The Mormon Scouts of America – Part 2

The comments on yesterday’s posts were awesome!  I love how you all keep me honest and thinking about what I write, and I think it’s interesting the wide range of experiences and feelings that people have toward this issue.

Here are some takeaways and expansions on yesterday’s themes:

  1. Embrace the Youth, not the program.  We should use the Scouting and Duty to God programs to embrace the youth and assist them during their formative years.  It’s the same concept as “teach the students” vs “teach the lesson”.  The goal is to embrace the young men, strengthen their testimony, and implant in them a desire to be a righteous priesthood holder and serve a mission – not just to DO Scouts or DO the Duty to God.  Whether that happens as a result of a fireside, a camp out, an interview with their bishop, a merit badge, or something completely different – it doesn’t matter.
  2. Avoid the Scout Leader pitfall.  One sure pitfall for a leader is that “scouters” (those folks that are obsessed with scouting) tend to get too wrapped up in scouting leadership.  With roundtables, training sessions, extended leader campouts, and all the associated expense and personal attention required, the calling of scout leader is a drainer – just with the leader stuff.  Your calling as a leader can quickly overtake your calling to serve the young men.

    This is not a problem in the church that is exclusive to Scouting, though.  What other leadership callings can you think of that have too many meetings, trainings, and administration – that they lose their focus on actually ministering to their sheep?  Yes, it’s a common, dire problem in the church.

  3. Forcing a young man to push the limits of his comfort zone is a good thing.  I have talked about this before.  FavUnc, Alan, and TLS have done a good job of bringing up this point, too.  Parents should ask their kids to do hard and uncomfortable things, help them be successful in them, and then praise them for doing so.  Our kids need to discover that they can do stuff.
  4. We don’t see the full picture.  Ron pointed out that other people’s made-up statistics and opinions are just as good as my made up statistics and opinions.  The truth is, the Church knows what kind of statistical success it is having.  Change of direction will happen when they come to feel that the current program isn’t fulfilling the need.
  5. What small semblance of a “Man Card” I have started in Scouting.  One of my friends most aptly described it as “that school where men go to learn how to do random things.”  She was always fascinated that I knew how to do stuff – random stuff – that she didn’t know how to do.  Stuff like how to make a toilet stop running, turn off the water supply to the house, start propane fires, use a wide range of power tools, and generally knowing on a basic level how everything in the world works.  It’s the stuff that “Modern Marvels” and “Mythbusters” are made of.
  6. As Daniel aptly described, I also had a lot of awesome experiences as a scout.  I really enjoyed most of the camp outs.  I loved that I was done with Scouts by the time I was 15 and was able to focus 100% on just enjoying the activities with my peer group.  I am pretty sure that I had the best youth leaders in the church as I grew up.  They always focused on giving us experiences and opportunities.  They were 100% focused on our spiritual growth and experiences, and it showed by their action.  They involved our parents whenever possible and necessary, but didn’t have them there breathing down our necks at every turn.  They also got most of us our Eagles.

    So can it be done?  Yes.  Is it easy? No.  These leaders did it at great lengths of personal sacrifice, which is – after all – part of the plan.

And now for the kicker… the thing that will make you all fall out of your chair laughing.

I have been asked to go to Scout Camp next week.

Yes… laugh it up.

I’m actually only going for one day to relieve one of the leaders, which is why I feel really good about going: to share the leaders’ burden, as I’ve repeatedly suggested we need to do.  It will also be fun to validate or totally blow away all of the hot air I’ve been writing.  After all, I’ve been away from this program for over 10 years, so what could I possibly know about it?

Wish me luck!  I’ll let you know the result.

14 thoughts on “The Mormon Scouts of America – Part 2”

  1. Eric is a scout leader and my grandpa, dad, and brothers are all scouters so I think it’s a great program. My HUGE gripe is that there isn’t really a counterpart for the young women. Don’t even tell me personal progress is for the ladies. Lame. Personal progress never got my friends and I snorkeling at Catalina.

  2. Just read your sisters comment from yesterday. Amen sista!
    P.S. it is the Silver Beaver. She’s so smart.

  3. LOL. That is just too perfect- the Lord is a funny person, isn’t he? Good luck on the scout camp. I can’t wait to hear what your exprience was and how it fits in with these last two blogs. (I hope you remember your knots!!!)

  4. Just FYI, not only will I be writing a column about this very soon, but as an editor at the Daily Universe, we will be doing an in-depth feature on whether the Scouting Program is still relevant to the Church’s mission for young men. Should be interesting. Good luck at scout camp Sam!

  5. The BYU campus newspaper. Sorry, it’s Sam’s alma matter, so I knew he would know what I was talking about.

  6. I have to say that I’m married to an eagle scout and the sister of 4 more of them and I’m gonna give a woot woot to scouting. It’s kinda cute how they all can rattle off “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. And they mean it to. These boys are all of those things and while they didn’t love earning every merit badge, I really think some of the good stuff sunk in. I’m glad they did it. (and it’s funny how giddy they all get when they get to play with fire on the grill. 🙂 )

  7. Loved the post! I would have to agree with all the ladies, that with money cool things can happen, and the YW certainly didn’t get much of it. And I didn’t actually see anyone come out and just say it. The personal progress program (during our generation) was a lame, and I TOTALLY hated it. I would have to say it put a wedge between my mom and I when I was a teenager. But then… here’s the clencher which is why I enjoyed Alans? bit yesterday. I am now a teacher of piano, and the first thing out of every new person I meet’s mouth is, “I always wish my parents would have MADE me keep taking lessons.” So will Scouting and YW become one of those that maybe we just don’t quite appreciate yet that yeah, we are glad our parents made us do it? I am really just about equal programing for both girls and boys, with varied experiences, especially outdoorsy stuff, and life skills stuff that college, and internet just doesn’t teach! And lets be honest teenagers are moody and if you catch them int he wrong mood all h*** breaks loose, well how can you plan anything cool with that? So for all who didn’t like Scouting and YW, the leaders were just trying their best. In group you don’t always get to do what YOU want to do! (Although, I think some places could work on the teaching, and relationship building skills to help reach individual teenagers better despite whatever the activity)

  8. People are probably done reading comments about this. However, I have a couple more.

    I hope people don’t think that I am against scouts. I am all for it. My first calling after I was married was as a cub scout leader. I magnified it to the fullest. At one point we only had one boy. We still held scouts and had an amazing experience with this one boy. He was inactive, but his family allowed him to come. We basically taught him the gospel in scouts. He didn’t know how to pray. Had never prayed before. Through Cub Scouts he learned the basics of the gospel and learned to pray at least.

    I am just saying that LEADERS MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE. Which is true in any calling right? There are many leaders that just say “good enough” and don’t challenge the boys to really learn and grow. There are the leaders that only care about one small facet of scouting (knots or fire starting) and don’t focus on the big picture like Daniel talked about: developing young men and preparing them for life and missions.

    Our informal saying in our stake is WE DO HARD THINGS. Once when our stake president was a bishop, a primary leader came to him and told him about the cub scouts were complaining about something they were asked to do. She asked him how to respond to the kids. He said tell them that “WE DO HARD THINGS”. It’s so true. I didn’t serve a mission, but a mission is a very hard thing, raising kids is a hard thing, staying in a marriage forever and not quitting is a hard thing. Keeping a job, college, exercise, self control, these are all hard things. Life is a hard thing. Youth need to learn that life is full of hard or inconvenient things. Scouting does teach that. As well as many other things that everyone is mentioning.

    I knew a young man a year older than me growing up, that hated scouts and so his parents never made him do any of it. The parents were EXTREMELY active int he church, but this young man pretty much never came on week nights through the whole 6 years of youth. He had a testimony though and was considered an active young man. One day when I was 20 I got a phone call from this same guy at BYU. He had looked me up, found me and came over to visit me. He had served a mission, but the mission was just too hard for him. He had a minute medical problem and instead of “sucking it up” and doing the tough thing. He complained so much that the Mission President sent him home. Sorry, but we have to teach these youth to do hard things. I think Scouting, for most, teaches that.

    I am not against scouts. I just feel concern about the cost, energy and efforts that make scouting the only, ironclad, sole purpose of youth activities. As I said, I worked in the youth for a very long time, and those scout leaders were sometimes so burnt out of planning and executing activity after activity after activity that when it came around to their turn for their activity they’d have with us girls, they had nothing. No ideas no effort made.
    I never blamed them. They were overworked! In fact, I made every effort to off load their burden.

    I love the youth, and whatever works for every individual that they are loved, accepted and included — and also teaches skills and builds character– is by far the most important thing.

  9. The feel of this post (and these comments) is much better. You all may return from your time-out chairs now.

    I love the “We do hard things” mantra. That’s how faith is built (and tested). The key is to learn from the smaller “hard things” so we don’t
    have to experience as many big “hard things” in order to grow.

  10. Oh, I just reread my comment and I am ashamed at my typos. Can I blame that on my current profession requireing me to speak “Elmo” a good part of my day? Sigh. Is there a grammar merit badge?

  11. The boys will love having you at scout camp, even for a day! Here’s a shout out for the bishop who said “We do hard things.” Really that should be a motto for the church. One of the running jokes in our previous ward was- how many callings can one person hold? Everyone had at least two, some three or more and none of them were easy. Eventually our Bishop was called into the stake presidency but as they didn’t have a replacement for him, he was not released from his calling as Bishop for about a month. We all laughed and said it was about time that he had two callings just like everyone else. =) It wasn’t easy but we all learned that complaining just takes up the energy you could be using on improving the way you do the work you have to do. I think that if everyone applied that concept to the difficulties they faced, the scouting program as well as every other program in the church would be much more successful.

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