Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Perfect Scoutmaster

In The Book of Mormon we read an account of a man known simply as "the brother of Jared." He (and his brother, Jared) were living at the tower of Babel when God confounded the languages. They were able to obtain a promise from the Lord that their language, and that of their families and friends, would not be confounded. However, as part of the deal, they were instructed to leave and they would be led to a land of promise.

At some point in their journey, they came to the ocean and were told they needed to build "barges" to cross the sea. Upon finishing the boats, the brother of Jared went to the Lord with a problem:
"O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?" (Ether 2:22)
The solution the Lord gave to the brother of Jared is an interesting one:
And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire.
For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.
And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea? (Ether 2:23-25)
Instead of telling him what to do, the Lord turned it back on him saying, in essence, "I've already solved a lot of your problems for you; I want you to come up with a solution for this one. What are you going to do about it, and how can I help?"

In response, the brother of Jared came up with a plan. He "molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass" (Ether 3:1). He then carried these stones to the top of the mountain and asked the Lord to touch them with his finger, so that they would give off light.

The rest of the story is truly remarkable,and one that everyone should study, but my point today goes in a different direction. 

As I was thinking about this story yesterday I realized that it has a lesson for us adult Scout leaders. The brother of Jared was, in many ways, just like our youth leaders. He was someone his family and friends looked to for leadership. He was imperfect, and occasionally needed reminding of what he was supposed to do. Sometimes, it seems that he was a little reluctant and maybe would have preferred his strong-willed brother be in charge. He was still learning leadership when he was asked to lead his people to their promised land.

In the building of the barges, the brother of Jared needed lots of direction. This he got from the Lord, who is the perfect Scoutmaster. The Lord knew his prophet, including his flaws and his personal stage of development. He knew when to provide specific direction and when to allow him to exercise his own leadership.

This can be a very tricky skill for adult scout leaders to learn. As we try to develop leadership in our youth, we may need to start out providing specific direction. But at some point, we need to begin to back off and let the youth lead. (If you've been to Wood Badge, you might remember this from The Leading EDGE presentation.) Instead of directly answering their questions we should turn it back on them with questions like "what are you going to do about it?" or "how do you think this problem could be solved?"

Like the brother of Jared, their solutions may be unconventional; they will probably think of things we didn't, but those ideas just might work out brilliantly. More importantly, they will learn something about their own abilities. They will gain confidence. They will become true leaders. And like the brother of Jared, it is then that the truly remarkable things begin to happen.

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