“There is no religious ‘side’ of the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God. Let us, therefore, in training our Scouts, keep the higher aims in the forefront, not let ourselves get too absorbed in the steps. Don’t let the technical outweigh the moral. Field efficiency, back woodsmanship, camping, hiking, Good Turns, jamboree comradeship are all means, not the end. The end is CHARACTER with a purpose. Our objective in the Scouting movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth by including among youth the spirit and the daily practice in their lives of unselfish goodwill and cooperation.”
For Scouts in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Scouting can and should be a way to reinforce religious principles while preparing boys to be worthy priesthood holders, missionaries, husbands, fathers, and church leaders. If there is no connection between what boys learn in church on Sunday and what they do at a Wednesday night activity, we have wasted a great opportunity to shape men of God.
So how can we make sure we (and the Scouts!) are making those connections? Here are five ways to start:
1. Include the Come, Follow Me curriculum in your Scout planning sessions
Come, Follow Me lets you know well in advance what the spiritual theme will be each month. As your youth leaders plan the year in your annual planning session, have the Come, Follow Me themes posted prominently. As you plan each month’s activities, start conversations about how the spiritual theme could tie in to the temporal one. This gives your youth leaders a chance to take their spiritual growth into their own hands and set a precedent for spiritual reflections.
2. Use the Program Features and Come, Follow Me materials to build on consistent themes a month at a time
Repetition is key in making lessons stick. Both Come, Follow Me and the Program Features for Troops, Teams, and Crews make use of repetition by spending an entire month on a common theme. This means that each week you can build on the previous week’s spiritual connections. Start each month by connecting the two themes and help the boys discover more connections as the month goes on. By using both month-long themes in tandem, you’ll make the lessons more memorable.
3. Do object lessons on Sundays and at Scout activities
Object lessons are a powerful learning tool. In their end-of-year reviews, my students always mentioned their favorite lessons were the ones with real-world examples attached to drive the point home. Teach your Scouts in parables by relating their Scouting experiences to the things they learn on Sundays. Then, be sure that at your Scout activities you consistently refer back to religious principles. For example, see this article about comparing a campfire to the apostasy.
4. Give Scouts a chance to share their thoughts and/or bear their testimonies
Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that “We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it.” The more your youth have a chance to talk about the spiritual experiences and impressions they have, the more a testimony of the gospel will become an integral part of who they are. Scouting, especially in the outdoors, offers great opportunities for spiritual reflection. Let them ponder the wonders of God’s creation and then share their feelings. A mountaintop can be the scene for transcendent spiritual experiences.
5. End each activity with a reflection
Always give your Scouts a chance to reflect on the things they have learned in different activities and tie them back to spiritual lessons. Meaningful reflection allows the youth to teach each other as they talk about the day. This brings the Spirit into the meeting, helps Scouts grow closer to each other and to God, and prepares them to be more effective missionaries. Read this article to learn more about what a good reflection can do.
These are only a few of the many ways to bring spiritual lessons into your weekly activities. What do you do in your ward?
Author: Maria Milligan | Grant Writer, Utah National Parks Council, BSA