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Little Philmont. How do we teach boys to recognize the spirit and gain testimonies?.

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Little Philmont

How do we teach boys to recognize the spirit and gain testimonies?


The six years a young man spends in the Aaronic Priesthood program should be a spiritual training camp—complete with spiritually tuned parents and mentors, outdoor experiences, practical leadership experiences, twice daily prayer, and daily readings from the playbook (scriptures). A comprehensive, spiritually focused Aaronic Priesthood experience can help young men recapture their elusive testimonies. On the other hand, an unstructured, casual approach—a focus on programs instead of people, a focus on checking

off boxes instead of feeding their spirits—can

contribute to the spiritual erosion of many

young men.

Bradley D. Harris “Trails to Testimony p.14


There is something else to learn. A testimony is not thrust upon you; a testimony grows. We become taller in testimony like we grow taller in physical stature; we hardly know it happens because it comes by growth.

You cannot force spiritual things.Such words as compel, coerce, constrain, pressure, and demand do not describe our

privileges with the Spirit.


You can no more force the Spirit to respond than you can force a bean to sprout or an egg to hatch before its time. You can create a climate to foster growth, nourish, and protect;but you cannot force or compel: you must await the growth.

Do not be impatient to gain great spiritual knowledge. Let it grow,

help it grow, but do not

force it or you will open

the way to be misled.

Boyd K. Packer, "The Quest for Spiritual

Knowledge", New Era, Jan. 2007, 2–7


Third, create an environment in your family in which spiritual experiences can occur… Give them an opportunity to share their feelings about the gospel. Help them to learn to recognize when they feel the presence of the Spirit.

Joe J. Christensen

"Rearing Children in a Polluted Environment," , (October 2, 1993)


Our Job as Scout and Priesthood Leaders is two fold:

  • 1. To create an environment where the spirit can be felt and have influence on our Young Men.
  • 2. And to give our boys an opportunity to share their feelings about the gospel thus strengthening their testimonies.

Research by the church concluded; for a boy to stay active past Deacon age, he must feel the spirit at least once every day.

The Lord has built this opportunity into their lives.

Family Home Evening

Family Scripture Study

Family Prayer twice a day


Young Men’s (week night)

Sacrament meeting

Sunday school

Priesthood Quorum meeting (Sunday)

Personal prayer and scripture study

The Young Men’s program is an important part of that structure. Do your boys feel the spirit when they are with you?


1. First let’s talk about Environment.

  • The environment young men live in is either void of the spirit or drowning out the spirit. That’s why outdoor adventures work so well.
  • A. Get your young men away from their phones, their music, the TV, Facebook, video games etc.
  • All these things are calculated to stir young a man’s emotions, or block him from hearing the spirit.
  • Even if he could recognize the spirit he would probably never hear it.

B. We must teach them what the spirit feels like and how to recognize it. Then when we get them out of their spiritually deafening world and create an environment where the spirit is present they recognize it and grow in testimony.


So, get them away from their phones, their music, the clamor of the world to:

A cabin

A campfire






Mountain biking

Geo cashing



Elder Packer said:

“In your emotions, the spirit and the body come closest to being one.”

Personal Revelation Ensign Nov.1994


So when our spirit feels the Spirit, it often expresses itself with the feelings of an emotion.

The Media, advertising, pornography, video games, or any kind of physical intimacy also stirs emotion.

If the spirit wasn’t hard enough to detect, now our youth have the challenge of trying to decide,

“Am I feeling the spirit or is that just me?”

“Is this hormones, excitement, adrenalin or spiritual prompting?”

Satan is constantly trying to muddy the spiritual waters of a young man’s life.


The more time our young men spend away from the clamor of the world, the more they will learn to recognize and be lead by the spirit.


2. Second let’s talk about having the young men share their feelings.

  • Then we will put number one and number two together with ideas on how to do both.
  • Why do we want them to share their feeling?

“When you encourage

Students to raise their

handto respond to a

question, they signify to the Holy Spirit their willingness to learn. That use of moral agency will allow the Spirit to motivate and give them more powerful guidance . . .”

- Elder Richard G. Scott


“Participation allows individuals to experience being led by the Spirit. They learn to recognize

and feel what


guidance is.”

- Elder Richard G. Scott


“Learning by faith

requires spiritual,

mental, and physical

exertion and not just

passive reception”

- Elder David A. Bednar



Questions are a perfect way to help young men share feelings.

Learn the art of asking good questions.



Questions are a great way to stimulate discussion.

Ask questions:

About their lives and their families (be personal)

About when they have felt the spirit the strongest, or where they feel it the most

About when they have seen the priesthood manifest in their life or in the life of their family

Ask them who their heroes are and why

About what they ‘re learning in seminary

About things they have learned from hard knocks, from the scriptures, from their grandparents, the prophet or apostles, from teachers at school, coaches, sports, etc.

About why we live the way we do as members

About examples of those who have not done so well because they didn’t live the gospel


Ask questions:

About the stars, God’s creations and your surroundings

About the plan of salvation or doctrinal principles like where we go after we die, who goes to what kingdom

Ask them what they know about the second coming, missionary work, experiences of their dad’s/mom’s /brother’s/sister’s missions, the prophet Joseph Smith, the temple, the word of wisdom, etc.

Ask them how they know that God loves them. Or how they know their family loves them

Always be prepared to answer any question you ask them. (“I don’t know but I’ll find out” is an answer) These are great teaching moments, milk them.



Tell them faith building stories:

From your mission

From Conference talks

From the New Era

From your life or the lives of family, friends or ancestors

From the Scriptures

From Church History

Then have them tell stories from their lives.

Then ask more questions.


When you go on a high adventure there are some important things that you must plan and do to make the trip successful.

Need to go shopping for food

Need to have permission slips and a tour permit

Need transportation

Need a prepared lesson or fireside talk for every night your gone. This is more important than all the above.

Its not just about survival, camping or lighting fires its about gospel principles. Find principles in every scouting activity.



If you don’t plan something to bring the spirit into the boys lives it seldom happens on it own.

In fact, if there is nothing planned, what they do will degrade to play time, pranks, practical jokes or worse.



You don’t have to sneak up on them.

Tell them you want to be serious.

Tell them it’s “scout master minute time” then get serious. Teach them.

They will love it.


When I began my teaching career, President J. Reuben Clark Jr., the First Counselor in the First Presidency, had spoken to teachers… President Clark described youth as “hungry for things of the Spirit [and] eager to learn the gospel.” He said: “They want it straight, undiluted. They want to know . . . about our beliefs; they want to gain testimonies of their truth.

They are not now

doubters but inquirers,

seekers after truth.”


“You do not have to sneak up behind this spiritually experienced youth and whisper religion in [their] ears; you can come right out, face to face, and talk with [them]. . . . You can bring these truths to [them] openly. . . . There is no need for gradual approaches.”

“Counsel to Young Men”

President Boyd K. Packer Ensign May 2009


Don’t be afraid to teach them spiritual things. Later in life they will look back to those moments as course corrections, and they will love you.


“We are prompted by the Holy Ghost every day to do ordinary and simple things. For example, we are prompted to say our personal prayers every morning and every night. We are prompted to study the scriptures. We are prompted to keep the commitments we made…To the degree that we heed these simple prompting, then our capacity to recognize and respond to the Holy Ghost is increased. To the degree that we do not heed these simple prompting, then our capacity to recognize and respond to the Holy Ghost is decreased. We are either progressing

or regressing in our ability to recognize and

respond to the Holy Ghost. There is no neutral

ground, there is no standing still.”

Elder Bednar BYUI Aug. 31, 1999


“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us. Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord

when we engage in activities we know we

should shun, then such things definitely are

not for us.

David A. Bednar Ensign May 2006 p.


“Do you want to know how to get the most benefit from this time together? Write down the impressions you feel…spiritual moment in life often come when it seems difficult to record them. Yet that special effort to crystallize in a permanent record sacred impressions of the Holy Ghost is powerfully rewarded. Begin now even if you have to borrow paper and pencil to do it.”

Richard G. Scott BYUI, Devotional. Feb. 24, 2004

“Knowledge carefully recorded is knowledge available in time of need. Spiritually sensitive information should be kept in

a scared place that communicates to the Lord

how you treasure it. That practice enhances the

likelihood of your receiving further light.”

Richard G. Scott, “Acquiring Spiritual

Knowledge,” Ensign, November 1993, 86


“The great teacher will seek the participation and contribution of the students and the Spirit and work with them toward achieving a classroom experience that can impact everyone present – including the teacher… greater impact will happen in the classroom when the teacher, the students, and the Spirit are all contributing.”- Grant Anderson Administrator CES


“Recognize that an individual who is violating commandments of the Lord will find it very difficult to discern a prompting of the spirit from the powerful emotions that can be stimulated through transgression. I am confident that is one of the reasons marriages fail. Two individuals who have allowed themselves to violate the law of chastity during courtship cannot expect to clearly perceive the answer to their prayers regarding marriage.Under such circumstances, seeking to discern the guidance of the spirit is

like trying to savor the

delicate flavor of a raspberry

while chewing on a red-hot

jalapeno pepper.”

Richard G. Scott 13 January 2002 CES