In an unexpected turn of events, the LDS Church announced it will withdraw from the Varsity and Venturing scouting programs of the Boy Scouts of America and Scouts Canada. The Varsity program is used for young men aged 14-15 (Teachers), and the Venturing program is used for young men aged 16-18 (Priests). The church will retain it’s partnership with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs in the United States and Canada serving boys aged 8-13.
The newsroom announcement explained the reason for the changes:
In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14–18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church. This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.
In a related Deseret News article, Charles Dahlquist II concurred. Dahlquist is the current BSA national commissioner and a former Young Men general president.
Dahlquist said the BSA’s Venturing and Varsity never found solid footing in church-sponsored units.
“The numbers are there, the registrations are there,” he said, “but they really haven’t caught on in the church. … All of a sudden, it drops off for whatever reason, and we lose too many of our young men between ages 14 and 16.”
Church leaders deny the changes are reactions to the BSA accepting gay and transgender scouts leaders, even though the 2015 decision to accept openly gay leaders prompted a statement by leadership that they would re-examine their century-long relationship with scouting.
Leaders also denied the decision had anything to do with the current debate over allowing more female involvement in the organization. The press release notes, “Church leaders learned just recently about the BSA’s intent to consider including girls and young women in Scouting. Our decision to end our participation in the Varsity and Venturing programs was made independent of this possibility and before that time.” Girls have been allowed in some BSA programs for many years, including the Venturing program.
Back in 2015, a Dan Jones poll revealed almost two-thirds of “very active” Mormons felt the church should pull out of the scouting program. A later poll asking why revealed several reasons. Many felt the church could devise a better program for the young men (the church maintains it is still exploring the creation of a “worldwide youth program”). Some objected to the then-recent decision to accept openly gay leaders, with the BSA no longer reflecting church values. Another reason I’ve seen elsewhere is the funding disparity between the YM and YW programs, a concern that leaders have apparently been aware of for some time according to the press release. Ward councils are now to “consider equally the needs of Young Women and Young Men and their families when planning activities and determining budgets.”
Changes will be effective January 1, 2018. According to the First Presidency letter, boys who have not gained the rank of Eagle Scout (United States) or Queen Scout (Canada) by the age of 14 “should be encouraged and supported in their efforts and should be properly registered as Scouts.”
Teachers and Priests in the United States and Canada will now follow activity guidelines used in other countries. The church has created a new website, ymactivities.lds.org, to assist those affected quorums transitioning to the new program. The website explains the overall goal: “Building young men with strong testimonies in the Lord Jesus Christ, helping them magnify their priesthood duties, and preparing them to fulfill their divine roles as righteous husbands and fathers.” The Duty to God program still stands. Young men will still hold activities weekly where appropriate for quorum members, and are encouraged to have more combined activities with young women as they are “particularly beneficial.” Young men will participate yearly in a youth camp or high adventure, and should hold 2-3 overnight activities each year as well.
Stephen R. Marsh, a blogger here at Wheat & Tares, provided some valuable insight on the matter:
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Church did a lot of statistical analysis on what led to successful members. One of the interesting results was that they discovered that participation in boy scouts did nothing to improve outcomes for young men. That led to an assignment to develop an alternative program. Unfortunately, those assigned could think of nothing but cloning boy scouts and the initiative did not go very far.
Problems that developed over time were as follows:
- From about 13-14 years of age and on, boy scouts costs a lot, generates lop-sided budgets, and delivers very little.
- Most programs dissolve into activities that do not teach any skills applicable to modern life (so called “theme park camping” where scouts camp on platforms, use Colman stoves and learn neither how to camp in the wild or anything that relates to modern urban life).
- The program for young men supports those who are at the top of the social structure or who enjoy the quasi-athletic structure of scouting.
- The program leads to inactivity for young women (who feel devalued by its implementation), and to a loss of young men who are not at the top of the structure.
The result is that the Church spends a good deal of time, effort and money on a program that benefits less than 30% of the young men and that is eroding the future of the Church – and one that is only in use in some countries, but not church wide – and that while it may offer positive benefits to some, does not lead to successful later membership in the church.
The biggest surprise about the church withdrawing further from scouting is not that it did, but that it took so long.
What do you think about this decision?
I think in reality this is what we were mostly already doing: ignoring the varsity/venturing programs and providing membership & support for Eagle Scout as the end goal. I’m not sure technically how much this changes, except for not having to pay $50 in registration during rechartering for boys who already have their Eagle or who are 14+ and not interested.
It’s a step, I just think it’s a smaller step than is being heralded.
Exactly, Kristine A. I think that this announcement seems so big but in reality is not much of a change on the ground. Yet the consequences will be that those involved in Cubs and Boy Scouts will think we’re about to pull out too, so why invest in time, donations, training, purchasing shirts, etc–and the whole thing will collapse. Which is fine by me, I’ve wanted the Church to be independent of the BSA for a long time, but I worry that this gradual separation will be messier than a quick divorce. Because who’s going to donate to Friends of Scouting now, even though the church says we’re still doing that?
Just looking back anecdotally on my experience, I agree with Kristine. The only thing I can say with respect to varsity programs is that I do recall going on some high adventure trips, but these were never advertised as being separate from Boy Scouts (in other words, never was “varsity” mentioned). And obviously, there certainly was never a venture program with boy young men and young women.
I think it’ll depend on how many parents will push their 14+ YO boys to keep pursuing to Eagle and what the church has planned as replacement.
I’m very interested in hearing experiences from folks who grew up outside of the US+Canada (of folks who weren’t on military bases that still had BSA stuff.) Since, if anything, that is probably the model that’s coming stateside.
There is a certain militancy tbat goes with the LGBT demographic. Before long they would have demanded that boy scouts be required to watch drag queen shows in the name of political correctness and inclusivity.
This will probably bankrupt the Boy Scouts of America.
I think it’s interesting that the YM are encouraged to hold multiple overnight trips *in addition to* their annual High Adventure or whatever you want to call it on the summer. Whereas the girls get Girls Camp and that’s IT. No other female-only overnights are allowed, I guess they are worried about witchcraft or something.
“I’m very interested in hearing experiences from folks who grew up outside of the US+Canada (of folks who weren’t on military bases that still had BSA stuff.) Since, if anything, that is probably the model that’s coming stateside.”
I’ll try to oblige with some info on how it is here. There is no scouting program in church here. The YM do Duty to God, and the YW have personal progress. Numbers of YM and YW mean that there are either separate YM and YW activities (not divided by age) or a joint YM/YW activity (also not divided by age, and usually held monthly). Both the YM and YW have a short camp in the summer – pretty much the same kind of thing for both – and in years when our stake has FSY (every other year) there are camps for the under 14s, but the older kids get FSY instead. Sometimes there have been priesthood commemoration overnight camps for the boys with their Dads, but that’s pretty rare, and hasn’t happened for a while.
The church a brief fling with scouting was tried briefly for the boys when I was growing up. It was an abject failure.
I have been on the outdoor committee of a large non-LDS troop for about 15 years and my wife was the troop committee chairperson for that troop. I have also been a LDS scoutmaster (the absolute worst calling I ever had) and the ward troop committee chairman. I have thought and written extensively on the topic of LDS and non-LDS scouting.
A brief summary of my opinion is that the LDS ward is incapable of operating scouting as it should be done.. That most LDS people know very little about real scouting and hence constantly express erroneous opinions about it based on their distorted experiences. And most importantly that the LDS church either needs to start doing scouting properly (which I believe they are generally incapable of doing in most wards) or we need to get out of it entirely.
This new announcement, if it is described accurately above, high lights our church leadership’s complete lack of understanding of scouting. To non-LDS scouters this announcement is laughable. If it was not for the extensive funding the LDS church provides to scouting, this would be the last straw for them TO KICK THE LDS CHURCH OUT OF SCOUTING!
Scouting is not an achievement program (LDS race to the eagles nest by age 14 is misguided); it is not even an outdoors club. It is a service and leadership development program which does quite a bit of camping/hiking/canoeing etc., but also other things. It is intended to consist of 3 to 6 patrols of about 8 to 12 boys in each, (30 to 60 boys total in a troop) ranging in ages from 11 to 17. The inclusion of boys of different ages is the key to the “patrol method” of leadership development. The fetching key! The patrols are lead by elected leaders, generally 14-16 year old scouts or older and the entire troop is lead by an elected senior patrol leader with two assistants usually 16-17 years old.
The boys lead the troop and the adults are to do NOTHING a boy can do. Adults focus on preventive measures to insure physical safety and legal issues and not much else. It takes years, even decades to develop the culture within the troop- of actual boy leadership balanced on the thin edge between adult-taking-over and the chaos of boy-not-doing-leadership. When done properly, it is the only opportunity in our modern society for a teenage boy to actually take on adult responsibility for incrementally increasing and extended periods of time with significant responsibility. And it does changes lives and it does create a different kind of man with integrity that is rare in modern life. For at least half a century the LDS church has subtly rejected these basic principles, not so much directly in word or print, but in practice.
The LDS practice of separating out the boys by age; 12-13 as scouts, 13-14 as varsity, and 16-17 as explorers is contrived and inconsistent with the goals of scouting and incompatible with the development of leadership. And plain stupid. LDS scouting was already a parody, a mockery of real scouting and this new approach pushes it over the edge for me. If they are trying to make some kind of political statement about homosexuality and the scouting approach to it, then they should take this opportunity to get the hell out entirely and not pussy-foot around.
For those LDS parents with boys sincerely interested in scouting, please find a non-LDS troop for them. For those whose boys are not interested (and that would be 70-90% of boys in my experience), please refuse to support LDS scouting. Either passively if the social cost is too high, or actively where possible.
My wife and I are going to research this and discuss this and we may take this discussion to the district level where she has many friends and contacts. At this point I am seriously thinking of doing what we can to get the LDS church kicked out of scouting at our district and state level. I do this as a favor for them.they kicked themselves out a long time except in name only and now this. It is ridiculous. I am ashamed to be a Mormon scouter today. Lead by prophets who never lead us astray , my ass.
My experience in Scouts has always been that when there is an effective leader then it was an effective program. I saw this with my brothers and myself as well as with my boys. The new program will be the same. If you have leaders who already understand how to mentor and engage young men you will have an effective program.
The vague outlines given for the new program will lead to failure I believe more often than happened in BSA, especially in my local area, because the leaders who could engage the young men are not called as leaders because they are perceived to lack in the spiritual side of the equation. This perception of a lack of spirituality comes from the persons pursuit of talents, interests, and skills that make them uniquely qualified to build lasting, meaningful relationships with the young men.
Mike, even though your tirade includes many sound bites straight from the scouting training I have had to take (you seem to have drunk deeply of the BSA kool aid) I agree with almost everything you say before the last paragraph, it’s a good summary of why scouting is dysfunctional in the church. When I was a scout in the late 60s it was run much more like real scouting. But scouting was eventually correlated into becoming “the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood” and that was it’s downfall in the church. There is scouting and there is LDS scouting and they are two wildly different animals.
Yes, it is true that we regress to the scouting of our youth.Not that it matters much but terminology- I have confused it above & needs to be corrected:
Age 12-13 Deacons; scouting 1960’s; scouting today
Age 14-15 Teachers; ventures 1960’s (per my memory); varsity today
Age 16-17 Priests; explorers 1960’s (per my memory); ventures today
And to add to the confusion:
In the real BSA, venturing is sort of an auxillary organization for young men AND young women age 16+. We went camping with one a few times but the logistics of two male and two female adult leaders and the fact that boys and girls that age have different ideas about backpacking and camping, at least in that one troop, made it difficult to execute. I am aware of a venture crew in a nearby troop that took older teenage boys and girls to Northern Tier last summer. It can be made to work. Again this points out the perversion and confusion of LDS scouting.
And finally, in Australia, the scouting program is integrated from age 5 to age 21 (US cub, boy scout, all above and older) and completely integrated across gender. They have great names like joey scouts, wolf scouts and ranger scouts, etc. We had an Aussie scout in our non-LDS troop. He reported the only real problem was that boys at around ages 13-15 were generally too rude and immature to camp with girls that age and had to be separated for camping purposes only, but otherwise it worked fine. I was told that the LDS church does next to nothing with scouting in Australia.
These semantic errors do not alter my basic a opinion expressed above. Scouting works; its not scouting that is the problem, it is the LDS church and their inability to execute.
Does anyone personally know Elder Charles Dahlquist II and is he approachable? Because I think that is where this discussion needs to go.
I’ve never been a fan of scouting, but my son loves it. I’m glad to hear it is going away. It always felt like a waste of time to me.
One thing we’ll lose out on when we part ways with the BSA: they actually invest time and money into youth protection training, rather than simply claiming to be the ‘gold standard.’
The changes won’t affect my ward much – we’re already doing it. There are only a handful of priests, no teachers, and 3 deacons. The deacons meet most weeks with the stakewide scouts, while the priests do their own young men activities. They all come together with the monthly combined activity with the young women. My husband views the change as an overall positive step. Of the wards where he’s been involved in scouting, only one had somewhat successful varsity/venturing programs, due in large part to one leader.
I had virtually no official training, except the youth protection required every year. I am not even an official assistant scout master, just a troop committee member and reliable outdoor committee member. When we started this journey at the tiger scout level, my wife did the scouting, She got all the training. I tagged along where needed to drive and camp. At that point I was more athletic than most dads. I have drank deeply from the actual experience of real scouting, probably around 800-1000 miles of hiking/canoeing etc., and perhaps a year’s worth of camping overnight over my 15 years in scouting. We don’t keep track of the data for the adults but we do for the boys. My son hiked around 800 miles, paddled about 500 miles, biked about 300 miles and slept in a tent over 200 nights and did over 200 hours of service in 7 years of scouting. I went on probably 2/3rd of those trips and have been in the troop for about 5 years since he graduated. These are not sound bites or something I was taught in training sessions. They are my real-life experiences with scouting.
Your comments reflect a far more realistic and better attitude than most LDS scouters. But it is obvious you have not experienced real scouting. It is something quite beyond a few effective leaders making something work the best they can from next to nothing. Or look like it works. That is good in its own way but it is not real scouting. No offense intended. It takes many leaders properly trained and years to develop the genuine scouting spirit/culture in the troop. I think you have to see boy leadership in action to understand it.
I wish to describe a recent example of real boy leadership. A 16 year old scout in our non-LDS troop who had served as the senior patrol leader but doesn’t like the hard-core backpacking we do, decided to take matters into his own hands when the January camping/canoeing trip to the Okeefenokee swamp fell through. Entirely on his own initiative he planned a replacement trip.
It was billed as “the mystery trip.” Only he, the current 3 senior patrol leaders, his mother (not father) and the scout master knew about it. All of the rest of the adults and boys were kept in the dark. The adults say they did absolutely nothing except give him the green light. The cost was high, $200 each and subsidized another $200 each by the troop. (Budget ~$20,000).
About a week before the 3 day trip began, he issued a list of what to bring. It did not include toilet paper, food or eating utensils, or tents. It did include small backpacks, sleeping bags, rain gear and good hiking boots. Over 50 boys signed up based on his energetic promotion of the mystery trip. And 11 nervous adults decided we might need to be on the deep side for this trip so we came in strength.
A bus greeted us on Friday night and chick-fil-a dinners. We rode the bus to Amtrak and then all night to Washington DC. We didn’t know where we were stopping until we got off the train, it could have been New York, Boston, a ski lodge in Vermont. We stayed in the basement of a church near the capitol and he had envelops with cash for each meal for each person spread out over many fast food places in the area. We were organized into patrols with 2 older scouts in charge of each patrol and 2 or 3 adults tagging along in each with about 10-12 scouts of every age down to 11 years old. We hiked 27 GPS miles around Washington DC over 3 days and saw many of the usual sites; the Constitution, the monuments, Smithsonian museums the boy leaders had selected. He arranged for us to attend a Washington Wizzards professional basketball game where we were publicly honored as the scout troop visiting from Georgia and got to high 5 the team as they ran out of the tunnel onto the floor.
The night after the basketball game was the 10 mile night hike around the streets of DC (maybe they got lost and it was supposed to be less), in the cold rain at about 35 F. Perhaps it wasdesigned to break down potential resistance of any control-inclined adults. It ended as close as possible to the White House across the street and to the north. Then the older scouts stripped off most of their clothes to reveal shorts that looked like the American flag and they danced wildly in the cold rain while waving Trump banners. This was a few weeks before Pres. Obama left the white house and done for his benefit. About 95 % of these scouts are Trumpsters. (That is another story)
We hit more sights the next day and rode the train back home completely exhausted. We lost no scouts. The most serious misadventure was when a few in my patrol of the usually troublesome scouts took off their scout shirts and tried to sneak on a bus with teenagers on a school tour including girls they met in one of the museums from Pennsylvania, but were not allowed. I didn’t stop them. I thought it might be a valuable learning adventure, for this bunch especially, to get stuck in the middle of nowhere with several school teachers screaming at them. They had cell phones how much trouble could they get into? (How much more than usual?)
Now Bro. RobertM and the rest, can you imagine an LDS scout troop that embraces the ideal of boy leadership to this degree? And do you know of any 16 year old who has the ability to plan and get his 3 friends to help him execute this kind of a trip? This came from his years of leadership experiences in our troop. I could not have done it myself. This is boy leadership.
Sorry for hogging the discussion. As you can see this is really important to me.
Mike, I appreciate your comments, especially on the fact that the LDS version of BSA for the last several decades at least has been an abject failure in most wards because there are not enough boys in the troop to accomplish the leadership development training goal. This was not always the case. Long ago I was a scout in a ward with 40-50 young men between the ages of 12 and 18 who were all part of one troop with extraordinary adult leaders. It worked. Splitting it up by priesthood quorum in smaller wards will necessarily always fail. Despite my experience with a troop that worked I remain a reluctant Eagle Scout and such a well-known NON-friend of scouting that my bishop made a joke of tearing up a Friends of Scouting pledge form he designated as mine. Never mind why. If it matters to you, yes, I know Charles Dahlquist personally I would be pleased if in his role with BSA he would hasten the end of the failed and mutually abusive marriage of the Church and BSA, but I doubt he would do so. You are welcome to ask a perma-blogger to send me your private email, or mine to you, if you want an introduction.
I am currently YM president and have tried to enthusiastically boost our boys interest in the Scouting Program. While they enjoy doing the scouting activities on Weeknights and going on the campouts, they rarely do any of the bookwork that they need to do at home to finish up things. Thus it has been a lot of work to just get them to finish their basic advancements. We are a small rural ward and have 5 active deacons and 1 active teacher. So, I have never dreamed of the luxury of building successful Varsity or Venturing programs anyway. The non-LDS troop in our same community has similar numbers and, likewise, operates their program as one patrol without Ventures or Varsity. Driving to meet with other communities to combine numbers is not feasible. So reducing the program redundancy so BSA program can be more workable makes sense to me. I have participated in a non-LDS scout group for Tiger Cubs and saw their operations for Boy Scouts closely and can say that just switching to a non-LDS troop would not guarantee a wonderful experience. My only disappointment is that the church’s action makes scouting less palpable for the 14 and 15 year-olds which is where the Eagle requirements are more likely to be completed. Though Mike may mock LDS scouting, I have been pleased to see the individual maturity in the scouts that I have worked with. Just having them do the meal planning and cooking for the First Class requirements coming from the squirrely, unfocused boys they started the program as was big sign of growth. I just wish more of our Ward members could see how rewarding doing the scout program with our scouts is and step up to be committee members, merit badge counselors, and assistant scoutmasters. Mike, do you really expect the BSA to kick out such a big source of revenue? All those rechartering fees for boys that are on the records in name only–even members of record that have never been to church in their life–represent free dollars to the BSA. Why wards recharter members of record is something I have wondered about. And did the BSA have to demand more overnight campouts to get to First Class–knowing that their biggest partner doesn’t allow enough campouts to make that happen during the first scouting year? Did they have to make the 20 nights of camping for the camping merit badge ‘troop camping’, knowing that most campouts held by the patrols in their biggest partnering organization are Saturday night only, because of Sabbath Day Observance? Those actions seem completely tone deaf to the needs of the LDS partners. Why should troops be looked down on for having 14-17 year olds be Scouts rather than Varsity or Ventures if that resources available limit the viable expansion to implement those programs?
I like the idea of youth developing leadership skills (I’m a student council advisor at work), but I see why scouting and the church were never going to work well together. My own brothers had mediocre experiences with LDS scouting at best. The real issue for me is that the church spends so much time and money in a program that’s ostensibly to build leadership without offering a comparable girl scouting partnership. We could at least do lip service to the idea of developing leadership skills in our girls.
My response will be to start a new scouting unit chartered by my ward. At last, a unit free from Church restrictions.
But I have no expectation that the young men program will get any better for th his change. I’m quitd certain it will get worse.
Elizabeth, we can’t have girls aspiring to leadership positions! Next thing you know they’ll want the priesthood! j/k
Stephen – on your comment that a study showed scouting didn’t improve the outcome of young men. I remember (I think even from a “little Philmont” with the general YM president” ) stating that Eagle scouts were MUCH more likely to go on missions.
For kids who go inactive the record keeping assumptions are that they don’t get their eagle.
So. Inactive before mission=0% eagle.
Of those who who remain active, some get their eagle.
So, percentages are higher.
Among actives, a scouting program has no relationship to whether or not they have a temple marriage, etc.
It is striking that the Church has been looking for a substitute for almost forty years.
Though scouting as paramilitary training for young men is not that common any more.
People are right to state that most programs do not have that focus.
Though to say that other approaches are “real scouting ” is somewhat off base.
Stephen, I think Mike’s and my use of the phrase “real scouting” has nothing to do with diversity of approaches. Real scouting is by definition youth lead independent troops comprising multiple patrols of boys from 11-17 that can plan and fundraise to accomplish what ever they want. That is the exact opposite of all LDS troops which, per the handbook, are not youth lead, not independent, not large, can’t raise funds in order to accomplish whatever they want and are comprised of boys 12-13.
Several years ago I was in a scout training session with a council leader. As part of his passionate presentation he emphasized that scout troops should be tailored to what the boys want to do. He offered the example of one troop in the council that wanted to learn to sail. They raised the money to build a small sailboat. They raised the money for the troop to use it for sailing lessons after which they sailed it around Catalina Island. A non-LDS scout leader in the meeting raised his hand to offer another example of how the kids can decide on and accomplish great things. His troop decided they wanted to go to a European scout camp. The boys planned it out, they planned and held numerous fund raisers, after two years the entire troop left for a week at a scout camp in Switzerland. After that story I had several thoughts run through my mind:
1. How great must those boys have felt to have planned, worked and pulled off such a cool trip?
2, How absolutely out of the question would the Swiss trip, let alone the sailing experience, be for an LDS scout troop.\
3. How different are the realities for LDS and non LDS troops they are not just different planets, they are different universes.
I like the idea of youth lead trips, but it really isn’t necessary to build an exotic trip to create a memorable experience. There are many state parks and national monuments or wilderness areas in our own state that youth have never been to. There are 8-10 scout camps within driving distance that our youth could go to–each with unique opportunities. Some with horseback riding. One with an auto mechanics shop and welding merit badge. Even though the youth should choose and plan, it is really an unmet mentoring need to educate the youth about the opportunities that could build trips around that they don’t have knowledge of. Our summer programs compete with family vacations, sports camps, football practice, 4-H, county fair, and more. We want are youth to be able to do all that they want to do, and choosing something like scout camp that has so much already built in fits in well with those needs.
“but it really isn’t necessary to build an exotic trip to create a memorable experience”
Of course not, I agree. But the important point is that scout troops are designed to be boy led, and then you let the boys lead themselves where they want to go, and whether they want something exotic or something local, they put in the work to plan and raise the money and make it happen. It’s the independence of being able to do what you want that is lacking in the LDS experience. We have layers of restrictions on where they can go, when they can go, how they can finance things, etc, etc, etc. And on top of the official restrictions in the handbook there are unofficial restrictions by local leaders. I know of one stake where the SP decided that the scouts could not go outside of the stake boundaries without his permission.
I’ve done several intensive trainings with council leaders. I reluctantly went to the first one but I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation, it was great and inspiring. The message in every one of them was a variation on the same theme, it is the adults responsibility to facilitate the boys in making happen what they want. And once they decide on what they want they are free to do whatever they have to do to make it happen. We are there to inspire them, guide them, keep them safe but ultimately to get out of their way so that they can make it happen on their own. That just is not LDS scouting, it has been correlated to death. After the first training I was again reluctant to go the subsequent ones, not because it would be boring but because it was discouraging. As an LDS scout leader, almost all of their inspiring challenges to us were inapplicable
I suspect the content of this May 1, 2017 article may have had something to do with the May 11, 2017 announcement 5 men file sex abuse lawsuit against Boy Scouts, Mormon church
Mike, I would say I have participated in 3 scout trips very much along the lines that you described. 2 as a scout and 1 as a leader. 2 were trips into the San Juans in southern Colorado as a scout. Both 50 milers and both pretty close to only including leaders in the roles of pack mules (even the old guys could carry more than us youngins) and transportation to and from. Both trips included train rides on the Silverton Durango Railroad and both were highly successful. Meals, camp spots, trails taken, and all logistics were handled by the youth. The third was a similar trip into the High Uintas while I was a leader. All youth planned.
The problem is that the Church talks youth planned and led but, too few really believe it. They talk the talk but, will not walk the walk. The minute one of the youth wants to do something that a church leader believes isn’t “righteous enough” that idea is shot down. There is far to much looking beyond the mark and hedge building in my experience to really let the youth lead and have a terrific time.
I and my wife have been almost completely black balled in our stake when it comes to the youth because, we have always focused on having a good time with them and letting them decide what that is. Too many forced spiritual experiences have soured our youth to the programs. My experience is provide a fun safe environment and the Lord will take care of the rest.
A kindred spirit. We probably have much common ground. Much more than I expected.
I am so upset by this I can’t sleep. I stayed up all night last night and read the Deseret News articles carefully and the 200+ comments.
(The tribune article and nearly 700 comments might have put me in the hospital with a stroke.)
These are the Mormon people speaking. When I go to my district, I will say less than 10% of what I have said here. I will bring a copy of these 200+ responses along and let my district leaders see the ugly truth concerning Mormon understanding and support and devotion to scouting. They can do with it as they wish.
I will also share it with some of my friends in the non-LDS troop just to watch them shake their heads in disgust and disbelief. Who needs rabid anti-Mormons when we do worse damage to ourselves?
After further reflection I suspect Elder Dalquist already has heard anything I might have to say, most of my crucial points are being stated even on this small blog. I trust he has to know the perspective of 200+ Deseret News bloggers. Even if I could persuade him 100% to my way of seeing it, his hands are tied. I don’t envy him and the impossible position in which he finds himself. I give him my sincere prayers and withhold my “Scotch blessings.”
But just to clarify and simplify:
The BSA has a scouting program that has worked successfully worldwide for >100 years. (Not perfect and has been and will be adjusted).
The LDS leaders have made extreme modifications to BSA scouting compromising fundamental principles.
The LDS people at the ward level have poured enormous resources of time, money and commitment into making this work.
AND IT DOESN’T WORK! with a few exceptions, of course. The witness of 200+ Deseret News bloggers shouts this testimony.
The LDS leaders have decided THEIR home-cooked, highly modified version of scouting doesn’t meet their needs.
So, the big news today is they are abandoning half of it.
The half they keep is flawed even more on basic principles and will not fix their problems and predictably will worsen the problems.
(The basic principles of boy leadership, patrol method, premature race for the eagles nest, cheating, mum scouting in lieu of boy scouting, others. All made worse by the new compromise)
And these same leaders promise us that they will replace it with something ill-defined that will work better. Much, much better.
Yeh, saddle up your tapir and lets head for Missouri.
I can’t possibly address every issue that is trotted out. But among the most common complaints was that the Mormon scouts loose interest after about age 14-15. Well, if you treat scouts like children, then when they are no longer children they don’t like to be treated that way anymore. We don’t have to even think about trying to keep older scouts in troops with real boy leadership, they want to stay and lead and grow and create those experiences, friendships and memories of a lifetime.
I think I have concatenated your comments with those of RobertM in my mind. I should have addressed my comments to both of you, both kindred spirits. Stress, short memory loss, general inconsideration, yes, all of that I did and more. I confess.
It has s the nterestng to hear the comments from the US people involved in scouting. The impression I got from outside the US was that scout was a great success all through the YM program. I did not realise that scouts is organised differently at different age groups.
The scout program was abandoned in Oz back in the 80’s. I remember as a kid enjoying it. Probably because we had a large youth group. I believe the scout program was abandoned in Oz because they made the decision to include girls and women leaders. Since then the youth program was never the same. The program for the youth started to turn “inward”, in that it became more church focused. All activities had to have a “priesthood purpose”, whatever that means. In practice our program became about doing family history and watching conference talks for firesides and the occasional dance.
I am in the YM program at the moment. We only have 3 active boys and virtually not budget. I think we run a good program with the kids but I do miss the scouting days.
Where I live, the Methodist Church Scouting program is top notch. No matter what other entity sponsors Scouts……LDS, Baptist, Independent, etc……..the Methodist Scouts look like they are a military trained unit. Very sharp looking, well behaved, prepared, organized, and each Scout is very adept at accomplishing what ever task he is asked to do.
Mike, ” the ugly truth concerning Mormon understanding and support and devotion to scouting”
I hope I didn’t contribute much to your lack of sleep. Though I am a well-known NON-friend of scouting, it may be important to recognize that the scouting I and many others are not friendly with is not “real scouting” — it is the LDS corruption of “real scouting.” There was such a corruption even many decades ago when I was part of an LDS scout troop that did “real scouting.” The corruption then was the LDS cultural insistence that every boy must participate or be ostracized and deemed somehow religiously unworthy. Since then it has gotten much worse by identifying “scouting” troops/teams/whatever with priesthood quorums too small to make it even possible to achieve the real scouting goals you have identified. This is in addition to ignoring the needs and interests of those boys not interested in scouting. If it were possible to charter a single real scouting troop at the stake level for those boys who want to participate, it could be a great thing. In most cases, that seems impossible. I have seen efforts at multi-ward scouting programs fail for lack of cooperation among ward leaders — too many who insist on being the boss, holding the keys, or whatever — too much insistence on chartering separate troops for each ward (in order to maximize revenue to BSA?) — too many building-use conflicts because we now have so many separate wards trying to run so many different programs in the same small buildings. Ward and building sizes have now boxed the Church into a position where it cannot make real scouting work. Perhaps the delayed realization that LDS scouting is a failure is a good thing. It is not an “ugly truth” — it is merely recognition that real scouting can’t be done in the current LDS context and that LDS scouting can’t meet the needs of all our boys. In my myopic view, the ugliness directed toward scouting is not directed at BSA and real scouting so much as at LDS scouting and its failures. Many don’t even realize that the LDS version is not the BSA program.
You are quite right that the substitute program will also not achieve “real scouting” goals, but perhaps it will at least allow local attempts to try to address the needs and interests of the particular boys they have without driving away those uninterested in LDS scouting. In my ideal world (given the constraints of ward and building sizes) we would stop pretending we could have a one-size-fits-all youth program, do some youth activities, but generally encourage the youth to join non-LDS-sponsored scout troops, or sports teams, or music organizations, or 4-H clubs, or whatever they were interested in to develop their skills. There would be a significant number who would choose real scouting. But I expect that will never happen at an organizational level.
I have often wondered why the church sponsor venturing units when less then one percent of ventures ever earn/ recieve venture awards. Much of this is youth and leaders not learning the program
I lost my testimony of the activity arm of the Church years ago. I’m not sure why we even need activities, much less Scouting for the Young Men. Do we believe individuals and families lack the ability to plan wholesome and wortwhile pursuits on their own? Is it possible for families and individuals in a ward to fellowship each other without auxiliary and Priesthood control? I’m wondering if the bigger picture is being missed. Does perfecting the Saints correlate to more pot lucks? Maybe I just hate crowds….
Adam, I will take a stab at that question. I have one child of my own that has been much more difficult to parent than the others. Stubborn, explosive, harder to work out of his bad moods. This has made it difficult for him to get along in the traditional social structures of his childhood. I won’t get into details about his various issues, but it has been helpful to have other adults mentor him at times. He started off in a non-LDS Cub program doing Tiger scouts and did ok for the first 6 months, then he didn’t want to go. He has now taken to his LDS cub leaders and responds well to the activities and personal guidance he receives there. This is a great outlet where he can be more boisterous than school, but still with limits and guidance.
Our Bishop was able to reach him with certain obstacles he had about being baptized, when all of the books, family nights, and one on one counseling we had provided him were not getting him there. He has worked with a private counselor and has been told by the counselor some of the very same things we had told him about getting along in school and because it was someone else saying it, it took root.
So, I will be forever grateful for having an activity arm. My sisters kids are all adults now and she and her husband are excellent parents, but they shared the same thing that the church’s youth leaders were able to tell her kids the same bits of advice she had been trying to tell them, and because it was coming from a different person, it took root. I am working with a 13 year-old in our ward whose parents both work and then coach and volunteer with high school sports, leaving this boy to be on his own for long periods of time. We had finally made all of the opportunities available for him to finish the first class scout requirements. He was to have his board of review right after the priesthood session of conference, but his family was not home to give him a ride to the church and the only cell phone at the house had been made unavailable to him, so he couldn’t call me for a ride, as I had asked him to. So, he packed his uniform and handbook and rode his bike a couple of miles up a steep hill, steep enough that he had to walk it part of the time. When I got to the church he was there waiting for us. He passed his board of review and was praised for his commitment to getting to the church. As much as I think he wanted to finish his first class rank, I think a lot of his motivation was just based on the feeling that someone cared about him.
With Rigal, I will take another stab in the same direction..
Several months ago one of the best of our 17 year old non-LDS scouts told me in the hall just out of earshot of several other people that he had a funny lump on his penis and he was worried because he had been with this girl…. I immediately told him this was not a conversation that I was going to have in the context of scouting and told him to go ask his doctor. He didn’t want to because his strict mother would find out when the insurance billed them. I did some research and learned about a free clinic in the area that deals with teenage sexual issues. I gave him the information a few minutes later and reminded him that if he was going to indulge in adult activities he needed to take the adult responsibility associated with it and not act like a stubborn child. Go to this clinic like a man or you will be forcing me to have a most unpleasant conversation with your father. It is time for you to grow up, my friend.
He went to the clinic and later told me I might have saved his life. He showed me the paperwork where he was diagnosed with syphilis which can kill you if left untreated for many years. He got both sides of his rear pumped full of something that “hurt like hell.” He thanked me and is taking his unchaste activities under further consideration.
Later he tells me of another of our finest scouts in the troop who had a similar problem and he just ignored it until it went away. The 17 year old who talked to me convinced the unconcerned scout to go to the clinic, with the same result. And once both of them sat down with a public health official, this set in motion a chain of events that uncovered several other friends at school with the same problem. Apparently this happens more often than parents might think.
We can get into a discussion about what to do when near adults tell you things their parents should/would like to know and what legal or moral duty one might have. But aside from any idealistic expectations, I do not think most, if any, of these youth would have sought treatment without a trusted and safe adult (not their parents) to ask these questions and convince them to do the right thing. None of the girls even knew they had syphilis, if this pair of our best scouts is to be believed.
JR (and others)
Thank you for expressing your understanding of the difference between LDS scouting and regular scouting. This seems to be lost on most LDS scouters. This isn’t about BSA scouting (which is not perfect), it is about the failure of LDS modified scouting. And the scarcity of insight among the Saints why it failed.
It is about following leaders to hell and ending up in hell. The connection in my mind between the operational failure of many other LDS programs and this failure in scouting is growing stronger. When one looks closely at what modifications were made by LDS leadership to scouting, does this reflect on the reasons why other programs are not that successful?
Thank you Mike for guiding those YM to get the treatment they needed.