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. 

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