This post is a response to GDub’s comment here.
When I was teenager, we had a Stake President who had a testimony of scouting. Because of this man, our ward’s troop was an LDS scouter’s dream. The Stake President appealed to the competitive nature of men, His system was for every 11-year-old scout’s Dad, to be called as an assistant scoutmaster or troop committee member. From that pool of men, a new scoutmaster was chosen every few years. The scoutmaster then graduated to the Bishopric, high council, or stake presidency. Because of this system, the troop had a large pool of top-notch assistant scoutmasters to work with! As a kid, I assumed all LDS troops operated in this fashion.
Our family’s LDS scout experience was a mixed bag. For the successes please see Tex’s post here. What Tex posted was remembering the positive blessings our family experienced. There were also tremendous challenges we faced and endured sometimes well and other times not so much. What kept us going, was Mike who had a strong, enduring, tenacious, testimony of scouting. He believed with all his heart LDS Scouting, done correctly, turned a boy into a valiant Priesthood holder. Ironically he also had a big heart for the fatherless.
When Tex was a Webelos scout, Mike stepped in to help a weak cub program. This is the key Dads, IF the program is struggling, you must step in and help. Usually, if you express a desire to serve in scouting, you will get your wish. Despite the challenges in the cub program, this ward had a great LDS Boy Scouting program. We were fortunate to have an outstanding experienced 11-year-old scout leader, with Mike as an assistant, who taught Mike how to run a proper patrol. Mike also received official district scoutmaster training. This ward had a dedicated scoutmaster, who was a father of a scout. More importantly, the scouting program in this ward worked, because the fathers wanted to be with their sons, help the fatherless, and work together; without petty competition to achieve rank advancements.
Then the ward split, and we found ourselves in a completely different situation. Our new ward had the same demographics as the previous ward. Remember, in order for a scout program to be successful you have to have involved fathers and for those fathers to help the fatherless. Mike was thrilled to be called to be scoutmaster along with a dedicated 11-year-old scout leader, who was not the father of any of the boys. Our troop consisted of a large group of scouts, several who had serious discipline problems; and not one Dad who was committed enough to help with camp outs or manage the discipline problems that arose. Mike had the added responsibility of three boys without fathers; one of the fatherless boys was autistic. Because this boy needed one-on-one attention, because the other boys were so difficult, and because no other man stepped up to help, Tex (who was the same age as the autistic boy) was assigned to not let this boy get hurt or lost. The other men in the ward regarded scouting as baby-sitting and would not, no matter how hard we pled for them to accompany their son, and help with the program. Mike had a series of young married men, one at a time, as assistants, but because the discouraging lack of support, they did not last long. Because none of the other fathers would agree to go, but left their boy(s) to be taken on a campout the young assistant scoutmaster would drive my SUV and Mike would drive his truck so he could transport everyone. This left me without a vehicle for a couple of days. One of the fathers, instead of coming on camp outs, sent an employee (not BSA trained, nor a father of a boy) to manage his unruly sons. The boys mocked this poor guy and called him “man servant”. He soon quit.
When Piano Man turned 11, Mike became the 11-year-old leader. We held it at our house two Saturdays a month and had a wonderful experience teaching the young scouts the basics of camping, knot tying, first aid and other skills. My sons enjoyed another great scoutmaster for a couple of years after their dad was released, as the 12 and up scoutmaster. After this scoutmaster left, the older boy’s program went down hill as meritbadge classes turned into “read the book to the boys and give them the badge”. Camping became “food is brought in from a local fast food place” a couple of times a year, rather than a variety of camping experiences 10 times or so year needed to fulfill the requirements.
We did not give up and did not cave into this shoddy excuse for a program. We did not want our sons to learn cheating, lying, and doing a job half way was acceptable in the church, or out of it. So we turned to our council’s resources for the remainder of our sons’ scouting experiences. One huge help was both boys got a job at summer scout camp. On their time off, they took merit badge classes offered. They attended meritbadge universities. They went to Philmont and high adventure trips with other troops and Piano Man served on our Council’s OA Board.
To be honest the current state of our ward’s troop is still dismal. I have watched over the past year as 11 year olds are dropped off at the church excited to participate and no leader shows up. Largely left unsupervised, the 11 year olds think it’s great fun to run loose in the gym for an hour. I have witnessed when boys are left to supervise themselves, “Lord of the Flies” happens. Dads, if this is your son’s scouting experience; get involved! Don’t just dump them off and drive away !
The older boys continue to advance to Eagle without fulfilling the requirements. The last straw was when my son Flash, a new 11 year old scout, was told by the scoutmaster at his crossing over ceremony, he could not go camping unless his dad came. I call this rubbing salt into the wounds of a sad little boy who will not have the opportunity to be a scout with his Dad.
SO what did I do, as a widowed mother who has a testimony of LDS scouting? We joined another troop, an awesome non-LDS troop!!