Lessons From Philmont

These are my guys.

They’re trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. I knew they were great, but I had to go 1000 miles to be reminded of how great they—and my girls—really are.

Paul attended LDS leadership training at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, and he took us all with him. We scheduled time off work, made a family banner, packed enough water to fight a forest fire and headed south, where I was sure we’d burn the moment we stepped out of our SUV. Good thing a brief thunderstorm met us at the gate.

Rain wasn’t all that met us when we arrived at the Philmont Leadership Training Center.  A smiling woman who leads children around the whole world stood at the entrance ready to  greet us at the end of our 22-hour road trip. She pushed aside her umbrella, stuck her head in our back window, asked each name and then repeated those names one-by-one. I remember when I used to minister to my children with such smiles, awe and enthusiasm. I could have envied her way with them, but her example of kindness and that of the other leaders who came to teach us was not false. I shortly learned why.

At the opening program they asked us to do two things to make our week a success:           1st: Have a positive mental attitude and 2nd: Don’t say anything negative.

In the first 24 hours, amidst the complaining over the cafeteria food, I wondered: a. Is this possible? and b. Can these two simple changes change me and our family in a week?

Back to those guys. We went to Philmont to learn about them. Or rather for my husband to learn how to lead youth or, more specifically, to lead young men to become righteous husbands and fathers through Scouting and Duty to God. Paul had classes, and the kids and I had our own peer-group activities. We returned together to eat as families and play in the evenings.

At some point in those activities, I stopped nagging and prodding them into a positive nature, and they just went about being themselves. We settled into this community of like-minded families as if we’d moved into our tent city permanently. Then, women I met in my own classes who’d met my children asked, “Are you Elena’s mom? Oh, Newel is your son? Oh that Kirsten is wonderful.”  These strangers saw my teens as the people I wanted my kids to become.

It’s easy to believe that the bickering or reactionary outbursts that come from our youth mean they are six-year-olds in overgrown bodies, so we should treat them that way. That would be a false belief—one I’d carried around for too many days of a long road trip. (Maybe that started long before we left Minnesota) Through others I saw who they’d become and remembered not only my love for them but God’s love, too.

You see, if you treat someone as they are, they will remain as they are, but if you treat them as if they are what they could be, than they will be become all that they can be. That idea  from Goethe is truly from Jesus Christ. To see the potential of those around you and honor that potential with your words and your actions is an action of trust.

Paul learned how to trust the young men he leads to learn, act and share, and in the process, they will become men of God.

I also learned to trust. . .

that if I sign my husband up for a sunrise hike, he’ll take the Lover’s Leap for me.

that if I treat my son and daughters as the young adults they think they are, they’ll become pretty good teenagers and leave the reactionary attitudes behind.

that If I bring that positive mental attitude home to stay, gratitude may change me, too.


1 Comment

  1. Liza
    Aug 8, 2011


    I love the family banner!

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