Thursday, March 1, 2018

Passing of One of My Mission Presidents

One of my Mission Presidents passed away about a week ago - President Lavon Gifford. He was obviously a great man -- very "by the rules" in my opinion. It scared me to be a missionary under him as times because I was scared to screw up. My mission was a very formative time in my life especially the middle to the end. Even though he was strict, I appreciate President and Sister Gifford's service to me. Below is a Facebook post I shared about him (probably more about me).

I was scared of President Gifford. Maybe not scared but very intimidated by some of the crazy things he had asked me to do. Having never seen missionary leave or come back from the military wards I was in growing up didn’t help. President Gifford being an ex-Marine was intimidating to me because I saw and dealt with Marines daily. When serving with Hans Petersen and Kilpack in Anchorage President Gifford asked me to learn Spanish to help my companions. Having taken 4 years of Spanish, still not knowing a word and having a fluent Spanish speaking father, I personally feel like not learning Spanish was and is one of my biggest failures. I told him I couldn't do it and he told me to try.
He had me serve with a very difficult missionary and when I asked to serve with someone who actually wanted to work, he told me to stick it out. I told him I was going to punch him in the face and he told me I probably shouldn’t do that. That threat reveals more about me as a man and as a missionary at the time than I care to admit.
Zone Conference with the stress on memorizing was crazy looking back now knowing I had an undiagnosed learning disorder. I hated being called on. I hated not knowing what to say.
This was way too personal and probably reveals more about me at the time than President Gifford. Seeing all these memories sort of makes me feel sorry for him and Sister Gifford because they had to deal with me.
I was grateful to have known him. I am grateful to have served under him. Like Shane mentioned, the knee-slapping was one of the first things that reminded me he had a sense of humor and might not be the scary man I thought he was.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Guest Post: Where does the LDS Scouting program go from here?

My last guest post was doomy and gloomy, but since a Scout is cheerful, this one is more upbeat. Everyone in LDS scouting that I have had a chance to talk to believes it is just a matter of time until the church formerly separates from scouts. Here are some crazy ideas about what could happen:

1.     Done. Bye. It’s over. The church walks away completely.
a.      They cut all ties and walk away (I don’t see that happening)
b.     They do an alimony payment for a time similar to what they did for the 14+ scouts in 2017, and give the families who want to continue, a number of months to explore and find other troops. Maybe they fund dues for the first year.
2.     A slow phase out. Maybe scouts for deacons goes away in      2019, and Cubs in 2020.
3.     Things stay as they are as of right now. Possible, but unlikely.
4.     What if something crazy happens?

That is what I’d like to explore. I had a crazy idea of combining the stake into one troop. If only two or three scouts are excited about scouts per ward, and if each stake has seven to 10 wards this would be a troop of 20-30 boys who actually care. This would allow the stake to call a Scoutmaster and multiple Assistants. It would allow our Eleven Year Olds to be a larger and let’s face it more fun program.

A variation of that is to combine troops within a building. On average we have two or three wards in each building. We often combine with the other ward anyway. This would reduce the number of leaders and classrooms needed. The church seems to be reluctant to lose any unit numbers and the concept of the quorum being the troop would have to be thrown out.

Another variation of this is to separate scouts from the young men’s program. Have scouts be on a different night. Have the ward act like almost every other chartering organization that provides space and support. This would allow those that want to do scouts to step up and not wait to be called. LDS troops would be more aligned with every other troop in the country. The Church could still decide not to have female participation. This would also however cause scouts to become just as expensive for those who participate as it is in the rest of the country. One of the things that was helpful was that there was little cost to LDS families. This of course is a double-edged sword and a cruel kindness. The church would probably not be as prominent on the National Board as in the past.

Of course, this is all wild speculation (and probably a little pointless) but it is the kind of stuff that occupies my brain when driving or trying to fall asleep. This exercise however brings me a bit of optimism because I think scouting is worthwhile. I think LDS scouting needs a shot in the arm. As much as I’m trying in my troop, I can affect only a dozen or so boys. A national approach to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater would still allow for boys to feel encouraged to participate. This would have the benefit of avoiding the mental conflict for those families that really don’t support Scouting. Maybe we can turn things around and make a program that our leaders will want to support. Rather than banging our heads against a wall, perhaps it will become attractive to boys.

Ask me about my thoughts on girls in Boy Scouts sometime.

Tell me how wrong I am. Tell me if you agree. Either way I welcome your thoughts.


Post Script: The high rate of turnover is a real issue in the church troops. I have a friend who was called as a Webelos Leader and his bishop told him that it would be for at least five years. That kind of blew my mind. I had the chance to meet Charles Dahlquist a couple of years ago, and he said scout callings should be considered tenure callings.  Only he called it "ten-year." In non-scout troops, a ten year scoutmaster is nowhere near unique. This might help bring stability and that really shouldn't be underestimated when implementing a complex program.  

FISHGUTTS: Stake Scouting is what should happen with volunteers and zero callings. I say Stake because that will give you the best possibilities for patrols. Make patrols out of boys who go to the same building and cross-pollinate them with boys that are not in their ward but in their building. My ONLY concern about this is that is if you allow the Stake Young Men's Presidency to "preside" over this you will fail. This program MUST report straight to the Stake President and Bishops as a whole. If you allow the SYMP to run this who are not Scouters you end up with the same problem as before. A crap program that will soon die. They would have zero idea what to do with it. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Environment of Fear

As I have managed people for a little over a month (now it has been almost two years--that is how long I have been working on this silly post) I am amazed by how people are scared of making mistakes. Sometimes this pressure is placed on themselves unnecessarily. Sometimes others seek to control others by placing this pressure of fear so they can (appear to) have more power and control. We are only controlled by those we allow to control us.

Fear of failure is a good thing when limited. Fear of making mistakes isn't a good thing. In fact, it breeds more mistakes. The more you stress the more you screw up.

Making mistakes is OK. Learning from them makes them even better.

Great article on being scared of everything and a great way to parent your kids.
Great article on fear in the workplace!!

Fear is in Scouting. We ask them to do a lot of stuff they have not done before most of all to have confidence in themselves.

I gotta admit, there is a lot of fear in my life right now. Most of it as a parent. Fear that a child will cut off ties because they don't like the way you parent and have two homes to live in.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Guest Post: The Church Should Leave Scouting

Fishgutts invited me to write a guest column. I had to think on it for a while. Firstly, because I don’t have a cool nickname, secondly because I’m not sure I want my rants to be identifiable. Scouting in most areas are very small groups and we can easily identify who is whom. LDS Scouters probably even more so. To combat this, I will be changing some of the identifiable facts. The stories will be true, the names will be changed to protect…well…no one is innocent. Names won’t be used. How’s that? Everyone on board? OK.

I feel like a hypocrite. A few years back when the BSA allowed gay leaders, I wrote an impassioned letter to The First Presidency. I wish I could find it. In it I pleaded with them to keep scouting as part of the church. I had heard for years of members not wanting to participate and wanting the church to leave. They had to have been wrong and must not have understood the program. At the time I was an outsider looking in. I was in scouts as a youth but hadn’t participated at all in the intervening years. Since then, I have been in cub scouts, I volunteered to help the troop by being on the committee and handle advancement, both my wife and I involved ourselves in the district and council and I am now in troop leadership.

As part of my calling, I’ve done a lot of reading. I learned about the derogatory term Seagull Scouts. I have heard the change in council and district people’s voices when I explained that I am in an LDS troop. I didn’t know or understand what a bad reputation the church has in scouts. We have low participation in council and district activities. We don’t respond to calls or emails from these volunteers. Our leaders are poorly trained and our scouts don’t seem to measure up. We seem to do a lot of pencil whipping of the requirements. Nationally the majority of injuries are with LDS scout troops.

How sad. Our leaders in Salt Lake spend tons of money on scouts. Apostles, Young Men and Primary presidencies and other General Authorities go to national meetings and trainings and build facilities and have ribbon cuttings while wearing uniforms. I can’t even get my stake young men’s presidency or bishopric to show up for a committee meeting. Why is there such a disconnect?

I think the lack of skin in the game is part of it. I have heard that if things are given for free you don’t appreciate it. That is proving true in my experience. But the parents and the boys are only reflections of the program they see. The true problem lies with our local leaders. My ward troop had five Scoutmasters in four years and I lost track of how many Assistant Scoutmasters. Some were due to people moving but much was due to the fact that after they were called they never showed up again. Did they understand the calling? Where they told it was more than one hour a week? Scouting is not a prep-for-an-hour-and-teach-out-of-the-manual calling. There is a lot to it. The scoutmaster is also in the Young Men’s Presidency and is a Quorum Advisor. When I was a youth, that was three separate callings. Before my wife and I started attending Roundtable, they hadn’t seen an LDS troop representative in years. One other Cub Scout Committee Chair comes from one of the other wards in the district, but no one else. My Stake leaders have never been to the LDS/BSA Relationships Committee meetings. Our Council has a Religious Relationships Committee. I showed up one day, but no LDS troop or pack leaders who were ever invited have.

In my ward, the scouting program takes a back seat to every other activity that pops up. Oh, you had that on the calendar for four months? Sorry, we want the boys to come to this other thing. Campout? No, the stake just set that day for the first basketball game.

When the counselor extended the callings to be in scouts, I had a multi-hour discussion about what the bishopric wanted and expected. My wife was there. We asked tons of questions. We told them what I would do, and how I would do it. We asked them if they were sure that is what they wanted. Yes, it was. But every step of the way I am undermined and most recently was told that we have a budget of $0 and that we should reduce scouts to once a month to focus on Duty to God. Well, I work on Duty to God each week in my quorum meeting. It is working. For the first time in nearly a decade, a Deacon has earned the Duty to God Award. But, boys advancing is not as important as basketball on Wednesday nights.

We in the church don’t seem to care. But you know what? The BSA is the only third party the church has ever used to handle the activities of one of the auxiliaries. Think about that. Up until this past year the church has used the BSA as the activity wing for young men for over 100 years.

I work with a non-LDS Troop too. They have problems, but the boys have fun. The boys and leaders want to be there. They do service projects and the boys attend. They have uniforms and bring their handbooks. They have the contacts and resources to do cool stuff.

The previous Scoutmaster was not terribly effective. I always thought his tales of woe were exaggerated. It reminded me of Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation, by Arnold Friberg. I have since apologized to him.

Over the past three and a half years I have seen how wrong I was. I no longer want the church in Scouts. I believe the time is short anyway and was accelerated with Pres. Monson’s passing. This brings me no joy, but I truly believe that scouting in general and LDS scouts who will choose to continue with outside troops will benefit. I will do my best to keep magnifying my calling. I will organize district events and will go to the district commissioner and committee meetings. I will be taking a week off work to go to summer camp. I will go back to the University of Scouting, and I will take the Wood Badge course and do everything I can to provide the best, most fun program possible for my little ward troop. I just wonder how futile it is.

Signed - Cali-Gratis

Post Script: I have never quite been able to pinpoint what "magnify your calling" means. But this comes close:   "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"

That and D&C 58:26 ... for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant...

I don't want step by step instructions, I just don't want my leaders to get in the way of my carrying out the assignment they gave me. If they run interference, I can't do my job. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

There Are a Lot of BSA Elephants in the Room

There have been a lot of huge changes in the BSA recently. I haven't said much because I am still trying to wrap my head around it but yesterday's change and a message from my brother in law this morning asking me when I was going to say something spurred this post.

First change - the LDS Church has dropped the Varsity Program as well as the Venturing program. This blog was based on my love of the Varsity program so you know I hate this change. I think if leaders had used the Varsity and Venturing program right this wouldn't have had to happen but we are past that point. Dead point in fact. The fact that leaders were not getting trained and sucked at their calling and helping youth run the program has been the reason it has died. I am not bitter at all.

Second - the new program the LDS Church is running for the 14 - 18 year old is lame. It provides no leadership skills for the leaders OR the boys. Learning to become a leader is a huge key to success. The Scouting program had a leadership learning skill element for both adult and Scout. I mean no one got trained but at least they had the opportunity to get trained. The good thing I do see about this is that maybe now the money usually spent on the Varsity/Venturing program will actually be shared with the Young Women program of the Church. I have actually heard of ward ditching Scouting as a whole after Cubs and telling Scouts who rank under Life that they can't continue to Scout. These are lies.....

Third - the BSA announced that they are admitting girls with the potential of  being able to earn Eagle. You would think I wouldn't like this idea but I do. I know a lot of Scout leaders who also serve as Girl Scout leaders who will now probably just sit in one program who serves their kids as a whole. Girl Scouts has not been doing so hot lately so the BSA was smart to tear away another huge part of their leaders and Scouts. I want to say girls are going to do awesome in this program. In fact I am pretty sure the number of Eagle Scouts are going to shoot up because of them. This change probably was an option for a while but the LDS Church not registering a lot of boys probably fed this fire to drive up registration. I do think this will create some small gender issue problems but to remind some of my thousands and thousands of readers girls have been here for years - in Venturing, in Exploring and in Sea Scouts.

Fourth - This change will have NO effect on the new version of limited Scouting the LDS Church does. Girls won't be admitted in the LDS program and that is probably a good idea because girls will outshine the boys in their own program. This will be the last nail in the LDS BSA relationship and I want everyone to write this date down because three years from now the LDS Church won't be using the BSA's program.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SEAL Ethos

The SEAL Trident

I need to do more "find a way or make a way".........

I am having a hard time staying focused. Distractions, interruptions, seeming constant change, negativity from others, negativity from myself, I have allowed others who describe themselves as friends to get into my head for bad and not for good, etc. I am accountable for my attitude and actions and I need to change some things (nothing crazy huge) though my life is going very well right now. In reading the SEAL Ethos tonight in a book, I am reminded of a time where I was more focused and I moved with more purpose. My family deserves this. Replace team with wife/family and replace Trident with attitude when reading. 

In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man.
My Trident is a symbol of honor and heritage. Bestowed upon me by the heroes that have gone before, it embodies the trust of those I have sworn to protect. By wearing the Trident I accept the responsibility of my chosen profession and way of life. It is a privilege that I must earn every day. My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach. I humbly serve as a guardian to my fellow Americans always ready to defend those who are unable to defend themselves. I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions. I voluntarily accept the inherent hazards of my profession, placing the welfare and security of others before my own. I serve with honor on and off the battlefield. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men. Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.
We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations. I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.
We demand discipline. We expect innovation. The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete. We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend. Brave men have fought and died building the proud tradition and feared reputation that I am bound to uphold. In the worst of conditions, the legacy of my teammates steadies my resolve and silently guides my every deed. I will not fail.
I have worked very hard at doing this at work and I think I have had limited success. I can't force people to get along or to have better attitudes -- I can only work on me. I need to work on me in my family.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Feeling Alone

Our unit has an autistic Scout. He is high functioning and at times can be a handful but to be honest, what Scout isn’t whether autistic or not? Boys are all a handful. Scouting is planned craziness because they are all a handful. That is part of the reason Scouting is so great.

Image result for alone

Last night this Scout was begging to come to a 3 day campout that is happening this weekend. In order for him to come, he must have his father present in order to come. I watched this boy fight back tears because he wanted to go so bad and was begging to come. The first time he was begging to go I didn’t think much about it but the second time he proceeded to beg to go, I noticed again him fighting back tears and something different in his face. I am very sure this boy feels alone and wants nothing more than to feel included. He wants to feel “normal” even though none of us really are normal.

I called this Scout’s step mother last night and had an awesome 20 minute discussion with her about him. I understand him a bit better and I think my understanding of what is going on in his head helps me to better help him. She talked about Scouts not wanting to play with him after meetings and I know that that isn’t true because I have witnessed them playing with him and I have personally played basketball with him.

I am sure we all feel alone and want to be included like this Scout. I am fighting some of those same feelings myself right now with transitions in my life. I think for some that alone feeling and wanting to feel needed and wanted can be painful. Besides tears and emotions I think that there are direct physical manifestations of feeling alone. I think one of those is true physical pain.

So my takeaway is I am going to shadow this boy for a little while. I am going to get to know him better so that I know how to encourage him to do what he should and do what he knows to do. I hear he is an excellent lizard hunter. I may be one soon too.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Are you an egg or a potato?

Are you an egg or a potato?

What are you made of?

What does pressure and stress do to you?

What happens to you when life throws you a HUGE curve ball?

Where do you go to relieve stress? Or who do you talk to to vent?

If you know anything about my story in the past 4 years, I have had experienced some pretty crap stuff*. Nothing horrible but life likes to kick me in the gut and the Lord likes to humble me often. My circumstances have not made me who I am but they have molded what I have learned in life. 

There are some in my life that I see being pushed around by life. To them, I say don't give up. People care about you. 

So back to the original question - are you an egg or a potato? Life can be a boiling pot of water. By placing the egg in the boiling water you harden the insides of the egg.  By placing the potato in the boiling water you soften the potato. 

*Life is on the upswing. And it is a HUGE upswing. I was reminded of that today when seeing a doctor for the first time in almost 20 years.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mema - Jealous of a Grandmother

This is my wife's grandmother on her dad's side - her Mema. This weekend we went to visit Christi Jo's family in her home town. When we had to leave for home we went to see her Mema that lives in a Nursing Home. 

Having a father in the military and not growing up around my grandparents, I felt kind of jealous of my wife. I wish I had knows my grandparents better and I wish I had known my parent's family better. It is kind of sad not knowing them because we lived as far as we did. 

I don't think being jealous is a good thing - except for something like this.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Wood Badge 120 - The Quartermaster of All Quatermasters

I don't think I have ever been so tired in my life. Ever. 

Wood Badge was awesome and harder than any other Scout event I have ever participated in. Hard in a good way and hard in a bad way. I should have learned from being an Assistant Quartermaster how difficult it would be. Even now 8 days after Wood Badge my body is tired and achy. My feet still hurt like no other. My body pops and cracks when I move (OK, that might be because I am partly old).* Seriously, my feet still stinking hurt. Like hurt after a Goruck event.

How much stuff can you cram in a Jeep? A ton.
The Quartermaster touches everything on our course and by that I mean everything that the Scribes don't touch - for me I can see that both of these jobs are just ridiculously involved (I have never served as a Scribe). When things were needed everyone comes to the Quartermaster. I would have been a billionaire if I got paid every time I heard "Go ask the Quartermaster." I will say I have had dreams of being the Quartermaster on a Philmont Course where the Quartermaster doesn't cook (and for the record, according to my Council's rules I can't serve as Quartermaster again so this will never happen). Not being able to serve again as QM is probably a blessing and a curse. I think I could handle things a bit better and plan a ton better. I put a ridiculous amount of stress on myself because I wanted to cook good food and come in under budget.  The budget was one of my biggest worries. I saw so many examples of how to manage the budget from breaking down costs in each meal to manage the budget individually in each day to just planning a menu and then making changes to make sure you are under budget through substitution. I tried extremely hard to use a lot of the same ingredients in meals so that I didn't use something just once. This also created a fear of not having diversity in the food I planned on serving. Stupid fears? Probably but there is nothing worse than bad food at a Scout event. Nothing..............

My staff was great. They really worked hard and did everything I asked of them on course. We had a lot of fun and we worked our butts off (in 8 days on course my Fitbit said I walked 65 miles!!). If anyone said my staff didn't pull their weight, I would probably attempt to run them down to hurt them but my feet probably wouldn't allow it.

All work and no play makes a lame Quartermaster Staff.

I got to meet very quickly Charles W. Dahlquest II who was at one point the LDS Church's Young Men President.**

At one point during the course, we had a huge meal to cook and I also became short-staffed (family and providing for your family ALWAYS comes first). I got to invite a Wood Badge friend and my wife to come help cook in the kitchen kind of on short notice. My wife watched us sing, she watched us sing Back to Gilwell, etc. She told me later "I finally get it. I finally get why you Scout." At one point I even heard her singing her own version of Back to Gilwell called "Happy Gilwell" a few days after her visit. Having her understand why I Scout it huge. Christi Jo has been a huge calming force for me since the preparation for this course started and when I was ready to lose it due to stress. 

Nothing like having fun during lunch!

I think for now I will be stepping aside for a while from Wood Badge. I want to do another course - I want to be clear about that but it has to be well timed in my life. Doing back to back courses has been extremely hard on me. I wouldn't change it but getting married in between courses (and not knowing I was getting married) was a huge surprise. Getting married was an easy decision thanks to Christi Jo. Serving on a Wood Badge course is an easy decision knowing who I was serving under. Learning how to balance both of those responsibilities is extremely hard especially when I probably micromanaged myself a little more than needed.

I am sad and glad this course is over. Glad for new friends and sad that it won't be like it was before.

* I am preparing for another Goruck event in about 2 months with a honeymoon in about a 3 weeks. I am busy and my body keeps telling me to slow down. More on this in a post later.

** Charles W. Dahlquest II bio. He currently is serving as the BSA's National Commissioner.