Included in NT Gospel Doctrine Lesson 9 is the following strange little story:
Elder William R. Bradford of the Seventy once spoke with the bishop of a ward whose youth had worked to earn money for an activity. The bishop asked Elder Bradford if he would help the youth get some recognition for what they had done. To the bishop’s surprise, Elder Bradford said he would not. He said that he was glad that the young people had worked hard, but that it was not important that they receive public recognition for that work.
When the youth decided to donate their money to the Church’s general missionary fund instead of using it for the activity, they wanted to have their picture taken with Elder Bradford as they made the donation, and they wanted to have the picture and an article put into the newspaper. Again Elder Bradford surprised them by saying “no.” He told the bishop: “You might consider helping your young people learn a higher law of recognition. Recognition from on high is silent. It is carefully and quietly recorded there. Let them feel the joy and gain the treasure in their heart and soul that come from silent, selfless service” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 90–91; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 75).
I found this story odd although I can understand the principle behind it. I have encountered the same type of thinking several times in Church settings. Several years ago when one of my daughters was 11 she had earned her “Gospel in Action” recognition. At the time in the ward where we lived it was customary to present the children who earned this award a small medallion. It was given them by the Bishop during the opening announcements in Sacrament Meeting. But our new Primary President was of the same ideology as Elder Bradford in the story above. Instead of being recognized, my daughter was handed her medallion in the hall at the end of Primary.
This experience was a harbinger of things to come. Soon the Gospel in Action program was phased out. Now the girls participate in the “Faith in God” program. Although in some wards there continues to be some recognition when the girls pass of these requirements, the program specifically instructs that the girls should not be awarded special tokens for their efforts, but instead should feel the satisfaction of doing the good works for their own sake. This is juxtaposed with the scouting program, where at every step there are badges, pins, ceremonies, and commendation.
How do you feel about recognition in Church youth programs, including Scouting? Do you think Elder Bradford is right; that youth should be taught of a higher purpose for serving and participating? Or do you think such recognition can be motivating and strengthening to our children and youth? Finally, do you think recognition and awards are skewed in favor of the boys?