Lessons from Life – Scouting

When I was younger I went on a number of Boy Scout campouts. On one campout we got to our campsite late. We had to set up out tents in the dark. The tent that I was assigned to was old and not in very good working condition; none of the three of us who were to sleep in it were able to put it up correctly. This was due to a number of factors – little light by which to see, tent poles that weren’t quite going together correctly, and inexperience on our part (although by that age I had put up many tents). We decided to be content with a tent that wasn’t quite put up right; it held its form and we could sleep in it so we decided to leave it as it was. If it had been a “normal” Arizona night we would have been fine but that night was different.

Elsewhere a storm was brewing – literally. This storm quickly moved towards us. After we settled down for the night and had gone to sleep, it started raining. This was not just a light misting rain, it was a downpour. The three of us woke up with our tent collapsing around us and with the water level rising in our tent. You would be correct if you thought a pool of water does not belong inside a tent. However, ours had one. We were practically swimming in the tent in our soaked sleeping bags. Two of us (including me) loved the experience, one did not.

We survived the night only a little worse for the wear. We were not prepared for the storms that hit us. It wasn’t completely a lack of our preparation but we didn’t have the tools – a tent – that could withstand the rain.

On a different campout I had a very different experience. This time we were not weathering a thunderstorm; this time we were not setting up a not-quite-functional tent at night; this time it was daytime in the desert with nothing but a compass and some instructions. As part of an orienteering competition my scout patrol had to try and complete a course faster and more accurately than all of the other patrols if we wanted to win the competition. Given nothing but bearings and distances, we had to traverse the course, find the checkpoints, and then end up at the destination. I had spent a lot of time practicing orienteering. I practiced my pacing so I had a 5 foot long pace set. If there was one thing I could do well, it was orienteering. In this particular competition and every other one I did for scouting, my patrol and I did not lose; we never lost an orienteering competition. It’s not that we were better than the other scouts, we were just more conscientious about the activity. We were the best because we had prepared, we were true to our preparation, and we sought to perform our task with exactness. We strove to be like the worthy warriors of Helaman’s army who “did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness” (Alma 57:21). We did not just go blindly without preparation; we studied, we planned, and we acted (see D&C 9:7-8). Part of this preparation involved in gathering the right tools for the job. We needed the proper tools – we needed a compass; without one we would never have succeeded.

With scouting and scout activities, sometimes I failed (like when our tent collapsed around us) but most of the time I was successful. Scouting is designed to be like that – challenging, but with some effort a scout – any scout – is able to succeed in most of the activities. Some of the physical tasks are beyond the capabilities of some boys but those tasks can be modified if needed. Scouting is about building confidence and competence. That’s how the gospel is in general. We are taught and trained; we partake of gospel milk before gospel meat. While there are set specific requirements and commandments, personal requirements are sometimes modified based on knowledge and capability: “For of him unto whom much is given much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation” (D&C 82:3). The key is simply to act with all the integrity and capability you can, whether that is in setting up a scout tent or traversing an orienteering course or in your relationships with others. Integrity to God is what is important in life. Integrity takes preparation and work; it takes holding to the course and finding and following the guideposts. That is one thing I learned from scouting, that success comes only after preparation, hard work, and by using the right tools. Success comes from trying to act with exactness to the principles we have been taught. It comes through at-one-ment with God; in other words, integrity with and to God.

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