By Dave Pack
Oct 18, 2015

Building Testimonies by Doing Hard Things

Two of the major outcomes we expect from our LDS Scouting programs are building boys’ testimonies and helping them gain confidence by doing hard things. In some cases, we see results immediately and watch a young man change in front of us. Other changes build up slowly over time, only becoming fully evident years later in the choices these young men make and the direction they take in life. Dave Pack shares his experience with both of these kinds of changes through a story about the tender mercy of a three-day rainstorm on a 25 mile hike:

Some high-adventure trips are better than you could plan them, mainly because of the unintended challenges that test your resolve and show you what you are capable of. This trip was one of the unintended kind.

Biking at BHABA few years ago when I was serving as a bishop in Idaho, I had the opportunity to participate in a week-long high-adventure program that was designed to teach leadership skills and challenge all the boys.

We planned to do 22 miles of mountain biking on single-track trail, 25 miles of backpacking, and 32 miles of river running on the Salmon River. It was not difficult to recruit several of the young men in the ward to participate. We had several priests that served as staff to teach skills and several teachers that were participants. I was very excited to see how they would grow along the way and anxious to begin.

We started on a Monday in late July, a beautiful day. We climbed on our mountain bikes and started up the trail. The way the course was designed allowed us to stop periodically and teach a leadership skill on the trail. After a few miles, we would encounter a challenge that would test the leadership skill that was taught and then we would reflect back on how the group performed the task with the new knowledge of the skill still fresh in their minds. We sat around the campfire that evening sharing what we had learned that day. We had all been blessed with a great experience and were anxious to start backpacking the next day.

Philmont rainThe next morning we started on a three-day 25-mile backpacking trip. Within a few miles, it started to rain. We all put on our rain gear and continued on. When we arrived at our camping spot, it was still raining. We pitched our tents, ate dinner, and prepared for a wet night.

The next morning Jared, teachers quorum president in my ward, approached me and said, “Bishop Pack, I don’t think that I can go any further! Is it possible for my parents to come pick me up?” I replied, “We have no way to contact your parents, and it is further to go back than it is to go forward. What do you think is best?” He said, with tears in his eyes, “OK, I guess I will try to keep going forward.”

It continued to rain that day and on into the next day. Jared buckled down and moved forward with the rain having soaked almost everything we were wearing. Each boy had his opportunity to question how tough he was and what it would take to finish. As we were finishing our service project on the third day, it started to clear up and stopped raining.

campfireWe soon arrived at the Salmon River and had a great evening of testimony bearing and singing around the campfire. By this time, Jared was happy that he had completed the backpacking trip and survived! He said to me that this experience was the hardest thing that he had ever done, but he thought he could do it again.

He was not the only one to feel that way. All of the young men that night reflected through testimony on how challenging the trip was but yet how fun it was because of the adversity.

We still had two days of river running before we went home. We finished the week with stories that would last a lifetime. We also realized that the challenge and sacrifice that we conquered taught lessons.

Learning to do hard things doesn’t just happen. Sometimes it requires more; in this case, we had the tender mercy of a rainstorm that tested our resolve to finish. For Jared, the change from that experience came immediately upon overcoming the seemingly insurmountable challenge. For each of these Scouts, however, the most important outcome came as a result of this and a series of such experiences. Because of the testimony and confidence they gained in their youth, every young man from that teacher and priests quorum that participated went on a mission and was married in the temple. This became the true reward for the parents and leaders of these boys.

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Author: Dave Pack| Scout Executive, Utah National Parks Council

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