, being with them means that leaders let their youth know that they are there for them to help with problems and to encourage every step of the way. Elder Munk asked us the question of why ecclesiastical leaders and parents are the last leaders that youth turn to when they are struggling personally? They need to be the first! So we, as leaders, need to take time out of our busy schedules to talk with and really get to know our youth.
In order to connect them with Heaven, a crucial principle in building and nurturing our youth’s testimonies, Brother Stephen W. Owen of the Young Men General Presidency warned: “Sometimes in our efforts to build strong relationships with the youth, we forget that they must be converted to the Savior, not to us. Everything we do with them should build faith in Him. To survive spiritually, they will need a strong connection with Heaven, and if we intend to help them, our connection with Heaven must be strong as well.”
This means we all need to be learning how to teach better. Elder Munk reminded us that we need to remember that all members are at different levels of conversion, commitment, skill and understanding and that we need to adapt our teaching to these special, individual needs. Each leader over youth needs to envision their youth as leaders, no matter what potential they think they see in front of them. We need the foresight to mentor our youth through the difficult choices that make or break their beliefs and character. We do not need to choose for them, or to tell them what to do! The leaders in that room talked of teaching doctrine, not by telling, by showing, doing and acting. This is the way to teach and lead better.
How Do Youth Keep Learning After Earning Their Eagle?
I know that the Scouting program from Cub Scout to Eagle is still intact- in full force and completely backed by the Church- but what happens when a young boy earns his Eagle at 14, or 16? What programs or goals are they working toward to keep learning and developing then?
Many young men achieve their eagle awards and then have to wait until their missions in order to apply the leaderships skills they have learned. Why are we not letting the 14-18 year-olds lead and teach the skills they learned from Scouting before they serve their missions? We need to start letting them lead more often in and outside their wards. We need to give them more opportunities to “do a good turn daily” and “serve others at times” by giving them more roles instead of latently waiting until their missions.
The Utah National Parks Council has also worked extremely hard to be aware of the varying needs of youth.They have developed tools to meet the needs of each ward and stake by allowing the leaders to choose from a huge variety of options.The Scouting program has resources that can challenge young men beyond what they learned as Eagle Scouts. This allows the youth to choose their activities- just like how the LDS website gives a menu of 140 activities to choose from. Then, youth can turn around and teach these skills to other young men like Deacons and Teachers and even the young women in their wards! Young women are also included in this challenge to help our youth become leaders and resources are available to them and Young Women’s leaders as well!
Elder Munk and the general leadership of the LDS Church in the room also emphasized the importance of the Duty to God program as a way to help youth in addition to or beyond Scouting. Unfortunately, I know that very few of my ward members are aware of how to encourage Duty to God, or even how to enhance the Personal Progress experience for young women. I recognize that not every ward and stake needs the same program. The youth in each ward have varying commitment and conversion levels, but encouraging and getting our youth excited about Duty to God and Personal Progress is a great tool and resource. Get to know your youth on a personal level, find out their interests and what excites them. Then lead them to the programs and resources that best fit their needs, interests and personal goals!
President Boyd K. Packer, himself a master teacher and long-time administrator in the Church Educational System, has a question he often asks after listening to a presentation; he looks up as if to say, Are you through? And then says to the speaker and- by implication, to the rest of the group- “Therefore, what?”
For me, the therefore is to become a better teacher and mentor in Church and in Scouting. I will let Scouting invent the wheel of activities and safety measures so I can focus on being the best leader and mentor. I want to give my best efforts so the youth I work with will become their best selves. I’m excited to see Scouting and the Church resources used in conjunction with one another.
I also look forward to seeing some of the principles taught at Little Philmont implemented in wards and in the Utah Valley Council. I think the Church leaders will soon see youth becoming more fully engaged in leadership roles in and outside of the Church and becoming their absolute best selves. The effort it takes on the front end to let them lead, to mentor them, to connect them with Heaven- all of the painstaking and extra effort is all worth the joy of seeing the confident and happy youth excelling and loving who they are becoming. What a privilege it was to sit in on such an inspirational meeting.
Author: Dezie Vandyke | Scouting volunteer, massage therapist and health enthusiast.