“Be with them.” Brother Lund asked rhetorically, “What does that mean?” Then he had us read from a study, that he said was the “most profound revelation to me coming out from the General Board, by Scouting.”
“LDS researchers have found that the development of an LDS religious identity largely depends on the quality of certain relationships.”
He reported the study was commissioned by the Seventy and that it was focused on 37 year old men. They were asked “What worked? What didn’t work? Why are you active, or less active?” Taken together, their responses came back to this: “A person identifies themselves as a member of the Church… depending on the quality of certain relationships.
The study continues:
“Young men who have strong, positive relationships with an active LDS family, peers and leaders which help them develop a relationship with their Heavenly Father, are most likely to stay active.”
Then he said: “The most important thing that goes on in the life of a young person’s church experience is the formation of relationships with active church leaders, who they come to love and trust.” He continued: “However, fifty years down the road they can look back and say: ‘Why am I the way I am today?'” It will be because of his Aaronic Priesthood Scouting leaders.
Brother Lund then told this story to illustrate this:
When I was a young scouter in California, Ian Wilson was my Scoutmaster. We put together a 50-mile hike. We were going to go up to the Bola Bola wilderness area that had just opened. We would be the first scouts to go into this area. We used to say that it would just be us and Sasquatch. We didn’t know what it was going to be like in this wilderness but we were so excited.
We planned and had our little training sessions. We got up to get to the trailhead early that morning with our gear . We were excited, but our Scout leader turned us and said that he didn’t think we would be doing the hike. Given some events and experience of our parents and our leaders over the past few weeks, most of them had to drop out of the trip.
So it would just be him and us; we were going to go into backcountry, and if something happened back there we would be on our own. He was a tough guy and said that if something happened to one of us, the youth, we could take care of it. But if something happened to him we could be in real trouble.
But he was so excited, and knew we were prepared and trusted us enough to go on the hike. He trusted us to do the right thing, to not fall apart if something were to happen. To pull each other out of the drink.
How do you think I felt about that Scoutmaster, 50 miles later?
After this story he asked that we find ways to “engage our young people in Scouting, and not to only learn to tie square knots.” He conceded that skills and training are part of Scouting, but that when we do them, we use such activities to develop relationships with the youth so that they can learn to trust their leaders and in turn build trust with the boys. He said that we need to help them “identify themselves as active members of the Church throughout their lives.”
He closed this part of his presentation saying, “If there was a better program on planet earth to do that, we would do that one instead” and that is why we use Scouting.
The question to ask now is that if our strategy is to “Be With Them.” What does that mean to you to “Be With Them”?