“Leading Varsity Scouting in LDS Teams,” a conference session held at Philmont Training Center July 12-18, proved to be a remarkable experience for 28 participants as they were immersed in the principles and activities of Varsity Scouting, strongly under girded by attention to Priesthood purposes. In fact, probably the most unique aspect of the conference was the fact that every presentation and activity was based on how what participants learned and did would assist a member of a Teachers Quorum to prepare to serve an honorable mission. Participants learned that using Varsity Scouting as a tool to prepare 14 and 15 year old young men to learn to do hard things, to learn leadership principles, to have fun—was a means to an end, that is, meeting Priesthood purposes.
From start to finish, the participants were immersed in an expanded Varsity Vision Course and lived Varsity Scouting first hand. The participants became 14 and 15 year old boys and became squad leaders and program managers over five fields of emphasis. The Varsity Scout program organization permitted the participants to learn from and enjoy activities, interspersed with presentations by experienced Varsity Scout staff members, both inside and outside the classroom, on a variety of Varsity topics. Central to the instruction and activities, undergirding everything we did, were LDS priesthood purposes. We continually emphasized that we do Varsity Scouting to help the boy prepare to serve an honorable mission.
Participants learned that the Varsity Scout program, properly implemented, meets the needs and characteristics of this age group. High adventure, Special Events, Sports, Personal Development, Service and Advancement serve as tools to provide leadership opportunities and other experiences which prepare a young man to be a powerful, well-prepared missionary.
28 participants from 14 councils came from locations throughout the United States. Five came from outside the Western Region: three councils from Texas (Dallas, Fort Worth, and one other), and one each from Indiana and Illinois. In addition, within the Western Region we had participants from Washington, Idaho, California, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Our participants held a variety of positions within the LDS Church, which made for some great cross-job insights and discussions. They included counselors in Stake and Ward Young Men presidencies, Bishops and Bishop’s counselors, Varsity coaches, council Varsity chairs, a Roundtable commissioner, and a member of a high council.
The participants noted the spiritual presence and remarked about it. One of our wrap-up sessions was for the staff to be quiet and let the participants talk about whatever they wanted. This session brought the spiritual and emotional impact of the conference to a head. A High Council member from Utah National Parks Council spoke up as one of the last ones to talk. He had for the first half of the course been reluctant and spoke about it openly in meetings. He had been sent by his Stake President to cover for another person who actually had the responsibility for the Young Men. His responsibility was the Young Women. In the final meeting he was silent for the longest time, but when he did speak, he too was touched by emotion and expressed the most beautiful feelings about his experience and a change of heart.
Another Bishop from Arizona said in that meeting that he did not like camping and that he saw the need for Scouting but had not supported it well. He said that he had had the impression to come to the course but that he had brushed it off. When the feeling persisted, this obedient Bishop registered, but he came no expecting much, and at first he tended to isolate himself. In the meeting he explained the change of heart he had felt and his firm resolve to go back to his ward and correct the past neglect of the Scouting program, especially the Varsity component, where he saw why he was losing contact with his boys.
Upon reflection, it seems clear that the experience made a huge impact for good on those who attended. They expressed strongly their desire to return to their councils, stakes and units determined to make a difference. They became champions for Varsity Scouting as a tool to assist their youth to meet the goals of the Aaronic Priesthood.
The course was so successful that it has been scheduled again for the Philmont Training Center, July 31-August 6, 2016. Registration is now open on the Philmont Training Center website.
Author: Steven Baugh | Council Vice-president of District Operations