My Love Letter to Boy Scouts

July 28, 2007 | 83 comments
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I heard today from a great-grandchild (one of 30) of the little girl in the story below, which prompts me to post this two-year-old story where it will be more easily found than in the pay-for-access files of the Salt Lake Tribune. I apologize for its Utah-centric emphasis for this audience; that’s the nature of my newspaper column, and my excuse is that it speaks of early Scouting efforts in the church.

If — and it’s a big if – the Scouting program is implemented the way it was designed, and not in a slapdash unprepared way by ward leaders who have no real commitment to the program, are sk ills learned still significant enough to justify Scouting as an official church program in the US? What aspects of Scouting merit such a close relationship to the church?

***

Utah’s Boy Scouts have had a rough couple of years with forest fires, massive searches for lost Scouts, and the untimely deaths of beloved sons. Although recent tolls have been heavy, the rewards, over time, have been priceless.

Tessie Dalebout turned six in the spring of 1912. On May Day of that year, as the curly-haired child skipped along the banks of Parley’s Creek in Salt Lake City, she lost her footing and slipped into the turbulent waters.

The stream, swollen by melting snow, caught the tiny girl and tumbled her end over end. She was carried for nearly a block, passing under two bridges before some men who had seen her fall were able to catch her. They pulled her out and laid her on the bank. A crowd gathered around the still form.

Noticing the commotion, 15-year-old Louis Rosenlund ran to see what was happening. He saw that rescuers were using the old-fashioned technique of pumping Tessie’s arms and legs in a vain attempt to restore breathing. Young Louis immediately took over from the adults.

He turned Tessie on her stomach and positioned her arms under her forehead to raise her nose and mouth off the ground. Then he knelt astride the child’s hips, placing both hands on the small of her back. With a gently increasing pressure, he leaned into Tessie, pushing slowly, steadily upward to compress her abdomen and lower chest. Water gushed from her mouth.

Then Louis suddenly relaxed his pressure, and the natural elasticity of Tessie’s body caused her chest to expand and air to fill her lungs.

Again and again and again, Louis applied firm pressure, forcing the breath out of Tessie’s lungs, then relaxing his arms to allow fresh air to rush in. It took nearly 15 minutes, but finally Tessie began to breathe on her own. She was carried home to her grateful parents before any doctor arrived on the scene.

It turns out that Louis Rosenlund was a patrol leader in the Waterloo Ward MIA Scouts. On a recent Tuesday evening, Louis and his friends had learned the relatively new Schaefer method of artificial respiration. While not as sophisticated as today’s mouth-to-mouth breathing, it was light years ahead of the old sailors’ trick of stimulating the lungs by raising and lowering a victim’s arms.

The Boy Scout movement originated with Lord Robert Baden-Powell in Great Britain in 1909. It was brought to the United States in 1910, and an Episcopal minister organized Utah’s first troop in Logan the same year. Louis Rosenlund’s Waterloo Ward boys formed the first LDS-sponsored troop; organized during the winter of 1911-1912, it competes with the independent group raised by an18-year-old Scout for honors as the earliest Salt Lake City troop. It’s hard to be absolutely certain, but Louis Rosenlund’s rescue of little Tessie Dalebout is possibly the first case of a Utah life saved by Scout training.

Tessie soon recovered from her near-drowning. She grew up and married. When Tessie Dalebout Harrop passed away in 1971, having lived all her life in Salt Lake City, she was survived by her husband, a son, five grandchildren, and a great-grandchild. They, and all of Tessie’s descendants born since then, have good reason to thank the preparation that Scouting teaches.

Cool-headed Louis Rosenlund continued to support civic and fraternal organizations as he grew up. He worked as the Salt Lake City sales rep of a Minnesota paper company. The former Scout was never robust, however, and heart disease took him from his wife and two small children in 1931, at age 34.

Our Boy Scouts will cope with the lawsuits and relearn lessons of wilderness safety. We will remember Garrett Bardsley and Paul Ostler. And we will think of countless good turns, communities and lives bettered by Eagle projects, and a noble line of boy heroes reaching back to the earliest days of Scouting in Utah.

(originally published 21 August 2005)

For those unfamiliar with their stories, Garrett Bardsley, 11, vanished from a Scout campout in 2004; despite two summers of searching, his body has never been found. Paul Ostler, 15, was struck and killed by lightning while on a 2005 Scouting event.

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83 Responses to My Love Letter to Boy Scouts

  1. Julie M. Smith on July 28, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    “If — and it’s a big if – the Scouting program is implemented the way it was designed, and not in a slapdash unprepared way by ward leaders who have no real commitment to the program, are sk ills learned still significant enough to justify Scouting as an official church program in the US?”

    Given the way that the church has made (1) low cost, (2) ease of operation for teachers/leaders, and (3) minimal time commitment from families the backbone of all other church programs, it seems very hard to justify the scouting program in my mind, since it meets none of these criteria.

    And I’ll add that the international disparity is very troubling: boys in the US do not need these resources lavished on them–tell me it wouldn’t be better to apply the money/effort to youth in Europe or temple trips in Africa.

  2. Ardis Parshall on July 28, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    The argument of economic disparity can be used with just about anything: Wouldn’t it be better to apply the money spent on air conditioning Texas chapels to programs for life-saving immunizations in Africa? How can we justify cookies and punch for a youth dance in Springville when millions are starving in Asia?

    I can’t help but wonder whether the real economic disparity of concern is the disparity between money spent on boys’ activities vs. money spent on girls’ activities, much closer to home than either Europe or Africa.

  3. queuno on July 28, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    [Disclaimer: I’m an Eagle Scout, the brother of many Eagle Scouts, and the son of two Silver Beavers. My father-in-law joined the Church directly because of Scouting. I spent a stint as a scout leader in my ward. So, I’m not generally antagonistic to Scouting and its role in my life.]

    One of the single biggest problems to the Church’s implementation to scouting in the US is the general practice of having a troop tied to a ward. The reasons for this are ample (local priesthood stewardship over the YM, scouting being the programming arm of the YW, our budgeting process, etc.). In many areas of the country, it would make better sense to have stake troops led by a dedicated — and experienced — scoutmaster. It’s hard to have a robust program with 5 deacons.

    Troop leadership is a problem. Most bishops subscribe to the idea that the Deacon’s Quorum President is automatically the Senior Patrol Leader, which leads to situations where the SPL has no motivation and that also prevents non-member participants from leading the troop.

    I find it hard to fault scout leaders themselves. Scouting activity diminished among my generation (I’m 37) and continues to diminish. We don’t have a core of US members my age who grew up with it. Most converts my age have no scouting experience. Certainly, our urban members don’t have much experience with scouting. So where is the next generation of scout leaders — who truly love the program — going to come from? Can you train an adult to love Scouting? Probably not, when the message is that “it’s the programming for YM.” (With that logic, you could come up with alternative programming. In fact — they have. It’s called the Duty to God program.)

    There is little training. New scoutmasters come in the heels of a former scoutmaster who now is serving as a ward clerk, or a bishop, or a seminary teacher, and doesn’t have 6 months to spend training the new scoutmaster. I’ve often felt that there are certain callings in the Church where it would make sense to call the replacement 6 months before you release someone — scoutmaster certainly fits.

    There is the problem of tenure. At what point do you take a talented and dedicated scoutmaster and release him? Some would say, never. But then do you prevent him from experiencing further growth in the Church? Surely, there are some who would like to stay scoutmasters forever (my father) — give thanks for them. But sometimes, wards have needs (a new bishop, say).

    There is the issue of cost. In some wards, it’s the mid-20s or early-30s brethren who get called to be scoutmasters. At a minimum, they are expected (by the local scout organization, not necessarily the ward) to by a uniform. And how many of these scoutmasters have a sleeping bag. It’s not like the Church gives you 6 months’ notice to start saving up to buy these things.

    I do NOT subscribe to the idea that scouting has lost its topical place with the use. I still think the paramilitaristic elements are just goofy, but I think the training and leadership. I know several non-member home-schoolers who use Scouting in their educational programs. [Disclaimer: I am Switzerland on the topic of homeschooling in general; I’m just pointing out that it does have great educational value.]

    I do have a bit of an issue with the Church’s overreliance on Scouting for boys and then not doing anything near as detailed for the young women. As the father of a future YW, I’m deeply concerned about what instruction she’ll find (in comparison to my son). Certainly, Activity Day or Achievement Day (or whatever they call it) pales in comparison to Cub Scouts.

    I think that the Church’s involvement in scouting will die off as its core of leaders and supporters die off. I think that the Duty to God program has been designed to be its eventual replacement in the US, and *the* program overseas. I don’t think it dying off is necessarily a bad thing, as long as the Church has a replacement.

    That said – I love the scouting program. It’s been implemented poorly in my generation and because good Scouting implementation conflicts with some current ward and stake management practices. But, I would not hesitate to send my sons to Scouts if the Church didn’t have it.

    I could go for hours on this — I got into many an argument on the old Scouts-LDS mailing list. I’d really like to hear bbell’s comments on this and hopefully he’ll weigh in.. Partly because this is a topic in his wheelhouse, and second, he lives near me (same school district and in a ward near mine), so he may have a better perspective on how healthy it is in our area.

  4. queuno on July 28, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Gosh, I can’t type today.

    I still think the paramilitaristic elements are just goofy, but I think the training and leadership.

    I still think that the paramilitaristic elements are just goofy, but I tihnk the training and leadership opportunites are a wonderful learning experience for our youth that they are not getting anywhere else.

  5. Guy Murray on July 28, 2007 at 6:55 pm

    Ardis,

    Thanks for this post and Scouting tribute. Your question is the right one:

    If — and it’s a big if – the Scouting program is implemented the way it was designed, and not in a slapdash unprepared way by ward leaders who have no real commitment to the program, are skills learned still significant enough to justify Scouting as an official church program in the US?

    Those who have worked in the modern Church scouting program realize most adult leaders are in fact unprepared–the very antithesis of Scouting’s motto. Very few undertake the basic training Scouting offers, let alone the advanced Wood Badge training our Church Young Men’s President has encouraged all Scout leaders to complete.

    Next, we must understand the resources we have at our hands and be able to use them effectively to help the young men in our charge accomplish the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. This includes knowing the Duty to God program well and getting appropriate Scouting training, including basic, leader-specific youth protection and Wood Badge training.

    We are gratified with the wonderful efforts of leaders around the Church who are following this pattern and see in the lives of the young men and in the lives of their Aaronic Priesthood quorums a very positive difference. The call to work with the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting is a demanding assignment―but very worthwhile. Brethren, as President Hinckley has often reminded us, there are ways that we can all improve as we accept the challenge to “Rise up!”

    But, when Scouting is implemented as designed it can and does make a world of difference in the lives of young and older men alike.

    I think the Scouting program does merit a close Church relationship. The fact many adult leaders are too lazy to fulfill their callings and effectively implement Scouting as it was designed shouldn’t be its death knell in the Church.

    Scouting’s values are indeed Timeless and fit squarely within the Gospel of Christ.

    Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, and Reverent.

    Why would we not want to continue to work with a program, the primary purpose if which is to instill such values not only in the scouts but also its leaders?

  6. Julie M. Smith on July 28, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Ardis, as you know, I am concerned about the gender funding disparity, but it isn’t the real issue. (I don’t think anyone set out to spend more money on boys–it just happened as all programs were scaled down financially over the years but scouts couldn’t be because it was a fixed expense.)

    If you stopped air conditioning the chapels, people would stop coming, so I think that expense is justifiable. Would there be a decrease in activity if scouts were ceased? Let’s try it and find out! (But I don’t think so–there may actually be an increase because of boys who dislike scouting. . . and if the new program were better run, that may result in increased activity as well.)

    queno, I really appreciate your comment and I think it is all true. If the church were able to properly implement scouting, all of the costs might be worth it. But since that isn’t happening . . .

  7. Jeremy on July 28, 2007 at 7:21 pm

    I have voiced this opinion many times in the bloggernacle, but since the subject has come up again, I cast my vote once again for replacing scouts with the relatively recently revamped Duty to God program. All the stuff that I really value about scouts, much less “overhead” in terms of time and resources, and it would align the US YM programs with those that YM oversees are trying to implement.

  8. bbell on July 28, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Hey Queno,

    Our local troop in PG2 operates pretty well. We have had three eagles so far this year. The key is having an exp scouter in the calling for years and years. Non LDS troops tend to have the same leaders for years and years for a reason. (By the way my brother in law was just released in woodland springs as the scoutmaster after 8 months or so, common problem in LDS troops)

    I totally agree that we should have like say 2-3 troops per stake or some similar arrangement. There is usually not enough critical mass in a individual ward to sustain a fully functioning troop. I think our area is an exception to this. Most of our local units in NE Tarrant county are big enough.

    Another key issue is family involvement. If a YM Mom and dad are involved and care about scouting and you have enough of these types of families in a ward the ward unit will be OK.

    Another issue is $$.

    I will blog some more on this later. I gotta feed my kids right now.

  9. Guy Murray on July 28, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    queuno #3

    One of the single biggest problems to the Church’s implementation to scouting in the US is the general practice of having a troop tied to a ward. The reasons for this are ample (local priesthood stewardship over the YM, scouting being the programming arm of the YW, our budgeting process, etc.). In many areas of the country, it would make better sense to have stake troops led by a dedicated — and experienced — scoutmaster. It’s hard to have a robust program with 5 deacons.

    This can be problematic; but, there is there anything that prohibits an LDS Troop from supplementing its numbers from young men outside the Church, which would also be an excellent missionary opportunity?

    Troop leadership is a problem. Most bishops subscribe to the idea that the Deacon’s Quorum President is automatically the Senior Patrol Leader, which leads to situations where the SPL has no motivation and that also prevents non-member participants from leading the troop.

    This is a problem, and one I think should be changed to conform with BSA guidelines.

    There is little training. New scoutmasters come in the heels of a former scoutmaster who now is serving as a ward clerk, or a bishop, or a seminary teacher, and doesn’t have 6 months to spend training the new scoutmaster. I’ve often felt that there are certain callings in the Church where it would make sense to call the replacement 6 months before you release someone — scoutmaster certainly fits.

    I would agree only with the proposition that most leaders fail to take advantage of the wealth of training that is available through the BSA. Sure it would be great to have an outgoing scoutmaster help in the training; but, with the BSA training programs in place, it is not necessary.

    There is the issue of cost. In some wards, it’s the mid-20s or early-30s brethren who get called to be scoutmasters. At a minimum, they are expected (by the local scout organization, not necessarily the ward) to by a uniform. And how many of these scoutmasters have a sleeping bag.

    I don’t see cost as a major factor. Many wards or troops have a stash of previously worn uniforms, and a used sleeping bag would not be difficult to find, if in fact cost was an issue.

    That said – I love the scouting program. It’s been implemented poorly in my generation and because good Scouting implementation conflicts with some current ward and stake management practices.

    If that’s true they are likely management practices resulting from misunderstanding or lack of BSA training at the most local level, i.e., ward and stake. I have to concede that Scouting is likely more efficiently run outside the Church; but, that only reinforces to me that it can and should be better run inside the Church.

    But, I would not hesitate to send my sons to Scouts if the Church didn’t have it.

    Ditto.

  10. ed42 on July 28, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    “in the pay-for-access files of the Salt Lake Tribune.” Do you have permission to post this (most likely copyrighted) story? Is reprinting the entire story any different than online file sharing?

  11. Eric Russell on July 28, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    “there may actually be an increase because of boys who dislike scouting”

    I hear this suggested every so often but I have a hard time buying it. I think a churchy version of scouting would be all the more unpopular than actual scouting is.

  12. m&m on July 28, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Why would we not want to continue to work with a program, the primary purpose if which is to instill such values not only in the scouts but also its leaders?

    I think there might be something else to consider. The BSA receives a great deal of support from the Church, and I can’t help but wonder if we pulled out if it might somehow affect the program for boys who are NOT members. The benefits that Guy discusses are pretty significant if you consider many boys who might have little to no religious foundation in their lives, and who-knows-what from their family life.

    Of course, that is just speculation on my part, but when that thought came to me a couple of months ago, it made me willing to consider that there may be things we don’t understand about why Scouts are continued in the Church in the US and Canada. It is possible that in the end it’s not just about our boys.

    I also like what Guy said about missionary opportunities.

  13. Julie M. Smith on July 28, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    m & m,

    If that’s the case, then we could save a lot of money buy just cutting a check to scouts via the Church’s humanitarian fund. And given that the vast majority of scouts are in stable, well off families, I find your rationale even harder to believe.

  14. Guy Murray on July 28, 2007 at 8:49 pm

    Julie,

    And given that the vast majority of scouts are in stable, well off families, I find your rationale even harder to believe.

    I’m curious How do you define “vast majority”, “stable” and “well off?” And how is it that you know this?

  15. Ray on July 28, 2007 at 9:02 pm

    I think I am pretty typical for my generation. I participated as a youth but never really got into it. I ended up a Life Scout – just not motivated enough to make it to Eagle. I was too involved in sports and music to care about it, and I had one passionate leader during my time in it.

    I have no problem with scouting for my boys, but they picked up my ambivalence. Neither of them cares much about it. I lament a bit the loss of many of the skills scouting teaches, but I just can’t prioritize the time it takes to reach Eagle when I and my wife and my children are as busy as we are with other very important things. I’ve eliminated some of the things they were doing already; I just can’t justify adding scouting when I’m not passionate about it myself. If it is adapted to be a way to accomplish the Duty to God program without an emphasis on all boys reaching Eagle, I could get behind it completely. Otherwise, it just doesn’t mean enough to me.

  16. Julie M. Smith on July 28, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Guy, scout participation requires at least one parent willing to pay money for a non-necessity and transport a child to a non-mandatory activity at least weekly. Pretty much by definition, scouts isn’t going to reach the kids who most need it (unless someone else is paying, driving, leading, and organizing). I do think scouts would be a great benefit to disadvantaged children, but as it currently operates, it is an enrichment program for kids who don’t need it most.

  17. Ardis Parshall on July 28, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    “in the pay-for-access files of the Salt Lake Tribune.” Do you have permission to post this (most likely copyrighted) story? Is reprinting the entire story any different than online file sharing?

    The copyright to my Tribune columns resides in me, ed42. Should you ever again wish to accuse me of lawbreaking, I would appreciate your contacting me privately, in accordance with D&C 42:88.

  18. Ardis Parshall on July 28, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    Comments are focusing on the value (or not) of Scouting to the boys who participate. That is a valid but narrow focus.

    I’d like to hear something about the benefits (or not) of Scouting beyond individual boys. Does Scouting, and LDS participation in it, provide benefits to the greater society? Is it an effective vehicle for scattering, say, the life-saving skills illustrated by Louis Rosenlund, so that communities are safer? Does the church extend its service into the community through Scouting?

  19. m&m on July 28, 2007 at 9:25 pm

    Julie,
    I think the support is more than just financial.

  20. marcus on July 28, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    The scouting program is one example of church policy that might make a lot of sense in Utah, or areas where there’s a large concentration of members, but for the rest of the world it doesn’t work. Tying troops to wards, as queuno pointed out, is one of the problems. I’m not sure if this is still the case, but the scouting program in my ward as a youth was practically destroyed when the church decided to divide the deacons, teachers, and priests into separate units (Scouts, Varsity, and Explorers respectively). At the time there were fewer than a dozen active young men in the ward, dividing them into three separate units with separate activities basically meant that none of them did anything. Four scouts isn’t enough to field a single unit. For the council our troop was in, a dozen scouts would have been a pretty small troop. This poor implementation ended up hurting a lot of people in the ward, most especially the boys it was supposed to be helping. The new policies also ended up costing the ward a very dedicated scout master. He was released from the calling, and not given another. Though he’s still active in the ward he joined another troop in the area, not associated with the church. He’s been continuously serving as scout master for that troop for nearly 15 years now.

    My brother said recently he wished the church would sever it’s relationship with the BSA so he could send his son to another troop without feeling like he was betraying the church. I tend to agree. If wards are going to sponsor troops, I think it should be done informally, so that adult leadership and youth participation is completely voluntary, and not tied to official church callings.

  21. m&m on July 28, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    Julie,
    When I talk of the support the Church offers, I wasn’t only thinking of financial support. There is a sort of moral-grounding support, I believe, as well.

    I do have to say that I always get a little frustrated with these discussions. Since the same ol’ complaints go around and around, I am hard-pressed to think that our leaders aren’t aware of some of the alleged problems or concerns people have about Scouts. My personal wish? I wish there were more people who might be willing to consider why our leaders KEEP the program it in spite of these things, rather than discuss why they think we should get rid of it. Just my personal preference. (Especially since my son just started scouts and I’m a very overwhelmed mommy, I’d love more success stories and testimonials than complaints. Anyone wanna help this frazzled mom? :) BTW, I actually have felt there can some significant benefits to Scouting for the boys, not the least of which that it keeps them busy in good things (Faith in God, etc. involve just a handful of things per year). I also think the way it approaches symbolism with mottos and salutes and whatnot can help them understand the value of symbolism and ritual. Not a bad bonus, IMO.)

  22. Ardis Parshall on July 28, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    I wish there were more people who might be willing to consider why our leaders KEEP the program it in spite of these things, rather than discuss why they think we should get rid of it. Just my personal preference. (Especially since my son just started scouts and I’m a very overwhelmed mommy, I’d love more success stories and testimonials than complaints. Anyone wanna help this frazzled mom?

    m&m, that’s kinda what I hoped for by starting this discussion with an illustration of Scouting’s benefits to the community, but I guess my intent either wasn’t clear, or that the “same ol’ complaints” are just so strong that they naturally spilled out first.

    How about it? If Scouting’s glory days of lifesaving and preparedness and “doing a good turn daily” are buried in the past, replaced by 911 calls and welfare programs, it’s okay to say so. But if you know of success stories for m&m, or illustrations of successful community service for me, I’d sure like to hear of them.

  23. Julie M. Smith on July 28, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    m & m,

    I don’t know if you know this, but I’m going into my 4th year of involvement with a den of homeschooled boys (not church affiliated, obviously). I’ve been an assistant den leader for most of that time. Scouting is a wonderful program for boys and our family really enjoys it.

    As far as your ‘why does the church keep it’ question, I think (of course, I can’t prove) that there is some historical inertia here. As others have mentioned, I don’t think scouts will be the official church program for my grandsons. I was fascinated to read in the history of the primary that there was a groundswell to make cub scouts a church-sponsored program in the 1950s when every boy and his dog was in scouting (because weekday primary couldn’t compete with scouts) and the answer was “no–it doesn’t support what the church wants to accomplish and is inappropriate as a church sponsored program.” So times do change, and quickly.

    Ardis, that’s a good point. I guess the question is: could not the church do an in-house program that would include, say, fire safety for the boys–that wouldn’t require the byzantine scouting structure and paying for badges, dues, etc., etc.?

  24. m&m on July 28, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Julie, I realize that things could change. I just keep thinking, “But they haven’t yet.” (How many moms do I know who have hoped that their sons would be the ones who experienced whatever came next?)

    But that is my point. I just grow kind of weary of the complaints and appreciate so much when people will help me as a new scout momma to look for and enjoy the blessings of it since this all signs suggest that we will be doin’ the scout thing until he gets his Eagle.

    And while I realize it won’t click for everyone, the possibility that there might be a larger purpose for other boys besides our own has clicked for me in a big way. I have also talked with a friend who has helped me catch a greater vision of why we have it, and it goes beyond a practical list of things they learn. She sort of bore a testimony to me, and it helped me repent of some of my negativity born of listening to negativity from others. It can’t be ALL bad. :)

  25. Bored in Vernal on July 28, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    I’m not a huge scouter, but I have done a short stint as Cub Den Mother.

    My view is that many adult Scout leaders are underprepared, however, there are many opportunities for training for Scout leaders who have the desire. And even when underprepared, the Scout program enhances the Young Men’s Program greatly. In fact, I sometimes wonder what YM would look like if it weren’t for Scouts. Basketball every Tuesday night?

    Finally, in my lifetime I have personally observed three different water rescues performed by Scouts. I was completely impressed by their confidence and skill in removing the victims from the water and giving necessary first aid. In each case these boys/man attributed their ability to perform the rescue to the skills they learned in Scouting.

  26. Thomas Parkin on July 28, 2007 at 10:57 pm

    Scouts. Didn’t like it. My interests were elsewhere, and my lack of interest in Scounting greatly augmented my feeling of alienation from the church. My mother probably had guilt feelings that I would never be an Eagle Scout like the other proud sons. I loathed the feeling of confinement I experienced on scout camps. Scout master is the one and only calling in the church I would turn down, absolutely.

    I know and admire many men who love Scouting. I know they would mourn the seperation of Scouting from the church. I imagine it would be very difficult for some of them.

    I love this quote from GBH (I know I like ti because it slightly inclines to my bias, but I think it’s useful anyway):

    “Now I am not in any way disparaging Scouting. It is a wonderful program. It is the Church’s activity program for boys in many areas of the world.

    But I feel that the most important program for boys in the Church is that of the Aaronic Priesthood.

    Scouting is an excellent and wonderful program that has come of the wisdom of men. The Aaronic Priesthood is a gift from God.”

    ~

  27. marcus on July 28, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    I think the values instilled by the scouting program compliment the teachings of the gospel nearly perfectly. My father once said that any man who could stand before the judgment bar and say, “On my honor I did my best to do my duty to God and my country, to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight” could expect great things in eternity.

    Every organization I’ve been a part of has followed the same ‘byzantine’ leadership structure the boy scouts follow. It very closely parallels that of the church, the military, and every business I’ve ever worked with or for. And while I think rank advancement is a little too militaristic for my tastes, it does provide an a goal for boys to work toward. This goal requires boys as young as 11 to work on service projects, hold leadership positions within a troop, and learn new skills through merit badges. Many of these merit badges teach skills that reinforce the lessons we learn at church: Genealogy, Family Life, Personal Management, Emergency Preparedness, Citizenship, etc. Some merit badges teach skills that will be valuable for anyone who plans to serve a mission: Communication, Cooking, Cycling, Hiking, Reading, Traffic Safety. Other merit badges teach skills that will help academically: Scholarship. And scores of others that will help to prepare young men for life, vocationally and avocationally.

    The Scouting program is valuable to young men in the church, and even if it weren’t an official church program, I would volunteer with a local troop, and encourage my son, when he’s old enough, to get involved in the program.

  28. Marjorie Conder on July 28, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    When “friends of scouting” comes around I always laugh and say, “I’m no friend of scouting so that lets me out!” Even being the mom of 5 boys and 15 grandsons does not convince me. The scout program in our ward has always been obsessive. At one time we were receiving 4 copies of Boys’ Life. Even if we had been gung-ho scouters, one copy would have been plenty. I suppose our gung-ho scouter was bucking for an award for the most boys subscribing. I said to the bishop, “this better not be coming out of ward budget. ” He assurred me it wasn’t. When this scoutmaster died, someone said at his funeral that “he had gone to the great scout troop in the sky!” If that was true it would not have mattered where he was, he would figure he had gone to heaven. This same guy once got up in F&T meeting and equated being an Eagle Scout with having your Calling and Election Sure and also thought that support of scouting should have been a Temple Recommend question. When the bishop tried to head him off at the pass he threatened to become inactive and take his family with him. As I said, “Obsessive!”

    Beyond that I a’m puzzeled and unhappy about the disparity between boys and girls programs all around. Especially now with the new Faith in God program in Primary. As a Primary President I was in 3 different meetings with general board members where it was asked (not by me) why the difference. The official answer given virutally word for word all three times was that the boys need a substanitive program but the girls do not. I was flabergasted at this stance. I have attended numerous pack meetings where the boys were getting recognition and patches (at about a dollar a whack) for the most trivial of accomplishments (going to a museum with their den or just showing up so many times a month.) Meanwhile lots of little sisters over the years have bounced around hardly being able to wait until they could get all that recognition too. Sad to say, it is not in the cards in their young lives. And the money commitment is huge. Our Cubs spent more than the rest of the Primary budget combined. But even with that there is still substantial time and financial commitment that not all families can manage.

    There are also the issues already addressed of “one size fits all boys”–which of course it doesn’t. Also scouting is obviously an out-lier when it come to church support. No other part of the church programs is so priviledged to go against so many policies which every other part of the church must adhere to. It even seems to fly in the face of the D&C which warns that the Church is to be free and independent of all other ties.

    I do think inertia and probably not wanting to cut such a substanital part of scouting’s overall support are the big reasons we are still entangled with it. (Maybe part of the reason the D&C warns against such entanglements, ) The scouts pass out silver beavers right and left to high church officials. Many folk see this as an effort to keep the church in the fold of scouting. However as a “china watcher” I and others speculate that scouting is unlikely to outlive one particular GA who is a great fan of scouting.

    I do see one positive. I believe everyone, boys and girls, men and women should have something they can excell in. Scouting does give that option to boys who aren’t necessarily gifted acedemically, musically, in sports, debate, etc. There usually is some path that any boy can become an eagle. So that is good. But it is not good that similar opportunities are not available to the girls.

  29. cyril on July 28, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    Scouting is dying and it is painful to experience, not because I am a fan of scouting, but because this period of transition could be so much shorter and easier. I wish the church would just come out and officially do what it is has been laying the groundwork for for years instead of waiting for the last life-support measure to fail. Duty to God will replace scouting as the activity arm of the YM program within the next 10 years, as it should and as it has been positioned to. There are many reasons for this change, but the quote from GBH is the best reason. Eagle does not equal mission or temple marriage or future good service in the church. Duty to God approximates such behavior.

  30. m&m on July 28, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    FWIW, I totally agree with that quote from Pres. Hinckley. I don’t know that anyone would argue with it.

  31. m&m on July 29, 2007 at 12:27 am

    BiV and marcus, thanks for your thoughts. Let’s keep ‘em coming (for me, and for Ardis. Her post was intended to be a love letter, after all). :)

  32. Julie M. Smith on July 29, 2007 at 12:31 am

    “The official answer given virutally word for word all three times was that the boys need a substanitive program but the girls do not.”

    This is a pretty tough sell given that the Church doesn’t support scouting outside of the US . . .

    (And thanks for your comment, Marjorie–perfect.)

  33. marcus on July 29, 2007 at 12:47 am

    In the light of Marjories comment, I want to make it clear that the quote from my father was not intended to imply that earning an Eagle equals salvation as the scout leader she mentions seemed to think. My father meant, and I agree with him, that anyone who faithfully lived by the principles of the scout oath and law would also be more likely to live the gospel, eagle or not, mormon or not. He never earned his Eagle, but he fully embraced the principles of scouting and made them a part of his life.

    I am Eagle Scout but had quite a prolonged period of inactivity from the church. I started attending regularly over a year ago, but it just goes to show that even us Eagle Scouts can wander astray. My separation from the church meant that I missed the new Duty to God guidelines, and after looking them up I like the direction is going and would have no problem with the church replacing scouting with this. It is at least somewhat more equivalent to the young women’s program. With scouts it’s possible to take a break for several year from the program and still earn your Eagle. That isn’t the case with the young women’s award, nor it would seem with the new Duty to God award. At any rate, it means young men will have to be more consistent with their progress in order to earn the award, which is a good thing in my book.

  34. Matt Evans on July 29, 2007 at 1:02 am

    “This is a pretty tough sell given that the Church doesn’t support scouting outside of the US . . . ”

    This conclusion doesn’t follow because scouting qua scouting doesn’t exist outside the US. The international scouting “equivalents” are very different from the BSA (secular, co-ed, etc.). Anyone who’s seen the foreign YM programs I’ve seen (Spain, Germany, Mexico) would not be excited about our going to a Scouting-free, Church-only YM program.

  35. queuno on July 29, 2007 at 1:31 am

    On a local blog dscussing local politics and issues (capital improvement plans and the like), someone commented on how much it will cost to refurbish our local jail (new a/c, paint, maybe even do some expansion). My comment was that the city could save on labor by involving the Scouts and their Eagle projects. If I were running the city, I’d basically publish my list of potential Eagle projects to the troops and say, “Have at ‘em — let me know what you need!”

    We’ve had eagle scout candidates paint fire hydrants, build shelves at the library, paint the bathrooms at the parks, pour concrete and install grills, etc. For smallish cities like mine, it’s a great potential source of labor that often goes untapped.

    I’m not sure that’s entirely the direction Ardis wanted to pursue (benefit to the community), but it’s one way.

  36. queuno on July 29, 2007 at 1:33 am

    Anyone who’s seen the foreign YM programs I’ve seen (Spain, Germany, Mexico) would not be excited about our going to a Scouting-free, Church-only YM program.

    Are these YM programs using the Duty to God program or not? And are we saying that a YM program composed of just DTG (and no Scouting) doesn’t work?

  37. Chris Laurence on July 29, 2007 at 1:43 am

    I know of some who leave priesthood meeting when “The Purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood” encantation is recited who were avid scouters. I find the Duty to God award a poor substitute for scouting. I do, however, wish that it were more flexible so that each troop could be more fully staffed with more highly skilled and motivated leaders, and adequate numbers of young men.

    As for the societal benefits of scouting, boys like to join. With the proliferation of gangs, it’s great that there is still something positive to join. Boys like to earn awards. Scouting teaches achievement. Destroying a good thing in the name of equality is best left to the United States government.

  38. Adam Greenwood on July 29, 2007 at 1:46 am

    Pretty much by definition, scouts isn’t going to reach the kids who most need it (unless someone else is paying, driving, leading, and organizing). I do think scouts would be a great benefit to disadvantaged children, but as it currently operates, it is an enrichment program for kids who don’t need it most.

    Cub Scouts is my calling, Julie S. Me and the other Akelas do a lot of paying, driving, leading, and organizing for children of single moms, etc. Its not a sinecure.

  39. Adam Greenwood on July 29, 2007 at 1:46 am

    Destroying a good thing in the name of equality is best left to the United States government.

    Ha!

  40. queuno on July 29, 2007 at 1:48 am

    Is there any virtue in what age a boy receives his Eagle?

    I’ve heard some crusty scouters say that 12- and 13-year-olds have no business earning their Eagle award, that they are too young to have really learned anything. Anyone buy into this?

    My feeling is that when a boy turns 16, he starts sniffing the fumes — gasoline fumes and perfumes — and if he’s not on track to finish soon, he won’t at all. I don’t see anything wrong with a boy finishing at age 13 (I think the minimum is 1 year and 10 months, so he could still be 12). I think having his Eagle sets him up nicely for high school.

  41. Chris Laurence on July 29, 2007 at 1:53 am

    Before anyone asks, obviously the Purpose of the Aaronic Priesthood is not an encantation, but when a room full of men is required to stand and recite it week after week, well, it starts to sound like something out of Harry Potter.

  42. queuno on July 29, 2007 at 1:57 am

    the Purpose of the Aaronic Priesthood is not an encantation

    I don’t think I ever had to recite it growing up. In fact, I’m going to have to google it to remind myself what it is…

  43. Thomas Parkin on July 29, 2007 at 2:15 am

    “boys like to join” y “boys like to earn awards”

    Except for those that don’t.

    I don’t think the church should do away with Scouting because all boys are not joiners.
    I don’t know if I think they should do away with it, at all.
    I do think it’s an unessential bit made to seem essential –
    and that seems like a problem to me.

    ~

  44. cyril on July 29, 2007 at 10:52 am

    “boys like to join [scouting]”

    Except for most of the YM in the stake where I live and serve in the YM program. It is odd to me that there are members of the church who tie their membership to the virtues and experiences derived from scouting. It is like saying that the stake sports program is the reason one is active. Scouts and sports are not even appendages to the priesthood, and using them as surrogates just fails. Like Marcus, I have known a number of eagles who are no longer active (though I am glad you are back). Do we really care if an eagle can tie a better knot if he is not coming to church, not getting married in the temple, and not begetting future steadfast priesthood holders? Isn’t that the purpose here?

  45. queuno on July 29, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Without starting up the whole differences of boys-v-girls bit … Does anyone think there’s a bit of a disparity in the Church between the YW and YM programs?

    It’s a bit ironic to me, but the best-run troops I’ve ever seen (or at least perceived to have seen) were those where the bishop was pro-YW and mandated equal budgets per capita, which was construed by the crusty old scouters as anti-Scouting. (“But, but, but, we can’t afford our high adventure trip to [Exotic Location]!”). Measuring on accomplishment alone – the less-funded, “boring” troops that functioned at the same level of the YW had more Eagle Scouts, more merit badges received, and seemed to have less problems.

    I remember a conversation between a bishop and a father of daughters in an old ward, back when the adults got to at least see the budget before the next year. The father asked why about the funding disparity between YW and YM and was told, “we need more money to fund scouting” — but the disparity was pretty great — 1.5 times as much for the boys, who only had HALF as many as the YW. And the troop did nothing — camped maybe 6-7 times a year, no Eagle Scouts. That father (of all girls) is now a bishop in that ward and they regularly have Eagle Scouts and decent participation — with equal funding.

    So how is Scouting funded in your wards? Equal budgets and one big fundraiser? How are the YW funded?

  46. queuno on July 29, 2007 at 11:36 am

    bbell @8 –

    My thought is that our area is only doing as well as it is because of the fresh blood. All of the equity refugees move in, see a growing vibrant area with lots of boys, and the program thrives. But what if we were (say) Arlington, Irving, Bedford, and the like? [For people who don’t live in North Texas, fill in the name of your own stagnant-growth ward. SLCers, fill in the name of a ward in the East Bench. Or the Avenues. Or any other ward that’s contracting.] What of the ward with 3 deacons, and little missionary program, surrounded by successful non-LDS troops? In some of these wards, you have scouters with 30 years of experence, and few boys.

    In those cases, it seems that the insistence on splitting deacons, teachers, and priests into Scouts/Varsity/Venturing lines hurts the program. The obvious solution is a stake troop, but then what role do the ward YW programs have? Just Sunday duties? What’s a bishop’s role in working with the YW if he’s outsourcing oversight of their activities to the stake? Can you effectively run a troop with 7 or 8 deacons?

    I’m not bashing the Church per se. I just think that the Church’s model for managing the Aaronic Priesthood is at odds with effective troop management. Does the Church continue to support Scouting just so that they can have the programming?

    Again, where we live is an aberration, I think (explosive growth NOT fueled by missionary work, but by relocation of the tired, poor, hungry equity refugees from CA/UT/IL/MA). Number of participants aren’t necessarily an issues, but funding and troop management is. bbell cited his BIL who lives in a ward that has only been in existence for 8 months — and they just replaced their Scoutmaster, who I presume was called to preside over a new brand new troop built from an older, bigger troop (that was created just a couple of years ago from another older, bigger troop, that was created … You get the point.)

    Getting back to Ardis’ point — I think Scouting is wonderful when it’s implemented properly. I think it has tremendous benefit to the young men and the communities they live in. I think my sons will benefit from it tremendously (and my daughter, should she meet the right Eagle Scout one day). But I seriously doubt my grandsons will go to an LDS troop.

  47. queuno on July 29, 2007 at 11:43 am

    (Part of my despair over where Scouting is going is fueled on my experiences growing up in the midwest in the 80s — stagnant ward, about 10-12 active boys — total — ages 12 to 18 — and despite an inordinate number of scouting lifers, little interest from the ward or the parents. My brothers and I all got our Eagles, but that was because we basically did it ourselves with nominal oversight from a few leaders. The troop did go camping occasionally. I went to a Jamboree and got my Eagle and went on a high-adventure trip, participating in Scouting pretty much just with my siblings and a couple of other ward members. I don’t see that things have improved. The ward I grew up in has gotten worse, if anything.)

  48. JA Benson on July 29, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    The benefit that I see with scouting is that it builds a better boy. To be an Eagle Scout means that the boy has been exposed to a variety of life experiences. Some of these experiences may not be “his thing”, but did it anyway. They learn to set goals, work as a team, and the biggest benefit is service. In wearing the uniform the boy learns to take pride in their appearance. All of these things also make a good missionary. A boy who is a scout can take care of himself, endure, and serve.

    Both of my boys are active scouters. This has not been easy. We have been in a ward that is lukewarm in regards to scouting. They have gotten some of their best scouting experiences and training by associating with and participating with the non-LDS troops in the area. The two biggest problems with LDS scouting are troops that are too small to properly function; and untrained apathetic parents and leaders. The solution to this problem is for LDS wards/Stake to sponsor a troop and make it purely voluntary. I think that in an area like ours where the Stake covers several counties is for all the wards that share a building to be one troop with the patrols as wards. This way those that want to do it can.

  49. jose on July 29, 2007 at 3:45 pm

    I’m currently experiencing scouting for my first time from a leader’s perspective. Like most of my LDS scouting peers, I’m a conscript. It is frustrating receiving the BSA official training programs on how a troop should run and then encounter the handicaps and apathy inherent in an LDS troop. Only meeting the first two mutual nights a month during school (church leadership dictates no meetings during school breaks–including summer) I am left with ~16 weeks to enact a full program, whereas non-LDS troops meet ~40 weeknights per year. When the boys hit ~13.5 yrs they generally stop attending and many refuse to contribute to the youth leadership. Board of Reviews continue to advance boys through to Eagle despite failure to fulfill requirements such as leadership positions and failure to recite the Scout Oath. On a recent hike, an Eagle scout didn’t think about bringing water or a raincoat, though he was prepared with fireworks and a crowbar to break into a fire tower.

    Despite these problems, I still see value in the scouting program. As with all things, the old adage “you get out of it what you put in” remains true. In my experience the local leadership/parents don’t put much into scouting, so the results are substandard. However the program remains and the adage exists for the boys as well. I haven’t seen any Louis Rosenlunds save any lives. But when a boy puts in his effort, he has an amazing opportunity to grow. I saw such a growth in a scout who recently completed a challenging service project. This was the first opportunity that he had where he was in charge and had to resolve problems if the work was to be completed. He organized labor and material to accomplish some good for the community. Scouting gave him that opportunity.

    My recent scouting experiences have taught me two things: 1) scouting can be a great motive force in this lives of young men. 2) LDS-scouting can not work as long as the adults and youth are conscripts; scouting is not, by its nature, meant to be compulsory as it has become for bishoprics, leaders, and boys.

  50. Sam B on July 29, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Julie (all the way back in 13),
    While I’m pretty agnostic about Scouting, and don’t know the costs terribly well—it’s been 15 years or more since I’ve been involved—I know at least one non-LDS single mother living in Bronx whose 8-year-old son is in a non-LDS cub troop and loves it: it gives him a father figure he doesn’t otherwise have, and gives her some time to herself. They’re not poor, but not wealthy, and I assume his mom finds a way to pay for it herself.

    I actually think that, if we keep with the Scouts, we should disband LDS troops and encourage our boys to go to, and our men and women to volunteer at, non-Church affiliated troops (and maybe have the girls do Girl Scouts? I don’t know much about them, but my wife loved it while she participated). Like Julie said, a good portion of the LDS Scouts come from well-off, two-parent homes. Our participation in Scouting outside of the Church would make the benefits to boys who come from less-50s-ish homes more viable.

  51. JA Benson on July 29, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    # 49 Jose good luck to you. My Husband and I have been in your shoes and it sucks. It is so hard to do your calling (and one of the hardest in the church IMHO) when your hands are tied like that. It is unfortunate that the boys continue to be given the honored Eagle on a silver platter. The boys, their parents, as well as the leaders in the boards of review are being dishonest and it does not serve the boys well in the end.

    The few times our stake has met together for scouting most of the boys dress sloppily; some in uniform others not. There is a Spanish speaking branch in our Stake and they are the exception. Every boy is dressed in pressed scout pants and shirt. They look and act sharp. Most of the members in the Spanish branch do not appear to be as wealthy as other members of the Stake. I think that you find a way to pay for activities that you believe to be valuable. Just from looking at appearances, the Spanish Branch members value scouting.

  52. jose on July 29, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    #9 Guy Murray “I don’t see cost as a major factor.” The cost that a scoutmaster incurs is definitely a factor and can easily be a major factor. The sleeping bag #3 mentioned was representative of a whole host of costs. Besides his own gear (sleeping bag/pad, tent, stove, pack, boots, outerwear), the SM is also responsible to guarantee that the forgetful bonehead scout is provided for in areas where safety may be compromised. Don’t forget training (4 parts for SM training, not to mention annual Pow Wows which all cost). Remember General YM Pres encouraged Wood Badge training ($150 in my area). If the church intended on paying for all this training, why don’t they allocate an extra $5M every few years for the 30,000+ LDS BSA units? Because they don’t, they expect the scout masters to absorb this cost. Don’t forget transportation. In my area each campout will cost me at least 100 miles of gas. The committee and I believe this should be done once a month. Usually a truck is required –sometimes pulling a trailer or canoes–to transport gear which all kills gas mileage.
    Oh, is the church going to reimburse me? Well, my annual expenses will kill the budget not leaving any to pay for boys’ awards or paying for that poor kid to go to summer camp. Remember it is about the boys. Luckily I am able to absorb these expenses, but I can easily see the guy who can’t and is overwhelmed.

  53. Julie M. Smith on July 29, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    Bless Adam G. (Re #38), but I was referring to non-LDS scouting programs.

  54. Julie M. Smith on July 29, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    Oh, and Matt, with the exception of needing to make patches with different flags on them and altering just a few activities, there isn’t a reason on earth that the church couldn’t export BSA to every corner of the globe–regardless of what the local scouting program looks like.

  55. Guy Murray on July 29, 2007 at 9:29 pm

    Jose #13.

    Thanks for your response. I am somewhat familiar with what expenses are involved. There are ways to cut expenses, and I’ve had personal experience with all the items you list, including all the training you list. My own personal experience is that it is doable, and is done all over the Church. I’ve not had any issue with not being able to go on a camp out, or a summer camp or a high adventure. We have a supportive Bishop, (Wood Badge trained) and that helps a great deal. I understand each ward and stake will be different; but, I stand by my statement that I don’t see the cost of being a scout master as a major factor.

    I don’t know what your local ward/stake will do in terms of reimbursement for some of the expense you have incurred. Perhaps you should inquire and see what they say.

    I wish you well in your endeavors. I don’t know what you mean in your #49 above when you say you are a “conscript.” If you mean you are being forced to undertake this task, perhaps it’s not the right position for you. I’ve never felt I was a conscript, and have enjoyed the years of scouting, in which I have been involved as a leader. I was asked to do it; but, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

  56. John Taber on July 29, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Julie 54:

    And there’s no reason we couldn’t export the American measurement systems (“metric is for Communists!”) to all parts of the globe, and call it the “Priesthood Measuring System.” Just because it’s what’s done here doesn’t mean it’s what has to be done everywhere else.

    And we only do it here because it worked so well in Utah in 1920 and 1950. But as late as 1950, the Brethren were debating the notion of temples and stakes outside the Intermountain West.

    My parents’ ward is one of those that has a plaque for Eagle Scout recipients, but no plaque for either Duty to God or missionaries. The majority of the Eagles on that plaque did not serve missions and were never really involved in the Church as an adult. But that’s who the ward chooses to honor.

  57. Lynn L on July 29, 2007 at 10:46 pm

    I have been interested in the discussion that has been going on. I know the hard work that is involved in having a sucessful scouting program. My husband has worked in the young mens program for years, including various areas of scouting. He has also served several years as a scoutmaster. He is currently the Stake Young Mens President. We have often discussed the challenges. We live in an area of the country where wards and branches are spaced fairly far apart. It is easy to dwell on the weaknesses of a program as it is administered, and to think we see a better way of doing things. I know that there are expenses involved. We too have faced them, and believe me driving the kind of miles we have had to drive has been a challenge of faith for me. I have come to see that the when we are called to serve, and we faithfully go forward to fulfill that calling, the Lord will help. Many callings require financial sacrifice. To sacrifice in building the Lord\’s kingdom is important for all of us. If you think that the scouting program is not a part of building the Lord\’s kingdom, then you need to do some serious soul searching about your willingness to follow the leadership of the church. When we sustain the leaders of the church we should not turn around and pick and choose those programs that they have put into effect in the church. It is a challenge in many ways to get involved in scouting, but so are so many things we do in the church. The Lord will bless us as we have faith and go out and do his work. I believe scouting is a challenge that is worth the effort. I know a scout who achieved Eagle through the Lone Scout program. He worked hard for it and values it a great deal. My two sons achieved Eagle. We worked very hard for it. It took a lot of people to help them achieve that rank. Both of my sons feel that they gained many valuable skills and character traits from their time in scouts. On any given Wednesday night (when our youth meetings are held) they might have preferred to hang out in the cultural hall and play basketball with their friends, but they know that the organization that scouting provided led them to many great things.
    My daughters have been greatly blessed by the Young Womens program. The motivation and dedication and training of Young Womens leaders have just as much to do with the progress and success of the Young Women as the Young Mens leader do to them. We never felt a lack of funds was inhibiting the ability of our Young Womens Program to function fully.
    If you are a parent looking ahead to years of scouting with your son, my advice is to be positive and cheerful and encourage them all along the way. Also GET INVOLVED. Scout troops are always in great need of merit badge councilors. I don\’t have many skills, but right now I am teaching our troop the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge. I was nervous at first, but we are having fun! Our scoutleaders are new and newly trained, but enthusiastic. I hope this discussion can get away from a \”Lets bash scouts and the church program of scouting night\”. It\’s really not helpful. The decision of the church leadership to continue with scouting at this time is one we should support and help with where we can. If there comes a time that the Church must leave scouting behind, and I know that day may come, then we must support that too. But for now, griping and complaining only succeeds in tearing down, not solving problems.

  58. TMD on July 29, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Much of the LDS approach to scouting pains me. Scouting changed me for the better in so many ways. And the same is true for a fair number of guys I know–particularly when troop leaders knew that a proper troop was a boy-run troop, with leaders providing guidance–it’s one of the few places in the YM/YW expereince where the youth have the opportunity to try and plan and execute things, get the expereince of real leadership instead of trying to dictate or be dictated to. Participation in wider district, council, and lodge (enda lechuahanne! rah! rah! rah!) activities further enrichens the experience, further puts people into contact with really great people. As someone who was an eagle scout and also spent 6 summers (10 weeks each) on camp staff, I can say that few if any programed experiences were better and more important in helping me become the person I am. Certainly the YM program paled by comparison.

    And, frankly, scouting provides a lot more opportunities for those who are ‘not joiners,’ are ‘bookish,’ or are unathletic than just about any ‘program.’ And I again cite YM/YW, stake sports, etc., etc., etc. If it came down to it, I would far rather see a troop in each ward (or joined through a set of wards, I’ve seen that done successfully when they shared a chapel) than a basketball standard in every chapel. Actually, a lot that’s bad in the church is associated with those basketball hoops. Maybe more bad things come from those basketball hoops than the whole scouting program in the church.

    I once heard a very good lds scouter (and former bishop) observe that if possible, the ‘best man’ in a ward should be bishop, and the ‘second best’ should be scoutmaster. While there are vagarities in how that might be adjudged, I think there’s a lot of sense there. In terms of hours, no called church leader will spend as much time with a ward’s young men, in as intense or practical a situation, as the scoutmaster. This is an important fact, and a tremendous opportunity–but one ignored by a great many people. Far too many wards use grad students…and I say that as a grad student….

    As to the rest of the world, many foreign scout organizations are run by particular demonominations–for instance, in Poland, Italy, and (I beleive) France, Catholic Church auxilleries run the main scout organizations, with protestant groups running much smaller ones. So an integrated relationship with them would be difficult for the church.

    Julie: if church troops were correctly taking advantage of the opportunities that scouting has to offer, you’d quite quickly see why a ‘church’ only faux scouting movement would be a deeply impoverished one. Without access to fully staffed scout camps and other council properties, the opportunity to rent things like canoes from the council, discounts many state parks (etc.) extend to troops, etc., most troops would be reduced to car camping of the least interesting sort, and less frequently due to cost.

    Ideally, scouting pulls boys out of their niche in school or the ‘real world’, puts them into challenging situations, and helps them find themselves, and maybe friends, outside routines and chains of pedestrian, quotidien life. Camp outs, knot-tying, uniform shirts do, or at least can, add up to more… To me, the power of scouting lay in the truth stated in Alma 37–Now ye may suppose that this is a foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

  59. Jeffrey Laurence on July 30, 2007 at 12:18 am

    Interesting thread. I am currently a Scoutmaster. My son went to a non-LDS Cub Scout pack. It was a great chance to see a lot of excited boys and leaders.

    I am now working with the draftees of the Church unit. It is quite a contrast. I have three boys who are excited, three boys who could be excited, and the last three boys who really don\’t want to be there. (It reminds me of my mission, but that is another topic.)

    In my Stake, once your child turns 12 you are moved from your resident ward to the youth ward. Ultimately, as Scoutmaster of a truly urban troop I think Scouting is more essential than ever. Modern schools and church training programs do not prepare boys to be men.

    I have had to deal with the question of why spend $200 per boy for Scout Camp when Girl\’s Camp was half the price. It really is a simple answer. The Church pays for the Girl\’s Camp facilities out of the general church budget. The Boy Scout Camps are paid for directly by the money paid by the Scout Troops. I expect that if you look at the total costs of all of the Church owned camps in the Western U.S. you would find less total money paid for the Scout Camps out of Church coffers. If you make the one fundraiser the Church does allow count, it can defray a lot of costs.

    I am the oldest of four boys and one daughter. When my mother was a young mother of three boys asked the successful much older mother of 6 boys how she raised her boys to be good men. The older mother said, that Scouting was the key. That was enough for Mom, Dad was an Eagle, and all the boys were going to be Eagle. It taught us how to set and accomplish goals. It taught skills that were necessary as missionaries. Like it or not, the Eagle Scouts stood out as missionaries.

    A non-LDS co-worker of mine pointed out his sons were great friends of his, and he had not had generation gap issues. He was not a Scout himself, but is a huge supporter even now that his sons are grown. It impacts all its participants positively if the participants let it.

  60. John Mansfield on July 30, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Scouting was a strength in building community relations in my city. As a boy, I can remember visits to the council scout building for one activity or another and being impressed by how many of the business leaders of the city were involved in running the council. I felt sustained. Also, I’ve never seen thing anything close to scouting in how it involved members of the Church, not as individuals, but as members of the Church, in working shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the community.

    Topping those virtues off is the great love I feel decades later for the men who led us and the boys, now men, who were my fellow scouts. When I am with a couple of them, the depth of the friendship has a quality of reverence. Many weeks of my youth spent away in tents gave a place for those bonds to form.

  61. Guy Murray on July 30, 2007 at 9:51 am

    This morning’s Santa Maria Times has a article about a group of teenage Explorer Scouts (a division of BSA). They just completed their training for the Central Coast Sheriff/Police Explorer Academy. Here’s another example of scouting’s positive influence in the lives of youth, as well as a benefit to the community at large. This program gave these youth an alternative to the active gang element in Santa Maria (and elsewhere on the Central Coast), and helped prepare them for careers in law enforcement.

    I empathize with those in the LDS scouting community who have expressed frustration over the way scouting seems to work in the Church. It’s always been a puzzle to me how our ancestors could walk from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City; but, we can’t seem to make the Scouting program work better than we have in the Church. Still, I remain hopeful. It is a good program, providing good opportunities for youth and adults who take advantage of what is available. This explorer post is but one small example.

  62. marcus on July 30, 2007 at 10:14 am

    I agree that funding is a problem with scouting in the church, but a lot of that is a direct result of the limitations the church places on the program. Having every ward field a troop isn’t as efficient economically as having fewer larger troops. Economies of scale should make having one large court of honor per stake cheaper than having one per ward. And in many of the state parks around where I live, a camp site is around $10 / night. A small troop of 10-12 scouts plus leaders would need three to four sites for an overnighter. Most parks also have group camping facilities that require a minimum number of campers, but would be about the same as getting five separate sites. If several wards were working together, they could share facilities and save money.

    Also, outside the church troops tend to sustain their programs through fund raising efforts by the boys. In the ward where I grew up, we weren’t allowed to have any fund raisers. All activities had to be funded out of the budget, or paid for by the parents of the scouts. I was always annoyed by this, because I had friends in other troops who were always doing cool stuff that they had paid for, and when I suggested these activities at patrol meetings I was shot down because they were too expensive. Nevermind the fact that boys in another troop in our district were able to raise the funds for these activities, and even managed to raise enough extra that they paid for the adult leaders to accompany them. I always wished I could join that troop, but felt I would be betraying the church if I did. Looking back, I see the value in having boys earn the money for trips. It teaches boys the value of hard work and responsibility. It also means the guys who end going on a cool outing are going to appreciate it, because they earned it, and are less likely to get into trouble and risk getting sent home early.

  63. marcus on July 30, 2007 at 10:31 am

    One thought that I had, that might help to alleviate some of the problems with small troops in areas with smaller LDS populations, is to organize troops at the stake level. Instead of each ward (or branch) trying to field it’s own troop, they would organize patrols. For a small ward or branch, they may only need one patrol, but a larger ward might need to form several. They could have individual patrol meetings each week, and meet as an entire troop once a month. Outings could be planned at either the troop or patrol level. And now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure this is the “Patrol Method” as outlined by the scouting program.

    Oh, and one thing that I didn’t mention about the problems that arose when the Deacons/Teachers/Priests were split into Scouts/Varsity/Explorers, was that a lot of knowledge transfer was lost. When the most senior Scout is 13 and only been in the program for under three years, they don’t have the time to gain the skills that someone who has been in the program for six or seven years. When the troop is organized the way it’s supposed to be, you have 17 year olds and 11 year olds working together, learning from each other. This is a valuable aspect of scouting that I witnessed disappearing when the Scouting Units in ward were segregated by quorums.

  64. danithew on July 30, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Just for the record, I am a fan of the Scouting program. There seem to be some who dislike or even hate Scouting, for whatever reason – but my personal experiences with the Scouting program were generally wonderful. Part of it was because the Scouting leaders we had were so well-prepared and so dedicated.

    I still feel guilty to this day for not earning my Eagle Scout award.

  65. KLC on July 30, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    After reading just the first six comments I have to jump down and put in my 2 cents. Guy Murray is right, when properly implemented Scouting is a great program for almost all boys. But the problem is that LDS troops are almost guaranteed to perform at a subpar level because of the organizational structure the church has imposed on them.

    Our reliance on ward based Scout troops limits LDS scout troops. In my ward there are currently 3 deacons and looking at the primary classes that number is not going to increase very much. A real scout troop can’t function with that few boys. I was at a local park with my family on the same night one of the local scout troops was having a meeting. I was astonished and envious. This troop must have had 30 boys organized into several patrols. Along with those boys there must have been another 50 or more parents in attendance. The scout committee, about 10 adults, was visibly present. The adult scout leaders, about 8, were in uniform and helping direct the activities. This was a real, vital and functioning troop, something impossible for the majority of LDS wards to attain because of our limited number of boys.

    Our integration of Scouting with Sunday Aaronic Priesthood activities limits LDS scout troops. It hasn’t always been that way. When I was an LDS scout we had two fabulous scoutmasters. They were men who had worked in scouting their whole adult lives. They knew the program, they knew the activities that were successful, they knew the surrounding mountains and campgrounds that would appeal to scouts and they knew the scouting skills and loved to teach them. But neither of these men would be scoutmasters today. One had a WofW problem and one was only marginally active. They were great scoutmasters and great men but they weren’t great Aaronic Priesthood leaders, something we require today.

    That same integration of Scouting with Aaronic Priesthood has made LDS scouting a Deacon age activity. Whereas BSA scouting age begins at 11, in the church you can’t be a full fledged scout until you’re 12. BSA scout troops have active participation of older boys, the scout troop at the park had boys from 11 to 18 in uniform, church scout troops are composed of 12-13 year old deacons. How can you have a true senior age scout, one who has experienced several summer camps and dozens of campouts, one who can teach younger scouts and lead them, if the oldest member of your troop is 13 and been scouting for less than 2 years?

    Finally, making scoutmaster a calling instead of an avocation limits the term and experience of almost all LDS scoutmasters. As an LDS scoutmaster do I really want to go to the expense, in time and money, of the training, the roundtables, the Woodbadge, if in 18 months I’m released and called to be the gospel doctine teacher? Our current scoutmaster tells the story of attending a training session for area scoutmasters put on by the council. Not knowing there were LDS leaders in attendance one of them said incredulously that Mormon scoutmasters are ASKED to be scoutmasters, whereupon everyone else in attendance laughed uproriously. This was inconceivable to them. All of them were active in troops where being scoutmaster was an honor and privelege, and to become one meant serving on the committee for several years, then serving for years as an assistant until finally the current scoutmaster retires and your apprenticeship qualifies you to take his place. LDS scout leaders are inexperienced because of how we organize our troops and that can not only less effective, it can be dangerous. I have been told by reliable sources that LDS troops make up a disproportionate number of units involved in injuries and fatalities when compared to their percentage of total BSA units.

    We have doomed LDS troops to subpar performance, not because our leaders are less dedicated or our boys are less skilled but because our implementation of the program works against us.

  66. Adam Greenwood on July 30, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    But neither of these men would be scoutmasters today. One had a WofW problem and one was only marginally active. They were great scoutmasters and great men but they weren’t great Aaronic Priesthood leaders, something we require today

    Is this really true? In troops around here, I have the impression that the YM Presidency is ex officio scouting auxiliary leaders but that the Scout leaders aren’t ex officio part of the Aaronic Priesthood leadership. Dunno.

    I think your main point is generally right, though.

  67. Chris Laurence on July 30, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    My biggest fear of de-linking the Young Men’s program from scouting is the tendency to militarize the priesthood. Uniform of the priesthood, recitations, constant harange about your priesthood duties. Scouting teaches young men tools by which they can serve others, and by so doing, serve themselves. With so much of church like a Stephen Covey self-help seminar, I’m afraid that a move away from scouting would signal an even broader shift away from actually being of service to our communities, even our own religious community, with a greater focus on self.

  68. roland on July 30, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Major corporations seek highly qualified individuals with high college degrees and years of experience before entrusting them to manage their precious assets.

    But in the church we call people with no experience or training to take charge of our most precious assets – the young men/young women who are the missionaries, teachers and leaders of tomorrow.

    That defies common sense.

  69. KLC on July 30, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Adam, in all of the wards I’ve lived in the scoutmaster is at least the assistant deacon’s quorum advisor. He attends deacon’s quorum meetings each sunday and his service as scoutmaster is integrated into the sunday activities of priesthood.

  70. John Mansfield on July 30, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Chris Laurence (#67), I like the way you took a common unfounded complaint about scouting (that it’s militaristic.) and turned it on its head.

  71. Scott Fife on July 30, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Scouting is a program, and programs of the Church come and go. Scouting is not doctrine.

    I believe the Church could do a better job on it’s own with an in-house scouting type program. The Church does not need the BSA. What happens to boys who are not interested in merit badges? They often feel left out. My experience in scouting, both as a scout and is that it is mainly the parents and scoutmasters who do most of the work for the scouts “earning” their badges and Eagle awards. As a general rule, most of the boys could care less.

    Also, in our BSA District in Idaho, much of the money ward members faithfully contribute to the “Friends of Scouting” each year, actually goes to support the non-LDS scout units in the area. Many of these non-LDS units pay very little, since they know the LDS Troops will pay the difference.

  72. SHardy on July 30, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    I have a few tidbits:

    I am the YM President in a ward where scouting is quite popular with the youth. I have 9 Priests, and 7 of them are or will be Eagles.

    I recently challenged them to get their Duty to God awards. I was surprised at the lack of enthusiasm. When I asked why, one of the Eagle Scouts responded:

    Can you put Duty to God on your resume?

    Do you get in the local newspaper when you get the Duty to God?

    Do you get letters from our Senators and/or the President of the U.S. when you get your Duty to God?
    While you are chewing on that attitude, let me say one more thing:

    The AMAZING disparity between attention and money given to YM vs YW, I find it shocking. We pretend that the YM and YW are equally valued, but it simply isn’t so. YM are hardly encouraged to camp, and if they are, it must be undersupervision/oversight of men. There is nothing REMOTELY like an Eagle Court of Honor for our young women.

  73. Adam Greenwood on July 30, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    I think you mean that YW are hardly encouraged to camp. If that is what you mean, you’re dead wrong in my experience. Young Women’s camp gets tons more support and attention from the local church than Boy Scout camp does.

  74. Lupita on July 30, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    I find it incredibly difficult to even begin to equate Boy Scout Camp with Young Women’s Camp. COMPLETELY different.

    I always wanted to be a Scout. My mom didn’t allow me to participate in the local chapter of Girl Scouts because it wasn’t sponsored by our church. Huh. All three brothers are Eagle Scouts and participated in incredible Scout Camps, High Adventure programs, etc. I had my “Secret Sister” at camp. I wanted more.

    To Ardis’ question “Does the Church extend its service into the community through Scouting?”
    I think, to a great extent, yes. I do not live in the West and our active local troup volunteers for community service programs all the time. I don’t know if that’s because we have exceptional leaders (highly plausible). As the mother of three small boys, I can support a program that provides opportunities for excellence and personal growth. I do wish that there was an equivalent for the young girls, though.

    I plan on having my sons participate. My husband is an Eagle Scout and that is a major reason for continuing interest. We’ve also had terrific friends who have had underwhelming and even horrible experiences with Scouting and dropped out long before reaching the eagle’s nest. I do think it’s high time that we drop the cultural pressure to achieve a rank in Scouting before one can receive one’s license, etc. Achieving Eagle rank is a commendable accomplishment but it certainly doesn’t seem to be a sole indicator of success in life.

  75. cyril on July 30, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    “Can you put Duty to God on your resume?

    Do you get in the local newspaper when you get the Duty to God?

    Do you get letters from our Senators and/or the President of the U.S. when you get your Duty to God?”

    Sounds like the praises of men to me, but I see your point, though, I must say, having interviewed hundreds of law clerks and having been on hiring committees at large law firms, that Eagle scout on a resume is nice filler but not substantive in the process.

    I too have been a YM president and grappled with the implementation of the DTG and Eagle/Scouting program. You really can’t do both well, despite a lot of good efforts.

    Most boys don’t like scouting, in my experience. Maybe that is just my part of the world, but it is my experience.

    It seems like there is a vocal minority of men in the church who really like it and really value it, and I think these men are the reason the changeover has not taken place yet. But it will. And those who really love scouting can still do it but they will have to do it in a troop that is not affiliated with the church. Just like the YW, and the hokey players, and the debaters, and the chess club members currently do.

  76. Adam Greenwood on July 30, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    You may be right, Cyril. What I object to is folks who get ahead of the Church, who effectively abandon Scouting now because they think the Church will abandon Scouting in the future.

  77. John Mansfield on July 30, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Earlier this month, my niece hiked to the top of Mt. Wheeler, the highest point in New Mexico at 13,161 feet. She did this with her stake YW, just as my wife did a couple decades before her.

  78. marcus on July 30, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    Most boys don’t like scouting, in my experience.

    Most people don’t like activities where participation is compulsory.

  79. ronito on July 30, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    I have to say, Julie and I don’t often agree, but this we’re right in agreement.

    I was a very poor kid. My parents tried their darndest with my older brothers to get money from some uniforms, supplies and dues and merit badges etc (even after help from the ward). In the end it just left them poor. By the time it was my turn to start scouts my parents gave it a valiant effort. But I remember one day I said “Why are we spending this money? I’d rather read a book or do something else than learn to tie knots. Why not let me do what I want and you keep the money?”

    My parents were forced to admit they were spending money on something that was not a good fit for their kid and they came the realization that Scouting was not doctrine.

    However, because I didn’t go to scouts I was branded as “inactive” even though I went to church every week. Several priesthood leaders made me a “project” they couldn’t understand how it was possible for me to still be active and not be participating in scouting activities.

    To me it’s a waste of money on people that don’t need it. All the kids I knew that were really into scouting could’ve and did learn nearly everything they needed to know from their fathers. Sure I agree that some of the skills learned are important, however, these could be learned in the DTG program. Scouting has always seemed more of an exclusionary thing than inclusionary. It’s high time the church realize that not everyone is “Johnny Quarterback” and starts looking to how to best fit the needs to all their young men both at home and abroad.

  80. Adam Greenwood on July 30, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    What’s your basis, Ronito, for thinking that the Church isn’t inspired in keeping the Scouting program but is inspired in the other things they do? I can understand thinking that it wasn’t a good fit in one individual situation, but when it comes to an over all evaluation of the program, I’m with the prophets.

  81. John Mansfield on July 30, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    “Also, in our BSA District in Idaho, much of the money ward members faithfully contribute to the ‘Friends of Scouting’ each year, actually goes to support the non-LDS scout units in the area. Many of these non-LDS units pay very little, since they know the LDS Troops will pay the difference.”–Scott Fife (#71)

    Sounds very praiseworthy of those LDS contributors in Idaho.

  82. John Mansfield on July 30, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    I don’t get what would be gained by dumping scouting. Take the same leaders and the same boys, and have them do activities and service without any stinking badges, and the YM program improves how?

  83. Ardis Parshall on July 30, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks, everybody, for a good discussion. I knew there were strong feelings about Scouting, and Scouting and the church, and that it isn’t a new topic in the bloggernacle. Still, I learned quite a bit from the exchange.

    My personal ties to Scouting are indirect and rapidly aging — it’s been 30 years since my brothers were Scouts, and as some have made clear, a lot has changed since then.

    Scouting seems to me to face in two directions: One is inward, to what it can do for the individual boy. That apparently is where most of the concern is, and where some of you feel Scouting most falls short. There is also an outward focus, to what Scouting can do for the community. I especially appreciate the comments of the few of you who looked at it from that direction.

    The thread is now closed. Thanks for your participation.