The Arms of the Priesthood

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.


  1. Amen, sister. We’ve abdicated our responsibility of coming up with an actual YM program by simply punting the ball to the BSA for way to long. Scouting was a stop-gap measure at best. It should never have been allowed to last this long. Let’s get going on creating a real program that is our own.

  2. Mommie Dearest says:

    Some of us like scouting.

  3. Mommie Dearest,
    That does not address any of the issues I raised.

    Some of us like boating, some of us like skiing, some of us like knitting. They aren’t part of the church, so why does scouting need to be just because it is liked?

  4. With MCQ, amen and hallelujah! I’ve been in cub scouts for the past 4 years and I really wish they would just drop the scouting things and keep to the Faith in God award like the girls do. In all of the church training I’ve been to they say the aim of scouting is to prepare boys for the priesthood, but so few boys earn their Faith in God award even compared with the few who earn their scout awards. Isn’t learning the Articles of Faith more important than learning to build bookends if we’re talking about priesthood preparation?
    All of the official scout training I’ve been to is all about the program, not the people (how can we get the boys to earn even MORE awards?). The Faith in God award is a good standard program throughout the church for the 8 to 12-year-old boys. It can’t be too much of a stretch to extend a similar program to the Young Men and stop leaning on scouting so much. Scouting is good, but it’s not essential, in my mind.

  5. I don’t think it’s just an international issue. How many boys-the semi and non active- left behind because they have no interest in Scouting.

    Scouting did not meet the needs of my son. He was a loner, independent, not interested in group activities. He was disruptive and often got into fights.

    When our ward leadership found out that I took him camping and fishing, within a week I was called to be an assistant scoutmaster and (as I was later told) the scoutmaster was instructed that I was NOT to receive ANY training.

    My son, now a married adult, was and is still not one to strive to achieve something for the sake of a badge, certificate, or recognition. Perhaps if there was something else for him, it might have helped him.

  6. I have thought that one reason to stay with scouting could be because it’s a way for the church to have an influence on boys who are NOT LDS. Scouting may be one of the only forces like that in other boys’ lives, the one organization to help them learn values, work ethic, a desire to prepare for the future, a love of nature, and responsibility to the environment, and service to others. I can imagine that such a program could benefit other countries as well, just culturally speaking, even w/o considering the Church and whether we need it.

    When I pay my BSA dues, THAT is what I think about, actually. I think about keeping a program alive that can help other boys out there.

    That said, just because scouting isn’t essential doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable even in the Church.

    And I imagine there are places where the Church is suffering, and lacking in priesthood leadership, so I’m not convinced a program like that wouldn’t be beneficial elsewhere, were it to exist.

    I’ll say that scouting is something I struggle with, so in defending the decision to keep it, I’m not jumping up and down about it personally. Obviously, it’s not essential, but I think it can do a lot of good for a lot of boys.

  7. m&m–
    You missed a main point of the post. The BSA of America is by and large American–it would not fly in many other countries for cultural reasons. We aren’t in the business of exporting our culture. So I’m not sure what you are saying would be good for their culture–and every culture is different.

    Most families that enroll their sons in Scouting in the US that aren’t LDS enroll them because they want to teach their boys those values, so they would do it with or without the Boy Scouts.

  8. mmiles,
    I understand BSA itself would not fly but I was thinking other programs to help young men, adapted to whatever would work. I’m NOT advocating exporting that program.

    I’m missing your second point. My point is that I wonder if the Church’s involvement and support helps support the program in general. I tend to think it does have an impact, which keeps a program with values alive…and, er, with values.

    I could, of course, be mistaken, but that is just a thought I have had.

  9. Scouting is virtually non-existant here in the U.K. as far as the church is concerned. Emphasis is placed on the Duty to God program.

    Whilst the Scouting program does exist here it is completely seperate from any church related activities. When it is brought up in General Conferences I know it is a turn off for a number of people because it is so alien to them.

    We once had a new Area President visit our stake for stake conference. He talked for half an hour about the scouting program and how there is leaders in the room that are leaders due to this “inspired program” – nobody had any idea what he was talking about!

    I think it would be great if it was incorporated into the YM program but the simple fact is that it is not and is culturally alien to most here in the UK. I don’t think it should have any direct relationship with the Priesthood of God other than that the same Aaronic Priesthood holders attend scouts just like they may attend athletic team games

  10. We once had a new Area President visit our stake for stake conference. He talked for half an hour about the scouting program and how there is leaders in the room that are leaders due to this “inspired program” – nobody had any idea what he was talking about!

    Exactly the disconnect I am talking about.

    The church does have an Aaron Priesthood Achievment program that incorporates all the values , but is not as exhaustive as scouting. I think it may be possible to have it work wonderfully, but the reality is most leaders grew up in scouting and that is all they know (see above). If that is the program that is the supposed activity arm of the priesthood in other countries, and it is used to some extent in the US, then why continue scouting, unless, as you suggest, it is merely to influence the BSA at large?

    I suspect Scouting is simply so hardwired from generations of doing it that it’s hard to let it die, regardless of whether or not it is good for the changing needs of young men.

  11. “I have thought that one reason to stay with scouting could be because it’s a way for the church to have an influence on boys who are NOT LDS. Scouting may be one of the only forces like that in other boys’ lives, the one organization to help them learn values, work ethic, a desire to prepare for the future, a love of nature, and responsibility to the environment, and service to others.”

    m&m, I hate to pick apart others’ comments, but this really rubbed me the wrong way. Why in the world would we think that the rest of the “world” needs the mormons and boy scouts to teach them values? Non-mormons have values, they have work ethic, they desire to prepare for the future, love nature, serve others, etc. etc. etc. Mormons do not have a monopoly on these values, in fact, I’m really not convinced that we even have a percentage advantage over other groups if a straight comparison were done. If we approach all of our interactions with non-mormons in not only a paternalistic way (they need us to teach them values) but with a false sense of superiority, we are doomed to never have productive relationships with anyone outside the church.

  12. Some of the questions you ask are why I have wondered (per a thought from someone else, actually — this is not my own idea) if there is a bigger-picture reason, mmiles.

  13. Eric Russell says:

    I think it’s fair to surmise the following about the folks in 47 E. South Temple:

    1. They are aware of the benefits and drawbacks of the BSA program.
    2. They are highly aware and highly concerned about the growth and strength of the youth worldwide.
    3. They perceive greater pros than cons to participating in the BSA in the US. (I’m betting the crux of those pros involves a national support infrastructure for activities, but that’ just a guess.)

    Unless anyone has a good reason to contend any of these points, I think all the anecdotes for and against Scouting aren’t going to get anywhere. That is to say, not that bloggernacle posts and comments get anywhere in the first place, but it seems especially fruitless in a circumstance where we’re talking about a top down administrative policy vice a cultural issue where you can at least make a pretense of some kind of introspection.

  14. hy in the world would we think that the rest of the “world” needs the mormons and boy scouts to teach them values?

    This is very far from what I meant. Sorry I wasn’t more clear! I agree wholeheartedly that there are plenty of other people not of our faith with solid values. You are absolutely right that Mormons do not have a monopoly on these values, and BSA is a great example of that.

    But my point is basically that I suspect the Church’s support is something that helps keep BSA going, and since our leaders care about the youth, the future of our nation, the good of others, and joining forces with other forces outside the church for good in our communities, I just wonder if those are some of the motives for staying involved.

  15. Well said, Eric. I’ll stop speculating now.

  16. I look at it this way:

    1. The Duty to God program is the global program.

    2. BSA acts as a companion to DTG where it exists. It’s not one or the other, it’s both, if available.

    3. There’s no *harm* in keeping ties to BSA as long as it suits our needs in the US. Yes, there’s an advantage there that other countries don’t have. But at the end of the day, DTG is the global solution.

    4. When BSA ceases to meet the Church’s needs in the US, it will be unceremoniously dumped.

  17. Mommie Dearest says:

    I didn’t elaborate on why I like scouting because I didn’t want to start the post off with a battle, and I don’t particularly enjoy debating. I have no desire to change your point of view, just to state mine, which is that there are a lot of positive things associated with BSA. And you asked me to address the post.

    My son and his peers had a lot of good growth from scouting. A lot of it was due to very competent leadership, but not all of it. The boys deserve plenty of credit for liking it enough, and for being willing to work at it. We found the scouting program to be fairly adaptable to our group over the years. The 12 required merit badges (of the 21 total that are needed for Eagle) are worthwhile for almost all boys. What young man doesn’t need to experiment with Family Life activity? Personal Fitness? The citizenship badges are pretty basic stuff and plenty worthwhile. First Aid is worthwhile. Personal Management has some great things for a young man to work on. The only required merit badge that some boys don’t relate to is Camping, and even that one has some redeeming qualities to make it worth their time. If it’s run well. I saw some ill-adapted boys marshal through and complete it without any ill effects, and with good results. There are 110 other merit badges from which the boy may fulfill his other 9 requirements. Most of them are even more worthwhile than the video gaming Cub Scout belt loop activity that you cited in the OP. The non-merit badge parts of scouting work for us too, again largely because we have enough good leadership, but also because it isn’t a completely outdated program.
    I’m not saying at all that there are no problems with the church running scout troops as part of the Aaronic Priesthood program. I can see some formidable challenges, not the least of which is that some people, even church members, don’t like the BSA. There may very well come a time when the church and the BSA part ways.
    I understand that you don’t like scouting, so you’re not really interested in recognizing the good parts that many of us see. That’s ok. There are other points of view, that’s all.

    I like scouting, in spite of the problems. I’ve seen it do some admirable things to help in the development of young men. As long as the church and the BSA have a relationship, I’m willing to help make it work.

  18. Good leadership can make scouting pretty amazing.

  19. In parts of Europe, particularly Scandinavia, scouting suffers from an unfortunate association with fascism/nazism. In (at least some countires in) Scandinavia, scouting served — in some cases — as a proxy for Hitler Jugend in raising a “pure” people.

    I can’t say I much liked the few months of scouting I participated in during my non-LDS childhood. The scout leaders were either self-righteous or then obviously quite indifferent to the ideals they were supposed to espouse. Granted, there were some bright moments, and I did make one friend there, who then went through the same high school with me. It was just too bad, that for his dad I was one of the “impure” people…

  20. re # 13, I agree that your three points are part of the calculus in why the Church keeps boy scouts as part of the program in the US. Perhaps if we are going to keep going with scouts, the solution is for us to stop referring to it as an auxiliary of the priesthood or in any way related to or supporting the priesthood. It is a source of fun, educational and potentially character-building activities, and each of those aspects of the scouts program obviously overlaps with aspects desirable for holders of the priesthood to learn. But it can be problematic to speak of scouting in terms of supporting the priesthood. As a Church we need to be self-confident enough to view the priesthood as supporting itself based on religious truths and doctrines derived from the scriptures, and not dependent on outsourcing a pillar of its support to an outside organization such as the Boy Scouts of America.

    The Duty to God program achieves this and actually functions entirely independently of Boy Scouts in the rest of the world. Referring to Boy Scouts in the context of the priesthood is an idiosyncratic characteristic of North American Mormonism and can be very foreign to Latter-day Saints in the rest of the world.

    As to the Church’s involvement in Boy Scouts of America, to my knowledge the Church actually is not implementing the current national program of the Boy Scouts of America. From my observation as a former Young Men’s President, the Church seems to be implementing the BSA as it was done in the 1960s/1970s and not how it is otherwise administered or implemented nationally. For boys aged 11 to 14, the national program of the Boy Scouts is more or less as the Church implements. But the current national program is very exciting with its addition of the Venturing program starting at age 14. Where previously Boy Scouts became Varsity Scouts upon turning 14, the national program now refers to these as Venturers.

    Starting at age 14 (which is generally the limit for when teenage boys stop caring or trying for their Eagle Scout), boys and girls are potentially joined together in the Venturing program as part of the local Crew. (The Crew can elect to be all male, all female or co-ed but my sense is that it promises to be of the greatest value to our youth if it is co-ed so that the young men and young women are engaged in a character-building project together.) In other words, the local Venturing Crew (i.e. what would be called the troop/patrol for the 11 to 14 year old boy scouts) is meant as a youth group that includes both boys and girls working together in their development through the teenage years. This has immense potential for helping youth develop essential social skills for working together and achieving goals (and leadership) in a mixed setting. The Crew elects its own officers according to a process laid out in the program, and of course the leaders can be both girls or boys, it doesn’t matter as long as they are selected through the proper process laid out in the program.

    In terms of the activities of the Venturer Scouts, it can be seen as more beneficial to the youth than boys’ continuation of the 11 to 14 model of boy scouts that the Church currently implements throughout the boys’ entire teenage years because the Crew leadership (i.e. the officers elected by the Crew) sets its own agenda within parameters and plans and executes the activities through taking initiative with the input of the responsible adults.

    The Crew deliberates to choose a focus for itself, whether on outdoors activities, community service oriented activities or religious life activities. The activities incorporate social interaction between boys and girls working together to achieve goals and to execute activities. From what I gathered, boys in the Crew can still work toward their Eagle Scout if they haven’t already got it by 14. But the Venturing program has its own achievement milestones, which to my mind seem more compatible with teenagers at that age. Instead of working for merit badges, you pick a focus and work toward becoming an “expert” in a key activity (Ranger or Quartermaster award for an Outdoors or Mariner focus, TRUST award for Religious Life focus, Quest award for Sports focus, etc.). These focuses fit more naturally with the types of activities that American teenagers are already involved in through extracurriculars at school — extracurriculars they have often chosen to participate in themselves and therefore presumptively areas of special interest to them.

    My sense is that this is the direction that the rest of the country is going with BSA. This exciting program seems to provide a more culturally and socially relevant focus of youth development through the national program of the Boy Scouts of America.

    I had a great time in boy scouts as implemented by the Church, largely due to growing up in an affluent suburban area with a scout troop supported by energetic and committed scout leaders (who used vacation days to do scouting — only now that I’ve got a family of my own can I possibly realize the extent of the sacrifice that was, especially for their poor families who had to tolerate a husband/father spending vacation days on Boy Scouts rather than on family trips or other family-time activities). When I learned of the Venturing program of joint development for the youth beginning at age 14, I was very excited. This has the potential to maintain the good elements of the way the Church has implemented boy scouts while adding a number of other benefits such as mixed interaction while pursuing these endeavors, independence of leadership and planning for the youth (properly counseled, chaperoned and guided by the adult advisors, of course) and the experience of activities execution on the Crew level.

    Let’s turn to Venturing as implemented by the national BSA program as a means to help our youth develop the skills they need for living a virtuous life, success in commitments and relationships, social interaction, duty to God and country, etc.! It should be viewed as an activities program for the youth and not as supporting either the priesthood or young women organization but rather as a framework within which the youth can pursue wholesome, edifying and uplifting activities, with relevance for their lives and religion, together in a mixed setting. The Young Men and the Young Women organizations would continue with their current scope and primary religious focus, with emphasis on Duty to God and Personal Progress as the relevant religious milestones. During the week, however, when the youth meet, they could be combined in the Venturing Crew once or twice a month and work together to plan and execute activities, service projects and other worthwhile experiences. This type of involvement could then be replicated worldwide on a ward by ward basis.

    Of course, Venturing itself is not all that different from Boy Scouts. Take a look at the Oath and Code for Venturers:

    The Venturing Oath
    As a Venturer, I promise to do my duty to God and help strengthen America, to help others, and to seek truth, fairness, and adventure in our world.

    The Venturing Code
    As a Venturer, I believe that America’s strength lies in our trust in God and in the courage, strength, and traditions of our people. I will, therefore, be faithful in my religious duties and will maintain a personal sense of honor in my own life. I will treasure my American heritage and will do all I can to preserve and enrich it. I will recognize the dignity and worth of all humanity and will use fair play and goodwill in my daily life. I will acquire the Venturing attitude that seeks truth in all things and adventure on the frontiers of our changing world.

    Now, this is a little heavy on America-love for Latter-day Saints in the rest of the world to get behind but I imagine that each countries’ own Boy Scouts organization has a Venturing program associated with it with appropriate alterations to the Oath and Code to be relevant for the patriotic needs of such other countries. My daughter, for instance, in her Brownies group (Brownies is very big in the UK for primary school girls), has memorized the following Promise, which is very fun to hear her recite:
    I promise that I will do my best,
    To love my God,
    To serve the Queen and my country,
    To help other people,
    And to keep the Brownie Guide Law..

    If the scouting organizations of other countries do not have non-USA centric Venturing materials, the ideas laid out in the Venturing program itself could still be used to form the backbone of very solid youth programs in wards throughout the Church in the rest of the world, even if not actually associated with scouting. Each ward could set up a committee for the youth that is, in essence, the equivalent of a Venturing Crew and have that co-ed committee plan and execute youth projects and activities. The potential for social development and interaction is very real, it seems to me.

  21. “4. When BSA ceases to meet the Church’s needs in the US, it will be unceremoniously dumped.”

    That’s not quite true. It’s more like “50 years after the BSA ceases to meet the Church’s needs in the US, and the last GA with fond memories of scouting has passed away, it will be dumped.”

  22. John Mansfield says:

    My response to today’s dose of Mormon internet misanthropy.

  23. Kristine is probably right.

    As long as President Monson is with us, we will have scouting in the “North American” church. We will probably see less of it starting with the next prophet.

    And parents in the church who still feel the need for scouting and see the importance of it can still sign up in the community programs and serve in the same capacity. Boys can get the same benefits. In fact, it might do more to integrate church members with non-members in the community, which can’t be bad for things like missionary work.

  24. John Mansfield says:

    “In fact, it might do more to integrate church members with non-members in the community, which can’t be bad for things like missionary work.”

    I know of nothing close to scouting that involves the saints in the community, as members of the church and not simply neighbors at large. I grew up in an area where the fraction of LDS scouts was large, but not overwhelming. So the LDS scouting people couldn’t dominate the area council and districts, but their numbers were so large that they couldn’t hide out in their own corner either.

  25. I liked scouting back in the day, because of the 50-mile hikes we did in the Sierras. Scouting didn’t teach me a thing about the priesthood.

    The BSA is a backward organization, trying to rekindle a past that is no longer here, or is barely here. This organization has done a poor job in keeping up with the rest of society. I am in agreement with mmiles, that we should divorce from the BSA and work within our own program, one that will benefit youth from all over the world. I know the young men in Romania need it (and as mmiles noted, so would the young men in Russia).

  26. Left Field says:

    I will take a stand with John Mansfield regarding the value of knot-tying. When I was a scout, we had to learn six knots to earn the Tenderfoot. I can’t remember when I last used a clove hitch, but I guess I’m all set if I ever need to tie a horse to a rail. However, the other five knots (two half hitches, taut-line hitch, square knot, sheet bend, bowline) have served me well many times over the years. Putting up a clothesline? Two half hitches at one end, taut-line hitch at the other. Tying a package? Make a small bowline at one end and loop the other end through.

    No doubt people live full and happy lives without knowing these knots, the same way they live full and happy lives without knowing how to change a tire or sew on a button.

    Whatever strengths and weaknesses the scouting program has, and whatever else might be done to make it more relevant, knowing a few basic knots will always be a valuable life skill, and learning knots should be a part of whatever program is used to instruct the youth.

  27. Some comments seem to imply that Scouting helps connect the Church with the community at large. A friend of mine who is a convert and has lead both LDS and non-LDS troops tells me that LDS troops have a bad reputation among other scouters. While I have no way to asses the accuracy of his observation, he gave a very interesting explanation of the bad reputation: LDS boys are drafted into scouting, other boys self-select. Thus, the LDS scouts seem different–in a negative way–to non-LDS scouters. Kind of like the draftee with the peace sign drawn on his helmet cover must have looked like to the spit-and-polish sergeant leading him into the jungles of Vietnam…

  28. First I’d like to state, I love the church and I love the scouting program. Just not together.

    I belong to a small branch of about 120 people which includes three counties. Currently we do not have an active scouting program, but the branch president and primary president have been pushing hard to start one for the past 3 years. And I have done everything in my power to push back. We currently have 5 active cub scout age boys who live in three different towns. Those boys would be better of to participate in an active scouting program in their community rather than drive a half hour to a different town.

    Two of those 5 boys are my own. My husband is not a member of the church, but he likes the scouting program and is a wonderful Den Leader. I am afraid that if we were to take our boys to a church sponsored cub scout pack he would be excluded as a leader because he is not a member.

    My biggest issue with scouts is the money required. The council is ALWAYS asking for money. I don’t think the church should be involved in this. If people want to donate their money to a wonderful program that is great, but the church and it’s leaders need to stay out of it.

  29. If mmiles is correct that Scouts is just here for fun, it’s failing miserably. By and large the boys my husband works with in Scouts are only there because it’s a church program and their parents see it as a requirement for active church members. It’s not exactly perceived as the coolest thing to do for high school boys, at least in this area. And that lack of enthusiasm (among boys and leaders) can translate into a less-than-stellar experience for those who really do love Scouting. I would love to see the Duty for God program expanded and Scouting become an optional activity, just like sports or piano lessons. For boys who really want to do it, they can join a local troop separate from their church activities.

  30. John Mansfield says:

    Red Emma, there are a variety of scouting units. Some style themselves as elite organizations and draw boys and parents who like that, while rejecting those who won’t participate 100%. That’s only a fraction of an area’s troops. Many troops, including some LDS troops, function at a far lower level, and there are elitists who get a kick out of looking down on them, but they are part of scouting too.

  31. Mommie dearest,
    This post is not about whether or not I like scouting. It is about whether or not it is what it claims to be, and what we could do better. You will note that the YW program has all of things you mentioned, and it is not Scouting. Scouting is not necessary.

    And What Kristine said.

    John f.
    “the solution is for us to stop referring to it as an auxiliary of the priesthood or in any way related to or supporting the priesthood”

    Well said. I thought about this last night—and wondered if it would be better if the YM/YW programs were the same. I think it would be great all around if their manuals and were the same, and their goal programs were essentially identical. If Laurels and Priests worked together as a team, similar to Venture Scouting, now that would be fabulous.

    For those of you who adore Scouting—by all means, join a local troop without the church—especially if you think Scouting is for missionary work.

    I still contend it is for fun, but if it isn’t fun—we’re failing there too.

  32. In south africa you can be a springbok scout. I’m pretty sure that because Baden Powell was british, scouting touched a lot of the same places GB touched.

    It said in the article scouting is one pillar-that doesn’t hold much. Perhaps YM presidencies need to spend equal time on other pillars? How are we involving non scouty boys (though I wonder if they are really considering the huge number of patches that really would inovlve something for everyone)?

  33. John Mansfield says:

    After we’ve closed the LDS troops in order to increase missionary work, do we close the LDS wards and send everyone to the neighborhood congregation of her choice?

  34. JM–
    That was not my proposition, it was said tongue in cheek. Some comments indicate we do Scouting for missionary work. If that is so, it seems LDS boys actually fraternizing with other boys in other troops would be more effective.

  35. just wanted to say I VEHEMENTLY disagree with the last sentence of the post.

  36. .” BSA acts as a companion to DTG where it exists. It’s not one or the other, it’s both, if available.”

    The problem I have seen is that BSA takes over DTG. I just moved from a ward with a very active scouting program, which was great, but DTG was a total joke. Scouting takes so much time that it often keeps people from working on the Faith in God (for younger boys) and Duty to God, which is totally backwards to me. If we’re trying to help boys be good priesthood holders, I think we should focus on those programs, not scouts. And I don’t hate scouting! I see how it is a good program for many boys, but the fact is Faith in God and Duty to God are more important and they are mostly completely overlooked when scouting is thriving.

  37. I am an Eagle scout. I recently served as YM president to over 60+ YM for several years.

    – Scouting is fine. It is fairly archaic, however. It is fine as an activity, as I personally like camping and the outdoors, but I disagree completely with it being the “activity arm” of the priesthood. The priesthood did just fine for thousands of years without this 20th century Western organization superimposed.

    – I went to leadership meetings in SLC for YM leaders around the time of General Conference where they actually did emphasize the Varsity / Venturing programs as yet more inspired programs for the older kids. I ignored them. The kids had enough to do in life already, especially with working on Duty to God.

    – My biggest gripe: The scouts in our ward raise thousands of dollars each year through various fund raisers, etc. They do lots of things. They are asked to bring money for lunch on the way back from a campout. Etc. At the same time, my daughter (Mia Maid) is in a group of 20 girls who literally have a $200 budget for THE YEAR – or $10 / MONTH. When they try to do a simple activity like each girl bring $2 to go to All-a-Dollar and buy 2 presents to wrap and give to each other, the leaders get in trouble because someone complains that the activities aren’t supposed to cost any money. My daughter asked me just last week why the boys got to do “fun things” that cost money and why they couldn’t do any. I didn’t have a good answer, but I do think that if the Church is going to have a ward able to spend thousands on Scouting for the boys, that the budget for the YW should be at least equal to that.

  38. Natalie B. says:

    While I think scouting can be a positive program, there are three issues that concern me with our association with it:

    1. YM typically also have scout troops available through their schools. Why should our YM isolate themselves from their neighborhood program–often with kicking and screaming–when they could easily have a complimentary but non-competing YM’s program?

    2. Many YM do not like scouting. If scouting as seen as a necessary part of the church, then they often feel that they don’t like church.

    3. I am deeply concerned about the disparities between the YM’s and YW’s program. While I hope these disparities have been corrected since my time in YW’s, I remember seeing the our ward’s budget one year when I was a beehive and noting that about 10x more resources went to scouts than went to the YW. They got to go skiing, up in airplanes, on high adventures. We never did because of the budget. That was the moment that I realized that as a YW I was literally not as valued as the YM.

  39. “the fact is Faith in God and Duty to God are more important ”

    I think this programs are pretty silly and pointless.

    Anyways, I do not mind scouting. I am uneasy with certain ways in which they portray patriotism (which is why I volunteer to teach the Citizenship merit badges). However, it provides a focus on things which are not provided in school or within other Church programs.

    I think that the official BSA program has been adjusted to meet the needs of boys today. The Church’s approach has not made those adjustments.

  40. Aargh. It makes me so very very sad when these kinds of arguments persist, and it almost always reflects either a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Scouting movement is about, and how it is supposed to work.

    This is stated by a mom whose missionary son is currently putting to work the leadership, teaching and service skills he learned through Scouting, and not just the camping bit (people always think Scouting=Camping, but it most certainly does not).

    I often hear people fret over the state of young people in the world; I know that I certainly fret about it during every juvenile court session I am involved in. But I bear most sincere testimony to you that the principles of the Scouting program (including the Co-ed Venturing program) can make a huge difference in the ability of young people to organize their own lives and to serve.

    If you personally believe there should be a divorce between the Church and the BSA, I beg of you first to get fully acquainted with the purposes, methods, and ideals of the Scouting movement. Study them out with a prayerful heart. I believe you will see that this program promotes exactly the ideals of Christian service, and the function of the Priesthood, that we would hope for all young people. If you still believe a divorce is appropriate, I invite you to suggest an alternative. I think you would find that any effective alternative would of necessity have the same purposes, methods, and ideals.

  41. PS. One big mistake a local priesthood leader can make is to ignore the Venturing program. This is where boys learn to teach and to lead and to do those things that TRULY prepare them for a mission. In my opinion, the Venturing program should be introduced into YSA wards, where it could be truly Co-ed.

    I’m telling you, if people think poorly of Scouting, they do not know what it is.

  42. “I think this programs are pretty silly and pointless.”
    And scouting activities aren’t? At least the DTG and FIG programs are actually preparing the boys for priesthood duties.

  43. Coffinberry,
    I am very much not foreign to Scouting. I attended the Blue and Gold Banquet last night, and my husband is Cub Master.

    The program promotes some good things—but I think we could do much better.

  44. Karen,

    It is more that I think that the scouting program is better thought out. These other programs come across to me as lacking a refined logic. Primary and priesthood quorums are the place where boys are prepared for priesthood duties. These other programs look like programs for the purpose of have a program. The boys see right through them.

    I think most things are silly, so this should not be viewed as a strong condemnation.

  45. Cards on the table: 1) I had very negative experiences with scouting as a YM in the church, and 2) I am currently a YM leader.

    Since being called I have been told the following by stake and ward leaders:

    1) “Well, if they don’t want to do scouts I guess we can just do Duty to God.”

    2) “The church doesn’t even provide training materials for YM leaders – they just use BSA.”

    IMO, the problem is one of priorities. Everybody like to say that BSA supports the priesthood, but everyone acts like BSA runs the show – and the actions speak far louder. And while BSA has some important things to offer, these same things can be found in countless other places. I found them in sports; others find them in music, painting, literature, community service, etc. Why aren’t any of these other programs “activity arms?” While scouts pays some attention to all of them, it doesn’t pay adequate attention to any of them to excel. Scouting is designed to teach people to excel at scouting. The other benefits are secondary and can be reaped any number of other ways.

    Furthermore, my experience has been that the YM are quite turned off by the “reward” of a merit badge – they would much rather do something that they are interested in for the sake of learning and experience; the merit badge reward at the end cheapens the experience for many (though not all) of them. (This last paragraph is a summary of what they have expressed, not me projecting.)

    DTG is the global program for the YM, and should be treated as such. If DTG isn’t adequate for YM in the USA, why is it promoted as such everywhere else?

  46. Mike there is NO reason for the budget disparity or the lack of fun things…fight for it was a parent. My mom did. We did amazing things in YW-canoeing trips, horseback camping trips, all sorts of good stuff-much of which was suggested and activiely campaigned for, planned and supported by my mom. She never had a calling in YW while I was in it…but she made the program fabulous for me.

  47. britt, unfortunately there is a reason. The YM and YW are each limited to fundraising for one major activity a year (usually girls’ camp for the YW). The BSA, as an “independent” organization, can do as much fundraising as it wants.

  48. #41 “…the Venturing program. This is where boys learn to teach and to lead and to do those things that TRULY prepare them for a mission.”

    Shouldn’t they be learning these things in their quorums regardless of the existence of BSA? When adult leaders see their role primarily as logistic support and a compass to point the right direction, the boys step up and run their own quorums and activities – thus learning to teach and lead. That’s my experience, anyway.

  49. mmiles, if this post and your subsequent comments are not about whether or not you like scouting then you’ve failed miserably because your distaste is hard to ignore.

    Which is not to say that I’m a big fan of scouting, I’ve commented on LDS blogs several times over the years when scouting came up, usually closer to your side than to John Mansfield’s.

    John F’s comment about not referring to scouting as an auxiliary to the priesthood prompts me to dive in one more time. Any former LDS scout from the 60s or 70s experienced church scouting under just those conditions. There were no pretensions that scouting was in any way connected or aligned with the priesthood, they were separate. I think the downfall of LDS scouting was the push to artificially correlate a secular organization and the priesthood.

  50. mmiles, I understand that you are involved and that you believe the program promotes some good things.

    But I can’t imagine what might be better, other than to have dedicated adults who catch the vision of what it is that young (in this case) men need. Our youth need not only camping and first aid and service projects, but also the opportunity to explore cultures, careers, religions (yes, my son read the entire Quran for his Venturing Silver, among other things), management, sportsmanship and leadership with caring trained adults at their side. These adults have to be trained in the Boy-Led methods (this is all too often where LDS programs fail) so that the boys can learn how to run quorums and honorably complete assignments. The leaders have to have the vision that none of the Scouting programs and activities are meant to compete with other good things the Boys are doing in their lives, but rather promote those good things, and recognize those good things, while encouraging balance. A boy does sports? Sit down with him and help him see how his activities earn Varsity Scouting awards, and the opportunities to expand on those teamwork experiences in a righteous way. There is a place for the interests of every kind of Boy in Scouting. But his leaders must know the program well to take advantage of it, and to help the boy see how these interests add up to becoming a well-rounded servant of God.

    The problem I see is not that we have an underachieving program, but rather that we have leaders who fail to catch the vision. On that I wholeheartedly agree. We could do much better.

  51. Mike S., I don’t think that Venturing should be added as an extra program on top of scouting. Venturing is what the scouting program should be for the youth aged 14 and older. Combining the YM and YW as a single youth group under those ideals and values solves multiple problems, perhaps most importantly the obscene disparity between resources allocated to YM/Scouting on the one hand and to YW on the other, and the attitude associated with that disparity (perfectly illustrated with your example of scouts being asked to bring money to buy lunch on the way home from a campout but YW being discouraged from having any activities that entail bringing money for something similar).

    John M., I don’t think most participating on this thread have anything against Boy Scouts. I am an Eagle Scout and really enjoyed most of my time as a scout. I got my Eagle before I was 14 though; also, our leaders were conscientious about separating the boys appropriately into Varsity and Explorer patrols — and as Explorers we took amazing High Adventure trips. (So I was lucky.)

    The issue is how Boy Scouts of America is incorporated as a quasi-priesthood function or a support arm of the priesthood. So this is a tricky issue but it does seem like it would be a step forward to even out the disparities in allocations between YM and YW programs and to press forward with a main focus on Duty to God with scouting as a side activity, like piano lessons or little league, that boys can participate in if that is something they are interested in.

  52. Jason, you said: I found them in sports; others find them in music, painting, literature, community service, etc. Why aren’t any of these other programs “activity arms?”

    These things are expressly part of the Scouting program.

  53. Kristine, creativity has always gotten around such limitations, not to mention there is no reason for a disparity in teh acutal church budget-the one mentioned was $200 for the year. That’s crazy and can easily be changed, by a thoughtful plan and a reasonable proposal.

  54. Ok, Chris, I see what you’re saying. All programs are silly if they are in place for their own sake and not for the sake of the people they’re meant for. In my experience (and maybe it’s just a bad experience), the scout leaders have been more interested in seeing that each boy earns as many badges as possible and wears his uniform to meetings, not that they feel accepted and confident. I think the less- thought-out approach to DTG can be a bonus because there is more autonomy in how the requirements are fulfilled.

  55. britt, the budget limits are an attempt to alleviate the burdens of participation for Saints with limited means. I’m not particularly interested in circumventing those rules. I am interested in having them apply equally to my sons and my daughter.

  56. Actually, I don’t really know anything about Duty to God, just Faith in God. Maybe DTG is more stringent.

  57. You silly Americans with your slavish devotion to Scouting. There’s simply no reason to hang onto the program. It is archaic and outdated, and does not serve our youth as well as we can on our own. If you’re concerned with people learning activities, bow-hunting skills, ninja skills or whatnot, those are easily taught on local levels. But the Kingdom of God needs to divorce itself of Lord Baden-Powell, forever.

  58. #52 – Yes, they are part of the program. But what is the goal of scouts? To earn more awards. And what if they aren’t interested in more awards? Then they are alienated from the program and, by association, the church. Perhaps it is a failure of the adult leaders, but it happens so often that I think it speaks more to the culture of scouting in the church and less to individual leaders. And when BSA and the church get tied so closely together, a rejection of BSA (completely acceptable – it’s not for everyone) too often leads to a rejection of the church.

  59. “There’s simply no reason to hang onto the program. It is archaic and outdated,”

    Steve, for a moment I thought you were talking about seminary.

  60. Why would we need a supplementary program/organization outside the Aaronic Priesthood to which we delegate responsibilities of fun, adventure and learning? Why can’t all that be done under the Aaronic Priesthood?

  61. #51 John F

    I like the idea expressed in your last paragraph, where we focus on DTG and let those who are interested in scouts do that.

    I saw a big problem as YM president (again, with 20+ deacons, 20+ teachers and 20+ priests). We have a dynamic scouting program with great leaders. We even have someone whose specific calling is only to get scouts from Life to Eagle (usually around 15 in that category). We also had someone whose entire calling was tracking DTG for the 60+ YM. I had a lot of help.

    The problem: There are boys for whom scouting just isn’t their thing. Because of this, they don’t come to YM. Once these patterns get set in the early years, they don’t come in their later years. I did a lot of fun things (and spiritual) with the priests. The ones who didn’t come as scouts, still didn’t come.

    They were still great kids, though. There were many kids who never came a day to YM who were student body presidents, seminary council presidents, all-state athletes, etc. They ended up going on missions are are doing well. But their YM inactivity came about because scouting just wasn’t their family’s “thing”, and the intimate association of YM with scouting turned them off to YM. That is unfortunate.

  62. One thing that seems to be left out of the discussion – if scouting is so vitally important to teaching YM how to teach and lead, why is there no equivalent for YW? Others have talked about budgetary issues, but the lack of a program is quite striking.

    I really appreciate john f’s comments about putting the YM and YW (14+) together. Our previous bishop did this in an informal (i.e. non-scouting) way and it worked wonderfully.

  63. Jason, we don’t want the YW to learn how to lead–might make them uppity!

  64. #63 Ugh! More truth in there than I’d like to admit…

  65. Regarding the financial disparity – it bothers me, a lot.

    When I was YM president, we had $200 for priests, $200 for teachers, $200 for deacons. This for 20+ kids in each quorum. The girls had the same limits.

    Differences: The boys then were able to raise thousands and more for their activities because Scouting wasn’t “officially” part of the Church (great disconnect). The girls weren’t.

    Also, since I focused mostly on priests, I didn’t have the scouting funds. So I basically never turned in a receipt. Just having the YM over for burgers, drinks and a simple pool party would be over $100. So I personally spent thousands on all the youth activities so they were free to them (luckily, I am in a situation where that’s possible).

    Now, for the YW, where my wife is serving in the presidency, their president expects them to hold to the $200 limit per class per year. For 20+ girls per class, that is literally $10 TOTAL, or about 90 cents a month. Seriously. And the current YW president wants to stick to those limits.

    For a recent activity, the bishop was expounding about how they actually could do activities for cheap, using the last one as an example. Sure, that worked for the budget, but only because my wife spent hundreds of dollars on renting the heated pavilion they used, on buying the hot chocolate, and on buying the donuts, and didn’t turn in any receipts.

    So, we’re fine spending money on the youth, in fact it’s a better use than anything else I would end up wasting it on, but at least call a spade a spade. If scouting truly is an “arm” of the priesthood and can raise and spend thousands per year on activities, at least let the YW do the same. If it’s an “external” organization beyond the Church’s control and that’s why they can do fundraising, then let it be an optional and external organization for those who want it.

  66. #21 and #23 hit the nail on the head….

    As long as we have leaders that love scouting, it will unfortunately stick with us. I personally would like to see it go away. My husband and I will teach our children values, life skills, and respect at home. We don’t need scouts to do it for us. I would like to see the church focus more on spiritual development and less on life skills. (I know that there is a part of Scouting that focuses on God, but it is a small part compared to all the rest.) Also, as a YW President, I have a hard time explaining to my YW why the YM are always playing basketball, football, camping, fishing, and swimming, while we are doing service or Personal Progress.

  67. John Mansfield says:

    Officially, there is no difference between funding the Young Men and the Young Women, and scouting doesn’t change that in any way. Both organizations are allowed to raise money or ask participants to pay for all or part of the expense for one annual camp or similar activity. (link)

    On the ground, though, it seems that the programs are deliberately underfunded and leaders are expected to eat the expense, which is something that many are glad to do, but not something that all can do and such ability shouldn’t be a requirement for service. I remember attending one ward council when the annual budget was presented, and looked around and thought “The tithing of any two families represented in this room would cover all the entire ward budget.”

  68. Coffinberry,
    If it is so terribly important that the church teach all of these things under one broad umbrella, then why aren’t they doing it abroad?

  69. I hear complaints all the time in the Naccle about the idea that somehow the YM do better activities.

    Look at this quote from above:
    “Also, as a YW President, I have a hard time explaining to my YW why the YM are always playing basketball, football, camping, fishing, and swimming, while we are doing service or Personal Progress”

    If you are the YW president you should schedule Bball, Football, Camping, Fishing, and Swimming then. Nothing is stopping you from doing so. However if you indeed do try and schedule this most likely most of the girls will not be interested. That leads me to an idea. I will invite our YW to go fishing and shooting with us next time around. I will report what happens.

    As far as the budget issue is concerned. The ward budget because of the large funds for RS usually equal out between males and females. The real loser in the budget is adult males. Usually its less then $100

  70. I just finished a five-year stint in YM, and my biggest complaint with the marriage of YM with scouting is that I’ve met one too many boys who just don’t like scouting, and therefore believe they aren’t good Aaronic priesthood holders. I’ve had at least three different conversations where I’ve explained to a young man that his willingness to go camping has nothing to do with fulfilling his church duties.

  71. Have not read all the comments above. I have participated in numberous threads on this subject before. I like scouting because it is (at least intended) to be a Church partnership with a nondenominational organization, theoretically allowing and encouraging LDS men and boys, without any proselyting motive, to rub shoulders and work together with men and boys of many faiths in the community. That can be helpful, I think, in a heavily inward focused organization like ours. (I stress theoretical, because many leaders are at least subconsciously uncomfortable with this, and organize lots of separate LDS camporees/scout camps). I also like scouting because the ideals of scouting are essentially nondenominational.

    Perhaps DTG is an attempt to design a noncountry specific version of scouting. In my mind, one thing sorely missing from DTG (and Personal Progress for that matter) is a focus on doing things with people of other faiths with no direct or indirect proselyting motive.

  72. Come on jimbob. You can’t be a red-blooded ‘murcan Mormon and not like camping.

  73. – Re Venturing: That’s all well and fine, but once my sons earn their Eagle Scout awards, I’m entirely comfortable with them not doing any more Scouting and focusing on DTG. I’ve spent significant amount of time around Venturing, etc., and I just don’t see the value.

    – Scouting, past the Eagle Scout award, is not really integrated with the Church, and I don’t really care to have my boys pursue any post-Eagle Scouting on their own. It doesn’t replace the opportunities they are getting at school and in the community.

    – Re Eagle and DTG: I’ve seen tools out there that correlate the Eagle program and DTG. They overlap quite a bit, at least at first.

    – There are some benefits to Scouting, and I just don’t see any real harm to it. And besides, with a little bit of planning and effort, you can be done with Scouting by the time your son is 13-14. It’s really not that time intensive or difficult. You can do most of the merit badge work as FHE exercises. Of the 21 merit badges, 10 are elective, and consider that there are elective merit badges for Reading, Scholarship, Family Life, Genealogy, Computers, and Cooking (all basic things most of our kids already do) and a bunch of easy ones, it’s really, really not that hard.

    – Re the conflict between BSA and the Church: A lot of scouters are conflicted between making the program work according to “Irving” (BSA) or “SLC” (the Church). From what I’ve seen, the Scouters who are the *least frustrated* and *most happy* in their callings are those who just make their peace with the differences — and follow SLC over Irving.

  74. Kevin Barney says:

    Divorce would be fine with me. The worth of church scouting is largely going to be a function of the quality of the leadership. My own scout leader was fantastic, a woman with a deep commitment to camping, the outdoors and scouting. She was hell on wheels, and I learned a ton from her. (I’m not sure why my scout leader was a woman; I guess it was different days back then.) But she was also all but irreplacable. Most of the LDS scout leaders I’ve seen were there simply because it was a calling and they were going along, not because they had self-selected to be involved and had a true passion for it.

    When my son was involved, the scout leader either lost or failed to turn in his merit badge cards for summer camp, so he never got the badges. He quickly lost interest after that. If a non-LDS scout leader did that, he’d be shot at dawn.

  75. I don’t mind camping; it’s the sleeping in a sleeping bag or cot or on the ground I hate. And I never will.

  76. “ideals of scouting are essentially nondenominational.”

    The ideals of scouting are essentially North American.

  77. and south african

  78. mmiles, Lord Baden Powell was British.

  79. When my son was involved, the scout leader either lost or failed to turn in his merit badge cards for summer camp, so he never got the badges. He quickly lost interest after that. If a non-LDS scout leader did that, he’d be shot at dawn.

    I fought my ward pack for 8 months over the fact my son hadn’t got his first 10 arrow points for Cub Scouts. I provided copies of his book (co-signed by the den leader). I asked at every pack meeting. I asked on Sundays. I sent emails. It just wasn’t a priority to get it right. It finally got resolved when we got a new committee chair. I even offered to pay for them myself if it was a budgetary issue (I recognize that my son earned more patches than the rest).

    I just cannot understand why Cub/Boy Scout Leaders can’t get this basic thing right. Getting the advancement tracked and awarded seems to be the most important thing they can do. It may seem stupid, but kids really like patches.

  80. #67,

    I have had similar thoughts myself. When I look at the pittance that is on ward budgets and I think of the tithing that comes from a middle class ward.

    Then I think of concept of zion and all the poor faithful saints on my mission in Africa and all those selfish thoughts go away

  81. Coffinberry,

    “The problem I see is not that we have an underachieving program, but rather that we have leaders who fail to catch the vision.”

    For Scouting organizations outside the church, the leaders are volunteers who already believe in the program (why else would they volunteer?). In the church, being a “Scoutmaster” is a calling. This causes problems because someone who might not be interested or agree with Scouting feels obligated to accept and then does not have the same enthusiasm as his non-Mormon volunteer counterparts. (I wish more bishops would consider it OK to say no to a calling, but that’s a whole other can of worms.) I think YM interested in Scouting should do it on their own, in a local group, not affiliated with the church. The same way they might join BPA, or FFA, for example.

  82. Scouting is alive and well in the UK. The current Chief Scout is none other than Bear Grylls. Believe it or not, camping and knot-tying is not only an American past-time. My sons will be active in Scouts *and* the YM programme. Apples and oranges.

  83. You know, I’m all for BSA being an arm of the priesthood. And while we’re at it, lets add back in its older step-brother — Freemasonry.

    (66) I’m pretty sure that as my generation ages and becomes the leaders of the church that the revelations dictating we be attached at the hip with BSA will stop, and the organizations will be dis-associated. Very few of the men I grew up with acheived their Eagle. And we lived in a small town in northern Utah and were incredibly outdoorsy and loved camping. We just didn’t care about scouting, and thats a general sentiment (not all pervasive, but general) among the 20-somethings I know. Of course, this is obviously all just my opinion.

    and to Eric Russell (13) – I dunno, seems like discussion of anecdote leads to world-views leads to eventual change. So I guess discussion is only a bad thing if you fear change.

  84. #73 “Of the 21 merit badges, 10 are elective, and consider that there are elective merit badges for Reading, Scholarship, Family Life, Genealogy, Computers, and Cooking (all basic things most of our kids already do) and a bunch of easy ones, it’s really, really not that hard.”

    The focus is totally on the carrot. I don’t think YM like to be treated like mules, and I know plenty of leaders who don’t like treating them as such.

    I know this emphasis misses the intended mark of scouting, but we like tangible results. And for leaders who aren’t truly passionate about scouts, this is a predictable response. If we insist that scout leaders be passionate about scouts, then there should be some self-selection. If we ask leaders instead to be passionate about teaching YM to be righteous priesthood holders, then scouts can cease to function as an activity arm and instead be simply one of a number of tools available to educate YM.

  85. I’m with you, mmiles. And amen to #82. We’ve covenanted to build up the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of Powell. For me it all comes to a head during the annual Friends of Scouting fundraiser, in which priesthood leaders are called upon to solicit funds from ward members–not for local scouting activities, but for BSA overhead.

  86. bbell,

    “If you are the YW president you should schedule Bball, Football, Camping, Fishing, and Swimming then. Nothing is stopping you from doing so. However if you indeed do try and schedule this most likely most of the girls will not be interested.”

    Actually, most of my girls would be interested. And I am probably just as interested (or more) in fishing and shooting than you are. The problem comes because these activities for girls would be seen as frivolous, and fun with no purpose. The YM can get away with activities like this because they are earning a merit badge or something. Ok. Rant over.

  87. “as you are.” My rise in blood pressure caused me to forget my grammar. :0)

  88. The problem with only calling members who have “the vision” is that it limits their ability to serve in other areas. Sometimes the best scouter in the ward really does need an opportunity to teach Sunday School.

    I think Church members need to understand that Scouting in the Church will *never* approach the same level of passion in non-LDS units. And the Church seems comfortable with that. I know of a lot of people who opt to send their children to a non-LDS unit, because they wanted the so-called greater Scouting experience.

  89. It’s time for Scouting to leave the Church. There are now better YM programs.
    ‘Scouting'(or whatever you wish to call it), came to be not to make boys ready to be good men, but to make boys ready to be good soldiers. Today’s Germans and Russians knows this and is part of the reason for not wanting it in the Church.
    Of course it is different today. But in a Church Troop in the 60s, It was a given I would belong to the NRA.

  90. I’m with TaterTot (86). I live in a ward near bbell’s and I think our YW program is atrociously one-sided toward the “girly” activities (last week, the Laurels were making lists of “what we want in a husband” and the YM were doing a merit badge.

    My daughter has basically done all of the Bear/Wolf requirements with my son, although she’s now in YW. Maybe the YW programs need to go buy a Scout book and get some ideas. It’s not like they are working on personal progress anyway…

  91. tater tot,

    Schedule the activities, do them, and if there is an objection after the fact deal with any fallout later. Operate this way most of the time and you will be much saner. Objections are usually over-ridden with simply saying the kids liked it.

    Never ask for permission just do the activities.

    For the record I deal with older boys and we never do any official scout activities.

  92. “The current Chief Scout is none other than Bear Grylls.”

    That is awesome.

  93. “‘Scouting’(or whatever you wish to call it), came to be not to make boys ready to be good men, but to make boys ready to be good soldiers.”

    Yes, scouts is just training our sons to be Nazi brownshirts (eye roll).

  94. Mommie Dearest says:

    Kevin Barney #74, if one of my scout leaders lost completed merit badge blue cards instead of turning them in, I would shoot them at dawn. With the blessing of our scout committee.

  95. #91: “… deal with any fallout later…”

    I like this. As YM president, with the priests, we played laser tag, went to clubs to watch bands play, had an Xbox party when Halo 3 came out, went to the midnight showing of Dark Knight, went wakeboarding, etc. Unconventional, yes. Fun, yes. (We also did DTG activities as well) Did it work?

    We had the boys show up for an hour early on Sundays before PEC mtg, etc. to read the Book of Mormon each week. We didn’t have any of the cliques that can form. We currently have about 15-18 people on missions from our ward. I was invited to help ordain YM as Elders. I was invited to go through the temple with YM as they prepared for their missions. And all without Varsity or Venturing…

  96. tater tot,
    I’ve been a YW President. I have no idea why you couldn’t schedule those sorts of activities. Do you work on personal progress every week in your ward? Do you never go ice skating or rafting or on a hike? Don’t your girls plan class activities and choose sometimes to go get an ice cream cone or something? If there are girls who are interested in those sorts of activities, and you’re totally dedicated to always working on PP, I’m sure you could have them help plan it, or teach some skill to the other girls, and pass it off as an experience for some value. If you have boring activities don’t blame it on scouting!

  97. John f.
    I am aware. But it seems to me that the way it is implemented has become very American–except in all the other countries like Ronan’s ward, an South Africa, and the Phillipines :P

  98. I loved being a Boy Scout. I can not tell you how much this meant to me. Largely is was due to the Orange Mountain Council in New Jersey and their fabulous summer camp. Our troop was OK. Anyway, we Mormons have a thing about trekking and camping.

    That being said: about 20 years ago we were on a camporee in N.C. with the Durham district. The Mormon contingent arrived, fathers and sons, in a totally disorganized fashion. Set up camp willy nilly in the dark. Ate burned one one side raw on the other foil dinners. Up on the hill another local troop had tents set up like a military encampment, all uniform and in rows. Cook kits on poles. We were a disheveled bunch with hardly any uniforms, the other troops were spit and polish. We made a very bad impression. I was moderately embarrassed. But the boys and men had a good time anyway.

    This points out the problems. No continuity in the Mormon Troops, no fund raising, lots of boys with no interest in scouting. Scout masters who serve a year or two and move on. Scout masters with no interest in scouting.

    In Austria (50 years ago) the Scouting movement was totally dominated by the Catholic Church which required Sunday outings. Obviously this did not fly with the Mormons.

    A very good friend, and I hope I am not betraying confidence, was the Canadian Scout coordinator for the Church. He met regularly with the general authorities. For him the experience was excruciating for several reasons. One was that if a program in the Church can not be run by Stake Presidents it can not be run. He wanted to institute an all Canada Scout training program but could not make it happen because it needed a special office. He ran it for a year and everyone loved it but was not allowed to do it again.

    Another was that he found that the apostle in charge of Scouting with whom he interfaced with did not like Scouting. Go figure. Only in the Mormon Church will people be put in charge of things they do not like or cannot do.

  99. mmiles, outside the US, it is not implemented through the umbrella of the Church. So Ronan’s ward presumably isn’t doing scouting. He means that his kids will be part of the local, community scout troop, just like my daughter is part of the local, community Brownie’s group, which meets at a local Anglican church in their activities hall.

  100. I’m not saying that we don’t do these sorts of fun activities, we do. It just seems that in our ward, the YM are ALWAYS out doing something like the activities mentioned, and sometimes the girls get jealous because we try to be a little more balanced and have an occasional service or PP night. Maybe this is just a local problem with our YM though.

  101. #96 Gina

    In our ward, as I mentioned above, the budget is $200 / class / year, or around $16.67 per month. This is for class that each have 20+ girls in them. So how do you propose something as simple as “getting an ice cream” or “going skating”?

    1) Blow all the budget in the first 2 months, and do nothing else?
    2) Ask the girls to pay for it? (Stake leaders have talked to our ward YW leaders because they asked them to bring $2 for an activity – we’re not allowed to ask the girls for any money)
    3) Ask the leaders to pay for it? (We are lucky and have been able to do this, but many people can’t)
    4) Raise funds for it? (The “single” fundraiser each year is for Girl’s Camp in YW. They aren’t like the YM where thousands are raised through Scouting, an “outside” organization)

    Which of these do you suggest for even the simplest of activities in our ward?

  102. I have a love/hate relationship with scouting, as the father of 5 now adult boys, one turn as a scoutmaster, and 3 terms as YM president. I’ve seen the good it can do for some boys, and I’ve also seen it totally miss meeting the needs of my youngest son who had no interest in scouting (along with a significant number of other young men).

    It can teach great leadership skills, but I’ve also seen it used for bullying and exclusionary practices by the boy leaders at the council run camps in our area. I’ve seen it used successfully to help young men grow stronger in the gospel, but I’ve also heard some LDS scoutmasters, in the presence of their boys, say things like “Salt Lake has this all screwed up. We need to follow the BSA, and forget all the priesthood stuff”.

    In short, it is a very mixed bag, in my opinion, and I too have wondered if we wouldn’t better be served with a different program for the boys, modeled after the YW program.

    The biggest problem is that we have invested so heavily in scouting in the US, that for the church to abandon scouting has huge implications for the BSA, as well as the huge cultural shift required in church leadership of the YM program. The Duty to God program is potentially a nice framework, but there is enough stuff yet to completely fill that out.

    If we did a worldwide universal church shift to DTG, we might see better results both abroad, and in the US. I for one am at least in favor of seriously considering severing the relationship with BSA.

  103. (Trying very hard not to have knee-jerk negative reaction at the thought of modelling a boys’ program after the YW program, which I hated as a teen. Mmm… maybe it is reading the present with the lenses of the past that makes this conversation so difficult. Nevertheless, I would model the YW program after Scouting, myself.)

  104. Natalie B. says:

    #101: My experience echoes Mike’s. These simple activities are only possible if one intentionally ignores the budget restrictions. I mean, seriously, ice skating in my city is $8 per person plus skate rental and parking fees.

    Another thought: Scouting seems more appropriate to me in some geographic locations than others. Where I grew up, we didn’t have access to rafting, hiking, or other scout like things. Scouts therefore raised a ton of money to leave the state and go on trips to do said activities. YW’s was told we couldn’t afford to.

  105. #101 Mike S,
    Funding is another issue entirely. That budget seems incredibly low to me. I’ve seen youth budgets for two different wards, both with about 10-15 active YW total and small to medium sized wards, and the YW budget was about twice that. I have no other real insight into your situation – what the other needs of your ward are, what the entire ward budget is, or how and why the Bishop allocates the resources as he does. It does seem an impossibly small amount of money to do much fun stuff, and I’m not at all in favor of leaders having to foot the bill. I don’t have a good solution other than to make a case to the bishop for why the youth should be prioritized higher. I do know that such an extremely small budget is not that case in every ward.

  106. john f,
    As it should be.

  107. I think there are many good things about scouts, but they are not necessarily tied to actual scouting. The campouts, life lessons, service projects, etc can all be done absent some formal scouting.

    I was an Eagle scout at one time, as Im sure many here are, but I actually do worry about the infusion of patriotism and military with scouting. I know some have rolled their eyes over that but in my own experience and that of my 19 years younger brother there is certainly much militarism involved. Many of our larger official bsa campouts had active military as part of the leadership. Im not saying scouts are evil but for many this is a concern we have for our children. For others, I imagine the pseudo military nature of it is a plus.

    When scouts are being trained to be part of border control,, then I think there is a problem. I hope that this is an isolated incident, but in my experience there is a certain narrative and culture in the BSA that tends towards more militarism.

  108. It’s not really up to the bishop anymore–ward budgets are allocated out of SLC. Bishops can rob the EQ to pay YW, but they can’t really increase the overall amount.

  109. Kristine, I understand that. We had a bishop who just prioritized the youth very high when allocating the funds he was given (and in most every way, actually). It was not an especially large ward so I don’t think he had an unusally large pot to work with. And I do think the EQ budget was something in the double digits.

  110. Danny Harper says:

    Ok I read a lot of comments, and I think that everyone has forgotten the purpose scoutting. I also served a mission in slavic country and to tell you the truth it was in poorer conditions than that in Russia. Sure scounting is not a “program” there, that doesn’t mean that someone couldn’t organize something similar to scouting. For scouting was never about the badges or the awards, but rather the life lessons that were learned and friendships made. That is the purpose of scouting and to cut that out of the church due to laziness on the part of some, doesn’t constitute a disbandment of a good and useful program.

  111. Danny,
    The entire point was that:
    Scouting is about friendship.
    Countries that don’t have scouting, often don’t do a fabulous job of doing something else.
    Leaders that train them often only know how to use scouting as the vehicle of delivery.
    A better program would be able to incorporate gospel principles and build friendships, and would be adaptable across borders.

  112. Outside of the MCR, you also have the problem that some have touched on here of the differences between LDS troops and the non-LDS troops. I quit taking my scouts to the council camporee every year when I was scoutmaster, as we had about 12 boys in a combined troop with another ward, versus 30 to 50 in most of the non-LDS troops, Generally, there were only two adults from our LDS troop at campouts, or a 1 to 6 ratio, while the non-lds troops had many more adults, usually about 1 to 4. Budgets were totally different. The budget guidelines for LDS troops allow fundraising for one summer camp and related equipment per year, but the rest of the weekly activities are supposed to come out of the ward budget. No such restrictions on non-LDS troops, and occasionally we’d run up against LDS troops from more affluent wards who totally ignored the budget guidelines and held annual fundraisers that brought in over $10K and used it for weekly activities, often also using those funds for the YW as well. While I understand the motivations, the reality is that LDS troops that live by the budget guidelines are understaffed and underfunded compared to non-LDS troops, and often made our boys feel uncomfortable. Often, our boys just had a hand-me-down scout shirt their older brothers had outgrown, while the non-LDS boys had complete uniforms, and usually more than one. Uniform inspections were part of the camporee experience on the part of the council, and that furthered the problems.

    Not too mention that in LDS troops, the boys are all conscripts, and in the non-LDS troops, there is a higher motivation to be there in the first place.

    And for me, the answer is not to remove the restrictions on LDS troops, but do some of the same things

  113. I’ve served several stints in YM presidencies. I’m a father of four boys, one in cubs and one just starting scouts. I spent a couple of hours just yesterday working with one son on some arrow points and the other on the Personal Management merit badge. On any given evening, I’d say about 25% of the clutter I clean up from the kitchen counter is related in one way or another to scouts. My boys seem to like scouts. We have quite good leaders in our ward.

    And I am counting down the days until the Church gets rid of scouting. If it did so tomorrow, I might very well sign my boys up for a local community troop if they wanted to. I just don’t think it works any more as an official activity of the Church. It costs too much, it introduces a kind of nationalism that I’m uncomfortable with inside the walls of a house of worship, it creates inexcusable gender inequality within the ward budget, and it suggests to boys uninterested in Scouts that they are unworthy as priesthood holders.

    We had a YM leadership meeting where it was emphasized to us once again that Scouts was the official activity arm of the Church, and there was a kind of unspoken belittling of DTG — and this leader from SLC even stated outright that DTG was supposed to be done almost completely at home, not at mutual. (It was all I could do to not stand up and say “What about overseas? What about the boys whose parents don’t help them do DTG at home?”)

    I think if the Church divorced itself from scouting, my four boys would have better more meaningful Priesthood training and preparation–and, if they chose to do scouting separately from the Church, I think they’d have much better scouting experiences as well.

  114. Sorry, the last paragraph got cut off (by me) in # 112. SHould read:

    And for me, the answer is not to remove the restrictions on LDS troops, but do some of the same things (camping, hiking) but under the structure of Duty to God, and incorporate more activities that will interest the boys not so hot about scouting.

    And no uniforms.

  115. Also: the article linked to in #107 scares the bajingles out of me.

  116. I think there are many good things about scouts, but they are not necessarily tied to actual scouting. The campouts, life lessons, service projects, etc can all be done absent some formal scouting.


    I hate the BSA. They are always yelling at me for stupid things like not wanting to disclose how much liability insurance I carry on my car. I am in my second stint as a Bear Leader. The first time I was called, I had 3 children under 5. I had 9 boys and none of their mothers could be a den leader? I did all the hours of training, bought the shirt and sewed on my patches, went to every Roundtable, etc. I was all about magnifying my calling. And then I learned what kevinf talked about in #112 – our LDS dens were a lot different than the non-LDS dens, and they definitely looked down on us.

    Now that I am doing this calling again (with my own son in it this time – the first of four sons, so I am figuring I have 7 years of being a den leader ahead of me. Enough to make me want to slit my wrists), I have decided that I just don’t care about a lot of the BSA crap. We have fun meetings with the boys. We play games and learn skills and build character and do service. We pass off some of the stuff in their books. But, we do not worry about a lot of BSA stuff. I just don’t find it worth the time or stress.

    My 4 little brothers (with no dad because he abandoned us) benefitted greatly from campouts and interactions with the leaders. High Adventure trips are the main thing that helped to secure their testimonies. However, all of that can be done without the BSA. I vote for a divorce.

  117. And no uniforms

    Amen to that, too. I borrowed one my first time as den leader and haven’t purchased one this time. I don’t plan to. My beef with the BSA is a source of contention for DH and I (he earned his Eagle at age 14). We are constantly arguing over what it means to “magnify” my calling. I just don’t think that I have to do all the stupid things the BSA tells me to do in order to magnify my calling of teaching and leading and loving these boys (which I do). Down with the BSA, I say! (not that I have strong feelings on the matter or anything)

  118. John Mansfield says:

    Some of these views of scouting have me mystified. What is all this about scouting being a nationalistic organization? Is it because they do flag ceremonies and like their country? Military dress and drill is explicitly prohibited, and I’ve never seen any troops try it. As for that border patrol thing, Venturing crews pick the emphasis they wish to have. Many police departments sponsor one as a kind of junior police training corps. Is that also too fascistic for some?

  119. Stephanie,

    As I said, only in the Church will people get called to jobs the do not like or well. So sorry. Scouting in particular.

  120. John Mansfield,


    It probably has more to do with the type of people and personalities that are attracted to the Scouts program, as witnessed in the link in #107.

  121. Stephanie says:

    Thanks, SVB. Even though I hate it, I give the boys a good experience and fulfill all my duties (church-related). Our Cubmaster also hates scouts and let it be known when he got called, but he hasn’t bothered to learn what his calling entails, doesn’t come to committee meeting half the time, doesn’t plan anything for pack meeting. He just basically shows up and conducts it. The result is that the rest of us have a lot more work to do to make sure the program is good for the boys.

    So, I think that if you hate it that much, just say no. I almost said no this time, but I decided that I couldn’t send my son to meetings if I wasn’t willing to run them myself. So, here I am. At least I haven’t poisoned the boys with my attitude. I reserve that for the internet. :)

  122. Where to begin? Perhaps with saying that I write from the prospective of an Eagle Scout (and father of two Eagles) and Venturing trainer/roundtable chair.

    My tie to Venturing makes my endorsement of much of John F’s #20 obvious. The only two significant differences between LDS and non-LDS Venturing, in my view are budget (more about that below) and that our crews are coed. I think coed LDS crews would be great in a lot of ways, problematic in others. But bishops can accomplish most of the benefits by making many Crew activities coed by working with the Laurel presidency to plan an implement them – just making the girls Crew guests for the day. I am continually surprised by how rarely such things happen.

    Jason (#45) and others: your comments about boys being more interested in activities and skills than in merit badges reminds me of one of the wisest comments by my brother (very active in scouting, LDS and otherwise): something like, “An announcement in priesthood meeting that we’re working on X merit badge is a sign of a poor program.” You’re right: it is the activity or skill that should be highlighted, not the fact (if it is a fact, and it doesn’t always need to be) that there activity or skill may fulfill a requirement for some scouting advancement.

    As to comments like jimbobs (#70). Sure, there are boys for whom scouting is a tough fit. But I have yet to see someone for whom it is an impossibly difficult fit. What I see, instead, is boys falling out of scouting programs that lack imagination, that follow a traditional (though I don’t know whose tradition) model, rather than branching out in the way BSA allows and encourages. (Has any LDS unit tried Soccer and Scouting, for example?) So long as we try to fit boys into the program rather than plumb the depths of the program to serve boys, we will fail as to some – if not many – boys. The ideal scout program (including varsity and venturing) begins with the quorum presidency identifying the needs of individual boys, then using scouting as a tool to meet those needs. (And yes, the exact same process works, or should work, for YW. In fact, check the new form available for use in planning RS meetings, – what a great model!)

    Red Emma (#27) commented on non-LDS view of LDS units. I think that the drafting/self select is a key part of that. That bled over into my son’s LDS troop once: the scoutmaster wanted to run the troop like a non-LDS troop, where boys self-select, and didn’t deal effectively with the boys (a majority in that troop) who participate in the LDS troop because it is (as the Church says it is to be) merely a tool for the deacons quorum to use, not an independent program. Non-LDS leaders I work with are amazed and impressed that we even try to retain boys in our programs from 8 until 18. A later comment notes another difference that non-LDS scout leaders see: our “calling” rather than recruiting and retaining long-term scout leaders, which does, in fact, lead to having more turnover and less interested, less trained leaders. Comments about finances call attention to the third major difference: LDS units have very limited involvement in fundraising compared to non-LDS units. The non-LDS scout leaders I’ve worked with are jealous – all of them that our units get budget money, and some of them that we have a program that tries actively to keep monetary demands modest. There is also a fourth major difference, in some respects a result of the third: LDS units are generally underrepresented in district and council service. In other words, non-LDS units don’t see us carrying our share of the load of providing the services (training,, camps, etc.) of BSA.

    Also re non-LDS: Mandie (#28), there are many great non-LDS den and other scout leaders in LDS units. I’m sure your husband would be welcomed.

    As to comments about financing, I’m baffled by those who say that BSA can raise $ and the YW cannot. The exact same rules in the Church apply to YM/scouts and YW. The only exception is that the Church participates in Friends of Scouting. But none of the Friends of Scouting money comes back to the troop or team or crew; it’s just a method of supporting the Council (which provides such physical support as summer camps – which YW can also use, by the way). And Mike S (#37), whose family spends hundreds of dollars on youth activities without asking for reimbursement… Please, please tell me you aren’t anywhere near where I might be called to serve. You’re setting up your poorer successors (and current, poorer leaders in adjacent units) for failure. And giving your ward and stake leadership a dangerously skewed view of what the youth programs have and need.

    I can’t resist reaffirming the point made by various folks in response to comments like TaterTot’s that the differences between the level of YM and YW activities is NOT something the handbooks or other Church instructions require or even suggest. In my experience, though, adult YW leaders (acting without scouting tools) are no better than YM leaders at giving YWs leadership training and experience. A priest should enter the elders quorum ready to be an elders quorum president, and a Laurel should leave the Laurel class ready to be an RS president (as to both, at least in a student or singles ward). And why don’t YW need weekend activities just as much as YM do?

    I should quit… But first, to Bob (#89): You say there are “better YM programs.” That may be true, but give us a hint what you’re thinking of. I haven’t seen any better ones in US LDS YM programs.

  123. Many members of the church will always find it perfectly acceptable to publicly redicule the scouting program as mismanaged, ineffective, a waste, not meeting the needs of the youth, and whatever other criticism is of current interest.

    Ironic how each time a new YM leader is called, these same members raise their hands to support and sustain.

    Why not focus on solutions to these challenges instead? That seems more in line with a sustaining vote IMO.

    Get involved in the scout committee – help make sure that its run effectively. Give the scoutmaster a hand… Go camping with your sons. Unfortunately, too many parents offload their young men to the leaders, but near violently refuse to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of these efforts.

    Scouting really isn’t rocket science. Nor is D2G. One of the biggest problems IMO is that leaders/parents/members focus too much time and effort in trying to reinvent the wheel rather than running the program as outlined and THEN making modifications based on quorum needs, local issues, etc.

    And I fully expect to see simliar conversation/debate threads 20 years down the road, so if you’ve got your bubbly ready to uncork to celebrate the ‘inevitable demise of LDS scouting’, you may as well toss it back in the cellar for a few more decades.

  124. Why insist on using a cart and buggy, when a Hummer or Prius is readily available?

  125. Forgive me up front, as I’ve only scanned the comments and not thoroughly read them. Also, take my comments from the biased point of view that I am an assistant scoutmaster in a troop sponsored by an Episcopalian church (yes, I’m active LDS). My oldest (and only) child is a 21 month old girl. Clearly, I have strong biases in favor of scouting that will largely color what I have to say.

    1. “Lord Baden Powell was British.” (comment # 78) — He was also very likely a homosexual.

    2. The outdoor program may seem outdated, but it is actually essential to the Scouting program. The outdoor program is meant to take boys out of their comfort zone (home) and make them interact with and teach other youth. Yes, it may be trivial whether a person can tie a knot, or pitch a tent. But the outdoor skills are not the purpose of scouting, developing leadership skills is the purpose of scouting.

    3. I will likely never agree to volunteer in an LDS run troop unless the leadership that asks me is willing to acquiesce to some of my demands.

    4. The Church needs to dump varsity and venture scouting. The purpose of scouting is to turn boys into leaders. The younger boys need to learn from the older boys, and separating the quorums in scouting breaks the mentorship model.

    5. In every LDS run troop I’ve seen, the adult leaders did all the planning. Troops aren’t meant to work that way and boys don’t learn by doing that. Adults have to get out of the way, and let the boys run the show.

    6. Scouting is an expensive program. The Church’s restrictions on fundraising are too strict. Instead, it should relax the restrictions against fundraising, and let the boys earn the money for their program. (Same goes for young women)

    So, I have a very high opinion of scouting, but a very low opinion of how it’s executed in the Church. It seems to me that I see Eagle Scouts of my generation (I’m 28) that haven’t the slightest idea of how to be an effective leader, and I place that squarely on the shoulders of the Church’s inability to run a Scout troop instead of a recreation club.

  126. Cynthia L. says:


    “Also, as a YW President, I have a hard time explaining to my YW why the YM are always playing basketball, football, camping, fishing, and swimming, while we are doing service or Personal Progress”

    If you are the YW president you should schedule Bball, Football, Camping, Fishing, and Swimming then.


    I’ve been a YW President. I have no idea why you couldn’t schedule those sorts of activities. Do you work on personal progress every week in your ward? Do you never go ice skating or rafting or on a hike? Don’t your girls plan class activities and choose sometimes to go get an ice cream cone or something?

    Well SHAME ON YOU, Gina and bbell, for going against the brethren and ignoring the handbook!

    Gina, where do you live that ice cream parlors serve cones for <$0.90 each? Did you have every parent sign a waiver, which is required to have girls in your car?

    bbell, do you really think you can go camping for <$0.90 a person? It takes that much gas to drive there. Even if everyone has all their own gear and everything, you could barely give them a glass of hot chocolate in the morning for that much. Where do you live that ice skating rinks charge <$0.90 per person for skating and skate rental? More like $10/pp which is the budget for the entire year for YW.

    As a YW leader in a ward that was serious about sticking to the budget, and not allowing leaders to just buy things and not turn in receipts, it was a struggle to do anything. Even handing out a cheapo cookie or popsicle at the end of an activity was budget-busting.

    The only counterexamples anyone can come up with of YW not totally sucking compared to YM are times when you went directly, flagrantly opposite of explicit handbook instructions.

  127. Cynthia L. says:

    #101 Mike S, YES. Exactly. People suggest “cheap” ideas for an activity that is still fun, like “oh just get an ice cream,” not realizing that that is still way beyond the budget for many wards’ YW.

  128. Cynthia L. says:

    PS: The “Well SHAME ON YOU” was tongue-in-cheek, naturally. But see last paragraph of my #126.

  129. Thomas Parkin says:

    Haven’t followed the discussion. Just can’t miss an opportunity to weight in heavily on the side of _lose it._ ~

  130. Cynthia L., what exactly does the CHI say on this issue? I’ve only scanned this discussion so maybe I missed it.

  131. “Come on jimbob. You can’t be a red-blooded ‘murcan Mormon and not like camping.”

    John F., the five-year stint I was referring to was in Dallas, where I understand you grew up (I’ve recently moved from there). I don’t mind camping so much in Idaho, where I grew up, but I absolutely hated camping in Texas. The mosquitoes are the size of hummingbirds, and you can’t get away from them in your sleeping bag because it never cools off enough to cover up. And the chiggers! They’re a plague! Weeks later, you’re still scratching all over; your co-workers think you might have scabies and your wife won’t share a bed with you for fear that they’ll hop off of you and onto her.

    Believe me, if I’d grown up in Texas, I would have dropped out of scouts as a Tenderfoot rather than continue camping in that environment.

  132. John Mansfield says:

    Regarding our conscripted scout leaders, it has it’s pros and cons. Other troops rely on interested parents, but that’s their only resource. For school-based cub scout packs, it’s an almost complete turn around of leaders every year. I was first asked by my ward to do scouting a couple years before I married. My excellent scoutmaster had no sons, and his assistant was the last bishop, whose only son was about five years old at the time. My sons’ last scoutmaster, who did a good job, was a newlywed, the kind of man that other troops don’t know where to recruit. There are some scouters in other units that are into more than just helping their own sons and stick around for years and years, but they are the exceptions. There are many LDS units with experience depth better than most non-LDS units in their areas.

    In those places where LDS leaders are hard to find and keep, I doubt the effort put into non-scouting service to the youth would improve any. Poor scout leaders would make poor non-scout leaders.

  133. #123

    Get involved in the scout committee – help make sure that its run effectively. Give the scoutmaster a hand… Go camping with your sons. Unfortunately, too many parents offload their young men to the leaders, but near violently refuse to stand shoulder to shoulder with some of these efforts.

    You’re missing the whole point. If Scouting isn’t of interest for a particular young man and his family, why should this young man be required to participate (if he’s going to be active in the Church’s YM program), and why should his parents be exhorted to get involved?

    Go ahead and scold those who complain because they want a high-quality scouting experience for their sons, but aren’t willing to contribute themselves. But this isn’t your audience.

    And Cynthia, thank you for pointing out that the limitations in a YW program are not necessarily to blame on unmotivated or uncreative leaders.

  134. Cynthia L. says:

    Jack, #101 outlines the problems with the budget limitations (not allowed to ask girls to bring even $2 to an activity to cover costs, not allowed to ask girls to bring supplies either, not allowed to fundraise, leaders not supposed to spend their own money and not seek reimbursement as this severely disadvantages poorer leaders, etc). There are other restrictions, such as all weeknight activities are supposed to start and end at a regular time and at the church building (making it impossible to do some things like go ice skating, simply because of time constraints). Leaving the building at all is discouraged except for rare occasions ok’ed by the Bishop, and you need to have signed waivers from every parent to have kids leave the building or ride in a leader’s car, etc.

    I don’t have a CHI so I can’t quote all these directly, but that gives you the idea.

    Scouting, OTOH, has frequent weekend activities that allow for longer activities or things that require daylight (hiking, canoeing, rock climbing), overnight camping throughout the year, they can fundraise, etc.

  135. J. Madson,

    “…I actually do worry about the infusion of patriotism and military with scouting. I know some have rolled their eyes over that but in my own experience and that of my 19 years younger brother there is certainly much militarism involved.”

    Since I am the only one who rolled his eyes, at least typed that I had, …my reason for doing so is that I think people are taking themselves too seriously when we start making comparisons between the Scouts and Hitler’s youth. I didn’t like being a Scout, though I support my boys in their Cub Scout activities. I find myself agreeing with arguments on both sides. I even mentioned that I am uncomfortable with certain forms of patriotism, largely because I opposed the idea of patriotism. But let us not get carried away. No need to go Chomsky on everything.

  136. Cynthia L. says:

    For comparison, it’s not uncommon for scouts do an overnight every 1-2 months. That’s where our ward’s scouts are at.

  137. Re Cynthia L (134) “Scouting, OTOH, has frequent weekend activities that allow for longer activities or things that require daylight (hiking, canoeing, rock climbing), overnight camping throughout the year, they can fundraise, etc.” and (136) “For comparison, it’s not uncommon for scouts do an overnight every 1-2 months. That’s where our ward’s scouts are at.”

    Nothing in any handbook says that the YW can’t do precisely the same thing. Nothing in any handbook says that the scouts get more $ than the YW (except that the Church pays their registration fee, but that doesn’t come out of the ward/stake budget and doesn’t go to the troop/team/crew anyway). Nothing says that scouts have more leeway than YW on fundraising (only allowed for the annual camp) or charging the boys (like having them bring their own food on campouts — the practice in every ward I know of) than the YW. Nothing says that YW can’t have overnights and other weekend activities as often as scouts/YM. Yet most (all?) wards act as if 12-13 year-old YM and want need regular weekend and overnight experiences, and YW (and usually older YM) do not. Why is that?

  138. Thanks Cynthia. That helps a lot, and it does sound like something of a conundrum.

    I attended YW with the Laurels off and on throughout my last two years of high school. There was a combined YM/YW activity one summer evening where we all went up to a nearby lake and got to ride around on jetskis. There were some wealthy members who lived on the lake and were loaning them out to the youth, so I don’t think it cost very much. Then there was a trip I went on with the Laurels from Washington state to Salt Lake City for the October 1999 General Conference (the last GC in the Tabernacle before the new conference center was open). The ward would alternate every year and either send the Laurels or the Priests.

    Other than that, I don’t remember the YW ever doing any activities that didn’t involve meeting in the church building. The thought didn’t really occur to me at the time, but I guess that may have been part of the reason I opted for the evangelical youth group most of the time. The YW meetings never did anything interesting.

    Not that there can’t be similar problems with evangelical youth groups, btw, but the one I was attending was exceptionally well done.

  139. Chris H

    no one is comparing Hitler’s youth and Scouts. At least Im not. Reductio Ad Hitlerums aside, my own experience growing up as a scout had way too much militarism for my taste. This consisted of things like roll calls, etc which was mainly at large BSA sponsored campouts. Im just concerned.

    I can say that the scouts in my own ward were much less militaristic and more about being with friends, learning life skills, and enjoying nature. I loved those parts of scouts. Getting kids out in nature absent so many of our modern distractions makes it worth it to me. Having said that, I’m still going to be vigilant in what my kids are indoctrinated with during scouts.

  140. Researcher says:

    137 JrL: My teenage daughter is currently moping around because her dad and younger brother are getting ready to go on one of the monthly overnight camp outs. This one is called a Klondike Derby, and will include all sorts of outdoor activities in the snow, and the scouts will be staying in a cabin.

    Meanwhile, the ward’s Young Women organization has been trying to find a location for a single yearly overnight activity, but every possibility has been much too expensive for the budget. Last I heard, it will probably be held at one of the leader’s houses, which means that a family will need to make alternate arrangements for other children, etc., etc.

    Which brings to mind the question of why we think we have to rely on the church for social events. And the answer is easy: because being active in church (and early morning seminary) is a religious duty, and doesn’t leave much time and energy for participating in too many other activities.

    So why is it awful to expect the church to attempt to meet our daughters’ needs as equally as it attempts to meet our sons’ needs?

  141. Not to throw gasoline on the fire here, but the problems that Cynthia and others point out are real problems. Male leadership (sometimes) has been all too quick in many instances to apply different standards to scouting, and wink at the CHI, but are (can be) much more rigid when it comes to the YW program, and thinking outside the box.

    Note: I am not saying that all do it, but I have seen it often enough to know it exists, and YW leaders who have been frustrated because of it. It’s not general, but it also is not rare.

  142. Just wanted to say I VEHEMENTLY agree with the last sentence of the post–for the many excellent reasons already stated.

  143. Has anyone seen the multi-million $$$$ facility in Wasatch County Utah dedicated to Young Women? I’m in a bishopric and it is false in all wards in our stake that boys receive more than girls — quite the contrary. The budgets for YW are nearly twice as much because BSA is expected to pick up the rest for boys.

  144. Researcher: Frankly, I’m baffled at your YW’s inability to find a place to camp overnight. Why can’t they go where the scouts go? Every scout council I know of is willing to let LDS groups use their facilities for a nominal fee. (After all, the Church provides a chunk of their funding!) But more important, scouts in the stakes where I’ve lived usually use state parks, conservation areas, private land, etc., for overnights, all of which would be equally available to the YW. Unless, of course, the YW are insisting on cabins and showers while the scouts use tents and dig latrines ….

  145. Researcher says:

    We don’t all live in Utah, Lurker.

    The YW presidency has looked at just about every possible option, JrL. The yearly YW camp is held at a boy scout camp.

  146. Natalie B. says:

    #143: The is certainly no dedicated facility for YW where I live out east.

  147. I like scouting because it is conservative, patriotic, useful, paramilitary, slightly gay, conservationist, and corny. I think the church should stick with it.

  148. Lurker, in the uninterrupted 20+ years that we had boys in cub scouts or boy scouts, I never saw a dime come from the BSA, while I saw thousands of dollars every year from FOS go to the local BSA council to pay for their office facilities, and the salaries of professional scouters.

    The one benefit we got that had actual cash value was that if we met our $1,000 plus allotment for FOS, we could save $75 to $100 per year in the basic cloth badges and awards that we didn’t have to pay for at the scout office. But that didn’t cover Eagle awards, or the metal mother’s pins, etc, that we still had to buy.

    We still had to pay for going to summer camp, to participate in the Klondike Derby, or camporee, or any other council activity. And in many cases, they were held at an LDS church owned recreational property. BSA did not do much that I can recall to “balance” things out for our activities.

  149. Peter LLC says:

    Once I nearly lopped off my finger at Scout camp. I think the devil made me do it.

  150. “I like scouting because it is conservative, patriotic, useful, paramilitary, slightly gay, conservationist, and corny. I think the church should stick with it.”

    I like gst because he is all of those same things. With him in the church, we don’t need scouting. Let’s chuck it. It’s an outdated, expensive, time-consuming, distracting from the (what should be) the real church program, sexist, full of hot air, boondoggle.

  151. MCQ, how many of your adjectives apply to GST as well?

  152. I am time-consuming, no doubt about that.

  153. He’s expensive, for sure. Took him out for dinner and a movie and a little lovin’ the other night; cost me an arm and a leg.

  154. Yeah, I heard he likes to gnaw on his prey afterward.

  155. I admit to only having time to skim the post and comments but thought I’d chime in anyway.

    My son strongly dislikes anything related to scouting, so this has been a challenge for me as a parent. I was an eagle scout and enjoyed everything about scouting, but obviously it is not for everyone.

    However, you can’t argue with success. I don’t have the exact numbers, but a very high percentage of Eagle scouts go to the temple, serve missions, are married in the temple, and actively serve in the church throughout their lives.

  156. Jim, it is that whole correlation vs. causation thing.

  157. Cynthia L. says:

    Amen, Stapley!!

  158. My main beef with scouting is that every single aspect from awards to shirts is overpriced. If you are going to make something essentially mandatory, at least try to make it more affordable….

  159. I stopped participating in Scouting once my parents realized that my own friends outside the scout troop were a better influence on me than the boys inside the scout troop.
    I think Scouting succeeds when it’s about activities and friendship. It fails when it’s about earning merit badges.
    I do think some kind of activities program is beneficial to the youth in the church; I think a program other than Scouting could do a better job.
    Drop the uniform, the crowded 1000+ jamborees and camps, and the merit badges; add activities and adventures the youth want to do and let the youth plan those activities.
    The church still has image problems about being too American. Dropping the BSA might do damage to the BSA in the US, but it would ultimately strengthen the image of the church as an international organization.

  160. 1. So what if my son decides that after he earns his Eagle at 14, he’s done. What happens if the “program” includes “extra-credit optional secret-double-probation” Scouting (aka Venturing). Why must the solution to the problem of post-Scouting YW programming be more Scouting?

    2. What appalls me about our ward’s YW program is that not only do they not do anything remotely interesting to half of the girls, they’re not even doing Personal Progress! It’s all left up to the parents, and Wed night is just a “let’s fantasize about babies and marriage”. (Though, it was great a few years ago, when the presidency was all female RMs and people with degrees and who worked).

    3. Klondike derbies suck. Camping in the snow ruined me forever for living up north. And I agree that Texas camping sucks. The best time/place to camp is South Dakota in June.

    4. I plan to give a donation each year to the troop to cover my sons’ awards. Then no one in our unit can complain about award costs.

  161. post-Scouting YW programming

    er, YM programming.

  162. Camping in the snow ruined me forever for living up north.

    Contrary to popular belief, most people “up north” don’t actually live outside in the snow, Queuno. A good number of Canadians have even built tent cities around Saskatchewan where they can huddle together for warmth.

  163. I for one would like to see a statistic of the percentage of active young men (seminary graduate or other criteria) who did not earn Eagle Rank, that still went on to serve a mission, temple marriage and all that jazz. I would venture to guess that the proportions are about equal. If this were true, we would have statistical proof that there is no value added to the Scouting program, and the same goals would be accomplished through the young men’s program.

    Oh wait. Sorry Scott. I am torturing data again, aren’t I?

  164. Chris H: (eye roller), I never said the Church was preparing it’s boys to be soldiers. But read your history of the “Youth Camping Movements” in Germany, Russia, and Iraq. they were per-schools for their armies. Take a closer look at the history of the BSA, (Forget Mormon ‘scouting’). You will see a lot of reasons for the YM Movment within the Church should not to be tied to it any longer.
    I must says even my years in Church scouting, made it easier to for me to make it in the Marines.

  165. I think Scouting succeeds when it’s about activities and friendship. It fails when it’s about earning merit badges.

    The advancement focus does work well, too. It’s great as family programming for family activities and FHE. It provides boys with new experiences they might not get elsewhere with their friends who aren’t in scouting.

    (But on the flip side, Scouting will never adequately measure up to some of the the opportunities provided by the drama club, sports teams, band/orchestra, etc.)

  166. Fletcher,
    Even if you get your statistic, and even if it gives wildly different proportions, or simply identical proportions, it doesn’t prove that a similarly run effort–distinct from the BSA–internal to the Church wouldn’t produce the same results.

    All of this is to say simply that the Church can teach boys and girls to lead, discover, and grow in citizenship just as well by itself as it can through scouting. I completely agree.

  167. This topic seems to make my blood pressure rise every time I see it.

    I personally can’t stand the BSA. Collecting badges does not and never has held any interest or motivating power for me at all. Camping was great when I was younger, but when they started tacking badges and checklists onto it, all the fun evaporated and it became just one big numbing chore.

    The problem though, is not that I don’t like scouting. That is totally irrelevant. The problem is that a cultural activity has been summarily entangled with the gospel of Christ. The gospel should be just that, the good news that Christ came, died for our sins, and was resurrected, freeing us from the bands of death and offering us exaltation.

    The way we dress, the food we eat, the recreation we enjoy, all of that is totally secondary to that truth. By insisting on attaching cultural standards (particularly recreational ones) to gospel truths, we disenfranchise everyone who does not participate, for whatever reason. We become exclusive, rather than inclusive, and to me, that kind of misses the point.

  168. Thomas Parkin says:

    “The problem is that a cultural activity has been summarily entangled with the gospel of Christ.”


    “The way we dress, the food we eat, the recreation we enjoy, all of that is totally secondary to that truth. By insisting on attaching cultural standards (particularly recreational ones) to gospel truths, we disenfranchise everyone who does not participate, for whatever reason. We become exclusive, rather than inclusive, and to me, that kind of misses the point.”

    Double Amen. ~

  169. # 155

    I was an eagle scout, went on a mission, married in the temple, and have served in many callings, including YM president and scoutmaster.
    And I hate the BSA.
    In 1913, it was probably more relevant. Now, not so much.

  170. Latter-day Guy says:

    At the risk of a threadjack…

    #7: We aren’t in the business of exporting our culture.

    Ummm… you are aware of the LDS missionary program, yes? ;-)

    All snark aside, while I don’t think we should be in the business of exporting American culture, I think we do a great deal of just that. I remember speaking to a recently returned missionary who served in a nation that doesn’t have a dating culture anything like the US. In the course of our conversation he mentioned an anecdote in which he and his companion taught a young man “what dating really is.” I half expected him to start referring to the “true order of dating.” This variety of cultural imperialism is not at all uncommon.

  171. LDG-
    Sure, but that isn’t our goal–and it should be avoided.

  172. “The problem is that a cultural activity has been summarily entangled with the gospel of Christ.”

    Many things could be substituted here – white shirts, beards, tattoos, earrings, 1920’s prohibition in the US, which instruments are “allowable” in sacrament meeting, black prohibition on the priesthood, women not being able to speak in sacrament until the 1970’s, shorts at BYU, R-rated movies, etc.

  173. Scouting can do harm when boys are judged by whether or not they get their Eagle. I know one very nice, very spiritual young man who is not at all interested in scouts but is pretty much forced to go because all of our young men for the past several years have been Eagle Scouts and , by golly, he will be too!

  174. as far as spreading the culture-a basketall hoop in every chapel-whether they’ve heard of basketball, would ever play it or not.

  175. I hated scouting as a kid. If I were ever called to be a scout leader now I am sure I would learn to hate it even more. Down with (compulsory) scouting.

    Incidentally, one of the cultural side effects of the program is that “Eagle Scout” ends up on way too many YW lists of attributes they won’t compromise on in a future husband.

    Lest I sound bitter — because I’m not an Eagle Scout (I blame my leaders, and I’m only mostly kidding about that) — it wouldn’t have bothered me much if any girl had ever used that as an excuse not to date me. The fact that she cared so much about it would have been more than enough reason for me to be glad to be rid of her.

  176. Orwell, I had precisely the same view of my failure to earn my YW Recognition Award (i.e., cheap jewelry featuring girl in flowy dress). In my case, the failure was all mine. But I considered myself well rid of any young man who would make that a criterion for dating me.

  177. ZD Eve, it was only at my youngest brother’s recent Eagle court of honor that I discovered that my only sister didn’t get her YW Recognition award. (I was looking at the names on the wall plaque and realized that hers wasn’t on it.)

    It then occurred to me that I had no idea if my wife received it. I asked her and it turns out that she did, but I thought it was interesting that I never once thought about it while we were dating or in all our years of marriage.

  178. Kevin Barney says:

    ZD Eve, I was going to ask you out (husband be damned!) until I saw your no. 176. Now that I know you didn’t receive your YW Recognition Award, all bets are off. I have standards, after all…

  179. Without the help of scouting, I would not have been able to forget all the knots I learned how to tie as a young man.

  180. Kevin, I would never want a man to compromise his standards.

  181. I wholly agree that YM should run it’s separate program focusing on the needs of the local youth. For those youth with strong interest in Scouting, local units should have the option of sponsoring a troop in addition, just like other churches do.

    My personal experience is that I actually started with an amazing troop in Alabama, but at age 13 moved to the Washington, DC-area where the troop was a poorly-run joke. After a year of wasted Tuesday nights I wrote a lengthy letter to my YM president explaining everything I observed that was antithetical to a Church program and why I would no longer be participating.

    The result? I never attended a weekly youth activity again. I found plenty of other worthy and interesting activities through school and community that piqued my interests and benefited me greatly, but I was largely disconnected from YM outside of Sunday meetings because (save for the occasional quorum activity) YM=Scouting.

    In retrospect, I recognize that I learned a lot of valuable things in my two-ish years of serious Boy Scouting. But from my observations, most LDS troops do BSA fairly poorly, and BSA doesn’t serve YM particularly well either, especially in urban areas. My current ward in DC has only a few young men and long ago disbanded its troop. The leaders actually run a Young Men’s program, and by all accounts it’s working quite well. (And to my knowledge it hasn’t driven anyone away.)

    My wife will also tell her story of growing up in rural southern Idaho and noting that the scouts always got to go out and do fun (and expensive) activities, but if the Young Women ever proposed such an outing, they’d get shot down by the bishopric. To say she’s bitter about this glaring inequality is an understatement. While there was much more parity in my area of the country, the message for her was clear: Young Women are expected to sit and work on personal progress and Young Men are expected to play basketball and go water skiing. “Pillar of the priesthood”, indeed.

  182. Today in testimony meeting, my wife awoke me just in time to hear a sister bear testimony of the inspired nature of scouting and how Baden-Powell was inspired to establish scouting so that the Church could adopt it as its program. She had to stop at numerous points because she was overwhelmed with emotion. There were tears.

    And to think, I was wondering why I come.

    It was followed by a closing prayer where those serving in the military “and also those serving in the Department of Homeland Security” were blessed.

    I wonder what goodies I missed during my nap.

  183. In case anyone is interested, I blogged on LDS scouting a while back.

  184. Tim 159: “Drop the uniform … and the merit badges; add activities and adventures the youth want to do and let the youth plan those activities.”

    That’s Venturing!!!

  185. Chris,
    Your ward sounds familiar. Do they put up a huge American flag across the entire wall at the front of the chapel to celebrate July 4th and other holidays, and keep it there throughout Sacrament meeting? If so, I know your ward and am eternally grateful I am no longer in it…
    Now all I have to worry about is attorneys talking about how prideful scientists are in Sunday School…
    JrL–sounds good. Now drop affiliation with a bigger organization and keep it local.
    My dad has been actively involved with the youth for years; his father was a long-time, Silver Beaver scout (a lone scout in his youth, with a plethora of badges), and my father is more of a “let’s go out and hike/rock climb/canoe/raft and have a great time” type scout. I think the time for the former is over, and the time for the latter is now.

  186. Happy 100th anniversary to the BSA today.

  187. My beef with scouting is the same I have with TupperWare: I just can’t be motivated by ridiculous badges.

    I mean, I guess some people are motivated by merit badges, some aren’t and I’m not saying people who are motivated by them are stupid; they’re just different.

    Never got my kids motivated like that, either…

    Besides, I never saw it as a valid function of priesthood training to learn to slice pizza. That’s more like in the “homemaking” skills… They’re valuable in their own right, though; still, making food could be a bit more challenging than slicing pizza.

  188. Argh! This reminds me why I haven’t bothered to read BCC in a while. Yet another rant :-(.

  189. Argh! This reminds me why I haven’t read Tom D’s comments in a while. Yet another complaint :(

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