I have had the opportunity to serve as a camp director for 11 summers in my career. During that time, I also served as Scoutmaster in my troop four times. Needless to say, I spent much of my summer at Scout camp. You would think that having so much experience would make me prepared for anything that Scouts would dish out, but one summer I was caught by surprise by the senior patrol leader (SPL) in the troop. When my troop would come to camp, I would move out of the camp director’s cabin and into the troop site with the troop. You would think that, as the camp director, I had a pretty good grasp on what camp had to offer, and, as we sat around the campfire on the first night of camp, I was pretty proud of how the first day of camp had gone. The Scouts were happy and everything seemed to have gone just as well as anyone would expect. I had just finished my Scoutmaster’s Minute and the fire was dying down. It seemed like the perfect finish to a great day at camp.
Usually, Scouts don’t sleep well on the first night, because they are so excited to be there; they want to stay up and talk all night. Experienced Scoutmasters usually have to sleep with one eye open to try to get the Scouts to sleep at all – which is why I was caught by surprise when the senior patrol leader announced that it was time to go to bed. All of the Scouts agreed and started to move toward their tent. At this point, I am alarmed, wondering what they had up their sleeves, because it is so unusual to have them be so willing to go to bed. As I sat by the campfire listening to the conversation in the tent, waiting for them to go to sleep, I overheard the senior patrol leader say, “Did you all remember to bring your scriptures?” I suddenly realized that I had neglected to coach the SPL on anything around scripture study at camp, but he had planned for it anyway. I spent the next several nights sitting outside their tent, listening to this troop of 12- and 13-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holders take turns reading from the scriptures to each other, teaching, and answering questions. I think I learned more than they did and I definitely cried more than they did. I was so grateful for an SPL that held Priesthood Keys and was inspired to encourage his quorum to add testimony-building experiences to a good camping program. It isn’t a bad thing to have an adult provide spiritual experiences in Scouting activities, but it is much more powerful to the quorum when the boy leaders introduce the experience to the group.
The Scouting program, when executed properly, is a great tool in teaching quorum leadership how to organize and lead the quorum. Scouting was designed from the beginning to teach boys how to lead in a group. The priesthood requires boys to lead because of the priesthood keys that the quorum president holds. Scouting and the priesthood combine for the perfect partnership for building testimony. Testimony comes through experiences that happen to each person individually as they make an effort to do, become, and know what is good and right. Priesthood quorums can have a large effect on testimony as they give each boy an opportunity to fulfill assignments and invest in the outcome of what the quorum is trying to accomplish. Testimony happens as they seek to fulfill assignments and do their best to accomplish service in their quorum. Scouting can be a great influence in creating boys who become a living testimony rather than boys who are only able to say the words.
Author: Dave Pack | Scout Executive, Utah National Parks Council