The Case Against Scouting

I think that the Church should end its relationship with the Scouting program, but not for the reasons you might think. No, this isn’t a post about homosexuality or even about gender equity, or at least about gender equity as it usually gets discussed on this issue. Indeed, in many ways, I think that girls are served better by the Church than are boys. This is because I think that in many ways that YW program is superior to the YM program.

It is true that in some units more gets spent per young men than per young women. This issue is actually extremely complicated and varies from unit to unit. The complexity comes from the fact that youth spending comes from a variety of budgets at both the ward and the stake level and you need to include all sources of funding to get a clear sense of per capita budgeting. (Yes, I have got many headaches tying to figure out exactly how much got budgeted per young man or young woman in my ward and then trying to insure that the budgets are pretty much equal.) Still, in many – perhaps most – units Scouting causes more money to be spent per young man than per young woman.

However, I am not convinced that this means that young men are getting a better deal than young women. In fact, I think the opposite is true. I think it is clear that we get far less bang for our buck out of spending on young men than out of spending on young women. This is because participation in the Scouting program is relatively expensive and most of the expenses do not go directly to young men. Rather, they serve as subsidies for the national Scouting organization. In contrast, all of the spending on young women in the Church goes directly to the benefit of young women. There is no overhead that gets subsidized.

Furthermore, I think that from the point of view of the Church, YW activities tend to be of higher quality than YM activity. This is because the YW program is designed from top to bottom by the Church, focusing specifically on Church goals for youth. The Scouting program, in contrast, is subject to significant input by the Church but ultimately is not structured around Church goals for youth. The result is that a lot of effort gets spent on things that are ultimately peripheral to the mission of the Church. Anyone who wants to understand this contrast should attend a Scout Jamboree and then compare that experience with a Stake Girl’s Camp. Girl’s Camp is, in my opinion, hands down a far better activity from the point of view of Mormon youth. It is far more focused on the Gospel and has far less extraneous material. It is less expensive than a Scout Jamboree, while, ironically, at the same time it represents a greater direct expenditure per youth participant. I think that the same is true of the Personal Progress Program vis-à-vis the Scouting Program. I think that the quality of Personal Progress activities from a Church point of view is higher than the quality of Scouting activities in terms of inculcating Gospel values, and it is both less expensive – no pricey uniforms, etc. – while involving more direct expenditure on youth.

There is also the issue of alienation. Some youth are inevitably going to find participation in the Church alienating. This is sad but inevitable. The Church is valuable in large part to the extent that it is counter-cultural and much of youth culture is toxic. To the extent that youth primarily identify with that toxic youth culture they will find Church activities alienating. The solution to this problem is to detach them from their primary commitment to the toxic elements of youth culture. On the other hand, some youth are going to find Church activities alienating for reasons that have nothing to do with the Gospel. I think that we ought to do everything we can do to eliminate this kind of alienation. I think that Scouting can cause such alienation, especially its paramilitary structure of ranks, uniforms, etc., none of which are directly related to the mission of the Church. Here, however, I think that we inevitably face trade offs. Much about Scouting is attractive to many young boys, and creating a program that is attractive to boys is part of what is needed in order to detach them from a toxic youth culture. It seems to me, however, that we would be better off with a YM program that provides greater flexibility. If you have a group of boys that likes camping and lighting things on fire, then have activities that harness that interest in order to teach the Gospel. But, I don’t think that there is any value in insisting on a program that generates costs unassociated to a Gospel mission. It would be nice if, for example, being a “successful” young Mormon male could be uncoupled from becoming an Eagle Scout. It is possible to be fully committed to the Gospel and the mission of the Church without being an Eagle Scout. (For the record, I am an Eagle Scout and I love camping, etc. I don’t have any particular cultural vendetta against Scouting.)

Finally, there is a the dreadful administrative headache that Scouting creates for Church units, especially Church units that have a limited pool of adult, male leadership. You have a YM President and you also have a Scout Master. You can combine the two, but then you end up running two programs that are nominally distinct but in fact united. You have multiple sets of rules and programs to comply with – Scouting and the Church. Often, the emphasis on Scouting means that the far more valuable Duty to God Program get’s ignored. And so on. As a former-YM President, a former counselor in a bishopric assigned to the youth, and the father of a scouting-age son, suffice it to say that the complexity is a nightmare. I’d much rather have a single YM program structured entirely around activities directly related to the central missions of the Church.

In many ways, Scouting is a great example of what Correlation got right. Before Correlation, essentially every program in the Church looked like Scouting. They were independent, focused on multiple goals only some of which were directly relevant to the mission of the Church, and placed considerable demands on members both in terms of time and money. Correlation, massively simplified the administrative structure of the Church, massively simplified programs, focusing them on core missions of the Church, and eliminated overhead costs, multiple, independent budgets, and a lot of excessive expenses. The young women of the Church reap the benefits of a correlated youth program, while the young men bear the costs of the only major auxiliary program of the Church to escape Correlation. Correlation rightly comes in for a great deal of criticism, primarily for the way in which it weakened female auxiliaries and “dumbed down” Church curriculum. In its defense, imagine a Church in which everything ran like Scouting and then pay close attention to the shudder that should run through your system at such a prospect.

Scouting’s survival of Correlation’s axe, I suspect, stemmed primarily for a desire to keep the Church engaged in a major, non-Mormon civic movement. Indeed, prior to the rise of the Public Affairs program of the Church in the last few decades, Scouting was essentially the only point of regular institutional contact between the Church and a large, non-Mormon institution. Aside from the nostalgia and affection of big Scouters in the upper echelons of the Church (chief of whom would be President Monson), I suspect that what keeps the Church involved with Scouting is the dependence of the BSA on the Mormons. Mormon exit from the Scouting program would be a huge financial blow to a venerable American institution, and frankly I suspect that many of the Brethren don’t want responsibility for the consequences of pulling that trigger.

Were I in charge, however, I would pull the trigger. I think we’d be better off with a youth program in which the young men got something that looked much more like the YW program.

145 comments for “The Case Against Scouting

  1. Amen.

    I would also add that, based on my experience in a non-LDS den (it’s for homeschoolers), the impression that non-members have of LDS scouts is terrible, so we currently have an anti-PR offensive. I think it boils down to the fact that all non-LDS scout leaders and scouts are volunteers while all LDS scout leaders and scouts are draftees, and the difference in commitment, knowledge, and enthusiasm is as obvious as it is offensive to non-LDS scouters.

  2. Excellent post Nate.

    Even in my youth over 20+ years ago, I felt that I was much better served by the YM program and the activities associated with it, than I ever was by scouting. I always felt scouting was somewhat of a distraction and bore. We can still have a YM program that includes all the outdoorsy, camping stuff without the pomp and pageantry of scouting.

  3. The failure of Scouting in the Church (when it fails) has less to do with the program and the program’s potential to fulfill the purposes of the Aaronic priesthood than it does with the wholesale implementation failure by local Church units.

    The overemphasis on attaining the Eagle rank is not a BSA problem, it’s a Church problem. Advancement is only one of eight methods of Boy Scouting (advancement is not a method of Venturing which is the program for youth ages 14-21). Local unit leadership focuses on advancement to the detriment of the other methods and undermines the overall program and its ability to influence and shape our young men.

    Julie, the problem with draftee’s vs volunteers isn’t a BSA problem. It’s a Church problem.

  4. I agree with a lot of this. I grew up in an orthodox family that moved a lot (and lived outside the US for part of the time). My brothers are not Eagle Scouts and barely participated when in the US because usually the scouting program was struggling when we arrived in wards.
    However, my son is benefiting greatly from the scouting program. I could complain that they don’t focus on Duty to God enough…..but my daughter’s YWs program (which I LOVE!!!) and leaders focus on PP but yet, don’t actually seem to accomplish much.
    So I find that it is all up to me for both PP, Duty to God and Scouting. Well, what I mean is that if I didn’t do anything they wouldn’t complete anything. If church did nothing it would hurt, but not much. We couldn’t do the campouts so Eagle would be out, but the merit badges are annoyingly only 80% completed at church so we always have 5 or 6 uncompleted merit badges hanging over me.
    I think I am ok with that. I’m the one raising my kids after all.
    It gives my son something to do with church people. He can’t just spend the time sitting around discussing the gospel the whole time. Scouting gives them something to do and he can become capable.
    The YW program struggles a little with no idea what to do and intergenerational disconnect because it is too hard to think of things to do.
    It would have been nice for my teen daughter to have something similar to scouting. BUT, she is 15 and is happy and spiritual and successful so I absolutely can’t complain. She is amazing. I appreciate the church’s support but I feel like they have just assisted me, rather than raised her. She is 15 with her PP award in a ward with very few youth so she doesn’t go to hang out with friends. We have had to think outside the box to help her. I facilitate relationships for her with adults and small children since there aren’t teens. Luckily, she enjoys YWs lessons that mostly involve just her having animated discussions with my adult friends who are ten years younger than me (occasional silent other women who show up off and on). And she’s got me and her family. All in all I absolutely wouldn’t trade it because it has been so successful.
    It just goes to show it is never really about the programs. But you just have to make sure the programs don’t get in the way! Scouting probably occasionally gets in the way, but I am not sure that eliminating it is the answer.

  5. I have never agreed with you more. I would be totally open to ward-based scouting troops and long as it was significantly independent, I.E. only used the building and everyone involved was choosing involvement rather than feeling compelled. I want my sons to have a Faith in God program and a strong YM program and if they want to do scouts too, we’ll do it at school or another church, like my daughter does for Girl Scouts. My sons really want to be “Girl Scouts” but I think they will settle for Cubs when the time comes. I plan to start them in community-based groups before they are invited to join the club at Church.

    Wouldn’t it be great community outreach to join the troops at the local Methodist Chruch and Synogauge?

  6. Nate, your opinion of YW activities may change when your daughter participates in them. With lots of respect and appreciation for YW leaders (of whom I have been one), many of the weeknight activities are frivolous and wasteful of the girls’ precious time. This isn’t because the leaders are personally frivolous and wasteful, it’s just hard to think of things to do week after week after week.

    If I ruled the world, I would do the following: Early morning seminary (a HUGE hardship for our kids) gets cut down to two mornings a week. Scouting and typical YW activities are only for 12-13 year olds. High-school age youth go to intensive, insitute-style mission prep courses for weeknight activities, coordinated with the early morning seminary. Between two mornings a week plus 90 minutes on a weeknight, you get almost the same total amount of gospel instruction as early morning seminary every day. Plus you get rid of frivolous weeknight activities and focus on mission prep — a HUGE issue for the church now with missionaries going out younger than ever.

  7. Never mind the administrative headaches – the whole thing is a financial boondoggle at the local level as well as the national. (And at the national level, the Church writes out a blank check for the right to administer a watered-down program.) LDS Scouting at the troop level, besides being entangled with Primary and Young Men (broken down by quorum?) is very different from Scouting outside the Church. As such, it is difficult to make the case to any non-LDS boys to join an LDS troop. At the Cub Scout level it is a different program entirely. And then there’s the question of why all the resources for something that can benefit at most half the Church?

  8. “Nate, your opinion of YW activities may change when your daughter participates in them. With lots of respect and appreciation for YW leaders (of whom I have been one), many of the weeknight activities are frivolous and wasteful of the girls’ precious time. This isn’t because the leaders are personally frivolous and wasteful, it’s just hard to think of things to do week after week after week.”

    I am well aware of this. My point is not the YW program is the greatest, only that it is better than the YM program. All of the criticisms you level against YW can also be leveled against the YM program, but with the added head ache of the Scouting program.

  9. After having spent the last 4 years in the scouting program and dealing with the frustrations of how the Church only half implements the program, I’ve become convinced that the best option would be for the Church to drop Scouting as a mandatory part of the YM program, and implement a youth program as you suggest, Nate. However, a ward (or even preferrably a Stake) would be free to sponsor a troop, just like a non-LDS charter organization, that would be free to run the troop with volunteers that are into the program and are excited. Then, the boys would also be those that are interested (or at least their parents are) and we would be allowed to have older boys around to mentor the younger Scouts instead of the artificial separation that exists between Quorum ages.

  10. 12 – Nate the new Duty to God program is not a group activity program. Perhaps you’re thinking of the old Duty to God program which was scrapped because it was an epic failure (and not just in North America where scouting is used).

  11. FWIW, I think that allowing wards to choose to sponsor troops is a bad idea. I think that giving units any excuse to place further drains on the limited resources of members is a bad idea. Focus on the core mission of the Church. Let other stuff be done by other groups. We already face a huge problem of “mission creep” in Church programs, which have a tendency to blossom like mushrooms and burn through volunteer time. We already place huge demands on member’s time and energy, and I think we should look for ways to reduce those demands not increase them. Especially if one lives outside of the Mormon corridor and one’s Church units are not overflowing with active members willing to accept major callings.

  12. Jota: My point is that we ought to make something like the Duty to God program the center of our YM’s program. I agree that the current Duty to God program wouldn’t really work perfectly in this role, in part because Scouting sucks the oxygen out of the room in the current YM program.

  13. As it is, at least in the wards and stakes I’ve been in as an adult, there is always a push by someone involved to push the envelope to make the ward troop more like the “typical” BSA troop (except for the ideal of six to eight boys in a patrol – most LDS troops don’t come close to that.) This includes cutting corners on fundraising (including making ward dinners Scouting fundraisers), having Scout Sunday (or having the boys wear uniforms on other Sundays – the Brethren are very clear that’s not Sabbath-appropriate), excessive pitches during Sunday meetings for Friends of Scouting, or whatever some leader’s whims are. I especially don’t like the idea of trying to drag everyone through Scouting the way we do now. Some wards even have Eagle plaques, loaded with names of boys who got Eagle because they were told that was the priority, and never served a mission or participated in the Church as adults – but not Duty to God or missionary plaques.

  14. Nate – however, if a stake sponsored a troop, it could pull resources from across the stake (or even the community, like other troops). There would be more than 5 boys in the troop (to use our ward as an example) and with the extra boys, we could implement a better patrol system, where it’s not just the DQP that’s just the SPL by default. An older boy with more scouting experience would take that role and have the option of providing true leadership, which is what the program is all about.

  15. I agree with the post–I’ve thought so for years. I only have daughters, and we’re in our first year of YW, but so far it is fantastic. (My experience was quite good too, though I come from a town where pretty much everyone is loopy so there was that. Soap opera central.) My family’s experiences with Boy Scouts–brothers, husbands, etc.–just the opposite. I look forward to the day when we drop Boy Scouts and have a YM program more designed for the boys’ needs.

  16. Extraneous stuff like “Do a good turn daily?”

    I think the boy scouts are even more counter-cultural than LDS doctrines. There are many of us that only stayed in the church for the self-improvement aspects. You seem to be wanting to narrow things back to a “gospel” focus. I can see your point but I think, ironically, that narrowing the scope narrows the appeal. Its doesn’t make for a bigger tent. I can’t think who you are going to keep with
    the new YM’s version of the YW’s program, compared to the kids you may have kept you liked to camp. Do you even know any rednecks?

    I’ve never been more creeped out at church than the first time I stood and recited the YW’s saying with my daughter and then they ported that over to the young men’s side also.

    I’ll comfort myself that if you get your way and the church does end its tie, at least that will sever the church’s ties through the BSA with the evangelical churches. The Christian rock bands they had at the last Boy Scout Jamboree were disgusting.

  17. I don’t agree with it, but I must say this is the best argued post for severing the church from Scouting that I have encountered. If I ever change my mind, it’s arguments like this that would do it.

  18. “High-school age youth go to intensive, insitute-style mission prep courses for weeknight activities, coordinated with the early morning seminary.”

    So a 14-year old would go thru 4 years of Mission Prep? I’m not sure I’d agree with this.

    That being said, I meet with my Priests (I have no active Laurels) once a month to review Preach My Gospel along with other related Missionary activities so I see the importance.

    But starting that at age 14/15 seems a little soon.

  19. If you don’t see that the Duty to God program and the scouting program are to be implemented coordinated, not as two separate programs, you have failed to see the YM program entirely. Of course, you would want to get rid of one (obviously the secular one). If more of our called YM leaders got scout trained and magnified their callings, there would be less frustration and more excitement and enthusiasm. Scouting was never meant to be for every YM, just one excellent vehicle (means, not the end) to get them to the temple and on a mission. There are other means that work well for some YM. Posts like this (original) just start contention and criticism of our leaders and never lead to anything of value.

  20. Good point, John. Why do the Eagle plaques stay in the church, but the mission plaques go back to the missionary when they come home? It says a lot about priorities to a young man’s mind.

    The emphasis seems to be not only to earn your Eagle, but earn it quickly! YM leaders have discovered there are too many things competing for a YM’s time after they move into the Teachers quorum. There is essentially no YM program for Teachers and Priests because the church doesn’t fully implement the Varsity or Explorer programs and if a youth has earned their Eagle, they’re “done.” Then we seem to just hope those boys will still be worthy and have their testimonies by the time they’re 18.

  21. The YW program is generally better run and organized than the YM’s (even with BSA) for frankly the same reasons that RS is usually better run and organized than PH quorums (and perhaps for the same reason, across most western religions, women are more engaged than men–who knows why, but it just is). The Church actually experimented with both the YM and the YW being in major, non-Mormon national civic movements. The YW became part of the Campfire Girls at about the same time as the YM became part of the BSA. Within a couple of years, however, the YW leadership asked the FP to drop the relationship because the YW leadership felt they could do a better job. Some of the earlier independent YW manuals following that time actually look pretty similar to scouting manuals. The YM leadership made no such request.

    I have heard from folks outside the US and Canada where units are not or are no longer part of scouting, that the YM programs are even less helpful than the ones here. However, I have no scientific studies validating that and it may be because the only ones I hear from are those who are disgruntled about the changes.

    Judging from how well (or not well) male priesthood quorums run (take a look at the difference in lesson quality in PH and RS), I don’t think dropping scouting would improve the quality of experience for the YM. However, I don’t think it would make much of a difference for YM from ages 14-18, because it is rare for a ward or branch to have a meaningful scouting (or YM) program for YM in that age group. I do think that the experience of 12-14 year old boys would significantly drop in quality if scouting were eliminated.

    I like scouting because by and large I like its overall philosophy ( although I agree that the paramilitary aspects should be reduced or eliminated–there pretty much aren’t paramilitary aspects in the 14-18 year old programs). And I really like the opportunity and encouragement for Mormons to be engaged in a non-Mormon civic program. I also like the Girl Scouts. All of our daughters participated in Girl Scouts up until about mutual age; it is difficult if not impossible to participate both in Girl Scouts and mutual.

    I would favor allowing wards to decide whether to sponsor BSA or Girl Scout troops that are completely voluntary and optional to the YM and YW and their leaders. If parents and youth find it beneficial, they can participate, if not, they don’t. I also echo Rosalynd’s suggestion that mutual activities be cut way back (I must add, however, that the Church experimented with cutting way back on youth activities in the 1970s-1980s, allowing wards to decide in consultation with leaders and youth the frequency of youth activities, or whether to hold them on any kind of regular basis. It didn’t work then, maybe it could work now.)

    I would favor eliminating or reducing seminary.

    I fully agree with Nate’s writing about the unbearable burden of scouting on members and member resources, particularly time and energy. A fully active BSA program is at about the same level of complexity and burden as a fully active Church organization. That is, a family fully participating in scouting outside the Church is almost as busy as a family within the Church without scouting. When you add the two together, something gives. In most cases, the scouting program is what gives and just doesn’t work (outside of 12-13 year olds). Those are intractable problems.

  22. I wish that my youth experience in the Church had included way more evenings/Saturdays/summer vacation days of service and that that had included substantial service with outside organizations in addition to helping out the widows in the ward.

  23. If scouting is the “activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood” (as I’ve heard said from GAs on assignment from the 12, then what do we do with Aaronic Priesthood holders all across the world where scouting is not available?

    I think scouting teaches a lot. But in this day and age of duty to God where we focus more on an ongoing process than a checklist of requirements to get a badge, I think the church has outgrown scouting in both an international sense and a pedagogical one.

    Still, I think there is a lot of good that comes from the program, and as long as “we” are doing it as a church in certain areas we should keep doing it to our best as part of the overall YM program in those areas.

    That means continuing fitting scouting into the place of testimony building, mission prep, etc. as long as the authorities in the USA ask us to.

  24. Rhonda, while I agree that in principle the Duty to God program and scouting should be coordinated, in practice that can be a difficulty thing to do. Our ward has tried very hard to do this. What this means in practice, at least in my experience, is that most activities end up being geared around scouting goals and programs, (after all, “scouting is the activity arm of the AP) and Duty to God is for Sundays or rides in the sidecar during scouting activities. Like it or not scouts is just not going to appeal to at least some subset of boys. The more trained we get as scout leaders (and we have had a LOT of training and certification exercises in my area) the more I feel that scouting is less a help and more an anchor for our YM’s program.

  25. It was recently related to me that Eagle Scout rank was required for certain missions (islands, nether regions of Russia, etc.). Can anyone confirm this?

  26. My comments are way too long, but you struck some chords.

    1. Scouting is a resource—a tool to be used by Aaronic Priesthood (AP) quorum presidencies to meet the needs of quorum members. AP quorum presidencies, just like YW class presidencies, should begin planning and implementation of activities by ascertaining the needs of quorum and class members, then developing activities to meet those needs. That the YW do not have a comparable tool can be, I agree, problematic. But nothing in scouting is mandatory, and the young men have (with the exception of “Personal Progress,” though “Duty to God” is roughly comparable) all the tools the YW have.

    2. Related is this point: One of the key elements of scouting (after Cub Scouts, anyway) is youth leadership, which matches our own focus on quorum leadership. Unfortunately, many LDS scout units really are adult-run organizations. The same is true, also unfortunately, for many AP quorums and YW classes: their activity programs are neither designed nor implemented by the youth. Scouting should make it easier for YM adult leaders to teach the young men to develop and run activities well. But my observations suggest that doesn’t happen very much—removing one point I might otherwise make for disagreeing with your conclusion.

    3. Many (most?) local church leaders have a fairly limited view of “Scouting.” For example, as Jota G pointed out (#12), advancement is only one of either “methods” of scouting, though you might never know that as a ward member listening to AP announcements. For example, a typical ward will return from summer camp reporting on the number of merit badges earned, as if that were the purpose of camp. And an announcement of a Mutual night activity may be “work on ____ merit badge” (a sure sign, my dedicated Scouter brother has said, of a poor Scout program). Though Scouting in my teen years may have required a camping focus, the breadth of Scouting has increased dramatically since the 1980’s, particularly as BSA moved to provide programs that served urban and minority populations. That is most readily apparent in the Varsity and Venturing programs—partly designed for, but seldom actually implemented by, LDS wards. The vision of at least local Church leaders has not broadened along with the changes in Scouting.

    4. I have some sympathy with your “administrative drain” comment.. A ward does need someone to perform BSA advancement and trip approval functions, but that is usually done by a committee, not the YM adult leaders themselves. On the other hand, I have seen committees function as a great place for involving less-active and non-LDS parents (and sometimes nonparents), and for parents generally to contribute directly to their sons’ quorum activities. (By contrast, there is no formal mechanism for YW parents to have any role.) But beyond the need for committee members, your comment confuses me. There is no requirement from the Church or from BSA that there be any more adult men called to serve with the YM than women with the YW program. Sure, Scouting requires “two-deep leadership,” but shouldn’t we be having that at all activities, young men or young men, scouting or not, anyway?

    I will quit for now …

  27. the impression that non-members have of LDS scouts is terrible,

    Julie, I assume that your speaking anecdotally, which is fine. If you have additional data to back this up, I would love to see it though.

    And I’m not sure if you’re referring to non-LDS BSA people or just non-LDS people.

    If its the former, my own experience has been the opposite of yours. If it’s the latter, I’ve know people who distrusted the BSA in general, WOWO the “LDS”.

  28. The Church obviously gets by without Scouting in other countries, even ones where there are lots of members in some communities. I am sure we have enough expertise within the Church’s departments, plus experts in family and child rearing at BYU, to design a program that includes the beneficial aspects of the BSA without the overhead of supporting the BSA infrastructure and staff. Instead of relying on the merit badge system to provide an unvalidated level of introduction to various academic and vocational topics, a new Church-centered program could emphasize real life skills and use the full breadth of expertise in each stake to provide real training, including not only career previews and survival skills, but also health and nutrition (and real cooking), developing an exercise regimen, guidance in dating practices, and forethought about the experience of marriage and parenthood. Many teens within the Church do not have two parents who are both present and competent and faithful, and having a program that teaches teens the skills that we sort of assume they will pick up from parents could do a lot to ameliorate problems that distract from participation in the life of a Latter-day Saint.

    If it weren’t for the fact that the Communist Party used the name for their youth program, the Church program for teens could be called the Young Pioneers, with an explicit reference to Brigham Young and the experience of trekking through the wilderness to create new communities in a great common effort requiring a lot of personal sacrifice and initiative. (Maybe it has been long enough now that we could use the name anyway.) That is the mythos that motivates all of those handcart treks, and it is ready made to stand as the armature for a program that teaches youth to live the Mormon lifestyle of “going out from Babylon” and “building Zion”. It will be much more susceptible to being coordinated between the girls and boys. Each activity can be made vivid with the real life experiences of pioneers and missionaries and the establishment of communities in Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, and then the West.

    Having served 20 years in the real military, the “military” aspects of Scouting look pretty mild to me, but I think a Church program would be better off rewarding and certifying participatory accomplishments, like 50 miles hikes, rather than “ranks”. Deacon, teacher and priest ought to be enough.

    We can then dispense with “snipe hunts” and a lot of the other baggage that comes with the Scouting tradition, and we can give youth an engaging program that does not discriminate based on their family income.

  29. “It was recently related to me that Eagle Scout rank was required for certain missions (islands, nether regions of Russia, etc.). Can anyone confirm this?”

    Seeing that the church is not involved in the Scouting program outside the U.S., and that it’s fairly certain that at least some of the missionaries in those missions aren’t from the U.S. (not to mention many of them are not men) this is obviously false. And I seriously doubt it’s a requirement for American men.

    I have a cousin who recently served in an incredibly remote, difficult mission (and in the most remote areas of that mission). I’m fairly certain that most Eagle Scouts would’ve had trouble with the physical hardships involved. My cousin’s not an Eagle Scout, but I’m pretty sure her extensive background in outdoor adventures and travel was taken into account when she was called to that mission.

  30. my concern with some of the suggestions, such as Rosalynde’s #9, is the absence of “fun.” I did a quick ctrl F search of the page and the only hits were associated with the words “funding” and “function,” both very relevant and appropriate words. I think we also need to consider that if the Church’s success with youth is dependent on its “counter culture”-ness, as Nate says (and I agree), then the counter culture needs to not be a drag. Many youth outside the Great Basin make a very real choice between school friends and church friends, between school activities and church activities. If we can’t compete (at least a LITTLE bit), then weeknight mission prep seats will be emptied for less-wholesome endeavors.

    That said, this Eagle Scout gives a thumbs up to nate’s points in the OP.

  31. I pretty much agree . Youth should spend their time and resources preparing for real life . Frivolous weekday activities should be replaced by service and lifeskills ( gardening , camping,cooking ,sewing ,car repair etc.). Often all this is learned better through service . A ward has plenty of talent and job experience to share. I can feel the tension in the air the day after mutual – also because ‘there is always a treat in store ‘. Fun ,once in a while ,can be had in the family unit. All organizations should be to support the family and education instead of detracting from it .I believe the time for entertainment and teen culture is over , public schools do a good enough job at that. Besides the church is not american and other countries don’t participate in scouting . Growing up in Europe ,my father could not stand any youth organization as that is how Hitler got his way . Then to others it is just good LDS tradition . Scouting with high adventure ,’earned?’ badges , YW with fancy campgrounds (high insurance costs) and 50 preparation meetings – does it really make much sense ?

  32. Mie: “Youth should spend their time and resources preparing for real life. Frivolous weekday activities should be replaced by service and lifeskills (gardening, camping, cooking, sewing, car repair etc.).” Sounds like Scouting to me. Except for sewing–although there is a textiles merit badge.

  33. I enjoyed much of what scouting offered as a youth, I think that the Church could create a much better YM program that builds both character and spirituality. Although Scouting extends past the age of 14, in every ward I have been in it really does not as an organized program and the YM program ends up being of varying quality, and often poorly organized. Having a program for YM more like the YW program would be great.

  34. Have been involved in scouting since 1986. I also agree we should drop scouting for the reasons mentioned in the OP and in comments. I think we can do better. The question I have is whether young men leaders will get off their duffs and match the effort put in by YW leaders:)

  35. I have a long rant about the Scout program as run by the Church, but I don’t feel like writing it all out. I am an Eagle Scout, and I’ve spent at least 6 years in Scout-related callings.

    1. I hated working with the youth. I’ll put that out right away, and so it colors all my other comments. I don’t relate to them, and I think they’re obnoxious, by and large.

    2. For all the money the Church pours into Scouts, it’s not enough to do it well. For example, for the Varsity Scouts they have different program areas, advancement being only one of those areas. They pick a focus for each quarter, and plan activities around that focus. Our group chose rock climbing. To get the boys’ buy-in it has to be boy-led. I understand that. But, we did not have the money in the budget for a rock-climbing activity. We could not go to a climbing gym, and no one in our ward has that kind of equipment, so we had to shut them down. In a normal, non-LDS troop they do fundraisers to either buy equipment or pay for these types of activities. We’re not supposed to have activities where the parents are expected to pay, and I’m not flush enough to pay for an entire troop to go to a rock climbing gym. So often we are told, “Just follow the program.” That’s such a cop-out. There is not enough money to follow the program and allow for the interesting outdoor/high adventure activities the Scout program promotes. Other, non-LDS troops can do this sort of thing. We do not. We were at a camp ‘o ree one year and some of the troops had put together slide shows of their high adventure trips of the previous summers. One had flown all the way from the East coast to Alaska and did a two-week hiking and rafting trip. Given, that is a dramatic example, but they had done the fundraising, and they made it happen. Fundraising in the Church is frowned on, and when it’s done it is very limited in scope.

    2. All boys are drafted into a program few enjoy. All leaders are drafted into a program few enjoy. So you get leaders who may try, but whose hearts aren’t in it, and boys who hate every minute of it.

    It’s been my experience that most young women love their weekly activiites, or at least don’t hate them to the same degree that the young men hate Scoute. I say let it go.

  36. What male activity in any ward works better than scouts?

    Getting rid of scouts won’t get you the YW’s program it will get you the Elder’s quorum home teaching practices.

    By the way, I think the historical parallel is the change in family night to make it less structured and not have an annual manual. I rarely hear the young men I teach speak of the current Family Home Evening as significant in their lives. Back in the days when Giants walked the earth it was huge.

    Scouts and the old family home evening required way more work and therefore had a much bigger impact and long lasting impact than any joint YMYW activity, or YM’s activity after scouts or any Sunday school or Priesthood lesson. Those activities are more passive and don’t require sustained effort the way scouts did, nor did they provide the level of committed interaction with leaders.

    Maybe the Young Women’s program is better but why not try it out on Teachers and Priests first and then dump scouting if it proves itself better.

    The money argument against scouting seems overstated if one considers scouting as a percentage of all charitable donations to the church. If its a big percentage of the budget then maybe more tithing should stay with the wards.

  37. I would be happy to do away with scouting. (I am an Eagle scout, so I can self-righteously proclaim my problems with the program.) But there are several good things about scouting that we should consider before throwing it overboard. (Which I would do. We just need to make sure that we consider certain things.) Scouting, in the church setting, allows us to demonstrate that the gospel can be applied to all of our tasks in life. There is a spiritual quality to everything that we do: computers, woodworking, camping, hiking, business, etc, etc. All of these can be seen in a semi-spritual glow, because they all become a part of the YM program. It can allow a diversity of interests.

    Secondly, scouting allows the YM to participate in the community in a way rarely experienced in Mormonism. Do our YW ever spend weekends with a large group where they, as Mormons, are in the minority?

    Just as we can parody the scouting program and the predictable nature of Mutual activities, we can easily do the same thing with the YW, who, for my sensibilities, run a program far too emotional: Sobbing testimonies, and cute crafts. Princesses. Our schools challenge our children in moral and ethical ways as they discuss “The Things They Carried” and “Catcher in the Rye” while the church programs, for me, are almost infantile in terms of what is taught and expected.

  38. First I was in the YM Leadership in a ward with no scouting program. Then later I was in a ward/stake with a very strong & active scouting program. What an incredible difference.

    In the first ward I had no idea of what do as YM leader except a lesson manual for Sunday. Mutual night was either basketball or nothing at all.

    In my current ward there is no shortage of activities outside of sunday church. We have a very busy active schedule year round. We have a lot of boys who very proud of completing their eagle projects. We also have a lot of service projects that interacts with the community. Our scouts leaders provide training to the non-LDS scout leaders. About 1/3 of our LDS scout troop consists of non-member scouts who have been coming regularly since they were 8 years old.

    I have no desire to downgrade our program. The new Duty to God program looks to be a lot of independent seminary scripture study. There are almost no group activities anymore except to “stand and give report” on your personal scripture study.

    I believe that a strong activity program is important to keeping the interests and building testimonies in the young men. Scouting has so many resources that are not found anywhere else.

    That’s my testimony.

  39. Steve #40, I don’t think your camporee example is too dramatic. I attended district scoutmaster training done at our building where leaders from non-LDS troops also attended. We heard of one troop that decided it wanted an international scouting experience. They researched European scout camps, raised the money and went to Switzerland that summer. The district trainer used as his example of boy leadership a troop that decides it wants to learn to sail. They create a plan, find experts, raise money and make it happen. That was his main training point to us, adult leaders are there to help the boys make it happen, not to squash their dreams. It was then I truly realized that LDS scouting is not real Scouting.

  40. Sorry Nate, but I’m not drinking the kool-aid!

    Properly implemented, Scouting is an outstanding resource for the Church’s youth ministry to YM age 11-18. Ward leaders who magnify their calling, and take the initiative to do Scouting as it is instituted by BSA, (with the few LDS exceptions as noted in the LDS Scouting Handbook) AND follow the counsel afforded them by the YM General Presidency, end up with an outstanding program, that changes lives, and helps YM fulfill the mission of the Aaronic Priesthood. one of the unintended benefits is a great program that attracts youth from outside the Church as well. They attend because of Scouting, and get introduced to the Gospel, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit in the process.

    Sadly, we have too many LDS leaders who fall in the trap of: 1. Thinking that the calling qualifies them, and they need no training.
    2. The lack of training leaves them to reinvent the wheel resulting in a program that is called Scouting but is so far removed from the actual program, it should be criminal.
    3. Dissolves into an Adult led, merit badge mill, Eagle or Bust structure, that fails to attract YM to participate.
    4. Then creates the mindset that proper scouting is too expensive, so we will run an annual HOBO – “Pray know gets killed this year” CAMP.
    5. In the end, the youth stop coming, or if they find their way to church, they play basektball.

    The truth is, if YM leaders cannot implement a national program, that provides LOCAL training and support, with 1000’s of volunteers to assist them at every turn, and experts on every topic possible, to help their success and reduce their risk, why would we kid ourselves in thinking that they would effectively implement any other program? Many of the YM leaders I know can’t even properly administer the Duty to God, and its pretty much hands off for them!

    You raised the point of finances – and this arguement has been levied on occasion by priesthood leaders, and others, that the YW Camp costs less, or the boys spend more. First, I don’t think anyone said that everything was to be equal dollar for dollar. Equitable program and opportunities maybe.

    That said, while the cost to the family for a scout camp is higher, the overall REAL cost for YW camp is hands down far and above more expensive. Students at both BYU and BYU-I have analyzed these costs in Recreation Education studies, and its an eye opener. (FYI – My personal costs to volunteer for 2 days at YW Camp exceed the cost to send my son on a High Adventure trip or Scout Camp.)

    LDS leaders in other countries are challenged in retaining youth in the church, and in some countries, when possible, are returning to scouting as resource, with the blessing of SLC. Mongolia is one of these locations (where the Church was intrumental in introducing scouting) but there are many others.

    YM leaders who have utilized scouting, and made sure to infuse spiritual experiences, whenever possible, and as dictated by the Spirit, especially at Scout Camp, will have youth just as energized, excited, and motiviated, as the YW seem to be when they all return for camp.

    If anything, we need a case against not properly doing Scouting, and against not infusing the Spirit in those outings!

  41. Well now before you throw scouting overboard you might want to have a good long look at what happened to the Young Men’s programs in places where just that was done. Australia and New Zealand for example. We have a history with abandoning scouting and it is not a good one.

    Rather than leave scouting we should encourage scouting. This mean that in most nations of the world it would become a coed program for church youth. Coed scouting is coming to the United States someday as well, mark my words. We need to accept the national scouting programs as they exist around the world rather than trying to clone the BSA/LDS program found in the United States.

    Scouting has proven it’s worth. It is one of but a few truly international programs being found in all but five nations on earth. The problem you outline come from people not implementing scouting as designed. That’s not scouting fault the BSA and other national scouting organisations are willing to provide the resources we have just not been willing to use them.

    Take a look at my International LDS Scouting site for more on this topic

  42. Along with my three brothers, I earned my Eagle rank at a young age. I have three sons, two of which are scouting age. The oldest has expressed no interest in the program, and my wife and I have not pressed him. Our middle son, without our saying a word, has shown interest in the program, so we help him with the parts of his work that need our attention.
    If the Church left scouting, I would support the decision. Reading the above comments, both for and against abandoning scouting, it seems most of the defense for remaining with scouting arises from a concern about what will fill the void. While this concern is legitimate, I don’t believe that fear justifies continuing to support a program that most young men find inapplicable in their lives. My evidence for this lack of interest is only anecdotal, as I’m basing my opinion on the fact that nearly everyone I know has mostly negative feelings about their scouting experience.
    One of the problems with scouting isn’t insufficient engagement. It’s that the program doesn’t effectively coincide with the rest of our church experience. Additionally, the BSA’s current anti-gay stance appears indefensible to me from a doctrinal standpoint. It’s also indefensible considering our new gay-friendlier policies. I can’t in good conscience support an organization that will not permit an abstinent gay child to participate with his friends. I realize the OP’s post was aimed elsewhere, but for me it’s a significant issue. What sort of schizophrenogenic message are our gay sons, nephews, grandsons, etc., receiving when we tell them they must participate in a program that will not allow them to participate? Folks, this is a problem.
    I’m glad the church got into scouting when it did. I’m ambivalent I was able to participate. I will be thrilled when we do something more closely aligned with the missions of the church.
    The appeal to tradition fallacy has never been very persuasive for me.

  43. I’d add another reason that has been alluded to above: because the American Church is so Scouting-centered and yet the Church does not participate in other countries’ Scouting programs, it sets up a situation wherein the anemic Aaronic Priesthood non-Scouting programs created to accompany Scouting in the US are *all that non-American YM have*. They have no “activity arm,” and I have an inkling that it’s even harder to retain YM elsewhere in the world. With an eye to the international church and improving YM’s experience abroad, I would also move toward divorcing the Church from the BSA.

    That said, I like the suggestion of changing the seminary program. If it’s a challenge in the US, it’s even more of a challenge in third world countries to get up in the wee hours of the morning and travel to church buildings, often without vehicular transportation. (I also think that it would be useful to try early-morning seminary in the Mormon Corridor, but that’s another issue.)

  44. A very well-thought out posting.

    Years ago when I was a teenager, I was able to go to a girl’s camp with a friend and his father to help demonstrate an Indian teepee ceremony. When we had finished, my natural inclination was to get together with some of the girls and have a fun time like we would have under normal circumstances.

    But as I approached them, I learned they were all leaving to participate in a testimony meeting. I was impressed – and jealous. I think I had my Eagle Scout at the time, but I remember wondering why our own adventures in the outdoors didn’t have testimony meetings. I understand a little more now of why that might now have been appropriate, but I agree with many of the points in the posting.

    I think the Young Men’s program is designed to help the young men fulfill the mission of the Church and become closer to the Savior – just as the Young Women’s program is. But somehow, and perhaps the ubiquity of the BSA program, it seems like the water doesn’t always get to the end of the row.

    I am thankful for the skills I learned as a boyscout. But to be honest, from that moment as a teenage boy at a girl’s camp, I have been somewhat envious and have worked in my own callings to try and help fulfill the purposes of the Young Men’s program. Nate is right though about the complexities involved.

    I can’t say that I support abolishing the BSA program using the justifications Nate puts forth. Scouting is a tradition that is engrained in me. Yet I can also not say that I would be opposed to ending the Scouting program to better fulfill the needs of the Young Men’s program.

    It is a tricky dilemma. I am curious to see how things play out over the next several months or years.

  45. I think it’s also important to understanding the Boy Scouts of America scouting is dramatically different from the worldwide experience of Scouting. “BSA has lost its way” as we used to say when I was on Jamboree. Most of the US-in-culture references to Scouting I see in mass media bear no resemblance to my own experiences at all.
    I think the principles of Scouting (as set out in Scouting for Boys) align very closely to our youth programs and that’s why we got interested at all. But in Australia for example, we severed all ties about 10 years ago. I think our youth program is better off for it. Michael (#48) suggests “all we get” is th non-Scouting programs, but that simply isnt true. Our young men have a robust, versatile program that units can adapt to suit their youth’s needs rather than a strict, isolating and competive structure that limits opportunities to focus on each child.

  46. Steve (40), “We could not go to a climbing gym, and no one in our ward has that kind of equipment, so we had to shut them down.” But fundraising is allowed for equipment. Our ward has rock climbing equipment. Some years it gets used; some year it does not. As you correctly say, the boys choose the quarterly Varsity themes, and not all groups want to climb. (We are also blessed to have an indoor YMCA climbing wall and enough ward members who are YMCA members that the budget can easily handle the cost of non-member boys to climb a few times.)

    Mtnmarty (41), “…why not try it out on Teachers and Priests first and then dump scouting if it proves itself better.” Interesting suggestion. I think the Varsity program is great in theory, but I’ve never actually seen it used in practice. Venturing for the priests is already optional—so in a sense we already see your proposed experiment in units that don’t use Venturing. How are they doing in your area?

    Sch (42), “[S]couting allows the YM to participate in the community in a way rarely experienced in Mormonism.” That’s an interesting point. I like it. But I am afraid that when our scout units do participate, they still remain largely self-contained. And LDS adults generally seem to have a poor record of participating in district and council positions.

    KLC (44), “The district trainer used as his example of boy leadership a troop that decides it wants to learn to sail. They create a plan, find experts, raise money and make it happen.” Why couldn’t that happen in a church unit? Our council has sailboats, and elsewhere sailboats can be rented. Building one using “stitch and glue” is not expensive. I agree that the European camp example wouldn’t be allowed. But that’s OK with me: Part of what we’re teaching young men is how to have a great family vacation when they are fathers without spending a lot of money or traveling a long distance.

    Shawn (45), “Dissolves into an Adult led, merit badge mill, Eagle or Bust structure, that fails to attract YM to participate.” Exactly! I have seen that again and again. My new HT companion, a 16-year-old who was baptized a couple of years ago, has no interest in “scouting.” But what you describe is what he sees (though perhaps somewhat inaccurately). There are many activities under the scouting umbrella that would interest him, but those aren’t being offered to him.

    Also Shawn, “[T]he overall REAL cost for YW camp is hands down far and above more expensive.” We seldom include all our costs when looking at any of our youth programs. Having never been a YW leader, of course, I hadn’t thought about how much of that goes on for YW camp. But now that I do think of it, the unaccounted cost is considerable. Of course, that’s true in most YM programs, too.

    Greg (46), “Coed scouting is coming to the United States someday as well, mark my words.” Venturing is already coed—just not in the Church. I have heard of LDS girls and their parents organizing Venturing crews with outside sponsors so that they can take advantage of BSA resources. Though I wonder if that has happened anyplace where the YW adult leaders work with the girls to provide “high adventure” programs without the BSA connection.

    J Watson (47), “I can’t in good conscience support an organization that will not permit an abstinent gay child to participate with his friends.” Has anyone ever heard of the Church enforcing that rule in any of its scout units?

  47. I have to agree with everything said in the OP. When I remember my own experience as a youth, it was seminary, not scouting, that developed my testimony. My three older sons served or are serving missions and have strong testimonies, but never cared much for scouting and never came close to Eagle. My 15 year old son is counselor in the teachers’ quorum and never misses a day of seminary, but flat-out refuses to participate in any scout activity.

    My two daughters, on the other hand, flourished in YW and were greatly blessed by the PP program. I’ve often wished the boys’ experience had been more like theirs.

  48. Also re Shawn’s rock climbing example: The ward, not the scout unit, owns the climbing equipment, so it is available for the YW to use, as well as the YM. And the YW have occasionally used it.

  49. Daniel (51): I’m sincerely glad to hear that the official YM program is working somewhere! Maybe where I saw it, the problem was more defective units and overworked unit leaders (branch, EQ, and YM presidents all in one all too often). I also suspect that in some places where the influence of American missionaries is still significantly felt on the local mission culture, the official YM program can be forgotten – merely because the missionaries were often wrapped up in Scouting. At least, that’s my fear.

  50. On this topic, it would be interesting to research and analyze the following:

    1. Do areas with successful/effective LDS scouting programs share any common characteristics? For instance, does the number of boys per troop make a difference? Or, is the program more effective in LDS-majority communities than elsewhere?

    2. Given that it is possible to have a well-administered, effective LDS Boy Scout troop, what is the actual ratio of effective LDS troops to ineffective troops? And what ratio is acceptable? 90/10? 60/40? What is the ratio at which one could conclude that the existence of too many ineffective troops is not a function of local weakness, but is a symptom of a systemic mismatch between a national program and local congegational needs?

    3. What do the actual stakeholders – the young men – think about the YM and scouting programs? How do they think it should be run? And what do the inactive young men think? (It would also be interesting to survey Young Single Adults, active and inactive, re their experiences with LDS scouting. What did they like, and what would they have changed?)

    4. In the Church, is Cub Scouting more effective than Boy Scouting? If so, why?

    Hopefully, people are working on these questions.

  51. I have served in YW at the ward and stake. My husband has served as scoutmaster and has volunteered to help at YW camp for several years. He told me several times that he wished scout camp could be done like YW camp, that YW camp was building testimonies vs checking off merit badges like a BSA scout camp. Now that YM and YW are being called to serve missions at younger ages, I would welcome a significant change of focus for the YM. As parents of two sons and a daughter, our daughter was much more prepared to go to the Temple recently for the first time than either of our sons, in partly due to the differences between YM and YW programs.

  52. Excellent and convincing post, Nate.

    From the European perspective, we tried “Mormon” scouting in the church in Belgium in the 1980s (mixed boys & girls, as all scouting in Belgium). The Netherlands also had some Mormon scouting. Perhaps other countries too. But, overall, it was too burdensome on the leadership to combine regular church callings with scouting (lack of hands in small units). Moreover, scout activities of non Mormon units and of the local federation are standard on Sundays, which made cooperating difficult if not impossible.

    FYI, scouting as such (outside the church) is still fairly succesful in Europe, but the sphere is pretty different compared to the U.S. First, it’s fully coeducational, with boys and girls equally involved at all levels. Second, no patriotism: patriotism is viewed as divisive and as fostering feelings of superiority. Third, much more attention to social and environmental issues. Fourth, not much attention to uniform and certainly no military-like drills.

    I know, those liberal Europeans…

  53. Whoever agrees with the ‘case against scouting’ article doesn’t understand Duty to God, or the Scouting/Venturing Program. DtG is an individual and family program, NOT a group or quorum activity, although the group/ quorum setting lends itself very well to the share aspect of DTG.

    Baden Powell said religion isn’t a part of scouting, it is the WHOLE of scouting. He also explained scouting doesn’t profess Sunday teachings, but focuses on putting religious principles into action. This may sound alot like President Monson, and how he has explained that Scouting is the great laboratory of the gospel where YM can put into practice the things they learn on Sundays. Scouting is the place where the most important part of DtG (The AP YM tool) happens, Not learning and sharing, although there is a place in scouting for that, but ACTing on those ideals and principles.

    A well trained and knowledgable adult who has trained the leaders (The youth) and lets them lead will find many opportunities to drive home gospel teachings, AND using reflections (another part of the BSA program) ask the youth to look for the hand of the Lord in all things, and make meaningful spiritual connections for themselves. (You know, liken the scriptures unto us)

    Sadly most LDS units suffer epic scout fail. The fail to see how letting boys lead is beneficial. (its much easier for the adults to do it) They fail to use the BSA program because they fail to get trained, or refuse the training. After they fail to use the BSA program to enhance AP teaching on Sundays, they fall into the trap of a Sunday School lesson on Wed. night, followed by jungle ball which alienates the youth.

    Addressing the Jamboree vs Girls camp experience, My wife has been the ward and stake camp director for the last 13 yrs. Girls camp scripture study and arts & crafts does NOT equal a jamboree experience. As a member of a community Venturing Crew, my daughter attended the 2007 World Scout Jamboree in England. It changed her life and her outlook on life. My son has been to 2 National Jamborees, and Philmont. Low adventure Book of Mormon camps may preach alot about missionary prep, but they do not offer a missionary experience. National Jamboree on the other hand..

    In 2010, not more than a day passed without members of the Young Mens GP and Board visiting the youth in our campsite. At the LDS relations booth, scouts got to see Eagle Scout missionaries manning the area along side General Officers and Authorities of the church, all telling the YM how much the Lord loved them, and how they should act on their desires to serve missions.

    Oh yeah, about the missionary experience at Jamboree and Philmont (on a not LDS week) My son tented with a YM of another faith. Because of the scouting bond, that YM felt comfortable asking my son about the church, it beliefs, and teachings. Many myths and misconceptions about mormons were dispelled that week. During the week at Philmont and during the Jamboree and tour, many Book of Mormons were handed out. Young LDS kids got to wear a uniform and be with a companion 24/7 (scout buddy system) They found out just what being in a uniform and being recognized by everyone who saw them meant. Adults didn’t belabor the point, but simply asked, do you think a mission might feel a little like this?

    I would not trade a Jamboree, Philmont, and Scouting/Venturing experiences as a youth or adult for 100 BoM Camp Helamans.

    Its true that scouting needs the church, and the Church needs scouting as much if not more.

    I wish all the naysayers could/would see scouting as President Monson (And the Prophets before him for the last 100 years) does.

  54. Reflecting on four years as YM president (in the Southwest US)-

    Mtnmarty (41) – at times the YW were jealous of the YM and were clamoring to get out of the church and onto the lake (canoeing etc).

    43 and 59 are compelling comments

    re: Venturing – if it is to work the Bishopric needs to understand it and help promote it. However, some boys at that point are ready to be done with Scouting. A scoutmaster I worked with who was a convert was disillusioned by the lack of interest/Scouting example of the older boys. I just moved to the SLC UT area so it will be interesting to see how the local Priests are engaging during the week.

    re: new youth curriculum – how can this be integrated with Scouting during the week? It also seems that the interactive nature of the new Sunday youth lessons would eliminate the need for most activities labeled “Missionary Prep.”

  55. Chet (60) Unfortunately, Venturing is name only in most LDS wards. Its usually scouting warmed over for the 3rd time, earning meritbadges so the Advisor will get off my back and I can finally get a drivers license. Thats sad, and its not the fault of BSA and the SCouting Venturing program, it the fault of the adult advisors who don’t bother seeking first obtain the word before trying to preach it. (Translation, I don’t need to be trained, we’ll just wing it)

    Many have commented here that scouting doesn’t meet the needs of the YM. Scouting as its offered by most wards certainly doesn’t, and its a shame that some Wards don’t have Venturing programs while others choose Duty to Spaulding or Scouting warmed over. Venturing is custom made to meet the needs of the youth.

    As the lower age mission announcement was made, this thought kept running through my head. “Venturing, with the leadership it teaches, skills it offers, self confidence and esteem it builds is needed now more than ever”. The depressing flip side is, most wards and YM adult advisors will now double down, or redouble their Duty to Spaulding efforts. The turn the time over to the nearest adult is leadership enough mindset will only hurt our YM as they leave for college and missions, and find that in the real world, THEY will be the adults the time is turned over to, and they will not be ready for the responsibility and burden of leadership that they will be called upon to bear.

  56. (59) Rick mentioned missionary work at Jamboree and Philmont, where Mormon boy informs non-LDS boy about the church … “During the week at Philmont and during the Jamboree and tour, many Book of Mormons were handed out.”

    I find this disturbing. Missionary work among minors, without their parents permission and supervision?

  57. I know that it has been said before, and I know that this isn’t the topic of the OP, but I think that a certain policy needs to be put in black/white in our leadership manuals:

    Boyscout leaders should be in place for a MINIMUM of five years, and idealy much longer. Scouting is a large and complex program, with a year-long cycle. It takes time to master all of its aspects. I truly believe that being a YM President isn’t far removed from being a Bishop. (Having been a YM President twice and a Bishop once, I can tell you that the time commitment to really do a good job is tremendous.) There is tons of information to master, and it takes time to do so.

    Layer onto that the large safety issues involved with complex and prolonged outdoor activities: knives, climbing, isolation, cold, heat, exhaustion, etc. You need an experienced person to run a YMs program properly. Calling someone to be a scoutmaster, and then replacing him after two or three years is one of the things that bother non-lds scouters about our program. We have constant rookies, who feel that because they were a scout (5,10,20,25 years ago) that they know what they are doing. Scouting offers tremendous training, which spills over into leadership at home, at work, and in other church callings. But it takes time to do it properly. Some of that training is “on-line” and can be done at home at your own leisure, but other training requires big chunks of time on weekends.

    As I said before, I think that I would favor dropping Scouting from our YM’s Program here in the U.S. But if we are going to do it, we need to do it right, and one of the foundations of that is leadership that is trained and experienced. Five to ten years should be the standard time for scoutmaster and significant other YM callings. Perhaps they can move around within the YM Program, but five to ten years experience with the higher level leaders is the only way to both reliably minimize the inherent risks and master the many complex issues in a YMs Program.

  58. “Boyscout leaders should be in place for a MINIMUM of five years, and idealy much longer”

    If this is true, it might be enough reason to get rid of scouts: in the average US ward, asking for a 5 year commitment means eliminating a huge chunk of the possible leaders.

  59. Wilfried (62) Not sure how you just jump off and make wild assumptions that it was done without parental consent. Sure, a YW camp or ward BYO hobo excursion thats called a scout camp might occur without any parental knowledge of what is going on at that camp, but a Jamboree troop starts preparing about 18 months in advance, (not 18 minute before) and during that time 1/3 of the meetings involve parents, along with reams (gigs in the digital age) of information. Parents knew what was happening. Nobody was forced or coerced to do any missionary work.

    So, in your opinion, every member a missionary is great to give lip service to, but just don’t actually try to do it huh?

    Or is talking about ‘missionary preparation’ on Wednesday nights more important than actually meeting people and telling them about the church?

    I guess if you are a scouting detractor, any reason to bash scouting will have to suffice.

  60. okc lds mom (57): “My husband … told me several times that he wished scout camp could be done like YW camp, that YW camp was building testimonies vs checking off merit badges like a BSA scout camp.” Aaargh!!! Using a scout camp in that fashion is a choice, NOT compelled by the Church nor by BSA. It is the result of two things: (1) that most LDS troops emphasize advancement to the near exclusion of all of Scouting’s other “methods”; and (2) it is easier to send the boys off to the program the scout camp offers than to choose among the parts of that program that meet the needs of the boys and then run your own program (which can certainly build testimonies) the rest of the time.

    Wilfried (58); “Moreover, scout activities of non Mormon units and of the local federation are standard on Sundays, which made cooperating difficult if not impossible.” It is hard to underemphasize how important this is. Even in the U.S. it is often challenging to keep district and council events off of Sunday.

    Rick (59): “Addressing the Jamboree vs Girls camp experience….” You’re not being fair to Nate. The context shows that he doesn’t know the nomenclature; he’s using “jamboree” when he means scout camp. No question that a Jamboree is a very different experience than YW camp, on so very many levels. You identify some of the significant ones.

    Chet (60): “at times the YW were jealous of the YM and were clamoring to get out of the church and onto the lake (canoeing etc.).” We found the same thing in our stake, and moved the YW camp to a scout camp facility where they could canoe, shoot (arrows and bows), etc. (BSA was delighted to host them, by the way.) When the scouts sold that camp the YW moved to another facility. I suspect that they lost many of those activities—but hopefully not all of them.

  61. Julie (64) Doesn’t matter is its scouting, YW, Sunday school, or whatever. A revolving door of warm bodies flooding in and out of any calling fosters an attitude of indifference. Many adults receive callings and just show up on Sundays to read from the manual, after all why put any real effort in doing something when a new calling will come in a month or so anyway?

    Using your logic, not just scouting would have to be eliminated, but most callings in a ward including bishop should just be abandoned and left at the roadside because they take too much time.

    Since the late 80s that I am aware of, Bishops and SPs have been told that YM adult leaders like Young Mens’ Presidencies, quorum advisors, and by extension/ association scouting unit leaders should plan to be in their callings for at least as long as the Bishop. SO, even if scouting were removed, the YM adult advisors should plan on being in their callings for a long time.

    Since serving in the church is a permanent and ongoing thing, ward members are always going to have callings. Crappy program (any program from primary to RS) failings due to short time in calling not considered here, does it matter if there are 1, 2, 5, 10, or 100 callings in a 5 year period? Everyone should be serving.

  62. JrL (66) Not knowing and using the proper name for position and events is (IMNSHO) a major component of LDS dysfunctional scouting. If the adults and youth don’t consider themselves as scouts and scouters, or a varsity Team and coach, or a venturing crew and advisor, how will they be able to act accordingly?

    I’ve sat on many boards of review (PPI for scouting) When asked what is your leadership position? Many youth answer with Deacons quorum president, or Teachers quorum secretary. They had no idea of their scouting position. Is it any wonder we see non functional scouting programs in the church when people don’t know what they are supposed to be, and be doing? If other activities had boards of review, or SM conferences )PPIs for that activity) any kid could step up and say “I’m the Quarterback” or “I’m a forward” or I’m the Drum Major” or “I’m first chair trumpet” or I’m Captain of the wrestling team” or I’m President of the debate team”, or… You get the idea. They know what they are because the program they are in is actually functioning.

    A past YM pres in my ward made an effort for about a day to learn about Scouting and Venturing. At the end of a council new leader training, he concluded Scouting has too much ‘jargon’ its too difficult, it doesn’t look to me like it saves souls so I’m not gonna do it. That same person could tell me all the ‘jargon’ of his vocation, all the ‘jargon’ of his different advocations, and all the “jargon” of the church like FHE YM YW PPI PEC BYC and so on.

    In the case of Nate or anyone not knowing the correct language associated with a subject shows a lack of knowledge of that subject. Looking at church calling in general, and scouting in particular, not knowing the correct names and language pertaining to that calling shows epic fail to learn the duties and responsibilities of your calling, epic fail to seek first to obtain my word, epic fail to magnify your calling, epic fail in the whole willingness to serve with all your heart, might, mind and strength.

  63. Rick (65), the matter of missionary work to minors is a sensitive issue. Just mentioning to which church one belongs is of course normal information. But the line between giving some neutral information about one’s religion and trying to interest a young listener with the aim of converting is easily crossed. And Mormons are conditioned to see such opportunities as missionary work. I think passing out copies of the Book of Mormon at a jamboree, as you mentioned, crosses the line.

    Yes, “every member a missionary”, but the Church respects the law. “Preach my Gospel” states: “Before you can teach an investigator who is under legal age, you must obtain permission of the parent(s) or legal guardian(s), preferably in writing.”

    The consequences of teaching and converting a minor can be dramatic, in some cases with serious legal implications. Would Mormon parents be happy if their son comes back from a jamboree, converted to another church or cult?

    We discussed this issue on T&S in the context of under-age exchange students.

  64. Wilfred (69) Answering people’s questions about the church and inviting them to read the BoM doesn’t cross a line. No one tried to preach anything, no one was out proselytizing to convert anyone, or schedule with the missionaries, or set a baptism date.

    Lots of the mormon boys attended a Jewish service, and visited with many other religions at the relations area of the Jamboree. The got the opportunity to speak with a Rabbi, and even got a copy of the Koran.

    Just because they went to a Jewish service, and talked to a Rabbi, and have a copy of the Koran doesn’t mean they are suddenly going to leave the church. Just because someone who isn’t mormon got a BoM from a mormon kid at Jamboree doesn’t mean that person will suddenly jump on the mormon bandwagon.

    What it does mean is that scouting and the Jamboree experience provided several scouts a chance put the scout law into practice. It meant a chance to learn of another persons beliefs without being judgmental and condemning. It gave the mormon boys who choose to, an opportunity to experience life and people away from the Sasquatch front zion curtain. They learned to love one another in a very real way that theoretical classroom pretend scenarios could never provide.

    If parents were so afraid that coming into contact with a person of a different faith would suddenly out of the blue cause youth to leave the church, mormons would NEVER leave their homes for work, school, play, or anything, much less send kids (yeah, at 18 & 19 they are still kids) on missions.

  65. Fair enough, Rick. That’s a good argumentation. You speak of experience which I do not have. I only tried to express some concern based on the information in your previous comments.

  66. Rick, that is completely unreasonable. No one thinks you need to be a Sunbeam teacher for a minimum of 5 years to do a good job at it.

  67. Julie (72) I never said you had to be in sunbeams for 5 years. I did say Since the late 80s that I am aware of, Bishops and SPs have been told that YM adult leaders like Young Mens’ Presidencies, quorum advisors, and by extension/ association scouting unit leaders should plan to be in their callings for at least as long as the Bishop.

    I did say that a warm body in and out of the calling revolving door with little time any calling would foster an attitude of apathy and indifference. The more tenure a willing person has in a calling, the better they and the program/class/activity will become. Again, look at Bishops, around 5 years. Stake Presidents, 10 years. High Council, 3-5 to life. General officers and authorities of the church? 5 – life.

    In most callings where the callee is short term, the program, class, or whatever will usually be sub standard since the callee never has a chance to learn the expectations, duties, and responsibilities of the position.

    In the case of scouting, where it is complex, and requires training, the more time a willing performing person has in a job, the better the outcome for the youth in the program.

    Ask anyone how effective their Sunday School class is when there is a steady stream of new teachers and/or subs during the year. Hangman and ‘lets just talk about the gospel in general and answer your questions” is the Sunday counterpart of “what do you want to do tonight? I dunno, let do some Duty to God and play basketball” on Wednesday mutual nights. It short changes the participants/ class members and wastes the time of everyone involved.

  68. Rick:

    I thing you are making some great points, so thank you. My first thought regarding eliminating scouting was “great, MORE basketball.” I think I’m the worst basketball player on the planet and dreaded the weeks when all we did was play bball because no one planned something more meaningful. As I got older, and more confident, I would just up and walk out. So I do agree that a new, well thought out program would need to replace Scouting.

    However, I completely disagree with you on Jamboree. Of all the things I did in Scouts, including the camps, merit badges, order of the arrow, Eagle Scout projects for me and my peers, etc, Jamboree was hands down the worst experience of my entire scouting career. I’m not going to waste time re-living it by explaining. But please recognize that your great experience with it may not hold true for others, and may be part of their ammunition to replace the program.

  69. I think Rick has only underscored Nate’s conclusion by adding an element that Nate did not mention in the OP but that everyone in the church knows: the 2% of die-hard scouters are extremely off-putting.

  70. Chadwick (74) Please remember that a huge National level event like a Jamboree is not a ward or church sponsored event. A ward troop wouldn’t just up and go to a Jamboree. Councils sponsor the Jamboree troops, and a registered BSA member would choose to participate in the event separate from the local, home ward troop.

    Scouts and their parents are free to choose to participate or not in National Jamborees, the same way they are free to choose to participate in band, sports, debate, drama, soccer, and etc. The Jamboree IS NOT a point for the church abandoning the BSA since Jamboree participation is option according to each individual and family. It has nothing to do with scouting in the LDS church, but rather a privilege of BSA membership you may choose to attend.

  71. Rick, fair enough. But you opened the door by using multiple paragraphs explaining how awesome Jamboree is, especially as a missionary tool, and was clearly a major reason for you believing the church should stay in the business of scouting.

    Then I come along, list it as a con to the church staying in the business of scouting, and the rebuttal is that it’s merely optional?

    It’s one or the other. Take your pick.

  72. correlation (75) I’m sorry you find scouting and its supporters off putting. Take any aspect of church like home teaching for example. Many elders’ quorum members who have no interest in doing their duty and fulfilling their priesthood responsibilities by home teaching find the quorum president that not only insists it be done, but calls to find out if it is annoying and offputting also. That same elders quorum president can be summed up and labeled as “The whole church knows that the 2% of die hard elders quorum presidents are extremely off putting.

    In each case, home teaching and scouting, its a matter of does the person with the calling see the job the way Christ and Pres Monson does? Are they willing to step up and do something about it?

    I’m sure many people in the world find missionaries offputting because they don’t want to hear or act on the truth being presented.

    Sorry, your argument is just another excuse to avoid or destroy something you don’t want to do and don’t understand. If testimony from Prophets that scouting is more relevant and needed today then ever before isn’t enough to sway you, nothing I can say or do would convince you otherwise. Are those same die hard Prophets offputting also?

  73. Chadwick (77) I didn’t realize it came off that way, sorry. I was responding to Nates comments that a Jamboree experience wasn’t as good as an LDS girls camp. I was pointing out just how much a Jamboree or Philmont experience would enhance the teaching we talk about in quorums on Sunday, and help a young man reach and fulfill the goals of the Aaronic Priesthood.

    If its like JrL (66) contends, and Nate was actually talking about a scout camp VS girls camp, well I’ve been a part of and witness to may scout camps. Some awesome, some awful. The difference was how well prepared the adults an youth in the troop were. Trained adults who have trained the youth to lead and let them, and understand the scouting and venturing programs generally have a great camp experience complete with small but effective gospel teaching moments. DtS (Duty to Spaulding) troops that just show up at camp, with no preparation, and expect everything just to be handed to them usually hate the experience and see no value in it.

  74. Rick,
    Re: your comment “its a matter of does the person with the calling see the job the way Christ and Pres Monson does?” I am hoping that I am taking this WAY out of context but is there an implication in here that you see scouting the way Christ does? Please set me straight here so I don’t go on thinking that this is what you meant.

  75. Rick, “Duty to Spaulding” is an off-putting phrase, as is much of the lamentation that the saints disappoint you so thoroughly. I say that as a father who tomorrow is taking his four oldest sons on a three-day, 30-mile backpack trek planned by them. Three of those boys will be at the Jamboree in West Virginia this summer, as part of a troop from the Virgin Islands.

  76. Rick: I suspect that part of why you find Scouting a good program (and I don’t dispute that it can be a good program) is that you live in American Fork. My experience growing up in a Wasatch Front ward in Salt Lake City with Scouting was very positive. In retrospect, I realize that this was in large part because my ward had a critical mass of young men, so we had a fairly large troop, and a very deep bench of senior male leaders. Having spent my entire adult life outside of Utah, I realize that the ward I grew up in was in many ways atypical. The wards that I have lived in on the East Coast tend to have relatively small YM groups and a shallower pool of adult males on whom to draw for leadership. Hence, the administrative burden of Scouting is felt much more acutely.

  77. Amanda (80) No implication at all. I don’t claim to see it as they do, but I also see just how important it is to them. A couple of years ago Pres. Monson came unannounced to the Timpanogos Temple to attend the marriage of a granddaughter. When he was in front of the temple, some deacons came out. President Monson greeted them, commented on their temple attendance, and proceeded to question them about their scouting experiences, and how they were doing in the scouting program. Here we have a Prophet of the Lord, going into The House Of The Lord, and he stopped to talk to boys about how they were doing in scouting. That says alot.

    Lets look at how Christ sees scouting. He is the head of His Church on earth. If scouting didn’t have the potential, when used to its fullest, to help young men come unto him, why would He have implemented it, an outside program, as part of the Aaronic Priesthood training and experience? If Scouting didn’t supplement and provide something the young men in the church need, why do we as a church continue to spend millions of dollars to support it?

    Speaking of money spent, church funds are sacred, they are given by members to build God’s kingdom. The Lord sees fit to support scouting with a serious, substantial monetary commitment. How do you think God and Christ feel when they see millions poured into what should be the best ran youth program on the planet, only to find that local leaders are squandering those funds by not being trained, or having the attitude that its ‘only scouts’ or that substituting something else in its place would ever compare to what should be happening? 3 Prophets that I know of have said Scouting is not on trial in the church, but WE are. Those who blow off scouting, and fail to prepare the Lord’s sons using the tools we have been blessed with (scouting and venturing) are doing so at their own peril.

    John M (81) The saints don’t ‘thoroughly disappoint me’ Duty to Spaulding is kinda meant to raise a few hackles. Its a very accurate description of what happens in many LDS wards. Lets read some scriptures and then play some basketball and call it scouting does a disservice to both the Duty to God program (In all its iterations) and the scouting program. But most of all, its a disservice to the young men who we are supposed to be serving.

    When the ‘new’ (Now old ‘new’) Duty to God program was introduced by President Hinckley, he intended to raise the bar on the preparedness of our young men. Raising the bar to prepare our young men, not just for missionary service, but to succeed in every area of life did NOT mean dropping the ball on the scouting and venturing programs. The vocal and seemingly overwhelming opinion of many church members is that it was now somehow OK to drop scouting. In spite of countless statements by the Young Mens General Presidency, Members of the Quorum of the Seventy, and Apostles that Duty to God does not compete with or replace scouting, that they work hand in hand to help our young men.

    The constant drone of drop scouting because we have Duty to God is just like people who proclaim that I have a bible, don’t need no Book of Mormon.

    Christ and His Prophets see value in the scouting program. Does the Bishop, and his ward Young Mens Presidency, right on down to the parents of the boys see scouting the way Christ and President Monson see scouting? If the adults don’t get trained, and don’t use the BSA materials I’d say no. If the adults don’t train the youth to be the leaders and let them, I’d say no. If weekly scout meetings are dropped or cancelled for anything that comes along, I’d say no. If ‘scout’ night at mutual is lets read in the DtG book then do some basketball I’d say no.

    BTW John, are you going to the Jamboree with your boys? I’d love to meet you in person, share a gatorade, and hear about your 30 mile backpacking trek. Pics too if you have some :D

  78. Rick, the solid points you make, and I agree you have some, are swallowed by your tone and style, both of which are off-putting. And your attempt at persuasion is poor. Scouting is NOT the Gospel. Never has been. Never will be. The Priesthood is a central part of the Gospel. Conflating the two is precisely the problem, and, again, you only underscore Nate’s conclusion by doing so.

    I have been a YM president and in a YM presidency for several years. I am currently in the bishopric and over scouting in a good-sized suburban ward in Texas. I sustain our leaders and do my best to carry out my callings. I haven’t abandoned scouting, but I can say with near certainty from these years of service that very few boys like scouting, very few leaders like scouting, achieving the rank of Eagle is an end not a means, little spiritual progression occurs in the boys’ lives through scouting, and the administrative burdens required by scouting outweigh its benefits. We can do better.

  79. correlated, I think you have misread Rick. He isn’t saying that scouting is Gospel, as far as I can tell he’s saying that the gospel is an appendage of scouting, and apparently Christ agrees with him.

  80. correlated (84) Like I said, If you are not convinced by Prophets, Apostles, and other General Authorities and Officers of the Church, nothing I can say or do will ever have an effect on you.

    You are absolutely correct that Eagle is not the goal of scouting and the BSA. Eagle has become the be all end all driving force for most wards. Once that attitude changes, and wards use the scouting program with all its methods, NOT just advancement, the awards will flow freely as a result of a great program.

    A former Presiding Bishop once said (paraphrasing, don’t have the quote right in front of me) he never met a boy who didn’t like scouting, but he had met plenty who didn’t like the program offered up in place of but labeled as scouting. In my many years associated with the program, I can say his words are true.

    Again, through my own personal experience, I know that many spiritual experiences and gospel teaching moments happen in scouting. The opportunity for them are built into the program. All we have to do is use the program for it to happen. For them to happen, the program must be used, not in part, but the whole thing. Not just the chase for Eagle, not just once in a while on Wed night if something else isn’t going on. . If an adult cannot guide a spiritual experience and find teaching moments on Wednesday nights and campouts he doesn’t belong with the boys on Wednesday night, and even less instructing the quorum on Sundays.

    I’m sorry if my personal experiences and testimony are ‘offputting’ As mentioned before, its easy to be offput when you don’t want to hear the message, and if that message is offputting and ignored when delivered by Prophets and Apostles, I have no chance of persuading you otherwise.

    I have seen as a youth and adult how scouting can bless the lives of young men, help them grow in the gospel, strengthen their testimonies, and prepare them for the challenges and trials that they face. But it can only do that when its used wholeheartedly without reservation. That takes time, and alot of effort. Many long suffering and long serving adults might never see the fruits of their labors, but the our youth are worth every effort.

  81. Coming out of lurkerdom to comment for the very first time here at T&S.

    I’d like to offer a different perspective on this subject, especially since I agree with the basic premise. I’m a Canadian from Alberta (aka “the Utah of Canada”), I’ve been a Cub leader, and I’ve worked for many years in the YW program.

    First off, scouting is still done in Canada as well, so it’s not just the States. That creates problems right there. Our YM are told they should get their “Eagle Scout” award, yet the requirements for a Chief Scout award- the Scouts Canada equivalent – are different. Specifically, more camps are required than are outlined in the Handbook for YM, so our leaders are dealing with a Catch-22.

    Until I joined an LDS forum comprised mainly of US Saints, I’d never heard of Order of the Arrow or anything like that. Conversely, when I mentioned I’d served as Akayla, I got a bunch of ?????? directed at me because that’s not the term for the main Cub leader south of the border. I’m still fuzzy on what a den mother is. We’re a worldwide church that has different scouting programs in every country.

    Which brings up another major point I want to make. Everyone’s talking about Scouts as if it starts at 12. It DOESN’T. As much as I loved the Cub program, and caught the vision for how well it can prepare our boys to receive the priesthood, that lost year from 11-12 would be enough reason on its own to scrap the program. It’s incredibly frustrating to have a great program going for those 3 years and then watch the 11yos try to patch something together with few boys and a leader who will only have them for a year. Statistically speaking, 11 years is a vulnerable age for boys and their activity in the church, and we’re failing them.

    One of the toughest parts of being Akayla was feeling like I was serving two masters. I had stake leaders saying “Support the cub program” and when I approached ward leaders about Scouting guidelines about proper number of leaders or having the paperwork done (and oh, the paperwork that SC wants!) I was told not to worry about it. It was my own Catch-22, one I suspect a lots of YM’s leaders feel as well.

    Last of all, an observation. MOST wards I’ve lived in has a fully functioning YW program; one that’s dysfunctional is the exception. I keep hearing opinions that the YM’s program is better than the YW’s when done properly, but that’s the issue right there, isn’t it? WHEN DONE PROPERLY. Unfortunately, the far majority if wards I’ve been in have not done the Scouting program effectively. (Plus, it seems like every time you do get a great Scouting leader, they’re released within a year to serve at the Stake level in YM.)

    It boils down to this. If YW as a program is about 75% effective but done properly about 90% of the time, how are our boys benefiting by a 90% effective program done well maybe 20% of the time?

  82. Rick, the Spirit converts and convinces me, not men, not even great and honorable and righteous men in leadership positions in the church whom I love, though they certainly help. I rely on the Scriptures for that standard. You can call it whatever you’d like and try to bully or harass me for that standard, but I am sticking with it.

    I have been around long enough in the church to know that programs are not doctrine. In fact, sometimes doctrine is not even doctrine. I recall nearly getting pummeled in the MTC a couple of decades ago when I said that I thought some people were born gay. Now it is the church’s official position, after years of evolution. Be careful not to hold too fast to ancillary things. Whether length and style of garments, number of spouses, content of temple ceremonies, terms and ages of missionary service, grooming and dress standards, priesthood ordination rules, etc. – change always comes. BYU may drop its athletics programs. The church may drop scouting. The Gospel is still the clarion message to the world and one that all of Heavenly Father’s children should have the opportunity to hear and receive.

    Scouting can be good. The Gospel is always best. Correlation does not equal causation.

  83. I’ve enjoyed this debate. That said, any piece of advice which suggests that YM presidency ought to be doing more of anything (getting more training, spending more time planning and implementing the program, etc.) is headed in the wrong direction. Even if you half-a** the scouting aspect, a calling in the YM presidency is one that takes up way too much time. I’ve served in YM presidencies and I’ve served as a counselor in bishoprics, and the time commitment for both is about the same. And while I’m sure there are units where there are lots of men to pick up the slack, most of my experience has been in units where we were lucky to field a fully presidency.

  84. correlated (88) You are absolutely right, the church may drop scouting at some point. And when it does, I will never say another word to an LDS leader about it. Over and done, no problem.

    UNTIL that time, the Scouting and Venturing program is what The Lord has in place for the training and preparation of His sons, the young men of the church. Our failure to deliver it endangers our salvation, and certainly doesn’t help the young men we are supposed to be serving. If Scouting is worth doing, and Prophets for the last 100 years have said that it is, then it is worth doing right.

    Since the old new Duty to God was rolled out, its never ceased to amaze me how church members and leaders say to toe the line, and be obedient and exact in church and at home, follow the rules, its the little things that count, yet when scouting enters the discussion, all of those platitudes are out the window, and don’t matter for anything.

    I do agree that the spirit is what converts and convinces, but just remember that if every copy of scripture was destroyed today, there would still be a living Prophet to guide us. That same Prophet has said “There are those who criticize scouting, but not me, I stand firm. Scouting is here to stay.

    BTW, I am not trying to bully or strong arm anyone. Just presenting my testimony, experience, and the words of God’s latter day Prophets.

    Scouting and its value can only be proven when you use it without reservation, jumping in, and letting it (in the words of former Young mens General President Charles Dahlquist) almost consume you. Not unlike how we gain testimonies of any gospel principle, we must first live it in its full measure to get the benefit, blessing, and testimony.

  85. jimbob (89) Once the YM Presidency is trained, they in turn train the youth to plan, organize, lead and execute. At that point, it is the youth who are real leaders, and in the case of Scouts/ Deacons and Varsity/ Teachers those same youth have 1/2 of the Priesthood keys in the entire ward, NO adult, not even the Bishop can plan and execute those things which the youth should be doing.

    If the adults are half a**ing the scouting part by planing and executing the activities, and failing to give that responsibility to the youth after training them, the adults don’t understand how scouting and AP/ Priesthood keys work, and that is the very problem the majority of LDS scout units are facing today.

    And yes, the adults do need to be trained. How else will they know what they are supposed to do? How else will they know how to train the youth?

  86. Rick, you are embarrassing yourself and exacerbating unfortunate caricatures of the state of Utah. What about the millions of members outside of the U.S. where no scouting program exists? Or what about inner city wards in Detroit and Chicago? Or language-specific wards? My brother is a stake president in a language stake in the U.S. There is no scouting in his stake, but there is a YM program and some fantastic young men. Do the boys in these circumstances, whose numbers are actually large in aggregate, matter less to the Lord? If scouting were some unsurpassable spiritual vehicle, why not insist on its implementation in all instances and locales? Are you saying that different standards, expectations, and opportunities apply to the Lord’s sons depending on their financial and cultural heritage? Spend some extended time in the vineyard before commenting on the tools that work and don’t work in reaping a harvest. And follow the actions, not just the words, of the church and its leaders throughout the world. You will soon learn that outside of your bubble, a marvelous work and wonder is going on without the slightest hint or help from scouting.

  87. I must leave this discussion now. I am off to the church to support scouting in my calling, as I have for many years now. When I walk into the room where the scouts are assembled, I will see their long faces and disinterest, like I have seen so many times before. And I will watch them sprint out of the room into the parking lot or onto the basketball court to play games and socialize with smiles on their faces once the scout session ends. Funny how that same bolting reaction and those same deflated looks don’t happen in quorum meetings or during joint activities or on non-scouting activity nights. (Shoot, even the early morning seminary faces are more engaged than the scout faces.) Funny how the announcements of upcoming activities have some enthusiasm behind them when they are not associated with scouting. Funny how the boys’ planning and participation as leaders of activities increases when not related to scouting. Actually, it is not funny. It is sad.

  88. “Lets look at how Christ sees scouting” may be the most absurd thing that I have read at timesandseasons and possibly in my life.

  89. How to change Church Scouting for the better

    Here are some of my suggestions for changing church scouting for the better and for having a quality program world wide. Remember I am viewing scouting from an international perspective from a country with almost no church based scouting, only 4 LDS sponsored scout groups remain in Australia. We do however have many LDS youth engaged in scouting.

    1. Scouting should be something both youth and adults want to do not something they have to do. So scouting should be an optional program for those interested in it. No more “scouts on paper only” no more “paper scout troops” who are not doing scouting but rather are pretending to do scouting. Scouting leaders should be volunteers with a real interest in scouting these should not be callings people feel obligated to fill.

    2. Scout troops should be organised at the stake level with patrols of mixed age youth at the ward level. For scouting to work you need a minimum number of youth to properly implement the patrol system upon which it is established. The patrol system is built upon the idea of older scouts helping to instruct younger ones.

    3. Accept the national scouting program as implemented in what ever nation we find ourselves in. No more trying to bend scouting to our will as is so common in the BSA/LDS program.

    4. In most of the world scouting is coed and so it should be in church scouting as well. Unbundle scouting from the Aaronic Priesthood. In national scouting programs that are coed, and that is almost all of them now, our program should be coed as well. Scouting would then become an optional activity program of young men’s and young women’s.

    5. Carefully review the national scouting programme for integration with the church youth recognition programs so that youth can see how work in one is reflected in the other. Promote scouting as a means of youth achieving both in scouting as well as in church.

    Where there are not the numbers of interested youth needed to run a church sponsored group or where the NSO does not provide for sponsored scouting then willing adult members should be embedded within the scouting groups of the community and provided with the materials in step five above so as to provide a scouting resource in the community for interest LDS families and youth.

    A national, and perhaps regional, LDS Scout Chaplains should be selected from willing volunteers to interact with the national scouting organisation and act as a Scout Chaplain and national and regional scouting events.

    Scouting will then become something worthwhile we offer to the community. It should not, and indeed most NSO would not permit it to become, a missionary program. By our works people will come to know us and those interested in the church will naturally ask about it.

    Greg Kearney
    LDS National Jamboree Chaplain
    Scouts Australia

  90. correlated (92) how sad you feel so insecure that you have to throw out disparagements like “you are embarrassing yourself” and then follow up with straw man arguments about the rest of the world when the topic is clearly BSA and scouting in the United States of America. I cannot comment about scouting and the LDS young mens program in other parts of the world. I do know that in the USA, the LDS church has been given the gift and blessing of a scouting program to help the growth and development of its young men.

  91. Di (87), welcome to T&S. And Akayla, like we have in Belgium!

    You made an interesting comment from across the border. It confirms how different things can be outside the Wasatch front. I recognize many of the challenges you mention. Though we should try to adapt to local circumstances, it’s easier said than done.

    Anyway, come back often to T&S. You’re an excellent commenter.

  92. @Greg Kearney

    THAT’s what I was trying to say back in #13. Thank you for laying it out so much more clearly than I did.

  93. My experiences in Washington state and Oregon were generally positive. Perhaps the Church supports scouting in hopes of improving it. It isn’t good for PR, but it does do good, in spite of its flaws (the scope of which vary tremendously, as mentioned in this thread). I served my mission in Tahiti and scouting was basically an annual ‘scout camp’ type youth activity, and that was it.

  94. Rick from AmFork, I think you need to step away from the keyboard, dude. I have a generally positive view of Scouting, but you aren’t helping the case here. Plus, I am no geography expert, but the last time I checked, Detroit and Chicago were in the United States, as are the language units that Correlated mentioned. I too am familiar with wards and branches in the U.S. that have no formal Scouting program and just have a young mens program. I think you would be singing a different tune if you served for years in such units.

  95. Mr. Kearney, I like your comments. Very thoughtful. They ring true to me. Forcing Scouting on kids who are not interested in it is like forcing sports on kids who are not interested in it. Seems to make little sense to me as a requirement in the church either way.

  96. In point of fact, (86) I’m not convinced by Prophets, Apostles, and other General Authorities and Offices of the Church, mostly because the Church’s ongoing message to me has been to study things out in my own mind and obey them as the Spirit prompts, not to appeal to their authority in order to shut a conversation down.

    That Presiding Bishop didn’t interview me; I would have clearly told him I had a miserable time in Scout for all the years I was in it until my own father took the Scoutmaster position in our ward and magnified the calling, protecting both his young sons from a combination of whimsical cruelty from other boys and from the phoned-in commitment of previous draftee Scout leaders. Before that point there was a lot of unsupervised profanity, ‘way too much basketball, and then at one point I was shot in the foot by another boy who thought it would be fun to play with his BB Gun by pointing it at me and commanding me to dance.
    I can see today the abiding benefit of Scouting, perhaps if it can be separated from an addiction to barely-supervised and ill-programmed camping, and certainly for most stakes if it can be organized so that larger groups are possible, perhaps by combining wards, I dunno. But I’ll never force my sons into participation and certainly not tie driving privileges to the Eagle rank. So, if you please, let’s not have any of that “God Said So” stuff. The reasons why it doesn’t work are myriad.

  97. Rob (103) your miserable experience is the LDS problem. Scouting and Venturing work, but only if they are run correctly. Just because 99% of LDS units do it wrong isn’t the fault of the program or the BSA, its the fault of untrained uncaring adults.

    I have seen and experienced just how good scouting can be, I’ve seen the same asinine condition you describe passed off as ‘scouting’.

    As much as I love and support scouting, perhaps it would be for the best if the mormons did drop scouting since they do such a poor job of implementing it. The change would have zero effect on 99% of the wards who so religiously cling to Duty to Spaulding. Don’t think for a minute that a YW program of scriptures and arts and crafts, followed by jungle ball of course,would retain the YM any better.

  98. So, Rick, unless Scouting is run perfectly, we cannot properly call it Scouting? I had pretty similar experiences; my best experiences were often in spite of what my troop was doing, and definitely not because of my troop.

    I’ll reiterate what others have said here: that Scouting in units without a critical mass of boys (common outside of the Mormon Corridor) is exceptionally hard. Part of my negative experience was that no one was within two years of my age, and everyone older had no interest in Scouting – compounded by untrained and apathetic leadership for several years. I also add that having stake troops would not be feasible in many places. In my home stake, that would require driving fifty miles for a significant portion of the stake – and that’s if troop meetings were held at the geographic center of the stake!

  99. Rick: A program that fails 99 percent of the time may be the victim of bad execution, but it’s also likely that the program is ill-suited to the folks charged with its execution. As for loyalty to the church and priesthood leadership, I see nothing disloyal or improper about this post. Indeed, my thoughts on Scouting (which I actually enjoyed as a kid) have come mainly through extended discussions with priesthood leaders (my bishop and a member of my stake presidency) who share many of my concerns. (Although I am not speaking for them, lest anyone in the Jamestown Ward or Newport News Virginia Stake be reading this.)

  100. Michael: I could see in situations like yours (which my stake was in last year until it divided) the stake setting up one troop and one pack in some meetinghouses, but not necessarily all. It would be the stake’s call.

  101. “Just because 99% of LDS units do it wrong isn’t the fault of the program or the BSA, its the fault of untrained uncaring adults.”

    If a program doesn’t work 99 percent of the time, it is the fault of the program.

    By the way, where are you getting your 99 percent figure, Rick?

    I’ve seen Scouting done right. But it takes a critical mass of boys and very dedicated, well-trained adults who are fine with having Scouting as their main and frequently only hobby. Outside a few specific geographic areas, it’s very hard to implement and find dedicated staffing. I live well outside the area of greatest concentration of members, and the Scouting program is a stress and struggle. My husband and I have signed up as merit badge counselors for 15 different merit badges, and that is proving to be one of several main factors getting our boys through the program.

    Greg Kearney has some interesting suggestions.

  102. I DO live in the Mormon Corridor (in case you didn’t know, it extends north of the border). My town of 25,000 has four wards that are busting at the seams, and we have a very large YM’s group. Still, I’ve rarely seen Scouting done properly. Even if you do have a critical mass of boys, if the leaders aren’t passionate about it, it’s just not happening.

  103. Rick (104)

    untrained uncaring adults

    I’ll confess that I’ve never (or, at most, rarely) seen uncaring adults working with the youth. Every ward I’ve ever been in (and I’ve been in a lot) calls very dedicated and caring leaders, who stretch themselves as far as they can to meet the needs of the kids they serve.

    Failing to implement some sort of Platonic perfect Scouting program does not implicate lack of caring, and any suggestion otherwise demonstrates a strange mixture of arrogance and naivete.

    I’ll echo what others have said, and add to it this: Scouting doesn’t meet the needs of all of the YM in the Church. Our current ward made the conscious decision (after consulting with the YM and their parents) that the costs of the Scouting program significantly outweighed the benefits it would have, and we’ve chosen not to do it. Instead, our leaders work with our youth to meet the spiritual and temporal needs they have in individualized ways.

    That’s not to say there’s anything inherently bad about Scouting; it can be a great thing for certain people in certain areas. But there’s nothing magically Necessary in the abstract about the BSA.

  104. One issue that I don’t think has been raised is how scouts (doesn’t) work for a variety of special needs situations. We’ve seen headlines this week that 1 in 50 school kids has autism, but I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be a happy camper if your son is autistic and there is a pinewood derby.

  105. Et al – I have participated as a youth with leaders who just didn’t get it, whether trained or not. Participating as a youth under the direction of a leader who is trained, and has served long enough in scouting to figure out some of the complexities and how it meshes with LDS, resulted in an outstanding experience.

    Vaughn J. Featherstone had it right when he promoted the 4 “T’s” of scouting 30 years ago, and taught by the General YM Presidency ever since.

    Being a Eagle Scout does not qualify one to be an effective scoutmaster, but there are too many brethren who think so. They are dedicated, and committed, great people, who will never make scouting happen the way it is intended, and will best bless the lives of YM, until they get trained. When they do – watch out because amazing things happen.

    Also – having lived for many years in New England, having a small unit is no reason for poor scouting. The basis of scouting is the patrol, and one can run a patrol well with 4-5 boys. Don’t like having only 4-5 YM? Use scouting to the fullest, so that youth from many walks of life want to join your troop.

    Ours grew from 6 to 20, mostly non-LDS, and a number of those joined in time, as a by-product of just runnning sound scouting with great spiritual experiences.

  106. Sam (111) If the adults in the YM program don’t get trained in the scouting portion of their dual calling then you cannot tell me they care. If they cared, they would become trained and use the Scouting Venturing programs to help the YM they have been called to serve.

    Instead we see adults blowing off the scouting, all with great soundbytes of how scouting isn’t ‘spiritual’ enough, or some other such rationalization. Bottom line, if the adults will not carry out the program they have been asked to deliver to the YM, they don’t care enough.

    As an anecdotal example, a former Scoutmaster in my ward always gave great lip about how much he ‘cared’ for the youth. for 21 straight months he canceled campouts and sent disappointed boys home who came to camp and have fun. During the summer he knew when every ward in the stake was going to summer camp, and made sure boys in the ward who wanted to go were duly farmed out to those other wards. Yep, he really ‘cared’ and its no wonder many of those boys hate the crap that they were given under the ‘scouting’ label.

    Until the Church issues a statement that Scouting is being discontinued, and that the church has broken all ties with the BSA, Scouting is what we are supposed to be using to provide the leadership training (among other things) that scripture study and DtG does not provide.

    Scouting and Venturing offer a HUGE variety of interests and activities that would meet the needs and interests of our YM, IF the program was being used.

    Unfortunately, adults who who had a bad experience as a youth, or didn’t like scouting cling to their own understanding instead of excercising a particle of faith and giving scouting a real chance.

    correlated (93) is a great example of this. Here I go, plodding off to disappoint the youth yet again with scouting. If the youth are disappointed or don’t like scouting, its a pretty sure bet you’ll find that it is something adult led and mandated, and pawned off as scouting in name only. When youth get to choose their own activities, plan them and do them with the help and support of the adults those long sad bored disapproving faces will disappear. I have seen this time and time again.

    My wife and I were staffing a council leadership course. A week long adventure trek actually. As the kids came, and told us their stories about being forced to come by mom and dad we were more than a little worried. When we layed out the general outline of the week, and asked them to put the activities they wanted to do in the schedule we were looked at like we were aliens from another planet. When the youth came to us asking what to do/ what they could do, we told them ask the youth group leader. Again, it was easy to tell this was a new experience for them. At the end of the week, 3 different kids came and told us that all their teenage lives they have been told that they were in charge of their program, but this course was the first time they had ever felt like they actually were in charge and allowed to lead. Most of the kids on that course have been back to be the staff twice since then. When the program is done right, IT WORKS!

    If the youth ‘hate scouting’ what they are having foisted upon them probably isn’t scouting at all, but the same lame excuse that caused the adult in charge not to like ‘scouting’ If the adults didn’t like it when they were youth, why in the world would they force the same thing on youth and expect a different result?

  107. Julie (112)

    There are great volunteers in your council and district that can be very helpful to adapt the pinewood derby so that its less traumatic for an autistic boy.

    Derbys do not have to run as a bracket, and its more fun to run it in other methods, so everyone just keeps racing for 12-16 heats, and at the end the awards are given out. No eliminations, no early dissapointments.

    Just because a boy doesn’t win a place, doesn’t mean he can’t receive some other meaningful award.

    Obviously I don’t know the boy of which you speak, but their are local scouting volunteers that can help address your concerns, and provide solutions.

  108. Shawn (113) many times a man who has never done scouting will be the best scoutmaster or crew advisor. Because he doesn’t ‘know’ the program he is willing to learn. Rarely will a man who hated scouting as a youth make a good SM. A boy who loved scouting and is an Eagle can be just as problematic, cause since they are an Eagle, they already know all about scouting. Its WAY different on the adult side of things, and there is always a need for training of both the adults and youth.

    Speaking of training, its interesting to observe that many (most) businesses will not let you work without training. Even if you are a expert in your field, when a new company hires you, you do training that is company specific, no one ever balks about that.

    The holy religious sacrosanct mission, which we prepare youth for from the time they are born requires still more time and training in a Missionary Training Center, and the training doesn’t end there, they hold district, and zone, and mission conferences to get additional training, and not only is that OK, its expected!

    The uber religious dogma AP Mission statement says get as much education as possible. Past Prophets have told us to always be teachable and be striving to learn, but somehow that doesn’t apply to scouting. Interesting. If you like photography, you would jump at the chance to go on a workshop. If woodworking is your thing, would you turn down a demo at woodcrafters for a skill you would like to learn? Apply rinse repeat for anything you like to do. Why is adult leader training for scouting so frowned upon in the LDS culture that almost idolizes learning. (The Glory of God is Intelligence, can’t teach what you don’t know, and etc.)

    Its the same on the youth side. He needs to go to football camp, soccer workshop, band clinics, and etc each and every year. Scout camp again? didn’t he already do that once when he was 12, isn’t that enough? How about National Youth Leader Training? WHAT! in addition to a scout camp? why should we send him to that? (Biggest objection is that they don’t do merit badges at NYLT) Why does scouting and scout training always get the short end of the stick?

  109. Julie (112), there are cub packs and scout troops entirely dedicated to “special needs” individuals. The problem isn’t scouting, it is our unwillingness to use the breadth of what scouting offers to meet the needs of a wide variety of members. Non-LDS units can formulate a program and then simply attract those who want it. LDS units are required to formulate a program that meets the needs of each individual, not just of the group collectively. That program might look quite different from what a non-LDS (or the typical LDS) unit has. But that doesn’t mean that it is not “scouting.” There is no requirement in scouting for a Pinewood Derby of any sort, much less a Derby of the sort that would be a problem for an autistic boy.

  110. Julie (112) Autism is a challenge. On a Woodbadge course I staffed, we had 2 staff members and 1 participant who worked exclusively with special needs scouts. Asking what the council has available is a great start.

    I’ll get flamed for daring to suggest this, but some roundtable advise given by YMGP Dahlquist might apply. If you don’t like what you find, try again. If you still don’t like what you find, volunteer to do something.

    Julie, that wasn’t a personal attack or indictment, but if the council has nothing to serve the autistic kids, be prepared, (That oughta be a motto of some sort) they may ask you for help, advice and expertise in starting something.

  111. Rick,

    Some people may not like what you’re saying or how you’re saying it, but what you’re saying is true.

    I have personally seen the positive change in boys’ attitudes and experiences when a ward’s scouting program has gone from scouting-in name-only to a fully-implemented scouting or venturing program. It is a remarkable and amazing change.

  112. Researcher (109) quick and dirty math done with fuzzy (but not inebriated) logic. In my district at roundtable we have less than 10% of registered adult leaders show up. Some of those that do, came to learn or want to know how to better use the DtG program.

    Most of the ‘scouting’ done in LDS wards is merit badge classes. That isn’t what scout nights are supposed to be. When I talk with kids about scouting, they tell me all about scriptures and duty to God nights, but can’t tell me about the scout oath and law. They talk about video game activities, and lots of basketball after they study DtG. When I talk to kids who have been to National Youth Leader Training, and ask about them leading, I hear how the adult plans and runs the activities.

    There doesn’t seem to be alot of scouting going on.

  113. I’d like to second Shawn’s and Rick’s comments here. I started my Scouting mentorship in the midwest — Kansas City — in the Heart of America Council. I was called as Scoutmaster in a small troop and learned quickly from mentors at Roundtable and neighboring wards. As I grew and learned my duties in Scouting — by faith and by constant study, I experimented on the word (Alma 32). I took what I was taught and I put it into practice. And you know what? It was just as the Savior said, “If any man will do my will, he will *know* . . .” I had tremendous success, and I personally knew. This caused more faith, and more confidence in the BSA program, in the AP, and that I was learning my duty as a Scoutmaster, YM2nd, and DQ Adviser.

    The more I applied myself, received training and mentoring, the more our troop was blessed. I fixed the 11 year old program so that it functioned properly, and with some help, started a vibrant tradition of Scouting that got boys excited. In fact, we had boys leaving their vacations in the Rockies, so they could come back to an annual overnighter at Lake Pomona and eat Buzzard’s Pizza with us. I got trained, and I trained my boys. They stepped up and took their roles as leaders seriously. We reflected often and learned a lot together. I don’t think we ever stepped foot on the BB court ever with a basketball. We thought outside the cultural hall.

    Now, I am nothing special. I am not an Eagle Scout. I just answered the call. And I, like Rick mentioned, followed Elder Charles Dahlquist’s (YMGP) admonition to be almost consumed in the work with the young men of the church. When I went to Wood Badge, and experienced patrol living first-hand, the training deeply impacted me, and I further realized that Scouting is a tremendous vehicle to engage our YM on many levels, to help them with their interests, to be a safe laboratory for them to fail in, and to learn from, to help them learn to do hard things, and to build character and leadership.

    No, Scouting is not the Gospel, and could never replace it. But every tenet in Scouting is firmly rooted in the Gospel and teachings of Jesus Christ’s. There is a reason that the Lord has paired His precious priesthood with Scouting for 100 years — as President Monson put it, “Scouting helps our boys to walk uprightly the priesthood path to exaltation.” (Nov 1993 Ensign)

    Duty to God, Country, & Self. On-My-Honor. Do & Be. It’s gospel centered, and God sent. As Rick said, if you don’t believe those consecrated of the Lord and their statements praise, backing, and call to action in the name of love and duty for the Scouting movement to bless our YM over the past 100 years, then you won’t ever believe us and our testimonies.

    Regardless, Scouting provides more RPMs of Duty to God’s Learn ACT Share then any other activity we could provide our YM. It’s like a V-12 engine that revs and provides the rich learning experiences our YM need as the next generation of missionaries. Scouting is a tremendous gift we have been given in areas where it is available.

    I hope that we can all follow President Monson’s admonition: “May you uphold Scouting’s tradition, for it can be as a lighthouse beacon, in the world of stormy seas.”

  114. Though I do argue for disassociating from the BSA, I won’t argue that the organization and attendant program can’t have substantive value when correctly implemented.
    What I will argue is that is an insufficient reason to carry on when most troops in most units in most parts of this country and elsewhere do not fully serve the boys.
    Can I use an unfair and false analogy?
    I’m gambling at a slot machine. I’m losing money hand over fist. Finally, I crank down on the arm, the cherries line up, and nickels come a-flyin’. “See!” I tell my buddies. “I told you it pays.”

  115. At J Watson (122)

    It works 100% of the time, if you follow the plan and learn and do your duty. It’s not by chance, or by luck. The program is rock-solid. All it requires is your willingness and availability as the flint on the steel! The spark is guaranteed. It’s been happening for more than 100 years!

  116. I have been a bit surprised at some of the negative attitudes out there about scouting. I have already posted a few times, and let me start by saying that I am one of those, with an Eagle himself, who thinks that it wouldn’t be bad of the church dumped scouting altogether.

    However, having said that, I can say that I am not blind to scouting pluses. As a YM President, I would ask myself this question, every Wednesday before Mutual: “Will tonight’s activity be worth the time put into it by the leaders AND by the youth.” The youth have plenty of other things to do. I have been irked some weeks when I work hard to get my son, or my daughter, to go to Mutual, only to have a poorly organized activity. You always know that nothing good was planned when you ask your kids what they did, and they say: “Tonight we did planning.” Huh?

    Anyway, I wanted to make sure that Mutual was worthwhile. That doesn’t always mean that

  117. stephenchardy (124) Tonight we did planning…….

    AAArrrrggggggghhhhhh Thats the sound of a dying/dead program. (Tonight we did planning, not AARRGGGHH)

    It reminds me of a scene from the Disney animated Jungle Book movie. The buzzards are sitting around asking each other “What do ya want to do tonight?…”

    I get the sinking feeling we would see that no matter the status of scouting in the church.

  118. I have been a bit surprised at some of the negative attitudes out there about scouting. I have already posted a few times, and let me say again that I am one of those, with an Eagle himself, who thinks that it wouldn’t be bad if the church dumped scouting altogether.

    However, having said that, I can say that I am not blind to scouting pluses. As a YM President, I would ask myself this question, every Wednesday before Mutual: “Will tonight’s activity be worth the time put into it by the leaders AND by the youth.” The youth have plenty of other things to do. I have been irked some weeks when I work hard to get my son, or my daughter, to go to Mutual, only to have a poorly organized activity. You always know that nothing good was planned when you ask your kids what they did, and they say: “Tonight we did planning.” Huh?

    Anyway, I wanted to make sure that Mutual was worthwhile. That doesn’t always mean that it ought to be fun. I asked myself this: What are the skills that I hope my son has by the time he leaves for college. The list might include:

    Cooking (Wasn’t it great to have a room-mate who knew how to cook.?)
    Good cleaning skills
    Good study habits
    Exposure to different ideas.
    Ability to trouble-shoot simple mechanical things.
    Ability to maintain certain standards.
    Ability to nurture a relationship with God.
    Ability to make friends and nurture friendship.
    Ability to recognise and help those who are struggling.
    Basic car maintenance
    A basic understanding of nutrition
    A sense of the importance of regular physical activity
    An ability to relate to the opposite sex.
    Knot tying, and basic use of a compass.
    Ability to do laundry

    Ok, not the knot tying/compass thing. So, you can look at that list and start working on some of those things at Mutual. It isn’t hard to put a spiritual twist or insight into all of the items. Most of the time, such activities can be tied into some aspect of Scouts or DTG. So, for me, Mutual was about preparing the YM for independent life, and scouting can do that. I agree with Nate Oman that there are simply better (and cheaper) ways to accomplish that than scouting. If you are stuck with scouting, suck it up and make it work. It is such a broad program that you can adapt it to your style and needs. Hopefully the church will dump it eventually.

  119. I guess I’m in the minority in thinking the YW program isn’t so great. As a youth I was so jealous of the YM and the scouting program/activities. It could have had something to do with the fact that the bishop would never let the YW do anything semi-adventurous away from the church (like ice skating- give me a break!) although the YM were regularly going out into the woods camping. The other monkey wrench- not all YW enjoy camping, while others do and so the girls who do enjoy it usually get stuck with the default of having to stay home because so-and-so won’t go to the activity if it is outdoorsy. Plus it can be difficult to sometimes find priesthood available to accompany the YW on overnighters or at least it takes an extra step whereas the YM have a built-in group designated to go. I think the YW program could be organized better with more suggestions for activities like scouting (they have built-in activities with a variety of merit badges to choose from and requirements for having career nights, a certain number of camping trips, etc.). It is so boring doing some of the personal progress stuff- just seems like busy work. Not at all enticing for the ones who need a draw to mutual and for the ones who are motivated to be at YW, they usually have already done their personal progress goals. I would love to see the scouting program for merit badges without the price tag for paying for the expense of scouting officially. Maybe just a giant list of relevant activities for the country members are in with suggested skills to learn and practice.

  120. Mel, are you sure your “bishop would never let the YW do anything semi-adventurous away from the church”? In my experience that choice is more often made by the YW adult leaders than by the bishop. If you are right, he was most certainly wrong, at least in terms of whether Church policy precluded or discouraged YW from even doing anything the YM do. Well, unless you as old as I am. That may have been true when I was a teen, just not the decades of my adult life.

  121. At Mel (127)

    I have not seen at all where the YW program comes even close to the YM Program in the church. Our first YW mutual night activity in Kansas City when we moved there was a walk around the block. That’s it. You should have seen the looks on my wife’s and my faces! My daughter was taken back. “Well I guess they do things a bit differently here in the Midwest, I guess.” I have three daughters and for the most part, they enjoyed YW nights. But, the activities didn’t compare.

    I remember going to a YW in Excellence night. It was so poorly run, and the things that were displayed were in such dissarray and didn’t showcase much. It was really a “YW in Mediocrity” night, and I had a few words with the bishop. Wasn’t 2 weeks and the YW Presidency changed and we had some fresh, vibrant YW Leaders that revitalized the program and YW in Excellence were awesome and well done. But, that is only one night a year. What happens the other 51 weeks? Is it girl-ran?

    I have heard of stakes where the Stake Presidency attended Wood Badge, caught the vision of Scouting and boy-led activities, and mandated that through the entire stake, including YW and the each YW presidency. The Stake President requested that all YM and YW leaders throughout the stake to attend Wood Badge. The result? Many leaders attended Wood Badge, caught the vision, gained a testimony of Scouting, and came back and implemented boy-run and girl-run programs on both sides of the fence. THAT was a stake that was effective and truly made a difference in the lives of their youth. Result? 400% increase in those serving missions. I haven’t heard what the new announcement of lowering the age did to that stake, but I bet it caused a tsunami of applications from both the boys and girls.

    So, by and large, no, I don’t think the YW programs are at all better than the YM programs, and definitely not if Scouting is properly done.

    That said, we did do an amazing 5th Year Girls Camp I was a part of. We took the girls and their leaders down the Missouri River from Kansas City to Saint Louis — 340 miles — in 5 days. The girls would camp like Huck and Tom along the riverbanks for a week — totally out of the world in a wonderful place. We restored old classic aluminum motorboats that we took the girls in — and then on Friday, we would get them out of the Big Muddy, get cleaned up, and head for our temple and crystal clear waters of the Saint Louis Temple. We did this for many years, and the girls just loved it! We called them River Belles, and we met the most intersting folks along the river. The girls learned about Lewis and Clark, and the early pioneers that came up the river to Council Bluffs. They stopped and did service projects in towns that saved mormons that had been part of steamboat explosions and had been nurtured back to life by the townsfolk. All in all, it was a tremendous journey, and they girls really enjoyed it.

    That trip is over now, and the YW camp has lost their 5th year girls because it was replaced with main camp.

    My daughters would have been much better served if they were planning and running their activities. Usually, they didn’t know what was planned and happening on YW night. Luckily, they had good leaders that loved them and nurtured them. They were tremendously good sisters, and I am very thankful for them. They continue to serve my adult daughters even today.

  122. #128, JrL – I’m a 33, so this was not that long ago. Yes, I was the Laurel President at the time and the YW leaders asked and the Bishop said no. We were pretty much consistently stuck at the church every week or limited to a leader’s home. I think the quality of the YW program GREATLY depends on the local bishop (and YW leaders obviously) because there is no standard of activities in a Scouting manual saying you CAN do the more exciting things. If it’s in the scouting manual, people think, why not? This is a valid option. In YW every activity out of the norm usually has to pass the bishopric, which is okay unless you get a bishop that has odd ideas about what types of activities are appropriate for girls vs. not. I’m not saying homemaking skills are not important and I love arts & crafts, but there definitely needs to be a great variety of things YW are exposed to or at least know are options as they plan activities. When I was a YW I simply did not know various options existed to ask to plan them. I would have loved to learn to shoot a gun with other girls, replace a car battery, operate a ham radio, learn entrepreneurship principles, rock climbing, crime prevention, basic electronics and plumbing, etc. Maybe my YW leaders didn’t know these skills to teach to us? Typically YW leaders come up with “let’s learn to crochet, arrange flowers, and do service.” All great things just not a lot of variety/excitement.

    #129 – Ken: I don’t have a problem with “girl-ran” activities. I think the activities should be planned by the girls in the class presidencies. It teaches them leadership, etc. In my experience though, people run out of ideas quickly and there isn’t much effort put into more complicated activities for activities where real skills are learned. This is not always the case, but greatly depends on the YW leaders ambitions for the program and the bishop’s approval. Also the quality of the skills learned is directly related to the quality of the YW leaders called- there is no “Scouting manual” for the YW leaders to use as a reference manual with merit badge counselors for various homemaking/life skills for the girls to learn.

    I think if I were ever called to YWs again I would pull out a scouting manual and ask them to look through it and point out what interested them. There just needs to be other more traditionally “girlie” activities added to it.

    Back in the day when I went to Girls Camp we learned and practiced first aid, disaster preparedness, outdoor skills, etc. This was the only time we got to do it though. The rest of the year we were at the church or at a leader’s home. It would have been good to practice the outdoors skills we learned at camp but we never did. I had to rely on my husband to help me relearn things when we take our kids camping now (thank goodness he’s an Eagle Scout wink wink).

    Our Stake runs a very religious/faith oriented girls camp. I went one year as a leader and was so disappointed to see every single minute was scheduled with what faith-promoting talk/lecture the girls would attend next. There was pretty much zero free time to enjoy nature or just have fun doing arts and crafts or being “kids” (grown girls) playing in the meadow or doing silly skits (even the skits had to have a spiritual message/theme). They did not learn first aid, how to tie knots, or even how to build a fire. While faith-promoting classes can be a great thing at camp, there needs to be a balance also of other skills/nature enjoyment at girls camp and not 100% scheduling of their time in going to classes. Literally scheduled from when they woke up and ate to nighttime campfire!

  123. Mel (130) Don’t even think about grabbing a scout handbook or the merit badge books. Look at The Venturing Handbook/ Ranger Handbook. Thats where the big variety of fun stuff can be found, and its age appropriate for the MIA Maids and Laurels.

    You mentioned that maybe the YW adult advisors didn’t have the skills to teach you some of the things you may have wanted to do. Thats part of the magic of the Venturing program. The adult advisors should rarely if ever be out in front teaching. For activities requiring an advanced skill that the youth cannot learn or teach themselves, they bring in a consultant. The youth and adults are given the opportunity to learn from an expert. Its great way to go.

    If you are an adult advisor of a youth group older than 12 year olds, and do something besides Duty to Spaulding or scripture/crafts, I highly recommend using consultants.

  124. #131, Rick: Thanks for the tip on which books to look for! Some bishops are funny about who they let come teach the YW things. Most must be approved in advance (which is okay, just an extra step) if they are not ward members. Merit badge counselors in the BSA directory make it so easy to find experts on a given topic. Maybe the YW can just use it as a resource or start bringing it up at ward councils to see who knows consultants on a given topic. I find in the YW program it is often the leaders who feel like they have to run the show. I would LOVE to find ways to get more members involved to teach the girls on their topics of expertise.

  125. Mel (132) You may also want to checkout the Venturing Leader Manual. It has something called the Program Capability Inventory or PCI. Basically, its a survey that the Venturing Crew is supposed to do at the begining of each year. It goes to everyone in the ward, and they say what they like to do and would be willing to teach.

    On the other end, the youth fill out an activity interest survey. It has lots of interests and activities. The girls would fill it out to discover what everyone would like to do, they pick enough topics to fill a years worth of activities, both small weekly and big monthly.

    In the planning, you sit down with the girls completed list, and see how it stacks up against the list that the ward adults filled out saying what they would be wiling to teach. The girls could then choose which girl would be the activity leader for that activity/month.

    See, all of a sudden the girls are leading, they are choosing their activities, planning and executing them. Adult advisors, this is like jeeping in Moab, get it, sit down, shut up, and hold on. And be VERY grateful in your prayers that you get to go along for the ride with the girls.

    If you are really lucky (aw, who am I kidding, no one EVER gets this lucky) maybe your ward has an active Venturing crew with a PCI survey already in place.

    Good luck!

  126. More of the ‘sissification’ of men. Why can’t men be more like women? Gosh, it’s just so hard for the youth to attend seminary. Let’s end that, or at least cut it way back. Gosh, it’s just so hard to think up new things to do. Let just stop that.

    The youth programs are supposed to teach the youth to be the leaders of their own organizations and activities. I don’t think that I have seen that work or work well anywhere. In an effort to have some kind of a successful program, the adult leaders usually step in an fill the duties of the non-committal, unmotivated youth leadership.

    The problem is that I’ve seen the program implemented well in some wards. And it seems to be implemented well in almost every United Methodist Church group. They usually have a robust scouting program, along with a dedicated and rich Youth Ministry. Perhaps our youth leaders are uninspired. Perhaps it’s the same problem that requires the Relief Society to follow through on so many priesthood responsibilities.

    Too much emphasis on Eagle Scout programs? Oh no! It’s hard. Yet I see almost every boy in Kanab gets his eagle scout award. Want to see kids stop coming to church and stop coming to youth activities? Stop with the sports and scouting and start an intensive, four-year missionary training program at age 14.

    I always enjoyed the weekly sports and we had a Stake youth dance EVERY week, often with a live band. Guys were not afraid to ask a girl to dance. We also went on dates! Guys are so socially retarded these days. The Scouting program at least helps them become better rounded individuals. Apparently, the statistics of those who achieve Eagle Scout, and go on a mission are quite high. Then those who do both are quite more apt to be married in the temple. If the goal is to help people become members of eternal families, then the momentum from participating in scouting is pretty clear. Does everyone achieve the maximum benefits? NO. But you can’t teach to the middle or the bottom. You have to teach to the top. My seminary teacher used to say, “It’s better to aim for the sun and miss, than to aim for a pile of manure and hit it.”

    I keep thinking of more stuff that I could go on and on about (Aaronic Priesthood conducting, assignments, talks, blah, blah, blah). You’ve heard the expression, “Where much is given, much is expected.” What would be the correlating line to “Where little is expected….”?

  127. So many wards claiming a lack of outdoor activities… but there is a solution.

    Put men in charge of the YW’s program. O.K., granted, I’m not in charge, I’m just an older Dad “volunteer” and my youngest daughter is 15. She is President of her MIA Maids class. Fly fishing, backpacking, overnights at the family cabin are all on the schedule now. In the fall we are taking them shooting. Nothing unusual there, we took the YW shooting when my wife was YW President. Loved it when the ladies turned in higher scores than the YM did a few weeks earlier. The YM really had their egos smashed… builds character!

    Why do men get things done better? Easy answer, most YW leaders are exhausted Moms with little ones still bouncing around the house. The same reason young Dads often fall apart when called as Scoutmaster.

    I think it is time for the slightly older Brethren to step up to the plate. Our daughters’ spiritual and social development is on the line. Let’s be the Dads that we should be! And guess what… it is fun!

  128. Old Man (135) Doesn’t need to be a man. Just before my wife was called as Stake and Ward camp Director, the girls 4th year adventure was going to SLC, spending a night in a hotel, and shopping in the malls. When my wife got in they did river running, rock climbing, and rapelling.

    The first time she did stake camp, she modified wood badge and NYLT material to YW verbiage, and the adults got told to go sit in the corner. I was there for AV tech support, and it was SO funny. The old women who were suddenly sidelined in favor of youth leading were about to blow the veins in their necks and heads. They had NEVER been in a situation where the girls were allowed to do anything except welcome you out and turn the time over to an adult.

    There are plenty of women out there who had a YW experience of camping 4-6 times a year, and would love to share that with todays YW.

  129. I’m confused about what Rick means by “Duty to Spaulding”–?

    I enjoyed reading through the discussions and agree with Nate’s points. My son hates going to Scouts and he’s only 10; we have many more years of forced activities to endure. If it’s so difficult to do Scouts correctly, let’s leave it to the experts and people can do it as an extracurricular if they want, but not have it be part of the church program!

  130. Duty to Spaulding is a joke referring to the playing of basketball which at times becomes the default YM activity at church. The reference is to the sportings goods maker Spsulding the maker of basketballs.

  131. Sorry to disagree, but the facts are against the article–Scouting was not spared correlation. Check out Gospelink. In the early 70s the correlation committee combined scouting with the Aaronic Priesthood. To do this, they mandated that boy-scout leaders always be chosen from Arronic-Priesthood quorum leaders, and the troop and patrol activities would comprise Aaronic-Priesthood activities. Also, Eleven-year-old were banned from regular troop meetings. (Troops were previously encouraged to meet with eleven-year-olds, but President George Albert Smith wanted the Primary boys to be home by 6 PM.)

    It is interesting to note that President Kimball’s first act as prophet in 1974 was to curtail the mandatory troop-leader/quorum-leader requirement. Therefore, since 1974, it has only been a recommendation. However, other aspects of correlating scouting and Priesthood remain intact.

    Was the manner in which scouting was correlated with Priesthood the right approach? With vastly-smaller troop sizes today than in the 1960’s, it can be argued that correlation achieved the opposite effect. Whereas before correlation two (2) Melchizedek-age scoutmasters could lead a troop of 20 – 30 scouts, today most Wards are required to call at least eight (8) Melchizedek brothers to lead eleven-year-olds, Deacons, Teachers, and Priests respectively; with troop and team sizes around 4-6 boys.

    Hence, the result of correlation of scouting has been to actually multiply costs and manpower–a drain on Wards and budgets. This does not even address concerns about the quality of the scout experience.

    Therefore, scouting’s challenge in the church today is NOT a result of being spared from correlation. It was correlated to Priesthood. Rather, this plan resulted in effects that were opposite to what correlation envisioned. (Imagine what would happen if church sports were correlated to the Priesthood in the same way.)

  132. And so the excessive entanglement between BSA and the Church, and incompatibility with non-LDS Scouting continue (see my post #10), along with the financial boondoggles (#17). It looks like we have a mix of what seemed to work for Scouting in Utah in 1950, with what has been Churchwide budgeting practice since about 1990, and try to apply it on the ground everywhere (in the United States). (Meanwhile there’s plenty of envelope-pushing.) And this setup only serves half the Church; that share will only go down.

  133. anon (137) scouting is not hard to do correctly, but only if the adults in leadership positions will get trained (BSA training) get the BSA materials, know and use those materials and the BSA programs rather than shooting from the hip, reinventing the wheel, and making it up as they go.

    When scouting was incorporated into the church and YM/AP in 1913, even then the message from the first presidency and the apostles was to go clean ZCMI out of scout literature, know it and use it. Its not that hard, but it does require a little effort on the part of the adults to discover what they should be doing, and then actually do it.

  134. I think the dialogue about scouting and the Church needs to be given more and more thought. The LDS Church, in whole, doesn’t do SCOUTING the way it was intended….instead we do “scouting.” And in the process we short-sell the entire process. I am an Eagle Scout. I am a former Scoutmaster. I am in a bishopric. And my son just had his Eagle Court of Honor this last week. And the whole question of the Church and Scouting makes me sad because I can see that if implemented well and honored, scouting could be so great in the Church. But it just isn’t. And much of the resistance I encountered was from the parents….not the boys. Parents are looking for a hands-off experience with a “what is the very least my son can do to get this badge” sort of attitude. The results are poor as a result. I fear that even a Church-created YM program would have similar results. But if it were at least simpler than Scouting, than the leaders of the YM program would have a greater chance of implementing it well and securing the help and support of the boys and their families.

  135. Agreed, Nate. You have six years to help a boy become an Ammon. Yes, he had to wield a sling and a sword and have some equestrian skills. That is actually the easy part. The hard part, the most significant part by far, is to read thoughts, receive revelation and teach with spirit and power. So we can get the fingerprinting merit badge, or we can practice discipleship. Six years is not enough time to do both. Further, scouting culture gamification (badges, awards, advancements, etc) is anathema to discipleship. Your economic points are valid but relatively small by comparison. BSA does not own the outdoor or the leadership/survival experience. These can all be well achieved outside scouting, and all leadership/survival endeavors should be subservient to discipleship education.

    One Mission President friend recently lamented that, thanks to BSA, he has plenty of Elders who are able to handle the rigors of a third world experience. What he lacks is men of sound understanding.

    Alma 17 “they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.

    But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.”

    Puts knot tying in context.

  136. Nate, I know this post is a little old, but I feel very strongly about this issue and wanted to comment. Ever since my youth I have considered the scouting program out of place as our young mens program. It became even more clear to me as I watched my daughter and son proceed through the youth programs of the church. (My daughter was two years ahead of my son.) What my daughter received was a good spiritual training. My son, on the other hand, earned his eagle, but did not receive the same kind and quality of training as my daughter. Consequently, he was not nearly as well prepared spiritually for the world. I understand that some may say that it was our responsiblity as parents to prepare him. While I believe that is true, I also have learned that a good spiritual education outside of the home can serve as a great support to what a child receives in the home.

    As for myself, I earned the Eagle Scout award. It was law in my home. If I wanted to drive, I had to earn the Eagle Scout award. I grew to resent the program, my parents and church leaders. I would have benfited much more from Young Women’s type program. It would have been a better preparation for my mission, for which I was woefully unprepared. (Sorry Elder Heslin.)

    In summary, like you, I would exit the scouting program and implement a worldwide church program designed to provide the spiritual training and nourishment that our young people need when they leave their homes.

  137. I beloved as much as you’ll obtain carried out right here. The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish. nevertheless, you command get bought an shakiness over that you want be delivering the following. unwell without a doubt come further beforehand again as exactly the same nearly a lot frequently inside of case you defend this increase.

Comments are closed.