Ministering to boys and not administering programs should be the focus of Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leadership in the Church, according to the Young Men general presidency.
Dedicated leaders will make almost any program work, while even the best-crafted ideas will not be effective unless a leader invests the time and energy to make them bear fruit, said Elders Jack H. Goaslind, LeGrand R. Curtis and Robert K. Dellenbach.The presidency – speaking with the Church News in connection with the 78th anniversary of the partnership between the Church and Boy Scouts of America – emphasized that Scouting continues to play a strong role in fulfilling Aaronic Priesthood objectives of preparing young men for full-time missions, temple blessings and righteous manhood.
"We're hearing frequently that the Church is going to be discontinuing its partnership with Boy Scouts of America, but it's just not true," said Elder Goaslind, Young Men president. "President [Gordon B.] Hinckley and President [Thomas S.] Monson recently reaffirmed our commitment to the program when Ben Love and Julian Dyke, the two top Scouters in Boy Scouts of America, visited Salt Lake City.
"Aaronic Priesthood with its quorums is our focus, but Scouting is a valuable tool, that if used properly, can help young men come to know and love the Savior. The Aaronic Priesthood draws upon several resources, including Scouting, to teach and train our young men."
Elder Goaslind noted that the Church and BSA form a strong, mutually beneficial partnership. All members of the Young Men general presidency, along with President Monson of the First Presidency and other Church leaders on the general and local levels, serve on national BSA committees.
"The Church does have a voice in decisions made by Boy Scouts of America," he explained. "It's not running us; we're working together as a companionship."
Well-planned activities, including Scouting, complement the teaching done in quorum meetings on Sundays, the presidency said. And though much of the planning should be undertaken by the young men themselves, the importance of worthy and enthusiastic adult leadership cannot be overstated.
"I think we need to awaken the bishoprics to the primary responsibility that is theirs to their young men and young women," Elder Goaslind reflected. "Everything in the ward tends to go well if things with their youth are going well. Bishoprics should regularly interview their young people. Sunday evening discussions, as outlined in the handbooks, can be a time to visit with their youth to understand their concerns and give them inspired counsel.
"And when calling Scouting or other youth leaders, emphasis should be placed on calling those who are `morally straight.' Exemplary leadership is expected and demanded of one who serves with young men and young women in the Church. Priesthood leaders are responsible to call qualified leaders to work with boys so they are not disappointed by a bad example, which lowers their sights. We encourage that those called are outstanding leaders who love the young men and like being with them."
The presidency added that once these types of leaders are called, it is paramount that they be properly trained and then have time to cultivate a relationship with those they lead in order to build a successful program.
"You have to leave a leader in his assignment long enough to follow the boys on through, instead of having a revolving door," emphasized Elder Goaslind. "Experience shows that if you have a good leader, you're going to have a successful program. It takes time to bring that about."
Elder Goaslind recalled his Scoutmaster, who each week would drive through the ward and pick up every boy in the troop. "He just did not let a boy miss a meeting, and every young man loved him for it."
The presidency challenged parents, Aaronic Priesthood and Scout leaders in the Church to do likewise, to go the extra mile in ministering to their youth. And they cited a special concern for the priest-age young men and their young women counterparts, noting a sharp decline in activity among youth in that age group throughout the Church.
"If you have parents and Church leaders with vision who know their responsibility for getting a boy from age 16 – when he comes into the priests quorum – safely through to his ordination in the Melchizedek Priesthood, then on a mission and on to temple marriage, they'll find a way to get him there," Elder Goaslind concluded. "These leaders need to be with the young men and young women; they need to be part of their lives. They can't do it only on Sunday mornings."