By Joel Hood
Dec 20, 2015

How Building a Testimony of Christ Prepared Me to Do My Duty

The Scout motto is “Be Prepared.” Our Scouts will hear this command hundreds, perhaps thousands of times during troop meetings, pow-wows, and camps. Yet the phrase has no meaning until we answer the question, “What must they be prepared for?”  Otherwise, the motto becomes a trite, boring tidbit that our young men must recite before they are released, rip off their uniforms, and play basketball.

The most important thing our young men—our Scouts—must be prepared for is to face a society of decaying moral values, remain strong in their faith in God, and be a strength to their families and their church.  Failing to prepare the young men for the inevitable trials of conscience and integrity they will face is tantamount to throwing them to the lions. Developing a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way a Christian man can survive and thrive in today’s world.

Pillar 1–Testimony: Be prepared by developing a testimony of Christ and of the gospel while doing our duty to God and our country.

Testimony is a conviction that something is true.  A testimony of Christ and His gospel is the conviction that He is the Savior of the world, that He suffered for our sins, and broke the bands of death through the power of the resurrection.  Testimony in His gospel is the conviction that His teachings are true and—in the case of LDS Scouts—that He has restored His Church to the earth just as it was in the New Testament, complete with Prophets and Apostles.  These are the crucial convictions leaders must ensure become planted deep within the young men they serve.


Joel’s troop at Camp Whitsett in Western Los Angeles County Council.

How should you as a leader go about this vital task?  First, you must realize that you have the burden of leadership.  You must lead from the front.  This means you must lead with testimony first and show the young men what it is and how to share it.  The LDS manual for missionary service, Preach my Gospel, notes, “You cannot convert people beyond your own conversion.”[1]  Likewise, you cannot prepare your Scouts with a bright testimony if all you have are cooling coals of faith.  Our young men are not stupid; they can detect spiritual hypocrisy and apathy.

I now refer you to the text in bold immediately following the subject of this post, Pillar 1—Be prepared by developing a testimony of Christ and of the gospel while doing our duty to God and our country.  This statement conveys several messages.  First, it suggests that testimony ought to be developed while serving God and country.  Second, it suggests that service to God and country is our Christian duty and that testimony cannot be separated from action.

I cannot say that my leaders were the best example of testimony or that they helped me develop my own faith in a meaningful way, but I dutifully attended troop meetings, hikes, and Scout camps.  There were prayers to start events, but they were more of a formality—I never recall speaking of God again.  A number of the Scouts in our troop never achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, some served LDS missions, and some have left the LDS Church altogether.  I know it would have been different if our leaders had shown more excitement and genuine spiritual leadership.

I don’t want to suggest to the reader that my Scouting experience was a complete failure.  There were also experiences that I still remember to this day.

In 1998, my troop and I went to Camp Whitsett the Saturday before camp was to begin so that we could keep the Sabbath Day holy.  Had we not done so, we would have to travel, pack in our things, and set up camp on Sunday or, in the alternative, miss part of Monday’s activities.  I can still remember the Bishop coming to oversee the administration of the Sacrament to his young men.  It instilled in me the importance of that sacred ordinance.  This practice was repeated for next two or three years that I attended Scout camps


Joel (left) and a group of Marine Corps officer candidates after Sunday morning sacrament service.

I have needed that testimony of Christ and the Sabbath since then.  In 2013 I joined the United States Marine Corps and reported to Quantico, VA for Officer Candidate School.  Our first Sunday came and we were ordered to attend the religious service of our choice.  I found myself in a small room with several other LDS men, a dutiful and loving military relations service missionary couple, and a member of the local branch presidency.  The administration of the Sacrament broke through the emotional barriers I was constructing to cope with the rigor of the screening and evaluating process, and it continued to renew me every week throughout the ten weeks of training.  This, coupled with daily fervent prayer and scripture study strengthened my confidence and testimony in the midst of my greatest challenge to date. Had I not been prepared with testimony, I surely would have failed the school and been sent home in disgrace.

[1] Preach My Gospel, 182

This article is based on the Six Pillars of Being Prepared. Recently a survey was sent throughout the Utah National Parks Council with the purpose of ascertaining what leaders thought were the core goals of Scouting for the young men we serve. Through surveys of LDS Stake Presidents and Bishops, the Six Pillars are in order of importance to young men as they go through their Aaronic Priesthood experience.  Pillar one is Testimony.

joel hoodAuthor: Joel Hood | First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Cops, an attorney and an Eagle Scout who loves Scouting and what it can do for young men and communities. He also served as an assistant Scoutmaster in La Puente, CA.

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