Friday, July 13, 2012

Brotherhood & Adversity

There is a book called “Band of Brothers” by Stephen Ambrose that is about the Easy Company of the 101st Airborne in the 1940’s. A big part of the book deals with the training process that they went though toward the end of World War II in preparation for D-Day invasion.  Those men got worked over in some astonishingly difficult ways but that hard work served to solidify them as a unit.  One quote from the book on that difficulty that I really loved went something like this: “the bonds of brotherhood are forged in adversity.”

It is about this topic that I’d like to share today.  Creating BROTHERHOOD through adversity.


I’ve had a lot of opportunity to camp in the last few months.  I went backpacking with the Scouts, I took my daughter backpacking, I've accompanied the Varsities and Ventures on their camps.  I’ve spent 15 of the last 40 days out in the wilderness in one form or another.  I’m not going to complain…I love to do this kind of thing.  The greater the challenge the more I enjoy it.  Our most recent expedition was to do some whitewater canoeing and rafting on the Snake river near Jackson, Wyoming. It was incredible to say the least.

As much as I enjoyed the adventure, I enjoyed even MORE sitting with the boys and their leaders at the end of the day and discussing spiritual analogies from our experiences.  I was so proud of our boys being willing to gather, sing hymns, pray together and share the scriptures under Wyoming stars.  This is truly doing your Duty to God.  Our boys were phenomenal. What a spirit they have!

Another highlight of the trip for me was that I was able to learn some valuable leadership lessons…that is really the main point of what I’d like to discuss here.

One of the coolest things I saw on my most recent adventures.  Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me, so I borrowed this image to demonstrate.
In my calling in the Bishopric, I spend most of my time with the Deacon’s Quorum. That is my assignment. I’m also over all the YM and try to be with the older boys as much as time permits.  When they announced that they were going to do this river trip I jumped at the opportunity to go; primarily with my son, but also to be with the rest of the group and see how they are handling camps and what they are doing to build testimonies on camp. As I pointed out above, they are doing a great job.

As a result of being there, I had another opportunity that I had not anticipated.  I got to know the adult advisors for these boys on a very personal level.  I was amazed at what I did not know about them.  It revealed to me my personal weakness as a leader in that I have not established solid communication lines between myself and these men.  It occurred to me that I was able to get to know them better as a result of being out in the wilderness with them for a few days and most importantly, of struggling with them to overcome obstacles. Because of these common goals and the potential for some risk, we were able to bond a bit in ways that could never occur in a formal meeting or Church setting. As a result, I now better understand where they are coming from, why they do what they do and what I can probably do to better serve them and help them run an effective program for the boys. Hopefully, they have a better understanding of me as well.

Without going into detail, there were some very personal things shared with me that really made me sit back and say “I honestly don’t know this guy at all, and the struggles he’s having were beyond my grasp and comprehension!” I suddenly had answers to questions that I’d been asking for some time.  The next thought that struck me was “Why can’t I establish an atmosphere in our organization where this man would be more comfortable telling me these things long before they become an issue and we can solve the problem without interrupting the flow of the program for the boys?” This was my glaring weakness. 

As a result of this personal revelation I have resolved to make a couple of changes to my approach to leadership that I feel is something that many warriors could take to heart.

  1. I’m going to look for more opportunities to promote team building through challenging activities.  Even in a formal meeting setting, I’d like to find ways to challenge people in ways that forces them to work together for solutions.  Preferably these things would be done outdoors and be real challenges but I want to make this a better habit.
  2. Increase my accessibility.  Becoming more open as a person.  Looking for ways to compliment the people I serve with and building those relationships.
  3. Frequently asking individuals “how they are really doing?” Show interest in their lives.  Use names and really have talks with them. (not interviews, but talks…like the P.I.E.’s that I do with my kids.
  4. Be sensitive to the Spirit.  Learn to listen for those promptings and develop the ability to act on them instantly.

Good luck to my fellow leaders…especially fathers and leaders of youth, for you truly have the most important callings in the Church.

Ultimately as you think about my opening quote about how the ‘bonds of brotherhood are forged in adversity’, ask yourself; who overcame the greatest adversity of all in His role as our older brother?  Jesus Christ experienced all pain that so that He could have a perfect understanding of US, of our pain and of our trials.  He did it so that if we’d communicate with our father, through our loving brother, that He can take away the pain and soothe our souls.  His sacrifice and journey of adversity on our behalf, His atonement, has forged a bond of brotherhood that provides eternal salvation.  Should we not seek to do something similar in our roles as His representatives on this earth?  Should we not seek to forge those bonds with our brothers to help them along this path to exaltation?

The answer to those questions is an overwhelming “HOO-YAH!” (Navy SEAL way of saying “YES”!

So let go do it.