Had these sisters been aware of the potential of Scouting to contribute to their son’s spiritual growth, each patch they sewed on their son’s uniform or sash would have evoked memories of spiritual insights gained and shared. Instead of anticipating only the temporal chores that awaited them upon their son’s return from camp, they would have sent him off anticipating the spiritual discussions they might have when he returned.
For example, as a missionary couple with President McCune, in the Provo Utah South Mission, I had the chance to ask one of the mission assistants, “When did you feel the hand of God in life through Scouting?” He responded:
“I will never forget the day our Scout troop went on our week long high adventure hike. We went into the Montana mountains. One of our newer young men and a friend of mine, Zach, led the way. Thinking of ourselves as the stronger, faster hikers we decided to go ahead the rest of the group and beat everyone to camp.
“The hike was long and hard, the trails were hardly used and in some places could barely be seen. After long hours of hard hiking, we made it to the top of the base of the peak of the mountain. We waited for about an hour and half and still no sign of our group.
“So we decided to climb to the very peak so we could look out below and see where we were at. As we got to the edge and looked out we expected to see some civilization below us from where we started but to our dismay it was nothing but trees for miles and miles. We then realized we were on top of the wrong mountain.
“It was getting to be dusk at this time, so we quickly threw on our packs and started to run back down the long trail of switchbacks. Half an hour into our run we heard a loud a crashing in the trees below us. We stopped to see what it may be and couldn’t make out what it was. Until we saw out of the green forest below us a small brown animal ascending a tree just a few switchbacks below us.
“Zach turned to me and asked what it was, I knew what it was and immediately my heart sank. ‘Zach, it’s a baby bear.’ We began making noise but nothing would bring that bear down that tree and we knew there was a momma bear below us.
“We couldn’t turn back. Our group had our much needed supplies and we couldn’t go forward because this tree lay right in the middle of the trail. Finally the thought came to me ‘we need to pray.’ We knelt down and pleaded with the Lord to help us know what to do and please protect us.
“As we got up we both looked each other in the face and had the same overwhelming feeling and knew what needed to be done. We needed to proceed down the mountain.
“Zach took out his small pocket knife and I had a flimsy fishing spear and we slowly inched our way down the trail straight into the danger below us. I’m still not sure what we were thinking that day, but I know I have never felt the Spirit so strong pushing me forward almost with haste.
“My chest burned and my heart raced as we passed the tree we knew had a baby bear in its canopy. As we came around the next corner we heard a loud crashing in the brush to the left of us and the low grunts of a mamma bear. I was sure we were goners at this point but somehow quickened my pace and kept moving down the trail.
“I suddenly stopped and it was as if a voice said turn around! I looked back to see Zach, 10 feet behind me frozen in fear. He was staring into the face of this giant creature totally immobilized with fear. My body reacted not knowing what I was doing but ran to him, grabbed him by the collar and we ran as fast as we could down the rest of the mountain.
“After a few hours of much more prayer and trying to find our way in the dark we miraculously found the right trail and the rest of our Scout troop.
“This experience and Scouting has changed my life. There have been many times in my life since that I have felt lost or unsure of where to go and moving forward had almost seemed impossible. But I now knew if I was humble enough to get on my knees and ask for help I would be guided thru fear and hesitation. Sometimes life can feel dark and the right path to take can be dim but I have learned from Scouts that as we put our trust in the Lord he will direct our paths, and he will lead us safely home to our friends and family. And that nothing in this world can keep us from achieving that goal if we trust him.
“Scouting has taught me I can do hard things , that nothing is impossible , and I have a divine potential in this life. The God exists loves us and is very much involved in our lives. My friendships with leaders have influenced me into the leader I am today and those lasting friendships from scouts will bless my life forever. I am forever grateful for scouting program because it made me into the man my father in heaven wanted me to become.”
Our job as parents and leaders is not to entertain; our goal is to bring boys to Christ. For parents this means that every family home evening, every family scripture study, and every family activity or vacation should be planned to include a spiritual dimension.
For Aaronic Priesthood leaders it means that every combined activity, every activity night, and every camping trip should be planned with the goal of bringing young men closer to Christ. This can be accomplished by careful planning and by conducting a reflection at the conclusion of each activity.
Author: Lizbeth Caldwell | Silver Beaver and Scouting mom with grown Scouts who discovered the value of Scouting as a Primary President in Oregon.