MMiles is a long-time participant in the Bloggernacle and a participant at Segullah. We are honored to have her as our guest.
“Brandon says he’s learned the importance of serving others through his Church membership. He notes that giving meaningful service is one of the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. ‘Scouting is the activity arm of the priesthood,’ he says.”
The February New Era arrived today sporting a pristine boy scout, backpack and all, prepared for a hike and perched on a large boulder. It’s the cover for the feature story, “Scouting: A Pillar Supporting the Priesthood.” At the heart of the article is the third page, a showcasing of scouts of varying ages, explaining how they find scouting and the priesthood work together. The opposite page briefly details the history of how the church chose BSA as its match.
1911 Church leaders decide that Scouting, with its spiritual background and cultural ideals, has great appeal.
And so, in 1913 the Church and BSA were married. It’s like a match made in heaven! The boys learn to serve, how to be a missionary. They gain knowledge, and build camaraderie. But, as we all know, scouting has its drawbacks: the lawsuits, extraordinary expense, extraordinary amounts of time, and its failure to adapt to modern needs, arguably unlike the Young Women’s program (unless you count video gaming).
However its biggest failure is stated plainly in the article itself, ironically one of the very reasons for which it was chosen to be the lifelong partner with the church—cultural ideals.
The New Era wasn’t the only church magazine in my mailbox today. Right next to it laid the Liahona, in Russian. There are similarities, the same question and answer for youth, the same Mormonad, the same classic story from James Talmage and some of the other stories. But obviously absent was the scouting story. Scouting isn’t a church program in Russia, nor in most parts of the world. It doesn’t bulk up the arms of priesthood holders in Moscow or Siberia, London or Barcelona. In fact, it fails to be a pillar of the priesthood at all—yet the priesthood isn’t collapsing in those places.
Next summer the church will celebrate twenty years of presence in Russia. When I began my missionary service there 1994, the goal was to have a stake. When I left 18 months later, the goal was to have a stake. Approaching 15 years later, the goal is to have a stake. It takes a lot of members to build a stake, and a lot of priesthood holders to run it.
Russia has unique problems (vodka), unique challenges (the mafia), and unique obstacles (the Orthodox Church). These unique needs can’t be counteracted by hikes in the woods, knot tying, or heaven forbid, video gaming (unless maybe there was one where Ammon conquers the bad guys, but it might be rated ‘M’). Yet Scouting is all the church has got.
I’m convinced that Scouting is for fun. It builds camaraderie amongst young boys, boys that will grow into men and someday, boys that will fill the ranks of Stake President, counselors and councilmen. But that leaves
the rest most of the church in a lurch. Young Aaronic priesthood holders in other countries and their leaders (unless it’s the Philippines, highlighted in the New Era) are left with little guidance and less opportunity for camaraderie, which forms a strong foundation for serving in the church. I can’t help but wonder if a better functioning program for young men in Russia these past 15 or so years would have given young men the extra boost they needed to grow up, serve missions, and fall into leadership ranks quickly.
I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t necessary there, then why is it so necessary here?
Arguably it would be possible to keep scouting here, while creating a better program on the international front. However new leaders abroad often learn from exported missionaries and expat members ‘how things work’. Scouting is all we know how to do, and knot tying doesn’t meet our modern challenges either. A more adaptable program implemented globally could meet the challenges of young men better.
Celebrating 100 years of Boy Scouting, they’ve had a good run. But it’s time for this marriage to end, it’s time for a divorce.