Every boy involved in Scouting pledges to “do his best” when he recites the Scout Oath. He does not vow to try to do his best; he promises he will do his best. Perhaps Yoda, the venerable Jedi Master, explains this facet of the Scout Oath succinctly when he admonishes, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we often hear that the youth of today had been held in reserve in the pre-existence to come forth at this special time in the world’s history. The young men in the Church have been declared to be part of a chosen generation of youth, capable of doing great things if they live up to their full potential. As Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leaders we are charged with helping these young men to do their best in whatever duties they are tasked to perform. Scouting activities provide boys with practical experience in doing ever-harder things as they progress through the Scouting ranks. This natural progression encourages young men to push themselves beyond their former best to become even better.
Doing one’s best means a young man will exert the maximum effort to accomplish something to the best of his ability. A person’s best will change as situations change. When a boy is a newly minted Cub Scout his best may be limited to merely putting the wheels on a pinewood derby car. A young Boy Scout may not be as adept in his hiking or climbing abilities, but as he grows in experience and proficiency as a Venturer he may become highly skilled at long-distance mountain trekking or rappelling. A novice Aaronic Priesthood holder may struggle as he first performs sacred ordinances or serves as a home teacher, but his aptitude increases as his confidence grows through experience. A “greeny” missionary does his best as he slowly gropes with a newly learned foreign language, but his fluency with that language expands as his mission progresses.
In Matthew 5:48 we are challenged to: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This may seem to be an impossible-to-achieve commandment. Brigham Young interpreted this scriptural passage this way: “Be ye as perfect as ye can” (Journal of Discourses, 2:129). All one can do is do his best as he knows how at the time. If a young man tries and fails, he can learn from the experience and do better next time. If he does something that is wrong, when he realizes it is wrong he can immediately repent and refrain from repeating that wrong. Theodore Roosevelt echoed the prophet’s counsel when he admonished, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” (Scoutingwire.org).
Doing one’s best doesn’t mean a young man will never make mistakes. In fact, doing one’s best practically ensures he will make mistakes because risk is involved when one pushes himself to be better. If a young man doesn’t accept failure as a possibility, he will not set high goals, branch out, or try new things. Doing one’s best means a Scout will push himself beyond his current capabilities. It means he will never give up until he has given his all.
Scouting is all about character development. It is about learning and growing. Scouting is where we give the Lord’s young men opportunities that challenge them to do their best. Adult Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leaders provide a safe environment wherein boys can step out of their comfort zones and do things they normally may not do if they were not involved in Scouting. Unit activities push boys beyond their natural abilities and reveal hidden talents that only become apparent when a young man does his very best. Doing hard things is a natural part of Scouting because it demands more from a young man. It requires him to reach deep within himself to unlock his full potential. When you think about it, when done properly, eight of the methods of Scouting require excellence from a young man. Everything in Scouting has a purpose. Nothing in Scouting should be done haphazardly.
If we expect the young men of the Church to do their best, then it is only natural that we would expect the same from their adult leaders. You should not accept mediocracy from your boys; nor should you allow it in yourself. You should hold yourself to that same high standard and model the way for your young men. If you want your boys to do their best, then you must do your best in all you do. Pledge on your honor that you will always do your best to do your duty in magnifying your Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting callings.
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Do you help your young men to do their best by providing them with challenging opportunities that push them beyond their comfort zones?
- Do you encourage your young men to improve their skills, knowledge, and abilities by doing ever harder things as they advance through the Scouting ranks?
- Do you encourage your young men to take risks and learn from their mistakes?
- Are you a model of one who does his best in everything he does?
- Are you magnifying your Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting callings?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23-24).
-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.