When I first became a Venturing advisor, these twin boys were Varsity Scouts in our ward. By the time I figured out what I should be doing with Venturing, they turned 16 and joined our crew. In reality, they made our crew. They were the first two in our ward to earn Venturing awards and one of them earned Silver. I was also able to help both of them finish their Eagle.
When I heard the recent announcement in LDS General Conference about the age of missionaries being lowered from 19 to 18 my first thought was that we needed to do a better job preparing our young men.
I then started to question whether or not I did a very good job of it when I was in that position. I worked hard on the Scouting end of things and did everything I thought I could that way but I wondered if I could have done more to help prepare them spiritually. Did I share my testimony with them enough? Did I talk about experiences from my mission? Could I have done more to encourage and mentor them? Did I do enough to teach them how to lead?
I'm sure there were plenty of things I could have done better.
But one of them told me something last night that made me think I had more of an influence than I had realized. Frankly, I was surprised to hear it. He said something like: "When I think of what it means to be a missionary I think of you."
I had no idea he saw me that way. I don't really see myself that way. I'm not sure where that image comes from, but apparently he sees it.
It reminded me of something Robert Baden-Powell said in Aids to Scoutmastership:
“Success in training the boy largely depends upon the Scoutmaster's own personal example. It is easy to become the hero as well as the elder brother of the boy. We are apt, as we grow up, to forget what a store of hero worship is in the boy.
The Scoutmaster who is a hero to his boys holds a powerful lever to their development, but at the same time brings a great responsibility on himself. They are quick enough to see the smallest characteristic about him, whether it be a virtue or a vice. His mannerisms become theirs, the amount of courtesy he shows, his irritations, his sunny happiness, or his impatient glower, his willing self-discipline or his occasional moral lapses-all are not only noticed, but adopted by his followers.
Therefore, to get them to carry out the Scout Law and all that underlies it, the Scoutmaster himself should scrupulously carry out its professions in every detail of his life. With scarcely a word of instruction his boys will follow him.”
Perhaps the best thing a leader of boys will ever do is to show a good example. That's why our Scout leaders need to be "the best men in the ward." Never underestimate the influence an adult leader can have in the life of a boy.