Guest Post: Follow Me, Boys! (And Girls!)

Scouts saluting, American flag in background, circa 1960s. (Credit: H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)

On 11 October, the newsroom for the Boy Scouts of America posted something you may have heard of by now:

“Today, the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors unanimously approved to welcome girls into its iconic Cub Scout program and to deliver a Scouting program for older girls that will enable them to advance and earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout.”

Some bona fides are likely to be demanded of anyone seriously commenting on this, so here are mine. I’m an Eagle Scout. My father is too. My grandfather was too. I’ve got a scout shirt hanging in my closet with adult knots on it. I’m a guy who’s had some experience in the program. That doesn’t make me unique; Mormon boys are also Boy Scouts. It’s how we roll.

With that out of the way, it’s also important at this stage to read the details of the move. Consider, from the press release:

“Starting in the 2018 program year, families can choose to sign up their sons and daughters for Cub Scouts. Existing packs may choose to establish a new girl pack, establish a pack that consists of girl dens and boy dens or remain an all-boy pack.  Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls. Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, the organization will also deliver a program for older girls, which will be announced in 2018 and projected to be available in 2019, that will enable them to earn the Eagle Scout rank. This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families.”

I’ve had a variety of conversations with a variety of people about co-ed scouting over the years, and in general I’m for it. However, the specifics have always been hazy. The single-gender den idea sounds like a reasonable way to thread the needle. Indeed, I would assume that the coming “older girls” program details are likely to just say “oh yeah, and single-gender patrols in integrated troops, too” and leave it at that. It’ll mean lots more leaders will be needed, since the BSA is extremely keen on having lots of leaders around to minimize sexual shenanigans. But the BSA is already on top of that so making it a point of opposition is a non-starter.

Beyond that, what are we to make of this?

Responses are all over the place in the vast fever-swamp of internet comment threads, but ultimately fall into one of four camps:

  1. This is the best thing ever! It’s high time the Scouts got with the times. I’ve got a daughter who always wished she could be a scout.
  2. This is the worst thing ever! It’s SJW/PC/(insert buzzword)/(insert catchphrase) foolishness run amok. Scouting can do without MY money from here out, thank you very much.
  3. This is the most self-serving thing ever! There are already Girl Scouts for girls! The Boy Scouts just want money! Way to undercut a competitor, BSA!
  4. This is the most misguided thing ever! 90% of the boys in America already aren’t scouts. What is the BSA doing to reach them? Nothing! So they make a splashy move for girls instead. Fie on them!

Which is it? As with many things, I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.

The BSA has felt increasingly antiquated as time has passed. That’s not to say that the values of scouting are now passé—they certainly are not. However, the BSA’s method of teaching those values hasn’t changed much in 100 years. One might even say that it’s all gotten a little hokey and stilted, with the lessons getting lost in the trappings and an increasingly grey-haired old guard clinging to a Norman Rockwell world that no longer exists.

Re-evaluating the way scouting works, however, offers the BSA an opportunity to re-examine (and remember) what scouting is supposed to be about. In the process, it creates an opportunity for the BSA to reinforce the critical concepts it purports to hold dear. Being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, and so forth is still a big deal. If teaching those things to girls helps everyone involved remember that those things are the most important things, then this will be to everyone’s benefit.

However, the BSA is also an organization that has shown vulnerability to the intense social pressures of our age. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m running a clock on how long it takes for the trans- community to start complaining about how sex-segregated cub scout dens will impact the gender-fluid. Could this move open the door to a vast array of foolishness that buries the critical lessons of scouting under an ever-increasing pile of social signaling and pitiful attempts at making scouting more woke?

What really strikes me, though, is that we haven’t seen a response from the Church yet. It’s only been a couple of days, but this can’t possibly have been a surprise to the LDS scout folks. Even if they didn’t get any kinds of heads-up on this announcement, this is still the kind of thing that the Church is usually ready to address, even if the initial response is something like “we are examining the BSA’s decision, and look forward to having a conversation with their leaders about serving the youth of America”. But there’s nothing.

And thus far, the BSA should probably perceive that as really bad news. It says to me that the die has been cast on scouting in Salt Lake. The brethren are moving toward building an LDS-specific program for youth, and have been for years now. That progress won’t be stopped, and the BSA leadership knows it. They have to anticipate that the LDS units won’t last another decade, and if the BSA wants to survive the inevitable Church pullout then the organization has to expand the rolls any way they can.

Am I wrong? Tell me why.

Mormontarian is a skeptical Gen-Xer living in the American midwest. He hates Sunday School, but of course that means Heavenly Father called him to the presidency thereof in his awesome ward.

15 thoughts on “Guest Post: Follow Me, Boys! (And Girls!)

  1. I suspect that the Church is waiting to see the details of how the Boy Scout plan to include females. Until then, there’s no need to say anything.

    If this move encourages the LDS Church to eventually use Activity Days in North America for both males and females (as I understand it already does in other countries), then there’s no reason to rush to break ties.

    If this move could be consistent with the LDS Church using scouts for both males and females in North America in lieu of Activity Days, then it would be fool-hardy to assure everyone that will happen when details that aren’t yet settled could make this a non-option.

  2. Well way back in May the Church announced that 14 and older young men would not be participating in scouting through the Church. Meaning the Church would not be sponsoring those groups any more.

    I read a statement a few days ago that said: ““The Activity Days and Personal Progress programs of the church have long been in place to meet the needs of girls and young women in these age groups, and no change will be made in church programs,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said in an emailed statement. ”We recognize that the desire of the BSA is to expand their programs to serve more young people in the United States. The church, too, continues to look at ways to serve the needs of our youth worldwide.” When asked to elaborate the Church spokes person said the statement is all we have to say about the matter.

    So my guess (and it is a guess) is that the Church will continue to develop new independent programs for both the young women and the young men of the Church world wide. If those seem to be successful scouting sponsorship by the Church will likely be phased out.

    Will many LDS young men still participate in scouting? Most likely yes for quite some time to come – there is a lot of tradition wrapped up in scouting and many Church members will not want to let that go, but institutionally the Church is likely to move on.

  3. Isn’t Charles Dahlquist, formerly of the YM General Presidency, currently serving as National BSA Commissioner? Doesn’t that give him a seat on the national board, which (we are told) approved this decision unanimously?

  4. The GSA certainly was not pleased, since they weren’t informed even though they’ve mostly worked together with the BSA. My impression is that the GSA has moved more towards career stuff for girls and away from the camping that was a mainstay when I was a Girl Scout, but I’m not sure about that.

  5. I also wonder if the LDS people on the BSA national board voted for this, or if they were gone when the vote was taken?

  6. I have no “bona fides” so not sure I’m allowed to seriously comment. But I’ll go for it. It sounds like a good move for the BSA, and I don’t really get why they would have gender segregated cub scouts when the older kids will be co-ed. I don’t get the antipathy some people have about admitting girls to the program, but I agree with you that it seems probably reactive (SJW’s!). What is the downside of having co-ed troops? I can’t think of any that I wouldn’t consider misogynist. And frankly, although you seem to think that considering the needs of gender minority youth is “foolishness”, wouldn’t it also solve any problems of where to sort transgender or gender fluid kids?

  7. Out of cuiosity, what if the church were to say, we embrace this move and will now establish separate (but equal?) girl troops for our YW.

    Obviously, not likely. But if such a move happened, what would happen in the church? Better for youth or worse? More attendence and interest in scouting meetings or less?

    Is there any chance the element of friendly competition between ym/yw age groups doing the same activies at the same time and place, gender separated, under different leadership groups would be a good thing?

    I kinda think it might be.

    And I’m not a SJW at all.

  8. As an old-style Boy Scout, I find the whole idea appalling. What will they name the new BS/GS organization? If the Church backs of BSA, much of the income they get from the LDS will disappear and the BSA must know that fact. Then the BSA might just die.

  9. Church responded the first day: “the LDS Church responded to Wednesday’s BSA announcement with a statement acknowledging its own activity opportunities for girls through its Young Women’s and Primary programs.

    “The Activity Days and Personal Progress programs of the church have long been in place to meet the needs of girls and young women in these age groups, and no change will be made in church programs,” said LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

    “We recognize that the desire of the BSA is to expand their programs to serve more young people in the United States. The church, too, continues to look at ways to serve the needs of our youth worldwide,” Hawkins said.”

  10. As conservatives abandon BSA, BSA will have to try to attract the moderate/liberal “market”, which will further erode the traditional BSA values. It will essentially spiral like all institutions that embrace political correctness.

    Moderate/liberal single parents may turn to BSA to help offload parenting.

    But as someone above pointed out, the number of adults involved will have to essentially double, not just two male adults at every meeting/gathering/event, but also two female adults. And in case someone can’t make it, you have to have 1 or 2 adults of each sex “on deck” if the scheduled adults have an emergency, etc.

    There will need to be a doubling of the volunteers involved. That will take time for background checks and training. So, yeah, 2018 to plan, 2019 to train/implement and ramp up, and then maybe go into effect in 2020.

    I don’t know how coed equiped the bsa camps are, as in terms of showers and locker rooms, etc. i can see some building of infrastructure, …. capital expenditures. I don’t know if BSA has an endowment they can tap into , or if they can raise capital.

    But the forces that are fighting against families, don’t really want to see “Family Scouts” or “Family Scout Camps”. They aren’t trying to modify scouting, they are trying to destroy it.

    There will be moving goalposts, constant triangulation, a continuous revolution. So in essence, no amount of change will be enough. If the board members are thinking “if we _only_ do this one thing, then we can move forward”, they are mistaken, and won’t realize it until its too late. Donors will be tapped out and discouraged, numbers of volunteers will be insufficient, enrollment will be down. Children with all sorts of challenges and behavioral problems will be “dumped” into the program, and there will be demands for them to be “mainstreamed”. The purpose of the destroyers is not to be “inclusive”, their purpose is to destroy.

  11. Dear Handsfullmom,

    It’s good to know there was a timely response, but not everyone gets the Deseret News. There was no obvious content on the newsroom to allow those of us outside of Utah to know a comment had been made.

    That said, the response was basically a non-response. Which is fine and understandable for the reasons I mentioned initially.

  12. Boy Scouts has been expensive for a long time. Special clothing and gear are usually required. Some take care of this ongoing burden by handing down the required uniforms, but with larger families it can be a real concern. Girl Scouts have been sullied by their alliances with various causes that are difficult to reconcile with Gospel values and have alienated many potential members. As I understand it, Boy Scouts originated as a way to harness the impulse to form gangs among boys and turn potential miscreants in a positive direction, much as Primary was organized initially. The program can not be any better than the leaders and with fewer parents willing or able to volunteer, the future seems dim. The dangers posed by an increasing acceptance of ‘alternate’ views of sexual practice, including pederasty make the future of any secular organization dim. I would not be surprised if the Scouts begin to fade as conservative religious groups deny further association. The LDS church may stand with them longer than most with lower profiles.

  13. Opening hymn: Behold a Royal Army.

    @Pat, though Wiki is not the ultimate authority on history, the origns of the Scouting movement can be read about on these two links:
    And then please click on the link there to Robert_Baden-Powell,_1st_Baron_Baden-Powell

    (we’re limited to 2 links in comments before it’s held in moderation or treated as spam.)

    Again, given that Wiki isn’t perfect, those two pages are excellent stories.

    Though boys’ natural impulse to form gangs is useful to Scouting, the origins of Scouting is definitley in founder Baden-Powell’s military experience, especially in the Second Boer War. “Scouting” actually refers to reconnaissance in war.

    In short, Baden-Powell founded Scouting as we know it in order to prepare boys to be soldiers, and specifically soldiers who specialize in scouting/reconnaissance. In the battle/siege that made him famous, he used boys as message-runners.

    Intermediate hymn: Onward Christian Soldiers.

    The other link I want to flog is an excellent article on the Military Mental Model of Mormonism, which explains how/why Scouting fits so well with the LDS church, and why the church used and emphasized the Scouting program:

    That pretty much explains the LDS/BSA link, and why the church is going to need to replace scouting with something.

    Closing hymn: We Are All Enlisted.

  14. There was a longstanding scouting program associated with the Church in Brazil that ended sometime in the late 80s-early 90s. I dont know the details of why that program was discontinued, but members got over it quickly. Many current church leaders in Brazil were raised during the scouting period and loved it, but today’s youth are being raised with the Duty to God program. So as a foreigner looking at the BSA and the Church’s situation in the US, I am positive any future changes will be for the best and that members will adapt quickly to whatever new program comes along.

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