Thursday, January 10, 2013

Scouting Teaches Priesthood Keys

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I have a son that is currently serving as a Deacon's Quorum President. He was called to that position with about six months remaining before he turns fourteen, and in our ward it's typical that he'll serve until he is ordained a Teacher.

So, six months to begin to develop an understanding of Priesthood Keys. Six months to learn that 'presiding' means 'serving'. Six months to develop a personal leadership style and vision. Six months to find effective ways to counsel with his councillors. Six months to learn his duty, and understand what it means to teach others' their duty. Six months to recognize the difference between temporal and spiritual needs. Six months to develop the faith to call upon ministering angels.

Wow. All I can say is thank heaven for the Scouting program.

As the Deacon's Quorum President, my son also serves as the Troop's Senior Patrol Leader (SPL). As the SPL, he will have the opportunity to explore, and be mentored, on what it means to be a leader. The Troop calendar provides events that need to be selected, planned, executed, and reviewed. Working alongside his quorum members on camp-outs and service projects will provide him an opportunity to learn about them and their needs. Conducting Troop and other meetings will give him the chance to learn to communicate more effectively, learning to condense and prioritize information. Working with the patrol leaders under him, he will develop effective ways to extend assignments, and will first-hand see the need for a return-and-report.

In other words, the every-day operation of a Scout Troop provides all of the circumstances necessary for a thirteen year-old boy to begin learning what it means to be a leader. This is the genius of the Scouting program. A Scout Troop is the perfect laboratory for a young man to explore leadership, with little or no long-term negative consequences.

Without Scouting, my son's adult advisors would be forced to manufacture activities that he could be in charge of. They'd have to think up events that would create the need for him to give assignments. But Scouting does all of that for them.

Unfortunately, some adult advisors still see Scouting as an activity program. They think their role is to provide merit badge instruction, plan great camp-outs, and encourage advancement. Boy, do they have it wrong. It's quite simple, Scouting activities exists to provide a forum for boys to lead boys.

So, what do you do if you find yourself on the wrong side of this picture? Let me suggest five things to get you moving in the right direction:

1. Call the quorum president by his title, not his name. The frequent repetition of the title 'President' will remind you and him where the responsibility lies.

2. Never interrupt or correct the Quorum President in front of other boys. That's right, even when he announces that your troop meeting is at 7pm, when you know that it's on the calendar for 6pm. Take him aside afterwards and ask about it. "President I noticed that you announced our meeting for 7pm, when we had previously discussed it being at 6pm. I was wondering what the reason was for the change." If he has to go back and correct his mistake, that's fine. But he is the one to make the correction, not you.

3. Be clear that you expect the Quorum President to truly lead. Get in the habit of asking him about his vision for an event, or his insight into the quorum needs. Don't become upset when he doesn't have any vision or insight, just be clear that he should be developing it!

4. With a few exceptions, don't answer any questions from boys. Your default response is "Ask the SPL!" If the question is coming from the SPL, then your answer is "I don't know President. What do you think?"

5. Turn the Quorum President back to his counselors and to the Lord for guidance. When he really doesn't know something, instead of providing an answer, suggest that he discuss it with his counselors, or pray about it and come up with a solution. Even for trivial things like what time to leave for a camp out, never just give a solution. Remember the camp-out only exists in order to give him things to decide about.

In addition to these steps, utilize the resources made available through the Scouting program. One such resources is a training module called Intro to Leadership Training for Troops (and Teams).

This three hour training course is designed to be taught at the unit level, and should probably be a regular part of a unit's calendar, begin delivered every time there's a change in leadership.

The ILST course explains what a leader should Be, Know, and Do. In other words, it explains the duty of a Senior Patrol Leader and other youth leaders in the Scouting program. Without it, boys probably won't even know what their responsibilities are. Running the ILST course could be considered a direct fulfillment of the admonition to "let every man learn his duty" (D&C 107:99).

As you implement these steps, you will see a change in the leaders and members of the quorum. You will develop a culture where youth leadership is 'just how things work around here', and you'll be helping to produce the greatest generation of missionaries, husbands, fathers, and Priesthood holders that the world has ever seen.


  1. Great post! This is going out to all of my 11 yr old scout leaders. Thanks!