Future of LDS Scouting: Problems and Proposals

Slowly the Boy Scouts of America is turning its back on the core mission of raising up boys to be men, and slouching toward who knows what. Following after “no tolerance” policies of many state run schools, the Boy Scouts has banned water guns and balloons excepted for in designated areas at specific targets. They are treating them as dangerous weapons. Later there was a declaration by the BSA president Robert Gates that there should be gay scout leaders. This leadership requirements change will have to be come to a vote, but the signs are leaning toward passage. The organization is starting to morph into something that founder Baden-Powell and scouts of the past simply would not recognize or perhaps approve.

The response of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the main supporters of the BSA, has been silent on the water projectile issue. There really isn’t much of a moral component, but certainly there are intelligence flaws. Widespread ridicule by more conservative members has been scathing. In contrast, the few liberal news articles on the subject indicates they are supportive of the more official clarification. They quote the BSA at length on how it isn’t a new policy while mixing in quotes from ban supporters.

A different, but cautious, response was issued by the LDS Church toward the possible gay leadership acceptance:

We have noted the comments by Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates in relation to possible policy changes in the Boy Scouts of America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will, of course, examine any such changes very carefully to assess how they might impact our own century-long association with the BSA.

Assuming this does pass, there is a possibility the association could end. It is no secret that some members would welcome the severing of the relationship. Even a few in the BSA see the LDS Church leaving as a mutual benefit since they don’t consider how it runs scouts as proper. There are risks to both sides if such a split is to happen.

The most pressing issue is as always the case money. The LDS Church is a huge donor and participant in the BSA organization. They might not be the largest, but certainly the enthusiasm exists in abundance enough not to be ignored. Both sides would lose large amounts to infrastructure maintenance, although the LDS Church would come out the biggest loser. It is able to do exactly what it does precisely because of the relationship. The resources and land are in the hands of the well funded and organized BSA, putting into question how much The LDS Church could develop going alone.

Land used for camping is not owned by the LDS Church and a whole new system of such places would have to be procured. This is not an easy or cheap endeavor. Considering how the LDS Church acquired land for meeting houses and Temples, decades could pass before a sufficient amount of land is found and bought. This might be easier in the Intermountain West where the bulk of BSA participation is Mormons. They might be interested in selling to the LDS Church camps that would otherwise be hardly used, such as Little Lemhi. In return, the LDS Church could mutually agree to rent out space to the BSA in exchange for the sale.

Despite what others might suggest, there is no way that the LDS Church could join another similar organization. The most recognized “Trail Life” is a specific Christian organization that would not take kindly to what they consider false religions. And this brings up the little known, but visible to those who carefully observe, fact about the BSA that is causing the slow disintegration. Large and powerful as the BSA has been for many decades, it is a loose organization with competing factions mostly of religious sub-groups. They have been able to stick together first because BSA is an openly religious organization even if allowing for extreme diversity. When what many consider is moral breaches to the overall mission then the BSA will fracture. Evangelicals, mainline Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and so forth simply do not like each other. Meaning that the LDS Church would do well to carefully consider if they are part of a sinking ship.

Most of all, the priorities of the BSA and the LDS Church are not the same. This has, as stated above, been recognized by a few outsiders for some time. Criticism has been leveled at the way the leadership is picked and ease of giving out Eagle Scout awards. Giving in to those criticisms to do a complete overhaul with a more spiritual focus might be more favorable for Mormons. Considering that Scouting is supposed to be a tool of the Priesthood, much can be done to satisfy that purpose. It would be nice to cut back on survivalist outdoors activities (not elimination) and instead focus on job development. There could be a quasi-apprenticeship path where the scouts learn actual life skills that current merit badges only have a hint. Building a fire, putting up a tent, and singing kumbaya gets placed on a lower rung of activities. Above all, there could be an increased emphasis on the moral virtues of a mature Christian, mission prepared, well reasoned, skill taught, and humanitarian minded. Seperate girl “scouting” projects could be similarly developed. Tradition and hard work only stands in the way.

40 thoughts on “Future of LDS Scouting: Problems and Proposals

  1. While loss of BSA scout camp facilities would be a setback (and probably the biggest down-side of an LDS/BSA divorce), I think we should be careful not to overstate it. A well-functioning troop should already be going on 10-12 campouts per year, only one of which (Scout Camp) is usually at a BSA-owned facility.

    I’m as much a fan of church camps as anyone, and I hope the Church acquires more of them so as to increase availability for family and ward groups. But because our boys camp in quorum-sized groups on a near-monthly basis whereas our girls camp in a stake-sized group once a year, a post-Scouting Young Men’s program won’t need church-run camps the way the Young Women’s program does.

  2. This post seems to ignore the fact that the Church already created a program that serves both young men and young women. In the US the “Achievement Days” program is seen as only a program for girls, but there is nothing about that program that is solely oriented towards girls. I understand that in places were BSA isn’t available, the Achievement Day program is used for both girls and boys.

    I think the demise of using BSA as a LDS program would result in the Achievement Days program gaining useful structure (the “great” parts of BSA) in a manner that would benefit both girls and boys.

    So if a BSA/LDS “divorce” is in the future, the LDS portion, for its part, has been putting downpayments on a post-marriage home.

  3. I would like to see the church in the U.S. separate itself from the B.S.A., and for many of the same reasons listed in the post. Unfortunately, I think it will take many years for that to happen. And I don’t think it will have anything to do with gay scout leaders. Especially since, even with a change in the BSA’s position on gay leaders, the church can continue to make sure that its scout leaders are members of the church in good standing.

  4. In the era of correlation and consolidation, it’s amazing how long this dinosaur has hung on. With the abysmal retention rate of young men as they approach Melchizedek Priesthood years, could dropping BSA make it any worse? Have we been getting our “money’s worth” with this relationship? Or will we see a positive trend emerge as we simplify the Aaronic Priesthood pathway, focusing on ministering versus merit badge clinics? I can only wonder….

  5. I hope the LDS-BSA relationship continues strong. Our LDS boys and young men are better because of it — and our non-LDS friends are also better because of it. It really is the only activity we have where church members interact with non-members. Our adults in Scouting are better because of it.

    Robert Gates does not want to let in gay adults, as suggested in the original posting. Rather, it seems to me he said that continuing to ban them is problematic and untenable. Undoubtedly, he is right. There is a war waging, and sometimes a tactical accommodation might be the prudent course.

    The gay community wants to destroy the BSA and the values it has supported for so long. I wonder why some church members want the gay community to be successful. I wish they would look at the matter of the LDS-BSA relationship like President Monson does. It really is a valuable and even irreplaceable relationship.

  6. Justin and JI can’t both be right. They have completely different opinions as to how valuable the Boy Scouts are to the Church. I tend to lean toward Justin’s view, and have written about that here before. My experience with Scouting is that, as I mentioned in the OP, other than the higher leadership there is little actual non-Mormon interactions going on. For that matter, there is a not much interaction between any religious run franchise that make up the most troops.

    Not that I agree with Justin either, since I don’t think there has ever been any good years of adult male retention with or without BSA involvement. One of my posts here talked about that as well. I must admit that I have known boys to drop out precisely because they don’t like Scouts and feel pressured into participation. My own unscientific observation has seen a relationship between those who get an Eagle and remain a member into young adulthood. Causation and correlation I will not guess, but there were times I witnessed when BSA had done more harm than good. If I had during my teenage years thought that Scouts and the Priesthood were inseparable, there is no way I would have remained a Mormon for long. Luckily, it wasn’t my only exposure to the religion.

  7. Just for clarification, I do not want to see the gay rights movement or anyone else with malicious intent destroy BSA or destroy the Churches relationship with BSA.

    I just think Scouting has become too complicated and too expensive.

  8. I can’t imagine my youth without scouts. It was probably more influential on my teenage development than priesthood, seminary, mutual, primary, and in many cases, even high school and junior high. And I was a terrible boy scout with a bad attitude, barely getting my eagle, and only under enormous pressure from my mother. Yet the patience of my leaders in guiding me through this initiation into manhood imprinted values and memories that I still look back on continuously to this day.

    I feel bad for future generations of LDS boys without scouts. What a loss if the scout values were replaced entirely by extremely Mormon stuff like whats in For the Strength of the Youth. Mormonism is great not because our specific theology is great, divorced from everything else, but because we seek after all truth and goodness all over the world and adopt it to ourselves. The adoption of scouting by Mormonism was one of the most inspired choices of the 20th century and invariably enriched the LDS experience for generations of priesthood brethren.

  9. I have been registered with BSA since 1986. Where I live, scouting doesn’t work very well as young men leaders rarely take the time to get properly trained, and with the budget limitations, funding isn’t sufficient to really do the program justice. Our local scout reservation is about an hour’s drive away, and our scouts having been going out of council for summer camp the last five years. I have two Eagles, but even I think it’s time the church and BSA part ways. Our YM leaders live a kind of dual life, trying to do both DTG and scouts. We just don’t have enough manpower to get it done properly. I think we could ramp up Duty To God very easily to accommodate both the outdoor and cerebral interests of the boys.

  10. I spent my last two years of high school (liceo) in Italy, and the church could not sponsor Boy Scout troops there because, well, we weren’t catholic. We had a scout like program, and went camping and did scout stuff mixed with duty to God. I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much. Of course, a BSA/LDS split would result in a loss of cache associated with getting your eagle scout, but it seems that BSA isn’t what it used to be anyway.

  11. There are lots of issues with the church and BSA, but not all the problems are on the BSA’s end.

    In a ward/stake with an even halfway decent scouting program, the scouts and the priesthood are amazing and work together quite well; however, most wards just don’t put the effort required nor get the training needed. The biggest problem is with us, the church, because many leaders just aren’t willing to do what needs to be done. If the BSA/LDS connection fails, it will be (in my humble opinion) mostly due to our failures in fully exploiting/using the scouting program.

    My father was an excellent scoutmaster, and actually increased retention among youth due to his dilligence – the troop hadn’t had Eagle scouts in over a dozen years, and then they a had a dozen withing three years – and they weren’t easily handed out, no real work involved, Eagles. These scouts worked for it, and they loved it.

    However, as he was also fond of saying: “a dozen men in this ward would make great bishops. Most of them would make pretty good stake presidents as well. Not a one would make a halfway decent scoutmaster.”

    One of his biggest issues was lack of support from the leadership, who never really got invested in the scouts – but my dad made it work anyway. However, after he left the program, it basically fell back to a low-level maintenance that slowly degraded.

    This is not necessarily to say we should keep scouting; I think the church could develop a good alternative (and adding boys to achievement days could work for replacing cub scouts, and might even make achievement days better overall).

    What I think the real problem will be is having leaders fully invest themselves in whatever replaces it. If they just drop back to the “play basket ball every other Wednesday” type crap that drove more youth to inactivity than scouts ever did, no replacement program will ever be better (or at least equal to) scouts.

    Whether we stay with scouts or not, we need to realize the real pressure is on us as church members and leaders to step up and actually do the program.

    I love scouting (Eagle Scout – also voted into Order of the Arrow, but didn’t make it, because I couldn’t make the initiation campout or whatever it was that would have made me a part of that – it was scheduled two weeks after I left for college), and I personally would prefer to see it stay, just with better leadership. However, I recognize things are changing and an LDS/BSA split may be inevitable.

    It does not follow, however, that whatever replaces BSA will necessarily better. The devotion of the leadership will determine that.

  12. It will be interesting to see what happens between BSA and LDS-as the OP and comments have covered. Several have suggested that much of the failing comes from our failing as church run troops, to run the BSA program as designed. I will agree that many of our leaders in church run troops are not as invested or trained as those who choose to be involved in scouting as their extra-curricular activity of choice. In the church, we have males that have a diverse range of interests and talents. Many of those don’t include outdoors, hiking, and camping as high on their lists. But these men and young men are still expected to participate and run these activities. And, as church members, we have other callings, responsibilities, and priorities that may make us less able to spend the same time and effort as other troops.
    Personally, I see the effort (whatever level of effort there is) and money to run our scout program coming from our ward resources. Then, we or the ward has to purchase high priced uniforms, awards, patches, etc. And on top of that, Friends of Scouting asks everyone in the ward for more money once a year.
    There is no doubt that scouting is a good program. But, in the spirit of “good, better, and best”, I would have doubts if it really is the “best” use of our time and money. I will continue to follow my church leaders and be obedient, but I see no problem with re- evaluating it’s costs and benefits. It is entirely possible that the church could provide it’s own activity plan that may be easier to run and have more appeal to a broader audience, but still continue to teach the values of our gospel and of being a successful human being.

  13. If I were asked (which I won’t be) I would say drop scouting, focus on the priesthood, service, and practical life skills. Develop real gospel/church based programs for both the young women and the young men. Forty years ago the Aaronic Priesthood members had to keep weekly journals of every priesthood assignment they received and whether it had been fulfilled. These journals were reviewed in the Bishop interviews, and boys weren’t automatically moved up to the next quorum unless a sufficient level of commitment and work had been displayed. Preparing our young men and young women for the temple covenants (for missions, marriage, or just life), and to be an engaged member who will live those covenants needs to be the primary goal. All else needs to bend to that objective. I don’t think Scouting per se (with or without the “gay” issue) is automatically helpful to that end.

  14. I am surprised that no other commenters have mentioned the onerous requirement that Scout leaders must take hours and hours of training every year (at least in our ward). The training is incredibly tedious: three hours of being told common sense things that could be imparted in about two minutes. The basic message is: “adults, don’t go anyplace alone with the Scouts, try to always have another adult around.”

    This training alone is enough to make me not want to have anything to do with the Scouts personally. But I have two boys in the Cub Scouts and another on the way, so I suppose I will eventually be called either as a Scout leader or a YM leader, so I will have to suffer through this training sometime in the years ahead.

    So, we have an organization that doesn’t allow boys to have squirt gun fights (because it is not “kind”) and an organization that is on the cusp from allowing gay Scout leaders. And adults who join must suffer through incredibly tedious, redundant training so the BSA lawyers can say they were “trained.”

    The culture has succeeded in ruining just about everything that was good about the Scouts. I can’t see any scenario where the Church remains linked to the Scouts in the long term.

  15. I just came home from a leadership meeting where the stake outlined three focuses for the YM program: home teaching, duty to God, and presidency meetings. Each of these was elaborated but they all connected to the idea of preparing YM for the higher priesthood by learning to receive revelation and seeking after the one. A speaker noted that if we spend 30 minutes for a quorum lesson on Sundays (after announcements) and 75 minutes on Scouts during the week, what’s the message we’re sending about what’s more important. Our stake president has made it clear that earning the Duty to God award should be a greater focus than Eagle Scout, and that if Scouting is getting in the way it should go by the way.

  16. There are good and bad points to retaining the relationship. I’ve seen both good and bad LDS troops and BSA districts over the years. I’ve seen some boys flourish in scouts, while others struggle because it isn’t their thing.

    Our young women seem to do well with their current program. I don’t see why a program based on Duty to God couldn’t do the same for the boys. Most boys are not interested in many of the required merit badges. Most do want to camp out, hike, swim, play sports, etc. We can do similar things here.

    Also note, we are talking about BSA. The United States. Most of our members live outside the USA, where there is no scouting program. And they seem to do just fine.

  17. I’ve noticed a lot of comments from life-long scouters that many leaders don’t fully invest themselves in the BSA system. Could that possibly be because, like me, they think the BSA is corrupt and so what is the point of becoming fully invested in it? Remember, this is a calling people are given, not a volunteer assignment.

    Perhaps if we changed the position of “scoutmaster” and the like to a voluntary position than those adherents to BSA’s system could whittle their merry hearts away all day and the poor men who get called into this ancillary system the church has no business being involved with in the first place can get callings they can fulfill without a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach.

  18. I’m in favor of separation, but I’m less sure than others it will actually happen. It seems to me that real ‘friends of scouting’ could organize troops on their own, without church involvement, with committed leadership who volunteer (or get paid). And the church programs would benefit from the resources freed up if they separated from scouts. I think it would be a win-win.

    But I don’t see the church voluntarily moving itself out of BSA. The gay leaders proposal is not really an attack on the church, as long as the church gets to set its own requirements, and I think the church would rather stay on the defensive. This point was made abundantly clear when BSA passed the gay youth proposal. I don’t see a real difference. We will get a letter stating that nothing has changed for the requirements within the church.

    The cultural poison cannot be conveniently contained. Ridding ourselves of BSA will do nothing to stem the overwhelming onslaught of pornography, for instance. Leaders of young men will still be able to prey on young men, or set perverse examples of manhood that they have picked up from the culture. Manhood itself has changed dramatically over the years. (I would actually say it has declined precipitously).

    I personally would be gratified if the church left BSA, but that’s all. It would not make me sleep easier at night, or convince me to now feel comfortable with all the ‘men’ in positions of leadership and influence over my sons.

    (Sorry if I sound too pessimistic. I had a particularly rough Sunday School experience with prominent members going on and on about ‘the dark side of a family-centered church’, basically that people invest more in their own children rather than treating all children equally, things like music lessons, and paying for college. So rather than a gift to be appreciated and promoted, family affection and responsibility are a plague to control and stamp out in favor of equality, the idea being that nothing is really ‘ours’. My response as a wife and mother is this: just where does the share everything (or else) line stop. I’m fairly certain that my body is to be shared only with my husband, despite the fact that theologically, my body is not my own. But under a regiment of equality based on the idea that nothing is actually ours, shouldn’t I be willing to share my body with any man in need, or woman for that matter. Anyway, like I said, I’m grumpy. I think strong families are the answer, not the problem.)

  19. Lucinda, wow! It sounds like some of the members of your ward are guilty of breaking the 10th commandment against coveting. In this day and age, Envy seems to be the norm rather than the exception. It does not make it less of a sin.

  20. It is sad to yet again see murmuring against Scouting. Please, give it a rest. I don’t doubt that if we had to, the Church could go it’s own way separately from BSA, but it doesn’t have to right now.

    It seems that at the least stumble wolves come out of the shadows licking their lips and rejoicing in the weakness of their prey.

    I am not pleased with everything about BSA (my eyes roll every time I hear about the Sustainability merit badge), but I will continue to do what I can to help our young men come unto Christ through scouting. There is still very much good in its programs.

  21. Wow, Lucinda. Interesting meeting you had there. I suspect in folks’ zeal for the United Order, they didn’t actually intend to imply that we should also adopt a Free Love society. Or maybe they did. Or were they merely being socialistic without reference to the United Order?

    Having read the Gates article, I can imagine that capitulation of the BSA as an umbrella body now will attempt to preserve the rights of individual groups within BSA to call leaders and admit members according to the dictates of their own consciences. Therefore it may be a good thing that the LDS Church remains in BSA to test whether this remains true. BSA is a safer battleground for issues of group self-rule than to cut straight to whether religious groups are allowed to conduct marriage ceremonies according to the dictates of their own collective consciousness.

    Again, it is ironic in that Mormons, via the necessarily extra-legal sealing ordinance, can continue to differentially sanctify heterosexual marriage no matter what happens for legal marriage in the rest of the country. And if there were to come a time when temples were not permitted to perform even proxy sealings between couples if the Church continued to exclude deceased homosexual couples, then I have a hard time imagining that all countries will ban proxy sealings. After all, at some point the few remaining countries willing to allow Mormon sealing ordinances to take place would become tourist hot spots, as faithful Mormons saved up to travel to those locations where their eternally significant ordinances could be solemnized.

    I hope it is unlikely that this will happen in my lifetime, but I am intrigued by the “plot” of Jacob 5 and the 1800s belief that the end of times would come at a time when no more children were being born into the New and Everlasting Covenant. A series of events that led the world to ban sealings and the Saints to abandon sealings as a core part of their eschatology could lead to this future lack of children born in the Covenant.

  22. Lucinda is in my ward which includes a number of academics who work for BYU. Some academics are strong advocates of social welfare wherein the government is seen as the rightful dispenser of ‘charity’. The lesson on Sunday discussed the story in Mark 10, 17-25 which contains the saying about camels and needles’ eyes. In one Sunday School class the teacher gave a thoughtful presentation that edified. In the other class several current and former bishopric members became involved in a discussion that advocated social welfare and left several class members feeling sour.
    This relates to the question of LDS/BSA because it illustrates the way well meaning members of the Church can hold very different opinions without evil intent. I have served in Scouting and had sons in the scout program and see the issue from both sides. I currently feel that it is time to put some thought and action into alternative programs. The young women of the Church and young men where BSA isn’t an option have not noticeably faltered for the lack. I’m looking foward to seeing what our leaders provide.

  23. Ah, so socialistic without reference to the United Order. And not intentionally advocating Free Love. Good.

    When it comes to social welfare and state programs, I can’t help but think of it all as a game. A serious game with consequences, to be sure, but a game nonetheless. Some games have good rules that make play enjoyable and exciting. Other games have rules that frustrate.

    My husband came up with a game where the sum of all card values equalled zero, and each players score was determined based on their cards and their goal. So a person whose goal was masochism scored big when they gathered a lot of negative cards, where someone whose goal was egotism scored big when they gathered a lot if positive cards. Worshippers scored big when the player they had as an object gathered a lot of positive cards.

    The most frustrating player goals for overall game play were the anarchist and the philanthropist. The first did well if the highest score was low and the second did well if the lowest score was high. In effect, these two goals led the player to try and get everyone’s hand to equal zero.

    Thus philanthropy and anarchy can in some ways end up having the same effect on society, when approached as a philosophy for the state treatment of all members of society. Ironic.

  24. Lucinda wrote: “I had a particularly rough Sunday School experience with prominent members going on and on about ‘the dark side of a family-centered church’, basically that people invest more in their own children rather than treating all children equally, things like music lessons, and paying for college. So rather than a gift to be appreciated and promoted, family affection and responsibility are a plague to control and stamp out in favor of equality, the idea being that nothing is really ‘ours’.”

    Next time this happens tell them that I have spent more than 30 years traveling throughout the world and I know many, many families in, for example, Brazil that are much less prosperous than they are. Please sell all of their possessions and send the money to me and I will distribute it, on a voluntary basis, to people who definitely need their possessions more than they do. My guess is that they are unwilling to take this common sense step. Instead, they want to take money from other people (people they consider “rich”) and distribute it through big government programs where very little of the actual money gets to actual poor people. So, their claims for instituting “equality” are really about taking money from other people, not actual charity. The emotional basis for their desire for equality is envy and covetousness, serious sins. The Gospel — which is about voluntarily helping the poor in possessions and the poor in spirit — has absolutely nothing to do with forcing other people to pay money to support your pet government program. I am not surprised that Church members misunderstand this basic principle, but it is still sad to see it happen again and again.

  25. This doesn’t really mean all that much. BSA National appoints a yearly “president”, who is a figure head serving one year. The highlight of his year is being the keynote speaker at a banquet.
    Robert Gates is the guy this year and he cannot change or greatly influence BSA policy. The true leader of BSA National, who does have the ability to change policy, is the National Chief Wayne Brock.

  26. My ‘free love’ comment comes from my feeling that attacking special family attention toward children is an attack on mothers particularly. It is mostly mothers who fret about things that will help their children have a good chance at success. And this is why I find it so irritating, because pregnancy, childbirth and nurture of young children is extremely difficult and is something that women frankly put off when they feel children will not thrive, if they feel their children will have to be restrained to the common lot. And statistics bear this out. It is the women who have a hope for their children’s future that bear the most children. This may feel too pragmatic a concern for many people, but society as a whole simply cannot thrive if you create conditions where women don’t feel having children is a priority for them personally.

    I think it’s an interesting new approach. There was that journalist woman a couple years ago who said that people have too “private” an understanding of children, and there was the whole, “it takes a village to raise a child”, but this new approach, that parents should feel ashamed to particularly benefit their own children, seems a very catchy variation. Certainly, no one wants to feel they are making life worse for disadvantaged children, and so the extension that things like reading to your children, providing music lessons, or even encouraging your sons in scouting, that such things are disadvantaging others’ children has real anti-family persuasion when zero-sum thinking is the norm.

    If I could only believe these ideas were just pie-in-the-sky, but I think the push toward same-sex acceptance is creating boldness in breaking down the family in other ways. Not only are the men promoting these ideas prominent in my ward, but also in BYU academics and as leaders in YSA wards.

  27. Lucinda, I find this disheartening to say the least. The love for ones children must be waxing cold indeed if one thinks that they need to neglect their own offspring in order to have a positive effect on society. As a father, I take a considerable amount of time daily to help my sons with reading, piano, kenpo karate and play for two reasons: I love them and I want to give them every social, intellectual, spiritual and physical advantage I can. (While Geoff will likely recommend jui jitsu instead of kenpo, that is beside the point.)

  28. There is some value in ensuring a minimum level of service for all.

    In Scotland, the Council provides housing for many of the people (e.g., those who can’t afford 10 million dollars for one of the 3 story town homes in Newtown). It is in the public interest to ensure that large families have large homes so that mature girls and boys in the families do not have to share bedrooms. And so they upgrade housing as required to accommodate this basic standard. In my area here in the east, zoning requirements (attempt to) ensure that there are sufficient bedrooms for the family configuration in question (size, genders of children, etc.) And there are standards such as prohibiting landlords from renting spaces that have black mold or other unsafe conditions.

    Academics tend to be very comfortable with socialistic solutions (I use that term to ensure no one thinks I am necessarily accusing these learned individuals of necessarily being socialists, per se). And there are some areas where setting social standards is absolutely warranted, and such standards must be given sufficient fiscal support.

    In an interesting turn, we have seen Church guidance trend towards minimalism, with the standardized budgets across congregations that are solely influenced by attendance, rather than per capita wealth. The old extreme events are discouraged (such things as rich ward hiring immigrant/impoverished ward to provide service at their lavish ward dinner). Events where fees must be paid have become much fewer. And yet the true richness of the gospel never was tied up in the amount of money, but in time and care and concern and service.

    Much as I love all children (and all who ever were children), I have particular responsibility for those children who are my stewardship. And I will do what I can to ensure that these children are able to thrive, that their unique needs are met.

    Getting back to BSA, I look forward to seeing what the future holds. It is sure to be intriguing.

  29. Back to the OP, I guess I’ll admit that I’ve already effectively left scouting. I have 3 children 8-11 for whom I provide the necessary guidance for their completion of the Faith in God program (the cub scout, achievement days stuff). The requirements for boys and girls are exactly the same, with some small difference when they are 11, but only because they are preparing for separate 12-year-old groupings.

    It’s been a good experience. I personally would like to see parents taking more responsibility for the direct instruction of their own children. I know it’s necessary to provide fall-back instruction for those whose families are less strong, but I have to question the mentality that would tell me that I should feel obligated to put my children into a program I find corrupted in order to give company to the others. But I could be wrong on this point and I have often questioned myself here. I guess that’s why the Sunday School comments about “the dark side of a family-centered church” and “tribalism” along with the idea of government enforcement hit me hard, because I do wonder how to deal with the perceived lack of civic involvement and duty that my choice evidences.

    Anyway, so for what it’s worth, I think a good solution would be to establish parents as children and youth’s primary leaders for their growth toward manhood/womanhood with the programs of the church being mainly supplemental. I know there are people who feel this is already the established idea, but I think the cultural reality is the expectation that everyone will participate in the programs and that parents will be supplemental to them.

  30. “(While Geoff will likely recommend jui jitsu instead of kenpo, that is beside the point.)”

    All martial arts are good. My kids are doing kung fu for now, perhaps jiu jitsu when they get older. 🙂

  31. And, by the way, good old fashioned American wrestling may be one of the best martial arts of all. Taking this back to the BSA, you can learn many of the same skills in the Scouts that you can in martial arts, i.e., discipline, following instruction, learning how to do difficult things without giving up, the importance of self defense, the importance of not being a bully, the importance of service. My personal opinion is that the huge growth in martial arts over the last few decades can be directly linked to the fact that many parents and children are not seeing these basic core virtues in many areas of their lives and therefore seek them out in nontraditional places.

  32. I believe my youngest son received more value in terms of self discipline, team spirit, and vital skill building as well as physical development from participating in martial arts training and marching band than from his scouting experience. This may be because the scout troop he belonged to was mostly about Wednesday night basketball with very few camping experiences.

  33. “good old fashioned American wrestling may be one of the best martial arts of all.”

    I knew there was a reason I liked you, Geoff.

  34. Of course, Joseph Smith engaged in lots of “good old fashioned American wrestling” – and what sport did BYU cut when they had to cut men’s sports to adhere to Title IX? Wrestling.

    [One reason I have a hard time supporting BYU anymore.]

    Back to the BSA……

  35. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to assume that the Church even disagrees with Gates’s recommendation—which is merely to allow local units the discretion to have gay leaders.

    And it wouldn’t necessarily be inconsistent with Church teachings or policy to use gay leaders in ward troops. See God Loveth His Children (official Church publication 2007) (“Notwithstanding your present same-gender attractions, you can be happy during this life, lead a morally clean life, perform meaningful service in the Church, enjoy full fellowship with your fellow Saints….”)

    Remember the Church voted for the last change that allowed for gay youth. When it comes to sticking by traditional norms, people often give the Church too much, or too little, credit, depending on your point of view. As a center-left guy, I’ve been particularly proud of the Church over the last few years.

  36. The church could end its association with the BSA and focus on its Duty to God program. It could model itself after the pattern of the YW program.

    There is a small handbook that focuses on spiritual principles, with no exposure to or expectation of skills needed beyond use in church, home or family settings. It operates on a shoestring budget, requires practically no leader training or background checks, no pricey uniforms or recognition patches, and no adult committee to support the advancement of the youth. Only one summer camp would be allowed, and not the numerous and varied outdoor experiences supported by multiple adults as required by the BSA. At completion of the program, the only recognition required is a simple handshake at the pulpit from the bishop and a cheap piece of jewelry. No large banquet or participation by the ward members is expected.

    I’ve heard many times that the YW program is just as rigorous as the Eagle Scout path. If this is true, then why not operate the YM program in a similar fashion?

  37. Pat Chiu, Lucinda,

    Almost thou persuadest me that, whether or not the Church separates itself from Scouting, maybe it should separate itself from BYU.

    I may be the only lifelong active Mormon boy from the U.S. who ever got a Presidential scholarship at BYU without being an Eagle Scout. (Kimball Scholar, 1980.) There were a number of factors involved in my failure to hatch, but one was that the kids two years ahead were interested in Scouting and had parents who were interested in Scouting; the kids a year behind were interested in Scouting and had parents who were interested in Scouting; but I was the only one my own age interested in Scouting and whose parents were much invested in Scouting, and you can’t run a program on that. Especially in a ward that was just split from another ward where the other ward got the bishop who had grown up with Scouting and my ward got the convert Bishop who didn’t see the point. (A good Bishop in most other respects, I hasten to add.)

    I actually had a repeating nightmare about trying to somehow complete the Eagle before my eighteenth birthday until just a few years ago. Towards the end, the dream would end with me thinking, “Wait, I can’t complete my Eagle now. I’m 47 years old.” And I would snap awake. No, really.

    (I also had the repeating nightmare about realizing at the end of the semester that I had forgotten to attend one of my classes the entire semester, and I still have the nightmare about being naked in a public place.)

    I have very mixed feelings about Scouting now. My sons have not benefited from it at all. On the other hand, it seems like some of their friends have. Myself, I succeeded in science fair rather than scouting, and now make a comfortable living as a government research drone. I guess I would not mind seeing the split, but I wish it was for better reasons that the ones that are probably going to be the reasons.

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