In the last 15 years, I have taught many 8-11 year-old boys in both Primary and Cub Scouting. I think my biggest failing has been not understanding just how important the impact is that leaders and teachers of our boys and young men have. In his 2004 Open House talk, Charles W. Dahlquist made this clear:
"Shortly after April general conference, we met with the First Presidency to be set apart in our callings... President Hinckley placed his hands on my head and, among other things, said, 'Brother Dahlquist, I bless you that you might be almost consumed with the work of saving the young men of the Church.' And I tell you that in the months that have followed, I have learned a bit about what that means. But there is a greater extension of that blessing that I want to discuss with you tonight. In Moses 1:39 there is a great scripture that reads, 'For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.'
"I think we would all agree that if that is our Heavenly Father's work, it is our work too. In a corresponding manner, if it is my charge to become 'almost consumed' with the work of saving the young men of the Church, then it seems to me that is also the charge of every bishop; every bishop's counselor; every Young Men presidency; every quorum adviser; every Scoutmaster, Varsity Coach, or Venturing leader; every teacher of youth; and every parent.
"The objective and purpose of the Young Men general presidency is to assist parents and local leaders to strengthen the brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood—to prepare them to overcome the temptations of the world; to help them become spiritually and physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight; and to prepare them to become the greatest generation of missionaries, husbands, and fathers that this world has ever seen. Our objective is to help them become men who will lead with vision in their families, in their communities, and in their professions, men who live to bless those around them and in whom burns an almost consuming desire to 'bring to pass the immortality and eternal life' of those they serve.
"Our work is not easy, especially in the face of the onslaught of temptations being thrown continually at our young men. In a recent CES satellite broadcast, President Hinckley stated:
'What a frightening change has occurred in our culture. A great flood of sleaze has gathered and is washing over us. Language is used on our campuses that never crossed our lips back in the days of my youth. Pornography with all its titillating and vicious attraction is all about us. We have television, videos, DVDs, the Internet, and other means to deliver the filthy and the evil into our homes and lives. It is taking its toll. . . . This is the era of gutter-talk, of sloppy dress, of sloppy ways' (address to CES religious educators, Feb. 7, 2003).
"That which once was difficult for our youth to acquire now comes right into our homes on the Internet. If we are not careful, it will slip right into the minds of our youth. I was on an airplane recently as ABC News reported that if parents wish to take one more step in distancing themselves from their parental roles, they may consent to their children getting an 'R-card,' which allows them to enter any R-rated movie they wish without their parents. It is very apparent that a very real war for the souls of men is raging—a war especially for the souls of young men and young women. If we are not more vigilant than ever before, many of our youth will become prey to the wily darts of the adversary.
"Even in the face of all the temptations and challenges to youth of today, I believe in the strength of our youth. The young men and young women of today are stronger and more capable than ever before. Maybe that is why the adversary seems to have stepped up the onslaught. But in spite of the challenges and temptations, this is a glorious time to live! Speaking to the youth, President Hinckley said:
'There never was a time such as this. What a season in the history of the world to be alive! Never before has there been such a generation of youth. . . .
'You really are "a chosen generation." You are better educated. You desire to do the right thing. Many of you are trying to keep yourselves free from the corrosive stains of the world. In so many ways, you are remarkable! You are exceptional! I believe that as a group, you are the finest this world has ever seen.
'It is important for you to understand that you are part of a chosen generation. Limitless is your potential. Magnificent is your future, if you will take control of it and if you will decide now that you will not let your life drift in a fruitless and aimless manner' (Way to Be! , 3–4).
"Now I say, in a corresponding way, 'Never has there been a cadre of leaders of youth than there is today. You are better qualified, better educated, better able to lead the youth of today than ever before. In so many ways, you truly are remarkable.'
"While we are pleased to report that many of the trends are improving, an alarming number of our young men fall into the ranks of the less active. We have a growing need for missionaries. We do not have enough missionaries even to fill our current needs, let alone future needs. Just think of it: When other countries open to missionary work, we will potentially need more missionaries for those countries alone than we currently have in the mission field worldwide.
"Unfortunately, in the face of that need, too many of our young men, particularly as they become teacher- and priest-aged, fall to the temptations of the world and are either unworthy to serve or have veered so far from the Church that they have lost the desire to serve or the hope that they can serve. Never has there been a time in the history of the world where there is a greater need for dedicated leaders of youth. Never before has there been a greater time for those who will, day after day, be so consumed with the work of strengthening our youth that not one goes astray.
"Soon after our call, we were in a meeting that included several members of the Twelve, the Presidents of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. In that meeting, as we stood to present our goals as a new presidency, Elder L. Tom Perry said, 'President, do you know what your task is?' I replied that I thought I did, to which Elder Perry stated, 'Your job is to ensure that every deacon is prepared and worthy to be ordained an elder and serve a mission. It's that simple!' I responded that we were devoted to doing all in our power to accomplish that task, to which Elder Perry stated, 'That's not good enough! Your work is to ensure that every deacon is prepared and worthy to be ordained an elder and serve a mission!'
"Not knowing exactly how to respond, I thought of a scripture in the book of Genesis that expressed our feelings. I do not have time to tell the sweet story of Joseph and his brothers, but emphasize only the words of Judah when he was confronted with the possibility of having to return home without his brother Benjamin: 'Thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father. . . . How shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me?' (Genesis 44:32, 34).
"And so my brethren, that is our charge: to do all that is in our power to prepare the lads of the Aaronic Priesthood to be worthy and prepared—to ensure that every deacon is prepared and worthy to be ordained a teacher, that every teacher is prepared and worthy to be ordained a priest, and that every priest is prepared and worthy to be ordained an elder and serve a mission.
"As leaders, our charge becomes even more vital as young men grow toward manhood. A Church study performed some years ago found that parents have the greatest impact on the 12- and 13-year-old boy in how he behaves and how he exercises his agency. However, as the boy grows, and particularly when a young man reaches 16 and 17 years of age, some major factors in his life are his peers and his leaders, particularly his bishop and his Young Men leaders."
If President Dahlquist's words don't give you a new perspective on your calling of working with the Young Men, I don't know what would. This isn't just about the older boys, though. I don't want those working in Primary and Cub Scouts to feel left out. In a message Cheryl C. Lant delivered at Philmont, she stressed the importance of Cub Scouting in the big picture. According to a Church News article which summarized the meeting:
"Bishops and branch presidents — want a deacons quorum filled with young men well prepared to perform their Aaronic Priesthood duties? Start first by building successful Cub Scout dens.
"That was the message shared here by Sister Cheryl C. Lant, Primary general president, during the recent Priesthood Leadership Conference at the Philmont Scout Ranch.
'Cub Scouts are part of the whole [priesthood] picture — it's where we lay the foundation,' she said.'
"Sister Lant said new Primary presidencies may not fully realize the importance of a well-run Cub Scout den.
'Priesthood leaders need to understand that these women need training so they understand [their callings].'
"In closing, Sister Lant shared her beliefs in the Scouting program and its role as the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. Cub Scouts is another tool that local priesthood and Primary leaders can utilize to train and prepare boys to receive that 'preparatory' priesthood. 'Truly the work we are doing is the work of the priesthood.'"