Scouts, Again

I know the relationship between the Church and BSA has been discussed to death in the bloggernacle, but I want to share two recent experiences anyway.

Yesterday, I was at the end-of-year swim party for the not-LDS cub scout den that I have been involved with for six years. I heard an extended rant about LDS scouts from a woman there who didn’t realize I was LDS.

Perhaps I should stop here and explain why I have been involved in a not-LDS den. There are several reasons: it is an all-homeschooled den (which means that we can meet at 1:30), it is a multi-rank den (which means that all of my boys–as well as younger siblings and older siblings–have something to do during den meetings), it is an all-volunteer program (which means more enthusiasm from boys and leaders alike), and it is a full scout program (which means lots of all-family camping, field trips, etc.)

But back to the rant. (Which was very amusing to listen to, largely because another person there who did know that I am LDS was constantly jumping in with conciliatory statements: “Oh, I’m sure you don’t mean to judge an entire group by the actions of a few people” and “Well, there may be cultural reasons for that” etc., but also because it is so rare and oddly refreshing to hear someone’s unfiltered opinion of The Other that you are.) She shared her experiences with LDS scouts: how they were insular, condescending, snobbish, stand-offish, unreliable, wouldn’t follow BSA rules, made things difficult for everyone else, seemed like they didn’t want to be there, etc.

All I could think was, “What a PR disaster!” Here’s a woman from the demographic group that should be low-hanging fruit for missionary work (that is: family- and child-oriented, probably somewhat socially conservative, volunteer-oriented, etc.) and she had an absolutely nasty opinion of the Church based on her interaction with it through scouts–which is pretty much the only place where the Church is visible as an organized entity and interacting with other community groups.

When this woman left, I spoke briefly with the woman who knew I was LDS. And I said, “I like my Church, I like scouts, but I don’t necessarily like them together.” I tried to explain that Scouts is our youth program, and therefore our goals are slightly different from (by which I meant: grossly incompatible with) those for other BSA units. Which was my way of trying to apologize for those clannish, irresponsible LDS scouters. I don’t think it worked.

Here’s the crux of the problem: it’s crazy to spend tithing money to send LDS kids to a scout camp where their sole adult interactions are with Presbyterian women or Jewish men or whatever. So we plan to keep the LDS kids together with LDS leaders . . . but then all the other scouters think that we think we are too good for them. (And it is an organizational hassle.) And then just to rub a little salt in, the camp begins and the LDS group has less than half of the leadership that they promised to bring (because Sister Nguyen just had a baby . . . and Sister Jones got a new calling the week before camp . . . and Brother Smith can’t take a week off work . . . and Brother Huerta has a family reunion that week . . . and Brother Johnson has to take his kid to the MTC . . .) and the non-LDS scouters are, rightly, ticked off that we didn’t live up to our agreement, violated BSA rules, and created more work for everyone else.

Second incident: my son who is a boy scout has a non-LDS friend who wanted to join scouts and thought it would be fun to join my son’s troop, since they are already friends. (Note: my son recently switched from a not-LDS troop to the LDS one, because he turned twelve and we couldn’t very well have him not go to mutual, could we?) The first week he attended, scouts was preempted for a meeting about home teaching. (Which is an entirely understandable thing to do in your youth program, but a bizarre thing to do at your scout program.) The second week, scouts was canceled two hours before the meeting because of mumble mumble mumble. (Translation: I have no idea why. I was trying to drive home from the pool and my phone was breaking up.) I would not blame my friend in the slightest if she sent her kid to a different troop; it is probably what I would do in her situation.

[And one more thing: If my son weighed over 166 pounds, he wouldn’t be able to go to some scout activities. He weighs maybe half that, sopping wet, after a good meal, so this isn’t an issue for us, but are LDS troops seriously turning away boys due to their weight, or is that another BSA rule we choose to ignore?]

Both of these situations suggest to me an unappreciated aspect of the LDS-BSA mismatch: the damage that our iconoclastic approach to scouting causes for the reputation of the Church. At the risk of repeating myself, “I like my Church, I like scouts, but I don’t necessarily like them together.”

101 comments for “Scouts, Again

  1. May 18, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Is there an alternative that solves the ‘together’ problem you are referring to?

    I mean – would it be advisable/possible/practical to put LDS boys in a Scout troop that has non-LDS leaders?

    I can remember many years ago when a non-LDS Scout troop was merged with our LDS Scout troop. But I have no idea what kind of politics/interactions were involved in making that happen. The Scout meetings continued to be held at our ward building. Our leaders and the leaders of the other group seemed to work together. I think for the most part we all adapted and got along.

  2. Dan
    May 18, 2010 at 11:04 am

    time to sever this relationship.

  3. May 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Very nicely argued Julie. I have often heard tales of similar complaints from non LDS scouters — that LDS troops do a completely half-a… err… half-hearted job with the scouting program. And heaven knows we Mormons are a cloistered and standoffish bunch to begin with.

    Also, I agree with you that those spontaneous focus group moments like you experienced can be very refreshing and enlightening.

  4. ESO
    May 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Agreed. OK, I don’t really like scouts, but I am happy to coexist with them at my school or community center or neighborhood, not so much at my Church.

    I am sure those frustrations are felt widely. I am also sure that BSA leadership are well-aware that, should the LDS units cease to exist, they would lose A LOT of money and (in my area, anyway) all the venues for leaders meetings–they somehow all happen in the Primary Room at my Church. But without LDS charters and dues, I wonder how sustainable the larger BSA program is?

    On the other hand, a friend of mine was telling me that her (non-LDS) neighbors kids hated their non-LDS troop because it was SO SERIOUS; they thought the unit at the ward sounded like much more fun.

  5. Jonathan Green
    May 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

    I suggested to a local primary president that we could just open up Activity Days to everyone and forget about the whole Cub Scout business, like LDS wards outside the U.S. do, but she didn’t like the idea. Or maybe she didn’t like that the idea was coming from the cubmaster.

  6. Amira
    May 18, 2010 at 11:14 am

    We’ve run into your second problem a lot. We take 4 or 5 non-LDS boys to scouts on a regular basis, which works fine when they’re cub scouts and the first year of boy scouts, but when they turn 12, it doesn’t work as well. It’s not been a big problem, because the boys we take aren’t really that into scouting, but it wouldn’t work at all for other kids. I think scouting works much better as a missionary thing with cub scout-aged kids and their families.

    There’s a lot I love about scouting, but I’m going to be really happy to be Lone Scouters for the next few years, camping with our family in the Tien Shan mountains.

  7. May 18, 2010 at 11:33 am

    I have also heard of the difference between LDS and non-LDS scouting, with disdain from the non-LDS scouters for the LDS ones. What I’ve heard is kinda a twist on what ESO said. People have *appreciated* the non-LDS scout troop because it’s serious, organized, etc., but dislike LDS scout troops because they are less serious. More behind the scenes, a lot of non-LDS scouters I know REALLY dislike the great influence that they perceive the church as having in the way that scouting operates. Their argument is that since the church is such a big proponent of scouting (with all boys basically guaranteed membership), the scouting program has heavy incentive to keep its values consistent with the church’s values in order to keep its best supporter.

    This works great if you support LDS values. But it doesn’t work well if you have an idea of scouting as more open, accepting, liberal, etc.,

  8. Bob
    May 18, 2010 at 11:35 am

    When two people ride one horse, one has to sit in the back. I don’t see either side letting the other supply the leadership. I see it as the same as Julie, both sides are trying to build boys into men, but have different goals/values/ways.

  9. Dane Laverty
    May 18, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Amira — Tien Shan? I’m jealous. I was in Kazakhstan several years ago, and have wished I could have the chance to go back with my family.

  10. queuno
    May 18, 2010 at 11:42 am

    So I’ve got a new assignment at Church that kind of puts me in the firing line here, and all I can say is this:

    1. The Church doesn’t care about the totality of the BSA experience. Just doesn’t. The Church wants to grab bits and pieces.

    2. If you don’t like #1, the Church has no problem with you attending your own, but don’t expect them to change certain aspects of its implementation of scouting.

    I am in now way trying to blow off anyone’s concerns about LDS scouting and how it doesn’t match up with the BSA — certainly not. I’m just saying that if your expectation is that the LDS troops/packs follow Irving, then you need to change your expectations.

    I think an LDS troop can be great as a missionary tool (my wife’s family owes its membership in the Church to an LDS troop), but if you’re looking for “Irving” Scouting in your LDS troop, keep looking.

    I’ve been perfectly happy as the rogue scouting father. Now I have to get involved a little more on the official side. It won’t change how my son and I do things, though.

  11. queuno
    May 18, 2010 at 11:47 am

    [And one more thing: If my son weighed over 166 pounds, he wouldn’t be able to go to some scout activities. He weighs maybe half that, sopping wet, after a good meal, so this isn’t an issue for us, but are LDS troops seriously turning away boys due to their weight, or is that another BSA rule we choose to ignore?]

    I wish I could find the link, but this is a BSA thing. They are using a scale now to indicate when boys and adults are allowed to go on certain trips. It’s not an LDS thing (but we are subscribing to it, because we impose similar restrictions on missionary service). But officially, you can blame the BSA.

    I do have to say, I am using it as inspiration to lose some weight so that I can accompany my son on high adventure trips if he chooses to go when he’s a Scout. (We do have the deal that he can quit Scouts as soon as he finishes his Eagle if he chooses.)

  12. May 18, 2010 at 11:48 am

    If only the Brethren had the right anecdotal evidence to guide them, this Church wouldn’t be such a mess.

  13. rk
    May 18, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I had some non-LDS relatives that participated in with an LDS troop. The soon even got his Eagle. The father expressed his frustration with the the troop because they kept on switching leaders and the outgoing leaders did not pass on information well. Some of the new leaders were also very apathetic. He is a reasonable guy. I’m positive his complaints were legitimate.

  14. May 18, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    We’ve lived overseas and in the US, and we’ve found the structure that scouting provides the young men’s program to be a general benefit, though none of our boys have been enthusiastic scouts for very long (and they likely got that from me).

    I agree with queno above that Church scouting has a different objective than full-on BSA scouting. That said, I’ve seen a great benefit from very positive relationships between LDS and non-LDS troops and scouters in our area. By design or just good fortune, we have a number of men in our area who genuinely enjoy scouting and have served there for many years, helping to build a tradition of a fairly robust program (that is, however, punctuated with combined activities, temple trips, etc).

    That LDS boys participate by assignment instead of out of sheer desire makes our troops unique and presents unique challenges for anyone in the troop.

    I’m interested to see how the new DTG program impacts / reflects the scouting program.

  15. May 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    The LDS Scout troop where I grew up was run basically like a standard scout troop, with the exception that once a month there were no scout meetings (to make room for joint YM/YW activities). We had several non-LDS kids attend the troop over the years, and I believe they enjoyed the participation. A couple stayed in the program until they became Eagle Scouts. We had prayers at many of our meetings, but so did many of the other local church-sponsored troops, so that wasn’t a large difference. I recognize a lot of the tensions and conflicts Julie highlights, but I just wanted to point out that it need not be that way. In retrospect, we had some good leaders that followed BSA rules and ran the program smoothly, which is probably why I liked it.

  16. jjohnsen
    May 18, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    “I mean – would it be advisable/possible/practical to put LDS boys in a Scout troop that has non-LDS leaders?”

    Why not? Other than someone possibly saying the opening prayer in a non-traditional LDS way, what could be the harm? If Scouting is all it’s cracked up to be, wouldn’t a non-LDS leader be able to teach our children the same skills and morals that a LDS leader would?

  17. Polly
    May 18, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    We have always disliked church scouting. First because it’s a calling so you have people there that don’t want to be there. Therefore they tend to not really do a great job. Second, it’s way to casual. If you want to do Boy Scouts you really need to follow the rules. One more personal observation, anytime a scout troop is in trouble, such as a lost scout or injuries , it’s seems to almost always be a church troop. I would really like the statistics regarding LDS and non LDS troops and safety issues.

  18. kevinf
    May 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    This really does cut both ways. As a former scoutmaster and father of 5 sons, I’ve seen the conflicts between LDS scouting and the BSA firsthand. I’m a big fan of what scouting offers- the outdoor experiences, learning to set and achieve goals, etc; but I am not a big fan of the BSA. For a lot of the reasons Julie mentions, when our troop was involved with non-LDS troops at summer camps or camporees, there is a definite competitive disadvantage for the LDS troops, and these events are often very competitive. First off, as pointed out, our boys are there by assignment, all of the non-LDS boys are there by choice. Generally, the non-LDS troops have a significant cadre of older boy leaders, ages 15 to 18, where our LDS troops generally push kids to get their Eagle by age 14 or 15, and then don’t attend scouting any more. When our troop of 8 or 10 12 to 14 year old boys showed up at summer camp, they found themselves being pushed into competitive situations with troops of 40 boys, with a third of them in that 15 to 18 year old age group.

    Ultimately, as LDS troops, we have a different agenda, and a different standard for leaders in that they should be just as interested in helping the boys with scripture study and missionary preparation as with developing camping and outdoor skills.

    That’s why I have great hopes for the DTG program, and see a time when the church and the BSA part company. Not to mention that half our church membership lives outside the US, and don’t have scouting as a church sponsored program.

  19. liberty
    May 18, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Just think of the time many parents who are dragged into Scouting “callings”… they could be with their own children if Scouting was dumped. Think of how the leaders could volunteer to coach, work in schools or even help their own kids set goals and develop their own talents.

    I hope Duty to God REPLACES Scouting at a date in the near future. Good families and priesthood quorums are the best ways to instruct our young men.

  20. scw
    May 18, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    The problem is that you go to a homeschool scout troop. Did you really expect any compliments about LDS from them?

  21. queuno
    May 18, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Let’s also recognize that there are lots of dysfunctional LDS troops whose dysfunction has nothing to do with BSA or the Church.

  22. May 18, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    liberty: Think of how the leaders could volunteer to…

    Hehe. Half of the practical value of the church for me is that it gets me off of my butt and serving others. I venture to guess that most humans are not much more prone to volunteer for service than I am despite our ideals. So organizations that give service assignments (like The Church) prod us into the action and that is a good thing.

  23. bbell
    May 18, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    I tend to agree that if you are dealing with a homeschool group in Texas you are in general going to have lots of evangelicals with deep seated dislike for Mormons in general. Have a bad exp with a LDS troop and all of a sudden all those sermons and godmakers screenings come flashing back

    That being said I agree with Queuno that the LDS scout troops simply operate with our own goals and objectives and do not care much what Irving thinks.

  24. JrL
    May 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    There are at least two keys to non-LDS scout leaders having a more positive view of scouting in LDS units.

    First, they have to understand our concept: we use scouting as a tool to benefit an existing group of boys, while they use scouting to attract a group of boys. Because their group is self-selected, they offer the best program they can, in whatever form they as adults wish, and serve those attracted by that program. Because our group is not self-selected, we adapt the program (or at least are supposed to adapt the program — sometimes dramatically) to meet the individual needs of the boys in our quorums. When non-LDS leaders I’ve trained learn that our object is to keep all of our boys in scouting (I include Venturing, though there we never use the words “scout” and ‘scouting”) from 8 until 18, they look at us with a mixture of incredulity or awe. Yes, they have a few boys who stay around and provide leadership at 16 or older. But I’ve never met one who aspired to keep even the majority, much less all, in a program at that age.

    Second, Church memebrs have to contribute to BSA. I mean time, not Friends of Scouting or popcorn $. That means having Church members participate actively on district and council committees and in leadership positions. Otherwise some see us as mooching off the non-LDS. And they never gain the knowledge of our approach that comes from working with us directly.

  25. KLC
    May 18, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    JrL, as the designated Friends of Scouting rep for my ward this year I have seen hard numbers about donations by LDS members to scouting which lead me to two observations.

    First, our local council would cease to exist without LDS financial support.

    Second, given #1, it’s pretty clear to me that the moochers aren’t LDS.

  26. May 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    I’ve seen it both ways, where the LDS Scouts are insular, and where they are very integrated into the BSA program.

    When in Montgomery, Alabama, our LDS Scout leaders never went to the District training meetings. At least not until I was called as Scout Leader in my ward. I not only began attending the Scout Roundtables, but I volunteered to be the BSA Roundtable Commissioner. Then, when the church we were holding meetings failed us, I volunteered our stake center, which was perfectly centralized in the district. This opened up most of our LDS scout leaders attending, simply because it was in “our” building. Over the years, it improved immensely.

    I am now in the Indianapolis area, where our scouting program is very integrated with the BSA program. We just had a Wood Badge, where we had 2 members of the Indy West stake presidency, and several scouting leaders from the stake and wards. One of my best friends is a district commissioner, one of several in the districts in the area.

    This requires some very dedicated members to do. It usually begins with one or two dedicated ones. It is important for bishoprics and stake presidencies to understand the program and be involved. I think it is important to even have stake callings to assign good Scouters to work with the District/Council as liaisons.

    We are different in how we run the program. But we can narrow the gap and do a better job on our side.

  27. Bob
    May 18, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    #16: I belonged to a Church troop. The BSA made us join the NRA. I was a member of the “Order of the Arrow”. It was nothing but teen bullies, built around serect oaths and handshakes. I dropped out. The Church could do scouting without the BSA.

  28. queuno
    May 18, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    #16: I belonged to a Church troop. The BSA made us join the NRA. I was a member of the “Order of the Arrow”. It was nothing but teen bullies, built around serect oaths and handshakes. I dropped out. The Church could do scouting without the BSA.

    What years? LDS troops in 2010 really don’t bother with this stuff.

  29. mjp
    May 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Sorry you had such an uncomfortable experience Julie. District and council scout events are a good opportunity to reach outside our church social networks, so it’s painful when we (or our fellow members) drop the ball.

    Scouting is a big tent. In my local BSA council a variety of community youth organizations (rowing, language school) have adopted Venture crew charters in order to use the BSA insurance and infrastructure. There should be room for Mormonism’s unique brand of scouting within BSA.

    The Church’s uniqe approach to scouting undoubtedly generates some hard feelings among some hard core scouters (both inside and outside the church), but whether it is a significant issue on the PR front churchwide is questionable, in my view.

  30. bdub
    May 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    In my little neck of the woods, there is an interesting Scouting/LDS dynamic. LDS make up about 10% of the population and about 95% of the scouting units. The only non-LDS unit in our district is definitely serious/professional. They put on a flag ceremony that would rival anything at Arlington National Cemetery (our last court of honor flag ceremony ended with the caller telling the color guard to “go back where you came from”). They average 30 nights of camping per year (Counting scout camp, we might hit 12). They have 50+ boys, ranging from 11 to 18, with lots of older boys acting as mentors (our ward is light on youth – 10-12 boys total from 11-18). Their scoutmaster has been serving for 15+ years (in the 2.5 years of our ward’s existence, we’re on our second scoutmaster). Their boys are anxiously engaged in scouting and excited to be involved. At best, our boys are apathetic. At worst, they are violently opposed to scouting altogether. I place the blame for this mostly on their parents, who have many of the same negative attitudes towards scouting that I’m reading about in this comments section. Another target for blame is the adult leaders. Lastly, the boys themselves are at fault.

    I don’t see any problem with the BSA or with the church’s involvement in scouting. If the program is run correctly, and the parents buy into it, it functions.

  31. May 18, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    The BSA experience must be a very localized experience – and the experience is either very positive or very negative – depending on who the Scout leaders are and perhaps also the basic (local) regional Scouting culture.

    I say this because my experiences with Scouting were so positive that I have trouble understanding the negative feelings commenters express about the program. At the same time, those negative feelings are so prevalent in the ‘Nacle that they must be based in some kind of reality.

    I wasn’t even the most gung-ho Scout. I did not earn my Eagle badge. I never could figure out how to tie the different knots – I would learn and then forget them almost as quickly as they had been demonstrated to me. But I thoroughly enjoyed the camping experiences and the Scout Camp we had each summer. I still remember mile swims, epic games of capture-the-flag (involving water balloons), teaching the canoeing merit badge, learning to cook outdoors over a campfire, learning how to rapell down the face of a cliff, pick-up games of all kinds of sports, etc. and etc. We had so much fun!

    That’s why I have so much trouble understanding the negative feelings people have towards the program.

  32. queuno
    May 18, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t see any problem with the BSA or with the church’s involvement in scouting. If the program is run correctly, and the parents buy into it, it functions.

    Correct. But if run correct as the way the Church really wants it done, it will produce better prepared missionaries, not outdoorsmen.

  33. queuno
    May 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Just a comment on parental commitment to things like day camp.

    Our stake does not pay for day camp. Parents pay it themselves; the ward can step in if there’s a financial issue and a boy might not be able to go. Since this now entirely an elective proposition, we have essentially told the Cub parents: If your boy is going to day camp, then you’re signing up for a day to chaperone. Period. That actually seems to work well (and it helps ensure that at least one parent of a boy is youth-protection-trained, which we take very seriously).

    From what I have observed, LDS parental involvement is much higher than in non-LDS troops in our area, on a percentage basis. My son and I tagged along on a 11yo campout and *every* father was there. Now, for pure numbers, it might not equal a non-LDS troop, but my friends who work with non-LDS troops always gripe about how parents won’t get involved. At least in our wards, we can sic the bishop on a lazy father… :)

  34. John Mansfield
    May 18, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    A couple historical points, perhaps of interest:

    1) The LDS Church started out with its own MIA Scouting. The BSA invited the Church to join the BSA.

    2) Relief Society once had a more exclusive membership, but instruction came down to put all adult female LDS on the society roles. Some presidents were upset at having their high-functioning societies swamped with inactive members.

  35. John Mansfield
    May 18, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    queuno, another thing the LDS troops have going for them is a pool of men under 30 that most community troops don’t know how to find. Also older men without sons, like my old scoutmaster and his assistant.

  36. kevinf
    May 18, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Danithew, the experiences are intensely local. I loved being a scoutmaster in an LDS troop. We had great fun, we did a lot of interesting things, and we had a lot of boys do very well in rank advancement (although, the scoutmaster who followed me did much better in the rank advancements, like 75% of the boys getting their Eagle). I saw some well run non-LDS troops that sound a lot like bdub’s experience.

    No question, though, that when I found differences in the BSA expectations vs the Church expectations, I always came down on the side of the Church. My goal was to help produce well rounded prospective missionaries and young men worthy of temple marriage. A lot of the non-LDS troops seemed to value more secular achievements, not in and of themselves bad, but not as lofty as what we were pursuing.

    For what it’s worth, my own experience as a scout was a very mixed bag. I enjoyed the camping, hiking, outdoor skills, but was personally repelled by our Scoutmaster, who was a bully himself, and not the kind of adult that I wanted to emulate. He was a great outdoorsman and skilled scouter (Silver Beaver recipient), but his moral and ethical failings were obvious to us as young men. When I later served as a bishop and bishopric member following my scoutmaster experience, I can’t believe they let this man be a scoutmaster and act as a role model for us 12 to 14 year old boys.

  37. Kevin Barney
    May 18, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    For me a big part of the problem is that in the LDS context scoutmaster is an assigned calling to some poor schlub who doesn’t necessarily know or care anything about scouting. In the non-LDS context, being a scoutmaster and outdoorsman is your passion and you are internally fully committed. In the LDS context, not so much. If you happen to luck out and get a really committed scoutmaster, it can be great. But my son quickly lost interest when the (LDS) scoutmaster forgot to turn in his merit badge cards from summer camp and lost them. All that work for multiple badges down the drain. It is unthinkable that a non-LDS scoutmaster would have taken so cavalier an attitude to something that at the time was very important to this young man. After that my son didn’t want anything to do with scouting, and I fully supported him in his decision.

  38. John Mansfield
    May 18, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Observations like Kevin Barney’s are part of a pattern of comparing our worst with others’ best. Non-LDS scoutmasters aren’t all the second coming of Baden-Powell, and most LDS scoutmasters are not hapless, apathetic conscripts any more than our bishops are.

  39. May 18, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    @11: this is definitely true for Philmont ( Our YM president is anxiously engaged in trying to lose a bunch of weight before we attend next year.

    @31: the Scout experience is almost entirely localized. In my current ward, we have an excellent Scoutmaster and a great local council. Our leaders get trained, and they actively take part in helpoing the boys lead rather than doing it all for them.

    Our boys are active in lots of different activities, though most of them finish their Eagle by 15 or 16 and then don’t do much BSA stuff. However, for the 11-15-year-olds, the program is great. I’ve lived in other places where Scouting was an afterthought, but in all cases this was a symptom of a weak YM program overall.

  40. KLC
    May 18, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    As has been said by Kevin B and others, the compulsory nature of scouting in the church works for us and against us. And for those who can’t figure out the negativity maybe an analogy will help.

    What if the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood in the USA wasn’t scouting but Little League baseball? Organized sports can teach teamwork, the value of hard work, the value of setting and achieving goals and the value of physical fitness and activity. Many of the same things we want to build with scouting could be built with baseball teams.

    I’m guessing the dynamic within the church wouldn’t change at all. Those who love baseball would thrive; adults who love baseball and had fond memories of playing it as children would volunteer, become involved and defend the program; some who love baseball would see it as the word of God and the Lord’s chosen way to build young men. Those who hate baseball or organized team sports would complain, a few would fade away but most, young men and the men called by the bishop as coaches, would dutifully if half-heartedly show up and go through the motions. And the non-LDS teams would grumble and complain about how those Mormons aren’t real ballplayers.

  41. KLC
    May 18, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    John Mansfield, you’re forgetting one thing. Non-LDS scout troops are run like independent non-profit organizations. If they have more than a occasional poor leader they will fail to attract boys, fail to attract volunteers, fail to attract funds and they will die. Not so for LDS troops, they can limp along in mediocrity for years, propped up by the church organization.

  42. Porter Rockwell
    May 18, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    You have a few facts wrong– first.. tithing money is not spent on camp. In our troop it is the boy or family that pays, and in then in event help is needed, it comes from fast offerings.

    Weight is only a consideration on “High Adventure” type trips, which, according to the scout policy, is when you are more than 4 hours away from emergency medical services. This was just a Philmont, and a few other specialized locations rule, but last year they generalized it to all scouting activities that meet that definition. It is a good rule, it would be a good thing for any boy, or leader, to have to lose a few pounds in order to take part in those type outings. I lost 32 last year to attend high adventure. It was the kick in the butt I needed to do it.

    And the Church very much realizes that turnover is a problem in our Scouting program, they are encouraging local priesthood leaders to take into account how much time the leader will have to spend with the boys (does his job allow him to get off in time to get to Mutual, and can he get time off in the summer for camps/adventures) and if it is likely he will be in the ward a while, and able to function for multiple years. In our ward our last scoutmaster served 6 years, and our current one has been in 3 years, and planning on doing it for many to follow.

  43. John Mansfield
    May 18, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    KLC, there is something to what you say, but it can be overstated. Every troop has a sponsoring organization. Many other churches sponsor and support scouting as part of their youth ministries. I’ve also seen troops supported out of the deep pockets of a car dealership.

  44. Yet Another John
    May 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Let me just add another observation to those who are waiting, hoping, predicting, etc. that the DTG program will supplant scouting: It will do so WHEN parents step up to the plate and do their part. Duty to God requires much more input than scouting on the part of parents to see that it (the program) is done properly. Another observation: The wards that have a successful scout program, generally also have a successful DTG program (and vice versa).

  45. queuno
    May 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    You have a few facts wrong– first.. tithing money is not spent on camp. In our troop it is the boy or family that pays, and in then in event help is needed, it comes from fast offerings.

    Cub Scouts can’t fund raise. A lot of wards/stake subsidize day camp through the ward budget.

    Re 40 (baseball instead of Scouting) –

    Then the Church would be in serious trouble in Texas, where I stare out at the park near my house and see Spring football drills on what used to be a baseball diamond.

  46. Lupita
    May 18, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    I find this conversation very intriguing. As a new Scouting parent, I was prepared to be a hater. Imagine my surprise to find my Cub completely jazzed about the entire program. He loves it and it’s rubbing off on me.

    To those who accept Scouting callings and are haters, boy, you’re doing everyone a serious disservice. What’s wrong with politely declining? No one seemed to have a problem declining callings when I was in the YW presidency. That seems extremely counterproductive to ask anyone to support a program that they hate.

    Around here, there’s some envy on the part of non-LDS troops because of the parental involvement of the LDS troops. I appreciate all the experiences shared and sure hope that we can avoid some of the pitfalls mentioned.

    Lastly, I’m not exactly clear about this “LDS boys participating by assignment instead of sheer desire”. Isn’t Scouting optional? Couldn’t my son opt out? Maybe it’s just because we are new to this, but I thought we joined, not that someone else signed us up.

  47. Mark Brown
    May 18, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    There is a fundamental problem with scouters outside the church (and some inside it) who are everlastingly kvetching about the way the church does scouting. The success of a troop can be measured by the number of young men it helps advance to the rank of Eagle scout. LDS troops do this at a rate several times greater than other troops.

    In light of this fact, the continual complaining about LDS troops amounts to nothing more than childish whining, and those who do it probably could profit from taking a few pointers from us. Either that, or just shut up already.

  48. kevinf
    May 18, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    Please don’t characterize me as a hater. There were many things I enjoyed about scouting myself, and I loved being a scoutmaster. I tried really hard, along with assistants, parents, and ward leaders to provide a good program. Even with my ambivalence about the Scouting program, I gave up my summer vacations to go to scout camp, loved spending time in the outdoors with the boys, and put a lot of work into our high adventure and summer camp activities. None of that, though, could change the fact that for at least two of my five boys, Scouting was not meeting their needs, and they had limited interest. I went on to become a bishop, and supported our scoutmaster fully, and then later served as YM president, and was deeply involved in helping with Eagle projects. I’ve seen how scouting can serve as a great complement to the AP/YM program for some of the boys. But just like using baseball (or more likely, basketball) as AP/YM activity arm, it won’t serve the needs of all the boys. In that sense, DTG and its similarities to the YW program, seems better suited to meeting the various needs of different boys who may not fit the scouting mold.

  49. Bob
    May 18, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    No one has told me what the Church gets by belonging to BSA? I like, Scouting, but not the BSA. So, why not Mormon programs or it’s own form of Scouting?

  50. Bob
    May 18, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    #47: Mark, you need to review the Eagle program both inside the Church and inside the BSA. Today, I doubt many would made Eagle under the old Eagle rules.

  51. Stephanie
    May 18, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    Tithing funds are not used for scout camp. Either the families pay for it themselves (cubs) or the boys do a fundraiser (scouts).

    The weight requirements come from BSA.

    I place the blame for this mostly on their parents, who have many of the same negative attitudes towards scouting that I’m reading about in this comments section. Another target for blame is the adult leaders. Lastly, the boys themselves are at fault.

    I have an eerily similar feeling to being a cub scout leader as I do to being a homemaker. From the church’s perspective, in giving me my calling (or “eternal role”), I had better damn well like it or something is wrong with me.

  52. Baritone
    May 18, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    I would want to look carefully at the high number of LDS scouts getting their eagle awards. Many outsiders believe we simply push them through and don’t really demand much of them.

    Although I was active in scouting in MIA and enjoyed it very much, I felt the program suffered because of so many boys who did not really want to be there who caused trouble for the others and for the scoutmaster.

  53. Mark Brown
    May 18, 2010 at 6:09 pm


    It does not matter whether outsiders think we push them through without demanding much of them. It is the local council, not the church, which certifies merit badge counselors. It is the council, not the church, which conducts the board of review. If we are doing it wrong, the council can correct us. In the absence of that correction I don’t pay much attention to what the whiners say.

  54. May 18, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Spot on, Julie. Thank you.

    I’m not “friend of scouting.” Actually, I think the program is great. And since my first scouting experience has been recent, I haven’t dealt personally with the problems Julie discusses. My oldest son just got home from cubs a few minutes ago and he loves it. His little brother can’t wait to get started. I just hate the disparity that my four daughters are now seeing and that I saw as a kid.

    I read Boys Life more than my brothers. Not because I wanted to go on a 50-mile hike, but because they had this very cool, highly supported program with uniforms, rewards, and tons of activities. All the pins and badges and ceremonies and banquets and competitions…just so cool.

    And all the overnight activities! Try getting a sleepover outside of YW Camp approved for girls. I’ve only seen one, no matter where I lived. Once I was actually, seriously told that it couldn’t be approved for the girls because of the chance of molestation. Last I checked, that was almost exclusively a scouting problem.

    I’d go for the Duty to God takeover of scouts withIN the church in a heart beat.

  55. Anita
    May 18, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    we joked at ward council recently that it should be renamed, “reluctant supporters of scouting”–because some of us don’t feel like “friends” when it’s an obligatory donation to a group we wish would be severed from the church. it doesn’t make sense for this to be the activity arm of the aaronic priesthood when that’s not feasible for a worldwide church. along with a host of other issues.

  56. Porter Rockwell
    May 18, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    in my opinion, one of the reasons we stay hooked up with the Boy Scouts, in spite of the fact we have the resources and could run a similar program easier, and probably cheaper, I think we like to set the agenda for BSA. We set the agenda because we pay the bills, thats how the real world works.

    I think the Church wants to set the agenda because we can exert moral direction on this organization that reaches out to a lot of boys who are non-members. There are plenty of less conservative outlets and organizations, but for boys or families who are seeking a very conservative, old fashioned organization, BSA is there.

    The fact that an arch conservative organization exists, and is molding (willing) boys is no small source of irritation to liberals.. and they have made runs at the BSA before.. and have been rebuffed, no doubt with the church quietly in the background making it so.

    Don’t misunderstand, I don’t think the Church or BSA is trying to force anything on anybody, but for those who seek a BSA type experience, it is a great thing to have available.

  57. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    May 18, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    A variety of observations about scouting in and out of the Church, without any unifying theme:

    When I was in our branch’s scout committee in Japan, our kids participated in an event planned by the local non-LDS scouting leaders (this was a military base). There were many aspects of the activity that were poorly planned, to the extent that I have rarely seen in any LDS Church activity, including those done by the Elders Quorum.

    Our funnest activity with a non-LDS unit was with a local Japanese Scout troop. I was approached by the Japanese scoutmaster (because I speak Japanese), and we arranged a tour of our Air Force base, including the planes and the fire trucks. Then we had a hot dog and marshmallow roast, a treat for the Japanese scouts, who had never seen a marshmallow before (this was 1982).

    So my conclusion is that there is great variability in the quality of the leadership and organization and friendliness of scout troops and their sponsoring organizations. Someone who thinks that there is a special “Mormon” scout disagreeableness is just demonstrating their own inherent lack of charity. There is nothing in the Scout Law that invites people to gossip about those who are different from themselves. What Scouting does do is teach respect for the religious beliefs of others and an ethic of willing helpfulness to any human being in need, no matter what their race or religion. I would not be at all surprised if the person who hated “Mormon” scouts also had some choice words about troops that were predominantly black or Hispanic or Asian. If I were the scouting leader with oversight of the person in question, I would take her aside and straighten her out about the ethic of Scouting’s “big tent” which bases membership, not on race, religion, or economic status, but on a common dedication to moral ideals and community service. A lot like the United States.

    For a short time in the 1970s, the church actually experimented with the option of using the Civil Air Patrol as an alternative organization to scouting. The CAP is an official auxiliary to the US Air Force. Part of its function is to supply civilian pilots and spotters who volunteer their time to conduct search and rescue missions with their personal aircraft. Its youth arm is a lot like ROTC, using the love of flying to motivate youth to live lives that will qualify them for ROTC scholarships, appointments to a military academy, or enlistment in the military. My father was in the Rocky Mountain Region CAP leadership at the time. I personally would have loved that option as a teenager. While my best friends in my ward became early Eagle Scouts, I didn’t get past Star rank, and my own two sons were similar.

    I think a lot of the problems with LDS scout troops develop from the assumption that Scouting leadership can be treated like any other Church calling, except for organist, requiring no special qualifications or training. Untrained leaders results in untrained boy scouts. The few times when a serious expert taught us something (like how to build a snow shelter) stand out in contrast to the mass of mediocre scout meetings that involved a lot of hanging around and game playing. I never saw a serious curriculum and aids for teaching scouts and their leaders. I am sure it is out there somewhere, but it never got to me when I was a scout, a senior patrol leader, and a scout committee chairman.

    The merit badge program really has a potential for inviting boys to learn things outside their comfort zone. But my experience as a merit badge counselor (in several intellectual subjects like Citizenship in the World, etc.) all too often has been that the boys don’t contact me when they are starting their process of earning a badge, but want me to sign off on the badge when they come in and recite a few desultory comments about each item on the requirements checklist. A better experience was when our stake organized a mass merit badge camp, taking two Wednesday nights in a row to actually train boys to qualify for specific merit badges. If the program is used with real integrity, it can have value, but we have too much of a tradition of mediocre effort to check off a square on the list for eagle rank.

    My 10 year old grandson loves cub scouts. He is home schooled, so it is (along with judo) one of his “social” outlets.

  58. Phouchg
    May 18, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I dunno…I think the Seventh-Day Adventists may be on to something with their own Pathfinders youth organization:

  59. queuno
    May 18, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I’ve known several former stake primary presidency types who later on all *requested* callings in the Cub Scouts. Maybe they’re onto something.

  60. Dr Horrible
    May 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    I am currently a YM president and dealing with Scout-related problems. As I see it, the issues center around parents. If they are not invested into the program, it will fail. Case closed.

    Parents are often quick to drop their kids off at activities, but are slow to respond to requests to assist and volunteer on campouts, merit badges, mutual activities, scout camp, etc… There is TOO much to do without parental involvement.

  61. Coffinberry
    May 18, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Sigh. I was a dual-leader in two Cub Packs for a while (one LDS and the other School-related), followed by years as Roundtable Commissioner, ADC, PowWow Staff/Book Compiler, etc.

    The problem isn’t Scouts, per se. The problem is getting leaders to catch the vision of what the program is about, and then doing it. (Or, put more succinctly and specifically LDS: It’s about getting people to live according to their covenants.) It really does not matter whether the Church keeps Scouting, though I hope they do, or adopts an entirely Duty-to-God program, because the same dedication and vision is going to be necessary in order for the program to work. Without dedication and vision (and with too whiny wives whining about their husband’s time with the boys, and too many shortsighted men failing to invest time in their families) NEITHER program will work.

    I think that ditching the BSA would cost us valuable leader and youth training experiences (National Junior Leadership Training, Powderhorn, Wood Badge). That would be a terrible loss, but with where few take advantage of such training, I suppose that few would perceive a difference.

    *tells self to walk away from the conversation… girl, you knew better than to click on the topic…*

  62. Coffinberry
    May 18, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    PS, just wanted to add (ok, so I couldn’t walk away…) to the comment about Scouting preparing missionaries…

    It was the full-on Scouting that has prepared my current missionary son for his assignment. First, having survived Klondike mid-winter camping, he is ready to build a fire in the wood stove in his missionary apartment, and ready to dress in multi-layers to stay warm in constant freezing rain. Second, he learned how to manage money, so his missionary allotment stretches through the month. Third, he was emergency trained, so that when an earthquake and tsunami hit the country he is currently serving in, he was prepared (and his mother need not fear!) Fourth, because he was junior leader trained, he has the skills to help resolve interpersonal problems and misunderstandings. Fifth, because he earned his advanced Venturing Silver and Trust awards, he learned how to teach and how to talk respectfully with others about religious things in an open and friendly manner.

    These gifts from Scouting (and I can say Scouting more than Duty to God, because he did earn both his Eagle and his DTG, as well as his Venturing Bronze, Gold, Silver and Trust) are currently greatly blessing his life, and enabling him to better serve as a missionary.

    This is why I believe we as North-American LDS are greatly blessed by participating in the BSA programs.

  63. cyril
    May 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    From what I have seen, read, and heard so far, the new DTG program is essentially a reversion to the dormant DTG program of old. As one leader in the know put it to me recently, “the scouters won.” Like many of the commenters here, I believe the DTG program can and should be the activity arm of the YM program. It is a more well-rounded program than scouting, it reflects the mission and purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood more fully, and the Church would do a better job carrying out an exclusive DTG program than it currently does trying to approximate a scouting program.

    I think comment 56 states one of the principal reasons why the scouters won.

  64. Jeremy
    May 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Now, I’ve been praying for Duty to God to replace Scouts for years, and advocating for it in the bloggernacle, so maybe I’m just prone to hearing the rumors that I want to hear in the rustle of the wind, but…

    In the old Duty to God program, there was a section in the beginning of the booklet that outlined how it was supposed to be used in tandem with Scouts. And it seemed like people bent over backwards to reassure everyone that it wasn’t supposed to replace Scouts. There are elaborate websites with spreadsheets with pivot tables (pivot tables!) for tracking Duty to God and Scout overlap, etc. etc. We even had a member of the YM General Presidency come to a stake meeting and tell YM leaders that they weren’t even really supposed to do Duty to God stuff much as a quorum–that that was for the boys to do at home, and that they were supposed to do Scout stuff all the time for mutual.

    But in the most recent General Conference it was announced that a new Duty to God program would be coming out. The new materials aren’t available on the Church website, and they won’t be distributed towards until June at the earliest, so I don’t know what the “interface” between the new program and Scouts will be. But here’s what struck me: neither the announcement nor President Beck’s accompanying talk contained a single mention of Scouting.

    And on the FAQ sheet downloadable from, this is all it says about Scouts:

    The new program does not overlap or compete with Scouting, but it does include some activities relating to physical, educational, and social development.

    I’m anxious to see whether that means it will be dramatically scaled down so as to leave more room for Scouts (in the U.S. that is–while somehow filling that gap in the rest of the world), or whether this will represent the sun setting on LDS scouting…

  65. Coffinberry
    May 19, 2010 at 8:05 am

    (sigh. still can’t step away…)

    I realized I didn’t respond to the Julie’s post but rather just the tired old ditch-scouting argument. But I think on the original topic, I have something to share.

    As an LDS BSA leader trainer for many years in a district where the vast majority of Packs were non-LDS (slim majority of Troops were non-LDS, but nearly all Teams and Crews were LDS) I was very often in a position to hear and participate in the kinds of conversations Julie described. I trained as many as 100 Den Leaders, and as many as 60 Committee members, at a time, in September, November, and January… while at the same time serving on our Stake Primary Board and Presidency.

    It was fun, frankly, to be in a position to help bridge both sides’ understandings of the program. Usually, when a concerned party was helped to understand the program better, the frustration was resolved, or at least eased a bit.

    Here’s the deal. In the US, individual Scout Units (Packs, Troops, Teams, Crews) are literally owned by their Chartering Organization (a church or a service organization such as the Elks, the Rotary, the VFW, the American Legion, etc.). The BSA offers potential Chartering Organizations a method for accomplishing its goals for the betterment of young people in the Chartering Organization’s community. When a Chartering Organization chooses to partner with the BSA, they are obliged to take certain parts of the program (The Declaration of Religious Principles, the rank advancement requirements, the Promise/Oath/Law and Cub Scout Values etc.), but they may choose whether to take other parts of the program (for example, Tiger Cubbing and Belt Loops are optional programs; as are Varsity and Venturing Scouting). Another choice that is offered to ALL Chartering Organizations is whether Cub advancement opportunities shall be measured by the participant’s school year or by the participant’s birthdate. The BSA provides manuals, training staff (yes, there are extensive training syllabi published and available), and camping/high adventure facilities.

    The Chartering Organization is responsible for ensuring the Unit has a safe place to meet, has at least some financial support, and that the Unit has Trained Leaders. (And EVERY Chartering Organization wrestles with the Trained Leader aspect of Scouting. It’s just sometimes more obvious in LDS units because of the often too-rapid turnover in staff.)

    These things are true for all Chartering Organizations. The LDS Church is but one of many Chartering Organizations, and the same rules apply to the LDS Church as apply to other COs. Many people do not realize that some of the differences between the LDS program and the other COs programs arise from the same set of rules/options.

    I usually found that explaining that EVERY Chartering Organization has the option of tailoring the BSA program to its specific needs helps greatly to ease tensions between LDS and non-LDS Scouting units.

  66. Stephanie
    May 19, 2010 at 10:20 am

    The problem isn’t Scouts, per se. The problem is getting leaders to catch the vision of what the program is about, and then doing it. (Or, put more succinctly and specifically LDS: It’s about getting people to live according to their covenants.)

    Comments like this make me crazy. The idea of cub scouts (or activity days) is a good one, and I am 100% on board with providing activities and achievements for children to help them prepare for future responsibilities and develop leadership skills. But, I am not a fan of the BSA. There are just too many things that bug me (spending $100 each time a son turns 8 is probably the first). To tie the BSA into sacred covenants is TOO MUCH. What is that part in the BofM (3 Nephi) when Christ says, “this is my doctrine. Repent and be baptized”? It’s not more than that. Christ’s doctrine is not the BSA, so don’t drag our covenants into this.

  67. Coffinberry
    May 19, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Stephanie, I say it unabashedly, and my meaning refers to Primary teachers who don’t bother to get subs, home teachers who don’t get to know their families, and any and every other calling. When we accept a calling, we need to learn the duties of the calling (ie, get trained) and then do it as well as we can. Too often, when a person accepts a scouting calling in the church, they don’t bother to get trained, they don’t bother to learn the program, and they don’t bother to seek the Spirit in performing the calling. That is what I mean by keeping covenants. And I will keep saying so, because that is where the problem truly is.

  68. RT
    May 19, 2010 at 11:17 am

    I have a testimony of the gospel. I also have a testimony of the church. I think that both have lasting, eternal value.

    But I don’t have a testimony of Scouting in general, nor do I have a testimony of the BSA in particular. My experience with scouting was that it was a nice diversion as a teenager that gave me a good chance to go camping, hang out with my friends from church in a non-church setting, and blow a lot of stuff up while camping. And my experience with BSA as an adult is that it is a money-pit that sucks up far, far more time from good men than any non-bishopric calling in the church.

    I’m with Stephanie. I resent the fact that covenants that I have made about eternally important things have somehow been converted into a requirement that I pay for an organization that is decidedly non-eternal. That’s just bizarre to me.

  69. Coffinberry
    May 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I can understand the reluctance, especially regarding the unceasing requests for money–BSA can be a real pain in the butt about that, I agree.

    But when I refer to covenants in this context, I am not talking about money, and I am talking about a problem that administering and ministering through any youth program, regardless of it being BSA or DTG. Until and unless people step up and keep their (specifically Temple) covenants, nothing will happen. And that is truly a problem.

  70. RT
    May 19, 2010 at 11:33 am


    I was talking about the time commitment as well as the money. If you took the man-hours that we currently put to scout stuff and redirect it to church stuff, I think we’d end up with a far better results with our youth.

    It’s really a martha/mary thing to me. Scouts is often a good thing. But there are so many better things that we could be doing with all that time and money.

  71. Chet
    May 19, 2010 at 11:34 am

    Having been in YM (in TX) the last two years, here’s a few observations:
    1- leadership can be done right if the ward membership is big enough to allow for a “two-deep” system
    2- recently heard a member of general board emphasize a 50/50 split between Scouts and DTG activities
    3- recently heard that injuries to LDS scouts is 60% of all incidents

  72. Stephanie
    May 19, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Coffinberry, I will agree that our temple covenants demand that we give our best to our callings. But, I think that what BSA demands of leaders is out of scope with what the church/gospel demands of leaders. And to say that what the BSA demands of leaders (which can suck up ALL your time if you want to be the gung-ho scout leader, and is often a problem when the scout leader called has young children who aren’t even scouts) is akin to what our covenants demand is a mistake, IMO. My friend’s husband was gone every Saturday for 2 months last spring between campouts and trainings while she was home alone with their three young kids. Do their temple covenants demand that?

  73. Bob
    May 19, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    THe BSA has it’s own covenants, oaths, ritualisms, pledges to which it is loyal. Why The Church wishes then brought into Mormonism is not understandable to me.

  74. DS
    May 19, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    To add on to Stephanie’s point. Two years ago I was in the YM Presidency and Scout leader and my wife stayed home with our two young boys while I was gone all the time with middle of the week activities, weekend activities, Sunday meetings, etc., in addition to working 60 – 80 hours a week…until my wife had a break down and pointed out that I literally wasn’t seeing her or the kids more than an hour or so a week. I went to the Bishop and was released.

    As Stephanie points out, a YM calling is one thing, but add to that the demands of a BSA leader and it quickly sucks up all remaining time. So do my temple covenants demand that I completely ignore my family in order to be a fully committed BSA leader?

  75. DS
    May 19, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    One more thing, the person who replaced me was just as busy with a wife and kid he never saw. He lasted 6 months before asking to be released as well.

    From my experience the leaders called are almost always in their late 20 / early 30s and have demanding jobs and young kids. I don’t think the problem is that they don’t catch the vision; it’s that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

  76. Stephanie
    May 19, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    From my experience the leaders called are almost always in their late 20 / early 30s and have demanding jobs and young kids. I don’t think the problem is that they don’t catch the vision; it’s that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.


  77. liberty
    May 19, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Scouting does not utilize the power of the atonement in changing our young men. The Aaronic priesthood and the Duty to God programs do. Scouting is a program designed by men. Priesthood is a program instituted by God. Why should we utilize an inferior product in nurturing our youth?

    Scouters I know often sacrifice time and resources they should be spending with and on their families. Temple covenants protect famillies, not organizations of professionals who have much to lose if the LDS Church loosens it ties with Scouting.

  78. bdub
    May 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    60. Dr Horrible,
    I love your sing-along blog!

    The parents make or destroy a scouting program. Our ward’s parents are currently in the destruction mode. In the 4+ years I’ve been involved in the YM/Scouting program, we’ve had 1 father attend an overnight camp. These boys see their dads saying “yeah, right” to a request to support the troop and of course it’s going to have a negative impact on their feelings towards the troop.

    None of my sons are old enough to be in YM yet, but I’m out there every Wednesday night and at every campout with somebody else’s boy, with the belief that somehow that event is going to make them better YM, better missionaries, better husbands, better fathers. And hopefully, my boys will see how important the scouting program can be, if we do it right.

  79. bdub
    May 19, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    77. Liberty – As long as our prophet is an avid supporter of scouting, I’m going to believe that some good will come of our supporting the program when it functions properly, even in the sub-par LDS context that’s been explained here.

  80. palerobber
    May 19, 2010 at 6:10 pm

    42. Porter Rockell
    The fact that an arch conservative organization exists, and is molding (willing) boys is no small source of irritation to liberals

    um, huh?

    i don’t think most liberals, unless they’re directly involved in scouting like my (liberal) spouse, have given a second thought to the boy scouts since the unfortunate 2000 Supreme Court decision. if arch conservatives are trying to use scouting to “mold” boys they don’t seem to be doing a very good job of it. as when i was a (liberal) boy scout, the program today is mostly about learning knots and playing with fire.

  81. Paul
    May 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    This comment is shameless proselytizing for the Scouts-LDS Yahoo group, wherein we discuss the above points, and others – such as how to execute the program so that it affects the lives of boys positively – exclusively.

    Hint: the scout program is not mostly about learning knots and playing with fire (or knives or rifles).

  82. Bob
    May 19, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    #81: Paul, I read the Yahoo question “Who do think would last longer?. It would be the city kid___ he has the cell phone.

  83. Shawn
    May 20, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Properly implemented, Scouting in the LDS Church has a tremendous value on the lives of the youth and leaders invlolved. By properly implemented, I mean – following both BSA & LDS policies, guidelines, and standards – all of which can be found in the handbooks from both organizations.

    Based on many previous posts here, it seems that there are still many LDS leaders not following either BSA or LDS handbooks. Is there any doubt why the programs fail to deliver, when the standard hasn’t been met? Especially when comments are made stating that LDS units “do or don’t do” something that is clearly established in writing by the Church – and conflicts with the posted comment. The statement on tithing funds not used for camp is a blatant example. Better read your LDS handbooks folks!

    #81 – Paul’s reference to the yahoo group has value to those that truly want to get their LDS Scouting – its a fine resource IMO.

  84. RT
    May 20, 2010 at 8:48 am


    I think most church members genuinely try to do a good job with their callings. The fact that so many seem to struggle doing so with the scout jobs suggest that the problem IS the BSA handbook.

  85. Bob
    May 20, 2010 at 9:13 am

    #83: I don’t know why the BSA Manuel shouldn’t go through Correlation like any other manuel, if it is going to be used. The same with the Catechism, (if it was going to be used).

  86. Chet
    May 20, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Very timely – the Scoutmaster called me (YM pres) last night – after calling five other guys, he wanted to know if I can attend the campout this weekend. I did not ask if I can invite the Priests quorum…

  87. Ron
    May 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    In an LDS unit there is the problem of motivating a percentage of the boys as well of the leaders–since they are not necessarily in it because they were naturally attracted to it. So the dynamic is different, even if no one is doing anything “wrong.”
    Also, I’ve noticed that with some personality types scouting releases something in the personality, maybe like church sports does for others. (That’s probably true for non-LDS scouters, too.)

  88. Craig
    May 21, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    I have been an adult Scout leader in non-LDS and LDS units for 25 years. I have also served as District Commissioner and now District Chairman in a predominately non-LDS area. It has been a great missionary tool (did I say I was also the Ward Mission Leader). The LDS units make up a third of our District and thanks to 20+ years of nagging they are running like regular scout units. I have great support from our Stake Presidency and Bishops, they have all gone to Wood Badge (as requested by the First Presidency)and understand scouting. If the LDS unit leaders would just get trained, the whining and complaining would stop and they would begin to deliver on the promise of scouting to their youth. It’s time to man up and quit being half hearted in your callings and service to the youth.

  89. Bob
    May 21, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Again, IMO, Wood Badge or any other outside source of spiritual symbols and rituals, should have no place in Mormonism.
    The Mission Statement of Wood Badge does not align with the Church’s mission.

  90. Julie M. Smith
    May 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    Craig, I am wondering if you can help me understand why Wood Badge (which, in my understanding, is a solid week of camping, right?) is necessary for a successful YM program, whereas somehow the YM leaders in all other countries and the YW leaders and, well, every single other calling in your ward and stake, somehow manage to have success with exactly zero minutes of training.

    It seems that that week is asking a lot–a lot of vacation time, or lost wages, or Single Mom Time, or lost family time, or all of the above–that no other callings need.

    Here’s the crux of my problem: if Scouts is essential, then why doesn’t the Church reproduce it in other countries? Is the Church just writing off every non-US YM? I don’t think so; it appears to be the judgment of the Church that you can run a perfectly adequate YM program without scouts. If that’s the case, then where is the rationale for calling people who don’t give up half a year’s vacation time “half-hearted in their callings”?

    I don’t know how to escape this paradox: either scouts is necessary for YM (in which case the church is doing a grave disservice to every non-US YM in the world) or it isn’t necessary (in which case, why are we insisting on all of this money and effort?).

  91. Bob
    May 21, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    #90: Julie, sorry if I sounded too hard on Wood Badge. But people should Google Wood Badge and learn that it is far greater than one week of training. Then make up their own minds if Mormons should use it for training it’s YM leaders.

  92. Coffinberry
    May 21, 2010 at 11:29 pm


    Wood Badge is available in either one-week or two-weekend formats. It is truly far more than one week of training, and I believe by experience that a family that makes the sacrifice so that Mom or Dad can attend will be paid back in blessings for that family worth far far more than the value of one lost week. (My family, for example, did without me for a week back in 2004–that week included my youngest child’s first day of kindergarten. At the time I was a member of our stake primary presidency. I paid for the training out of my own pocket. It was worth every penny and every minute, and what I learned has made a huge difference in my life and in the life of my children.) What is taught at Wood Badge is not so much how to be a Scout Leader, but how to be a Servant Leader. It is about multiplying your talents in the service of others. There are weeks of preparation leading up to the camp experience, and weeks of service and work that follow it. The lessons learned are so valuable that the First Presidency requested that the Primary and Young Women’s general presidencies become Wood Badge Trained.

    As for why the Church doesn’t sponsor Scouting worldwide, that has more to do with how the Scouting Movement is administered in other countries than with anything else. The Church tends to be involved in Scouting in places where the scout unit can be wholly owned and leadership determined by local priesthood authorities. That is how Scouting is set up in the US, but not in other nations.

    And as for your comment about other sources of symbols and rituals, Bob, that’s just silly. Human beings participate in symbols and rituals all the time… we graduate from high school, we stand in lines, we earn our Dolphins or our Wings, we brush our teeth, we recognize eight-sided red signs as symbolizing “Stop.” As an attorney, I took an oath to sustain and uphold the Constitutions of the US and of Colorado. I pledge allegiance to the flag. Even the letters I am using right now to attempt to communicate with you are nothing more than symbols and signs that I hope you are able to decipher well enough to understand at least some of my meaning. Joseph Smith taught that we should seek out truth in all places, wherever it may be, and to grasp it and make it ours. I found a great deal of valuable truth in participating in Wood Badge. That there are Wood Badge ceremonies (for example, singing “Back to Gilwell, Happy Land” and stringing on a wooden bead on a leather strip) means only that I have embraced and participated in the capturing of a shared memory and meaning in a specific context. They do not replace or diminish my Faith in God nor my worship of Him.

  93. Julie M. Smith
    May 21, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    “The Church tends to be involved in Scouting in places where the scout unit can be wholly owned and leadership determined by local priesthood authorities.”

    Which would be true in any place where the Church decided to run its own scouting program.

  94. Bob
    May 22, 2010 at 9:35 am

    #92: (Note: I said spiritual symbols and rituals) The Wood Badge ceremonies are meant to be spiritual, even if you did not see them that way.
    There are a lot of great spiritual symbols the Church doesn’t use: the cross and fish, candels, bells, smoke, outward habits/clothings, etc.

  95. Coffinberry
    May 22, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Bob, I do not believe God meant my Spiritual learning experiences to be limited to those found within the Church.

  96. Bob
    May 22, 2010 at 11:10 am

    #95: I too try not to put limits on my Spiritual learning experiences

  97. John Buffington
    May 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with Craig (#88) re service to the youth. Where the adults are engaged, the program works, and the boys are better because of it.

    I see Scouting as an opportunity to piggy-back off well-established training materials and help youth and adults become better people. Does everyone have to be an Eagle or do Wood Badge to make this successful? No, but the process of attempting this journey will help with goal setting, independence, citizenship etc.

    Many companies will pay for Wood Badge training, since it is widely recognized outside the BSA as being an excellent leadership course. My non-LDS Scout contacts encourage me take it.

  98. Gaila
    May 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Opinions on BSA evolve from experience with BSA which hang off the people involved. I hated being called into Cubs but by the time it was over I was sad to see it end. It all hinged on giving it the effort required to make it work and the good people I worked with.

    As the advancement chairman, however, I saw boys show up having no clue why they were there which I blame on the Scoutmaster who was more interested in how many Eagles he could claim than that the boys developed a love or interest or understanding of the program. The kids and I knew he was phony baloney but parents in general thought he was fantastic including two sets who thought their boys would be earning Eagle even though I sent regular reports home which showed that goal wasn’t in the offing. They were actually surprised when it didn’t happen.

    When I finally got a call taking me outside of that organization (moved), and also had no more sons to drag through the program, I was, naively I suppose, taken aback that I was still expected to be a “Friend” of Scouting. I do value the life-survival training it provides, but the church could achieve it a whole lot less expensively. Scouting costs are outrageous, for both families and the church.

    I have no idea if this last comment is attributable to the program or the person, but last year the bishopric advisor came into R.S., passed around pledge cards and stated whomever didn’t turn it in would be visited for their “donation.” Well I have an aversion to non-voluntary donations, or people who track the absence thereof, didn’t turn my in, and have yet to have a visit. Which is a good thing because it would have been an unpleasant experience for both of us.

  99. May 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Julie, I blame your opinion on pure ignorance of the Boy Scout program. It is clear that you have not spent any time studying what they have to offer the youth of our church.

    My suggestion for you is to spend time studying the the BSA program and you will see why the church as adopted it for their boys youth program. The principles and values of Scouting go hand in hand with the principles of the Church.

    I do not see what the big deal is in asking people to be trained Scout leaders and give service to the youth in their community. As a YW 4th year girls high adventure leader, I had the YW Stake President sit down and “train” me on what they were hoping to get out of the high adventure program. I think you forget all the mistakes people make when they are first called into Primary, YW, and YM callings because they don’t have official training. And they are not always functional programs, I had quite a few mutual nights where we just “planned” future meetings because my leaders couldn’t come up with anything better to do. If they had training classes similar to what the Scouts offer for their program, they would be better off. And everone in the church who works with the youth is required to take an online training program about protecting the youth, so those people who are doing zero training in their callings are violating the rules of the church.

    I can tell you are frustrated with Scouts. Perhaps it is because you yourself are only half hearted and do not want to volunteer your time. Instead of bashing a great program, take yourself out so you don’t drag the program down.

    … Side note: for those of you who took your 12 year old sons out of their non-LDS troop to put them in their LDS troop, why did you do that? Why can’t they just show up and attend mutual while staying registered with their other troop? Clearly you are not satisfied with what is happening in your troop-so switch them back. Go with a troop your son is happy with so he has a great experience.

    Having just spent two weekends at Woodbadge, I would tell everyone to go. Their experience there will teach them to be more selfless and less self-involved. It will teach you how the program could be run, it will teach you leadership that you can apply in all aspects of your life. Woodbadge is an excellent program and has been suggested by the YM general president for every YM/YW, Stake Presidency and Primary leader to attend.

  100. Julie M. Smith
    May 22, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Anna, your comment gave me a good laugh! I’ve been an assistant den leader for five years. This “half-hearted volunteering” has always, for me, been on top of (sometimes two) other Church callings, since we’ve always been with a non-LDS den. Also note that your comment ignores the fact that my initial post is entirely about the perception of LDS scouting by non-LDS scouters, and not whether the program is good for LDS boys.

  101. Julie M. Smith
    May 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Well folks, as is usually the case, we shut the party down at around 100 comments. Thanks to all for a good discussion.

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