Recently a friend on Facebook told a story about a CPR class he attended. The instructor showed in detail how to do it, and a Mormon guy in the class sheepishly asked, “Uh, what if it’s a lady?” The instructor incredulously paused, and then said “I really don’t think she’ll mind, since you’re saving her life.” The Mormon dude seemed unconvinced.

This story reminded me of one of my early scout leaders, a woman named Betty Budrow, who passed away a few years ago. (I had remembered her as my first boy scout leader, but after conferring with a friend I guess she actually was our Webelos leader.) Anyway, she taught us CPR, among other things, like pressure points. We had to show her that we understood the pressure points by applying the correct pressure on her. This was a little awkward at first, since as I recall one of the points was high up on the thigh, but her matter-of-fact attitude about it, like the CPR instructor in the above story, helped us to get over ourselves.

I had to smile when I thought of Betty. She was a cracker jack scout leader, and absolute hell on wheels. I learned so much about camping and hiking and the outdoors and first aid and really everything you’re supposed to learn as a scout from her. She was extremely knowledgeable, no nonsense like a drill sergeant, passionate about the subject (she and her husband always camped for their vacations), and really the ideal scout leader. She was awarded the Silver Beaver, which as I understand it is one of the highest awards a scouter can attain, so it’s not just my youthful impression of her prowess in that area.

As I think about it now, it seems so obvious to me that she should have been our scoutmaster. Undoubtedly the only reason she wasn’t is that she was a woman. If she were a man that would have been her permanent, lifetime calling.

When talking with my childhood friend, he reminded me of something else. The guy who was our first scoutmaster turned out to be a rapist. Fortunately for me at least, not a pedophile, but the guy on the weekends would drive the two hours to the east into the City of Chicago and actually rape women. He went to prison for it.

So here we had a situation where one of the most capable leaders imaginable (and I mean in the entire church) was there for the taking, but because she was a woman she could not be given the spot, which instead was given to a man who turned out to be a rapist.

This situation called to mind the South Park episode from Season 5 in which Big Gay Al is transferred in as the boys’ scout leader. Because he’s gay he’s removed as the leader, and they install instead a guy who looks like he came out of central casting as a scout leader, but who also happens to be a pedophile. In my case, the good leader was a woman, not gay, and the bad leader was a rapist, not a pedophile, but basically my own experience mirrored that story.

My only point in writing this reminiscence is to honor the memory of Betty, and to suggest that any protocol that would keep someone like her from being a scoutmaster is seriously messed up.


  1. juliamtaylor says:

    Betty sounds a lot like my mom. She was in heaven during those years they allowed women to be 11 year-old scout leaders. She went to Woodbadge, and because she was a woman she paid her way. (Male scout leaders who were chosen were reimbursed by the stake.) As far as I know she is still the only person from her stake who was asked to be on Woodbadge staff, which she did for 4 years, until she went back to college.

    She is now a YW president, ready to help in the transition to the new curriculum, and make the girls camping and backpacking activities are even better than the scouts. This year they went camping, backpacking twice, canoe camping, and rafting. I hear scout camp was very dusty the first two days, and rained until the end of camp. My son, who just turned twelve this February, was glad he was able to talk his way onto the backpacking trips, as a “junior member of the priesthood.” My mom has taken all of her grandchildren, over the age of 7, backpacking each summer. She taught her kids and grandkids, and is now teaching even more young women how fantastic and powerful it is to conquer and bind in the outdoors.

    The irony of your situation, with a man who had no business having a calling with kids is a sad reminder that the church has its share of molesters and rapists. I mentor a lot of survivors, men and women, some of whom are LDS, all of whom have been abused sexually. After the conversation at W&T I am a little emotionally raw, but I am grateful that you brought up all parts of the irony of your experiences.

    Thank goodness for Betty and the wonderful woman she was, and the countless YM who she helped to shape into good scouts and great men. :-)

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    juliamtaylor, three cheers for your mum!

  3. “Uh, what if it’s a lady?”

    Unbelievable. But sadly, believable.

  4. Both of my parents are silver beavers, and in many cases, my mom was tougher than my dad.

  5. I remember a CPR course which involved a life size female electronic doll. We didn’t get to do the full training mode with the electronic simulation, but couldn’t seem to get a good explanation of why the receiver of CPR needed to be completely topless for the administration. All the scout leader would say was “because some things are more important at times like that.” I got the impression he didn’t know either.

  6. I remember a remarkable woman–Margaret Firmage–who was the cub scout leader in my ward. (Is that a den mother? Den leader?) She loved it, and it did seem like a lifetime calling. I don’t remember who the scout master was. The ward my children were in had a series of busy students who would call at the last minute to let them know there wouldn’t be a meeting. Neither of my sons cared about scouting, and it wasn’t a high prioroty for me. I have wondered since if my youngest son might have benefitted from it. He is such a nature lover. Someone like Margaret Firmage could have made a real difference in his life.

  7. In Susanville, California, in the mid-1970s, Betty was named Irene Porter. Even the sisters of Scouts knew how wonderful Sister Porter was.

  8. In my youth ward she was Joyce Hughes, the 11-year-old scout leader. I think she held that calling for 30+ years. We who were “her boys” still talk about her some 30-years later and reminisce on how remarkable she was. I don’t think there was an inch of the mountainside above Centerville, UT that she hadn’t hiked with our troop. Her program was a well-oiled machine and every one of us was a First-Class rank by the time we were ordained deacons — and we earned it. There were no sympathy rank advancements. I wasn’t a fan of scouts in general, but I’m still a fan of Sister Hughes.

  9. My first and only Scout Leader was, as I found out at a very early age, a raging pedophile who assaulted me and others in my scout troop. I understand that he ended up going to jail, but the experience he caused, has left me devastated for most of my 80 years. It has been hard to erase the ugly experiences from my mind, almost like I was the one that caused it to happen. My only advice to others and especially parents is choose leaders of your youth very carefully and act swiftly when necessary! I truly wanted to a Boy Scout but this man ruined one of my lifetime ambitions!

  10. Part of the scout experience, for me, was being away from the mama-bear. That shouldn’t be discounted.

  11. Elouise Bell says:

    Perhaps this news story (below) has already been cited on this thread. It’s about the thousands of pages of records the Boy Scout leaders in Oregon have been forced to turn over to the courts re perversion by scoutmasters and other adults. Alas.

  12. barmy stoat says:

    “My only point in writing this reminiscence is to honor the memory of Betty”

    Betty sounded very cool.

    “and to suggest that any protocol that would keep someone like her from being a scoutmaster is seriously messed up.”

    It’s the same protocol that prevents Mormon women from being Bishops, GAs and Prophets, innit. Both are sexist, discriminatory and well, ‘seriously messed up.’

  13. Just Thinking says:

    On a side note, I just wanted to remind everyone that mouth breathing is no longer necessary in the new Continuous Chest Compression approach to CPR. My old Stake President, was one of the developers of this approach. We invited him to our Enrichment so he could teach us (Can they please just change the name back to Enrichment instead of “Relief Society Meeting”??!!), and I remember him talking about how some people would hesitate to perform CPR due to the mouth to mouth resuscitation aspect of CPR. Now, that is no longer necessary. Maybe that would easy the mind of that immature Mormon guy in the class?? Everyone should learn how to do the compressions:

  14. Just Thinking says:

    To further complicate things, what about those great potential scout leaders who will not accept a calling in scouts b/c of the BSA stance against gay leaders and youth? I’ve often thought I’d love to be a part of scouts at church, but I’m not sure I’d accept the calling due to this BSA policy. But maybe this isn’t a big issue for most church scout leaders…

    I wish I had had a Betty at Girls’ Camp. She would’ve surely made it so much more fun and interesting.

  15. My husband’s Aunt was involved in Scouts for over 50 years and was exactly like Betty. She had to give up her Pack at age 88 when ill health came on suddenly. Unfortunately, she was never honored by the Scouting organization for her tireless work. She helped me and my husband when we had 11 year old Scouts. She passed away a few months ago at age 89.
    There are good and bad people in every religion and organization. I personally do not agree with gays being banned from Scouting. My husband’s cousin was gay and a good person (he was murdered for being gay). My daughter tried Girl Scouts and was it a mess; she had a horrible experience. It would be nice if the LDS church would sponsor Girl Scouts. I know why they won’t, but it would be nice if they would.
    Also my Ward lacks good leaders, period. Scouts, YW and YM are a joke. My daughter attends a different Ward because I feel she is not safe in our Ward. My Ward desperately needs many Betty’s.
    Hats off, cheers, raise a glass, etc. to all the Betty’s.

  16. Bro. Jones says:

    Justin: recipients of CPR should be topless because clothes can impair the effectiveness of cardiac massage and also make it difficult to observe the rise and fall of the person’s chest during rescue breathing. One of my instructors pointed out that not only will a woman’s bra interfere with the CPR, but doing CPR over an underwire bra is guaranteed to break ribs and possibly do even worse.

  17. Although women can’t be Scoutmasters, they can serve in lots of BSA roles & on the Scout committee providing essential oversight, training, etc. Also they can be 11-year-old Scout leaders in Boy Scouting, just not going camping with the boys on overnights. And women can be in any responsibility in Cub Scouting, including Cubmaster – I had that calling myself a few years ago and loved it.

  18. @17 and Merit badge Counselors. That’s important.
    @16 Not to mention the fact that having a shirt button, or a bra wire, or even a folded piece of T-shirt under your hands while doing compressions is going to be uncomfortable at best, painful at worst and seriously undermine the length of time you will be able to continue.

  19. #14, I recently added the policy on homosexuals to my list of reasons I won’t work with Church-based scouting. But I had a long list of reasons to refuse before I decided I felt strongly enough about this issue to add it.

    #17, Women can and do serve as scoutmasters, just not in the Church. The decision of whether a woman serves as scoutmaster (or an assistant) or not rests with the chartering organization. But I believe the BSA has allowed it since at least the early 90’s if not earlier.

  20. Meldrum the Less says:

    This discussion is so refreshing. If you only knew of the horrible experiences I have had with LDS scouting. People like this Betty described above can be found in quite a few real scout troops. To at least know the problems are not ubiquitous in LDS troops (although widespread in my experience) is comforting. Thank you Bro.Barney.

    The Methodist church where my wife teaches pre-school requires background checks of all adult leaders who have any responsibility with children. These checks are as extensive as what the BSA is currently doing and far more than anyone in our LDS ward would even consider. But you know, the Methodists are so much more prone to wickedness than we are that they need it. Like, who would you rather leave your kids with unattended for an hour? A Methodist who passed the background test or a Mormon who didn’t? Spirit of Discernment or the FBI? You do have a choice.

    The non-LDS scout troop where I serve as the outdoor person has no defined roles based on gender. We select the best people for the roles that we can and no women want to be on the outdoor committte at this time. We have about 60 scouts and about 30 adults in various positions. Most but not all women currently involved tend to prefer the aspects of scouting that goes on inside the scout hut or car camping at most. Most but not all of the adults that primitive camp and hike and backpack are men. One noteworthy exception; a divorced woman and I took 8 boys on a 12 day canoeing trip in Minnesota Northern Tier and paddled over 100 miles with hard portages a few years ago and she did fine. Because of her odd first name (Marnell) they thought she was a guy and had reserved for us leader’s only one tent for the week. But we had anticipated this and I brought my own tent. We both had more privacy than if we had gone with the LDS policy of no cross gender camping.

    One comment about how it is sometimes good to get away from mama bear. If you think about it, it is also sometimes good to get away from papa bear too. This is called…. boy leadership! I have never met (in person) an LDS scouter who really understands let alone practices this principle to the degree that our troop does. The boys exceed expectations much of the time although the chaos is high. Yet it is the most valuable aspect of scouting and what sets it above just about any other youth activity. It is what changes bad boys into good men and good boys into great men. I don’t care how much we gin up the YM/YW programs, until we put into practice fully the principles of boy and (I presume) girl leadership we will fall short of what we could have accomplished.

  21. Bill was awarded the Silver Beaver a few years ago…..I’m proud of him and glad he found an area where he could teach boys manly skills. He set a good example. I’m ambivalent about scouting. The boy who molested many little girls in our neighborhood over a period of years was awarded his Eagle during that time. Arthur Bishop was an Eagle scout. Bill didn’t serve a mission, but he’s a better man than men who did serve. My point isn’t that some scouters or RM’s are evil people; it’s that we as Mormons are so geared to comparing and judging based on outward achievements (based a lot on our fear that we’re not going to be exalted) that we lose our sensible perspective. Of course Betty would have been an excellent scoutmaster! Although I don’t have a problem with some activities being totally male-oriented, it’s not unreasonable to ask that worthy individuals be allowed to participate to the full extent of their ability. Including a gay boy who worked hard for his Eagle.

  22. It’s off topic, but I’d be interested in a discussion of the merits of the scouting program altogether as the “activity arm” of the Aaronic priesthood. I’ve long favored of severing ties between the church and BSA…with all the news of abuse in BSA, I am hopeful the relationship will just die a natural death. And if BSA doesn’t survive the loss of the Mormon subsidy, well wouldn’t that be a darn shame…

  23. RJ:

    As a long time lurker, let me summarize that discussion in a few sentences.

    Comment: I loved scouting, and hope it stays in the church. It taught me so much.
    Comment: BSA is a top heavy organization that would die without the Mormons. Once Pres. Monson passes on, hopefully the church will divorce itself from BSA.
    Comment: Budgetary unfairness at the local level. Friends of scouting guilts money out of members with no vested interest in BSA. Young women can’t fund-raise like scouts can.

    GST: This thread is now closed.

    You’re welcome.

  24. Dang. The comment thought I was making an html tag. The text next to OP should say:

    (posting about scouting, pros and cons, nuance about it’s ability to serve modern youth, more modernized church program might better serve young men, leadership training, personal experiences . . .)

  25. There should also be a repeat ad nauseum before GST closes the thread.

    Edits have totally ruined my summary. Please BBC; enable comment editing.

  26. Meldrum the Less says:

    Totally disagree with you RJ.

    Probably a matter of differences in our experiences with scouting. I only wish you could have witnessed the glorious tapestry of outdoor adventure, service and leadership development my son was bless with in a non-LDS troop. Scouting is strong and excellent here in Georgia. We looked at 6 troops in our area and selected the one that most emphasised boy leadership and it also happened to have the most elaborate outdoor itinerary. Any of them would have been good.

    What needs to happen is that Mormons need to start doing scouting properly. I agree completely with you if I only consider the LDS scouting that I have observed. Another way to get here is to ask RJ and those of like opinion, what would y’all replace scouting with? An excellent leadership development, service, outdoor activity program for boys (and girls) done properly? I would argue that we are now nearly at the same place and do not disagree in principle. Because I have witnessed scouting do just that.

    I do agree with you that if we Mormons can’t do scouting better we should bail out of it. For example, I have no faith that my ward as it is currently constituted can do it and we should just cancel our misguided and feeble attempts to fake it. This would better allow interested families to seek and find better scouting without distraction, as we did. But let us bear no illusions here as to who is lacking in merits.

    By the way, scouting wrote the book on how to avoid abuse ( weakness becoming strength) and most of the media circus is the surfacing of old events, similar to what is probably hidden in just about every other youth organization.No abuse will occur if the principles now taught in scouting are followed. Unfortunately I just don’t see the same kind of transparency from the LDS YM/YW programs and y’all wouldn’t sever ties if a similar litany of abuse came forth. (Google “Camp Lemhi sex abuse” if you want a little taste of this.)

    I will go further and speculate that the key to turning around the culture of violence, drug abuse, promiscuity, thievery that is destroying the urban cities of this country (USA) is for churches to sponcer scouting properly done. The ghettos are loaded with churches, but they are not effective. Scouting is the best proven way I see on the board for good men in these communities to regain some influence in a culture where about 10% of kids have fathers, the rest being mere sperm donors. Won’t it be a damned shame when this violence spreads into y’all’s neighborhood, especially if you are too old or otherwise unable to move out.

  27. Fletcher, despite the editing, your summary was still the best thing I’ve read today!

  28. Kevin Barney says:

    Agree with Ardis, Fletcher, that was awesome, if only because it was so accurate!

    Meldrum the Less, my son gave up on scouting when his (LDS) leaders lost his merit badge cards from scout camp. They were totally disorganized and inept, and didn’t care because it was an external assignment, not an internal passion. The irony is today he is a major outdoorsman, and although he’s no longer involved in church he lives in Utah because of its ready access to an outdoors lifestyle. If anyone should have been an engaged and committed scouter, it should have been him. In retrospect we should have found a solid non-LDS troop like you did.

  29. Thanks Fletcher. I trust you are exactly right. Meldrum’s comment is evidence.

    Meldrum, I’m glad your son enjoyed scouts. I did too. I’m now in an inner city ward in the Northeast, and we’re finding our way without it (that’s right, my ward doesn’t even pretend to do scouts). But if scouts is as good as you describe, it will flourish with or without us.

  30. Meldrum the Less says:

    Bro. Barney:

    Please do not take this wrong. I am not blaming your son for the faults of his leaders.

    In our non-LDS troop merit badge cards are the boy’s responsibility.The problem your son experienced, from my perspective, isn’t just that inept leaders created false expectations and then didn’t fulfil them. The problem is that Mormons in their race to flog as many boys as possible into the eagle’s nest are prone to do too much for the boys and then when the burden is greater than they expect they drop the ball. Which is not as bad as cheating, another common Mormon scouting problem.

    From day one we tell the boys that every step of achievement is their responsibility.Only 5% will make it to eagle. If they want a merit badge they must take the initiative and get the card from the advancement person, or in the case of summer camp work through the camp director for that year. They must select a counselor and sometimes that means going to the district level if one is not in our troop. We teach them that two things must always happen:

    1. Actually do the requirements. (Duh)
    2. Document your work to the point that you convince the clown leaders that you did the requirements.
    (translated to an 11 year old level).

    For example, two nights ago this 16 year old scout who is famous for losing things and not following through handed three completed merit badge cards to me to give to my wife who is the advancement person this year. This is about the third time he has attempted to turn these cards in incomplete but they finally looked good. He reminded ME not to lose them! A few minutes later he asked me if I still had them. I told him I had lost them, what did he expect? I was just as bad as he was. I needed three chances just like he did.

    I asked him if he was prepared to prove again that he had done the work. He thought a minute and then realized that he had kept a notebook for each and it would be about a 10 minute hassle to prove again he had done the work for each of those badges and the counselors were probably in the building. He began searching for them when I miraculously “found” the cards in my pocket. Very funny, he chuckled. He sent an email to my wife the next day to make sure she had them.

    Which system better prepares boys for the reality of the work force and life in general? The Mormon system described by Bro. Barney, or the system we have in place in the non-LDS troop? Which is easier? is it worth it?

    As far as adult scout leaders go, in the non-LDS troop we train our scoutmaster for an entire year before he is given the reins. We work on committees for a year or two before leading them. We only select men for scoutmaster with proven ability in other “callings” such as summer camp director. Itis not perfect, but the best we can do. The LDS church often calls a guy cold turkey to be a scoutmaster and we often do not think the training available is worth it. Disorganized, authorative and visionless leaders just going through the motions is the result.

    It is not too late for son of Barney to find a good troop. They must exist in Utah somewhere. Most troops have plenty of help at the scout hut. But finding adult men who are physically fit and willing to put on a pair of hiking boots and willing to let a 13 year old navigator (navi-guesser) get you and a dozen of his friends mildly lost in the mountains without actually exposing anyone to real danger is hard to do. Then lay back and watch them screw up their tents getting soaked when it rains, burn their dinner and sit up all night telling stories, all the time letting them experience the consequences of their choices, good and bad, is even better. If you let a group of boys think they are actually lost and it costs them a few extra miles of backpacking, they will give you their full attention the next time you have a skills instruction on map and compass. If you let a few boys get soaked and cold, they will all figure out quickly how to set up a tent. If you fix good food over the campfire for yourself and the other adults and then eat it in front of the scouts while they eat burned garbage, the pop tarts and ramen noodles disappear. Hike the boys 20 miles on 2 hours of sleep and scheduling problems decrease.

    God’s cathedrals, what I like to call the outdoors, are wonderful to visit on your own terms. But to be taking young men there to help them get their lives together through something like scouting is even better.

    Fo the record your son is no worse off than where I started. I got kicked out of scouting at age 12 for fighting. I can still taste the bitterness more than 40 years later of taking half a dozen merit badge cards to a court of honor and walking up to the jackass scoutmaster and at the end tearing them up and throwing them in his face and telling him he could take his scouting and go straight to hell. I wish to prevent other boys from wallowing in this mud hole.

    RJ: Do the best you can, you can’t do any better than that.

  31. I have to admit that I almost certainly would not have finished my Eagle Scout if I had remained in an LDS troop. My family and I were stationed in England and attended an English branch. The air force base we were at had a troop, part of the Transatlantic Council of the BSA. That council was notorious for it’s standards regarding everything from merit badges to Eagle Scout projects. They rejected about 1/3 of the proposals on the first submission. The result was that one got a sense that this was something to be taken seriously and respected. I never got that sense in the LDS troops I had been in before. It may be that I was just in wards that didn’t care. Who knows? I actually hope the church gets out of the scouting business. Not all boys want to be scouts, and it is absurd to shove them in that direction as part of their spiritual development

  32. it's a series of tubes says:

    I can still taste the bitterness

    Surprising, it doesn’t come through in anything you post here.

  33. Or at the very least, let each ward decide if they want to charter a troop and seek volunteers (not coerced volunteers) from the ward and community. At least the the scouting program would cease to be the top-down approach it is in the Church and become the troop-oriented and led endeavor that it is supposed to be.

    (of course, that won’t happen when doing so violates the 14th article of faith–“We believe in homogeneity”)

  34. tubes’s #32: COTW

  35. I guess it’s more amusing to make fun of Meldrum, than to engage with what he’s said. Everything he says about LDS scouting is dead on accurate. The only thing he’s left out is that we have created this mess by neutering real scouting in our attempts at LDSifying it. Ironically I saw the vision of real scouting laid out by Meldrum when I went to leader training after being called as an assistant scoutmaster in my ward. As the district trainer laid out that vision I mentally countered almost every important point by saying in my mind, “nope, can’t do that in an LDS troop”.

  36. it's a series of tubes says:

    Everything he says about LDS scouting is dead on accurate.

    Sorry, I disagree. Meldrum unfailingly finds the worst when it comes to the church, and I refuse to accept the blackwashing he wants to paint. Does he have certain points that have an element of truth? Of course, but the whole is much more nuanced.

    My lived experience in a Wasatch front scout troop, and from 16 years onward in a Bay Area scout organization, bore no resemblance to the dire picture he presents. I had dedicated leaders. The program was well run. The boys were expected to lead; Patrol leader and SPL were serious responsibilities and the leaders backed off and let us lead, often fail, and learn. There was no rubber-stamping for merit badges; we earned them. Camping was a monthly event, 12 months a year, all over the state. Summer scout camp at Camp Loll outside yellowstone was top-notch. I earned my Eagle. I was well supported and guided, but I earned it. Several of the men who were my leaders passed away far, far too young, but they influenced me and dozens of other boys for good in untold ways.

    Similarly, the LDS Bay Area scouters I worked with were some of the most dedicated individuals I know. Several held or had held leadership positions at the national level. Many had served for 20 or more years; one for almost 40.

  37. tubes, are you saying that your personal experience as a scout doesn’t support Meldrum? How old are you now? Have you been a scout leader or had a scouting age son since you left the program as a participant? If not you might want to reassess.

    Like you I also knew LDS scout leaders who had served for years, but that’s not the case now in my ward/stake/area. My ward has had 4 scoutmasters in the last 4 years, each one released when ward leadership was reshuffled.

    I also earned my merit badges, and like Meldrum explained I had to seek out the counselor, follow the pamphlet, get the blue card, etc, etc. But my stake and ward now hold regular merit badge manias where they bring in the counselor and the scouts basically sit through a class and get the badge. My two eagle scout sons never decided on a merit badge by themselves and followed through, they didn’t have to, between scout camp, merit badge manias and troop organized merit badge clinics they got everything they needed.

    I also went to top notch summer camps but my sons didn’t get to go to some of them since now the church leaders in my area have expressly forbidden troops to go to camp outside of the state. We also camped a lot in many different and varied places, but church leaders have also put restrictions on how far troops can go to camp, my father-in-law’s SP has even decreed that no troop can go anywhere outside his stake without permission from him. My sons usually did ad hoc campouts a few miles from home on the edges of suburbia that lasted from sundown to mid morning on Saturday.

    How can patrol leader be a serious responsibility when most troops in my stake have only enough boys to fill up a single patrol? How can SPL be a serious responsibility when the deacon’s quorum president is rotely called to be it? That specific instruction used to be in the official LDS scouting handbook. They’ve changed it now but hardly for the better, here is what it says, “Each Scouting unit should be led by a young man who is nominated by the bishopric and sustained by the quorum members. For Scouting purposes this constitutes an election.” I think that quote says it all about the mess we have made of the real scouting program.

    From funding to patrol based leadership to activities to advancement to involvement by boys older than deacons age our earnest determination to correlate the BSA program with Aaronic Priesthood and shoe horn it into an LDS mold has created a neutered organization hardly recognizable to scouters and scout troop described by Meldrum.

  38. In my observation, the quality of an LDS troop is quite good so long as the adult leaders are committed to the program and properly trained (surprise, that’s what it takes from an non-LDS troop). The major difference I see between your standard LDS troop and your standard non-LDS troops is that non-LDS troops don’t have this underlying cultural belief of “whom the Lord calls, he qualifies.” The non-LDS troops seem to require that their leaders get trained more often than the LDS troops. Without doubt, this is somewhat confounded by the fact that non-LDS troops that don’t get their leaders trained (or who don’t get their leaders to buy into the program) tend to fail; LDS troops with untrained leaders just fail.

    So the reality of scouting in the Church is that wards that are lucky enough to have committed, experienced, and trained leaders have successful programs. I think (one of the places) where the Church fails is it doesn’t depend on true volunteer leadership. Then, when troops in the Church fail (but don’t disband), families have to choose between a quality program for their sons or seemingly pulling support from the ward program.

    A lot of these problems would resolve easily enough if units chose whether or not to charter a troop just like any other religious organization. If a ward didn’t have enough volunteers to make a troop work, the families would then be free to take their boys to other troops.

  39. The big advantages I see with “community” units vs. LDS units is that the adult leaders are usually there because they want to be (i.e. they’re self-motivated), and they usually stay in position for a long time. In the Church, too often leaders aren’t left in place long enough to really get good at it (despite repeated direction from the GAs). If leaders are committed enough to get trained and learn their job, and are left in place long enough, Scouting can work well in the Church.

    When our committee chair was called about five years ago, she knew *nothing* about Scouting, but she was determined to learn and do it right. Now she’s heavily involved at the District level, an Eagle project reviewer, teaches training classes, and manages merit badge counselors across the District (in addition to running the committee in the ward). It’s all a matter of desire, commitment, and tenure.

  40. it's a series of tubes says:

    tubes, are you saying that your personal experience as a scout doesn’t support Meldrum? How old are you now? Have you been a scout leader or had a scouting age son since you left the program as a participant? If not you might want to reassess.

    I’m pushing 40, wife is a den leader in cubs, son is an 11 year old scout, I live in the western US but not in Utah, and my assessment stands.

  41. it's a series of tubes says:

    father-in-law’s SP has even decreed that no troop can go anywhere outside his stake without permission from him

    Also, d-bag leaders like this and their overreaching “decrees” are best ignored. I’m not a fan of letting the foolish and/or megalomaniacal ruin the opportunity for the youth. Just my .02.

  42. Meldrum the Less says:

    I agree with most of the comments above. Even tubes. His experience is not the same as mine. I wish my son had been the recipient of good LDS scouting as he describes and not be sitting here wondering if he is white washing it. I actually believe if tubes had been in my ward when my son refused to go to MIA because of the rampant cheating in scouting that he would unfailingly agree with me. If he had gone to summer camp with my ward a few years ago he would have been embarased as much as I was by the obnoxious, arrogant Mormon leaders. Scouts will be scouts but those leaders were something else. I think tubes would not be shocked when my gentle quiet son refused to have his sash stained with any Mormon awards and asked the Bishop to take his eagle plaque down that was hanging in the foyer because the ward had nothing to do with it. I am not disputing excellent scouting. I just have not experienced it here in Georgia.

    (PS. I went to Camp Loll for one night with my nephew, it was pretty good with certain advantages and nothing to complain about but not on the same level as Camp Woodruff in Georgia).

    If we can look beyond our individual experiences (hard for me) and agree on any general principles I propose the following:

    -Need a critical mass of numbers of boys for leadership to happen. One boy leading his little brother and a friend is not enough. I would guess about 20 or 30.This means getting serious about making wards bigger or else not base scout troops in wards.
    -Need to broaden out the age for scouting from a 12-13 year old deacons activity to include 11 to 18 year olds, semantics aside.
    -Need trained committed and passionate leaders which takes years to develop. Not just another ward calling.
    -Need to insure awards are earned not given without significant effort or they have little value.
    -Need real service opportunities.
    -Need the best outdoor program possible under geographic constraints.No excuses.
    -Need support not interference from sponsoring agencies.This is always a potential problem and does not spare us.
    -Need to recognize that we can do better instead of hiding behind a sort of Mormon moral superiority complex that leads some to make light of those who point out problems and call for improvement or worse intrepret any criticism as persecution and anti-Mormon rhetoric.

  43. it's a series of tubes says:

    Meldrum, I agree with all your points listed at the end of your post.

  44. Meldrum the Less says:

    I thought those would have wide agreement. Our ward is not there.

    Are we ready to discuss ideas that might not be as easily accepted?

    Many LDS troops are in geographical areas where the opportunities for outdoor activites is spectacular. (Scouting as a camping club). Many LDS troops see scouting as primarily an achievement program and they can drive the parade into the eagles nest with integrety. And this is not a small thing. Where I think scouting in the better LDS troops can improve is in the area of leadership development. A few ideas for consideration:

    -Elected boy leaders rather than appointed by the bishop or scoutmaster. Elections give the boy leaders credibility and power to govern. Democracy works! Elections motivate the older boys to help out the younger ones when they realize they will need their votes to win this position.

    -Integrate the 11 year old scouts into the troop. I do not doubt that good wards prepare the boys well in scouting skills at that age with the separate Blazers program. But it is not those younger boys teaching themselves the basic skills up through First Class Scout, it is their adult leaders teaching them. It is a crucial missed opportunity for the older boys to teach those skills. If you want to teach boys to tie knots as quickly as possible, a good adult leader is usually best. But if you want to have older teenage boys organize, lead, or put on knot tying seminars for younger scouts then corraling the 11 year olds somewhere else is a mistake.

    -Keep older boys active in scout troop through leadership opportunities not just take them on increasingly more rigorous and extravagant expeditions separate from the younger boys. Every troop struggles with retention of older boys and meaningful boy leadership is the best answer to this problem. Senior patrol leaders need to be 15-17 years old to effectively lead a troop instead of being a vassal of the adults. Separating out scouting as a deacons quorum activity and then moving the 14 year olds out of it is not wise. Scouting works far better with 11 to 18 year olds than with 12-13 year olds

    – The final eagle leadership and service project should be difficult and elaborate enough to challenge the abilities of a 16-18 year old boy over the course of several months and thereby will be impossible for almost all 14-15 year old scouts, the average of LDS eagles.

    -Better community service opportunities. (Our troop is falling short here currently and working to improve). A few years ago my son earned the Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Award that required 250 hours of service, almost all of it through scouting. Others have earned the silver or bronze level with fewer hours required, but still in the hundreds.This is a worthy goal for scouts who are not as interested in merit badges.

    – In many cities with bad traffic problems it becomes impossible to get to the good outdoor activity areas before dark on Friday night. Setting up camp quickly in the dark is not good scouting practice and should usually be avoided. Night hikes are frought with difficulties and dangerous and aside from a few expeditions should not be the backbone of hiking in a troop. If we refuse to allow camping over Saturday night and disparage Sunday services organized by the boys in the outdoors on Sunday morning, we sentence ourselves to lousy camping in most areas with larger LDS populations outside of the western Mormon strong holds. This is the single largest barrier to good scouting here.

    -Financial independence from sponsoring churches is required for scouting to function properly. Our large troop (when it had about 80 scouts in an affluenct community) had around $100,000 flow through its accounts each year. A LDS ward with $10,000 to $15,000 total budget is not going understand or toleerate this level of expense. The issue of expensive and bloated upper level scouting management with the million dollar executives is real and needs to be rectified. But most LDS troops at the lowest level are far under-funded and strapped in their fund raising efforts by church policies. Most LDS troops are far from the middle road on this subject.

    -If you pay attention to the best troops in your area, you will invariably discover ideas to improve your own troop. Rather than isolating ourselves with feelings of superiority and defensiveness and being satisfied with just doing the minimum or enough, we need to have the attitude of being better or perhaps the best through collaboration and putting ourselves in a place to be emulated not ridiculed.

  45. Meldrum- Would you be interested in writing a post about scouting for the My Mormon Perspective series on my blog? (From what you have discussed here I could easily see it breaking into more than one. ) Anyway, you can click on my name which will take you to my blog, or email me findingmywaysoftly

  46. Meldrum, you might find the following document of interest, I wrote it when I was preparing to go to war with my stake presidency when they asked me to be the stake’s scouting specialist. We never really got to discuss these points because I had to decline the calling for logistical matters, but I think they were happy to not have to deal with me in that role once they found out how I felt about LDS scouting.

  47. Meldrum the Less says:

    I would be delighted to discuss scouting, Juliathepoet. What would be the constraints or expectations?

    As you can see I don’t get to my computer every day. I am a digital imbecile. (Ardis and friends would say more than digital, I know). My experience is limited to one lousy LDS ward and one good troop in the community for about 9 years. I am not actually trained that well and definitely not versed in much of the lore or administration of scouting. We do adult training during summer camp and the first 2-3 years I went to summer camp and should have been training, it rained hard every day. Because other adults preferred to do more training indoors to getting dunked in a cold river, I went rafting with the boys 4 of the 5 days of training and got the short version at night. I sort of learned by osmosis from the other adults in the troop.

    My wife is well trained and keeps me in line, except she doesn’t camp. You know how every troop has one lady who is a stickler for following the rules and doing it right? I appreciate this lady and the troop needs her. But I am also delighted that she gave me a patch almost identical to all of the ones the others have to wear on their sleeve that says “untrainable.” If the adults in my troop were to hear that I was blogging about scouting, there would be much snickering and eyes would roll.

    In this troop we specialize and my area is suffering. I don’t mind being cold, wet, tired, hungry and slightly lost. I also have a strong compulsion in the direction of pranks, snipe hunts and bear stories. I have a knack for finding lost boys since I am the one most likely to get them lost in the first place. I am drawn to the bad news bears in the troop and somehow paradoxically steering them away from serious trouble by trying to cause as much harmless trouble as possible, although as I have gotten older this is less intuitative than before.

    Benjamin, I am amazed at that document. It seems like a home work assignment I never did. Seriously, it feels like you plagerized it straight from my head because I have never actually written anything like that but it reflects exacly what I think. It describes what we do. Common experiences and general principles?

    Specific comments on Benjamin’s document;

    Part One: I personally fall short, but my wife is Woodbadge trained and has done all of that and more and was the Troop Committee Chairperson until our son aged out.
    Part Two: Exactly what we do but never was my responsibility.My son was the Senior Patrol Leader.
    Part Three: I agree except I think 20 boys is better than 10 boys. Half or less go on each trip so that means a troop of over 40 boys. Or more. My role is 3b, that would cover 90% of what I do. Many hands make light work.
    Part Four: Exactly what we do and a boy quartermaster (with his dad backing him up) does all of that for 6 months.
    Part Five; We do 2 or 3 high adventure expeditions each year. I have been the adult leader of 2 of them and gone on 1 other. My son triple crowned twice, crew leader twice. Greatest experiences of his youth.
    (Triple crown= Philmont, Northern Tier, Seabase)

    I would add another section covering advancement since I have seen so much cheating in the LDS troop but that would not need to be addressed unless it was a problem.

    I nominate Benjamin to blog for Juliathepoet. All in favor manifest by the usual sign. Any opposed?

  48. I would love to share Benjamin’s thoughts in a couple posts, as well as yours Meldrum. I am looking at the curriculum changes for YM/YW and how that will impact the spiritual development of my children. (I am using them simply because they are the right ages to make it easy to talk about, but I am interested in how it will impact everyone. My son will be 13 in February and my daughters will be 11 next April.)

    I have been talking to my mom, who is a YW leader and former Woodbadge trainer. (I talked about her in my earliest comment.) She feels that the activities part of YW will have the flexibility to bring the best parts of scouting to YW and to leave the parts that often don’t work well in an LDS setting. I also want to look at LDS scouting works, when it does, and what is different in non-LDS troops that make them work, that isn’t (or maybe can’t) be replicated in LDS troops.

    As ambitious, and maybe as obnoxious, as it sounds, I am hoping to pull together a vision of what then programs of YM and YW could look like, in practice, when my daughters turn 18. I figure the best place to find the real changes we need to make are to find the people who the current programs let down enough that they “left” part if the program, so they could find something that did work.

    Meldrum, email me and we can talk all of the specifics. Findingmywaysoftly I try to do as little editing as possible for guest post, mostly spell and grammar check, sometimes rearranging paragraphs. I wouldn’t ask someone to write a guest post if I just wanted my thoughts. Occasionally I ask questions that I think need to be flushed out, but I always send a copy of the edited version to the author before it publishes as a guest post.

    Benjamin, if you are willing to have part or all of your thoughts become a guest post on my blog, please email me. You can check out my blog by clicking on my name or

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