I just finished reading Trails to Testimony by Brad Harris, and thought I would give a review. But I'm not really very good at that sort of thing, so this probably won't be quite like your usual book review.
In many ways it was a difficult book for me to read. I still can't figure out how to describe my reaction. During the first few chapters I was a bit depressed, actually. The book begins with a pretty strong emphasis on the priesthood and the spiritual side of things. To be honest, I haven't been as good at this side of Scouting as I should be. I have been struggling lately, trying to figure out how to do better. The opening of this book re-enforced that, and it can sometimes be hard to be told you need to do better. I recognized what I needed to improve, but still didn't know quite how to do it. Furthermore, I could tell that much of the information would be really beneficial for all of our leaders, our Bishop, and all of the boys' parents. This reminded me of all the struggles I've had in trying to implement the Scouting programs in my ward.
As I moved into the middle chapters on the aims, methods, and program side of things those reminders continued. However, I began more and more to have my own opinions and thoughts validated. It was really nice to read something that confirmed nearly everything I have thought over the past few years about what we should be doing with our boys. Again, I thought much of this information needed to be shared with our other leaders and boys' parents.
The chapter on conducting reflections was probably the single most useful part of the book for me. I had been thinking for some time that I needed to do better about finding and bringing out spiritual experiences and discussions in all of our activities and this chapter provided many solutions. The night after I read this chapter I woke up at 3:00 in the morning, unable to sleep. For the next two hours, all I could think about was how to improve my efforts.
In general the book was loaded with examples of both the good and the bad that happens in Scouting in the church as well as helpful suggestions on how to improve. I will probably re-visit those sections often.
Another thing I really appreciated was the balanced approach and effort to include all of the programs in Scouting. I have felt many times that the Venturing program is one of the best kept secrets in the church and the most neglected of all the Scouting programs. Brother Harris did a fine job including all of the programs, including Venturing. More than once I was struck by an apparent emphasis on the need to utilize the separate, older boy programs in cooperation with our Aaronic priesthood quorums. Indeed, any book about using Scouting to strengthen the priesthood would need to do this, but it was very well done here. It helps, I'm sure, that the author helped form the Venturing program.
I also really appreciated the bad examples, and the incorrect traditions illustrated. While I think I've avoided most of these, having it spelled out so clearly helped me realize several things I can do better.
On Sunday, before I actually finished reading the book, I not only recommended it to my Bishop, but I asked him to get it and read it on the basis that it would help our young men. To his credit, he seemed more than willing.
I also recommended it to my Father-in-law, who is the stake presidency member over Scouting in another stake. (Actually, he's borrowing my copy.)
I intend to recommend this book to all of our young men leaders, but missed my chance to talk to them about it on Sunday. I'll take care of that on Wednesday.
I would also recommend this book to anyone interested or involved in Scouting in the LDS church, including parents of Scouts. It really is that important.
P.S. In my copy (printed Feb, 2012) on the "Praise for" page, there was a review by a C. Fisher from Texas. Could that be our friend Fishgutts?