Friday, October 26, 2018

Transition Update

There are just under 14 months until The Church leaves Scouting. How are things going? What are you doing? I have been hosting a monthly merit badge class at my house. We do required merit badges. Amazingly, I haven't had to teach all of them. One of the teachers is on again, off again, on again and off again, but other than that my only issues are low attendance and poor follow through by the boys. It seems most of them are basically checked out. I wonder where this comes from. Troop leaders are driving as hard as ever. 

I suspect it is from the families. One scout, age 15, 2nd class rank, home schooled, sleeps til 11 am everyday just doesn't have time. Another Scout turns 18 in January, has not even thought about his eagle project despite frequent discussions with his scoutmaster. I've even sent him a name and contact info for a man who is the eagle project coordinator for a a local non-profit. He has about eight incomplete merit badges. On the other hand I have a 13 year old life scout who has figured his project out. I have a 12 year old scout who is in two troops and has 24 merit badges as just became a Star. 

It may be from the ward leaders. They have called people in to scout positions who work on Saturdays. Hard to camp if you have to be at work. They schedule events that conflict with regular scout nights. Hard to plan camp outs or teach skills when you can't even have a meeting. 

Maybe it is because of a lack of support from the stake. A group of stake scouters was brought together to formulate a plan on moving forward and having events to help scouts rank up and to offer merit badge events. The only thing that came out of all of that was the annual 11-year-old camp out. Ant that was cancelled (not rescheduled) due to rain. I get that, but to not even reschedule?

For my part, I'm trying to do everything possible. In addition to the monthly classes at my house, I am planning the District Merit Badge College. I'm working withe the Council Religious Relations committee. I'm a commissioner and on district committees. I'm working my Wood Badge Ticket, and going to University of Scouting. 

All of this shows that one person can't do it all. They can do a lot, but without an organization, it just won't come together. 

I'm glad that The Church is leaving. After generations of having little to no skin in the game, we are seeing that the members, by and large, do not value the program. The transition will allow those who are supporters or who are truly interested, to work with like minded people. It is draining to claw and fight for the opportunity to better a young person's life. It is invigorating to find people who are heading in the same direction. I was at a Court of Honor the other night for an outside troop. Six eagle scouts awarded. Two Wood Badge beadings. A retiring Scoutmaster and a new one installed. It was so exciting. It was energizing. I revel in these events. They have become few and far between in The Church. 

2020 can't come soon enough. 

A Whimper

Remember in Revenge of the Sith, there was a line about democracy dying to thunderous applause? I wish. 

Scouting is dying in my stake with a whimper. No final push. No big send off. None of that. This is not common knowledge yet, but the word will soon go out from the Stake Young Men's Presidency that if you have boys who don't want to do scouting, you don't need to. Instead you can do skill development, like camping or cooking, but don't call it scouts. Or you can just do fun stuff. Whatever it takes to keep the young men coming to church stuff. Scout type activities will not be held on our normal mutual night. If something we plan accidentally meets some requirements of scouting that is fine, but don't advertise it. 

I get it. Keeping them involved and coming is more important. But how is it that scouts isn't considered fun? Shooting, camping, campfires, Archery, hiking, swimming, knots, knives, axes, none of that is considered fun by our youth. What do they think is fun? Video Games and basketball. That is it. That is the sum total of what they want to do. They aren't even focused on cars and girls, I can understand that. 

So, those boys that need merit badges will have to find a way to get them done outside of scouts. Campouts? Maybe we will have to piggyback on other troops, because the rest of our boys won't want to do that. 

They will be sending out a second email asking whether anyone wants any help meeting rank advancement requirements. But since hardly anyone responded last time, it probably won't get much response this time. 

Maybe there will be some interest in cobbling together a stake troop that will have activities on the occasional Saturday or Thursday night. I'd love to be part of it. But I can't. I have Community troop Tuesdays, ward youth night Wednesday, District or Council scouting activities on Thursdays, and I will not drag my son to yet another lame scout-ish activity. He barely has time to do homework as it is. 

Have you ever had a moment where a switch was flipped in your head ant it was over, flat out done, fell out of love with a former passion? For me that was on a phone call about an our ago. 


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Final Countdown

With the Final Countdown happening, I'm seeing two extremes. 

Some people are panicked, and others have checked out. 

The panicked seem to want to cram it all in and make up for lost time. I say better late than never. I am all for pushing the boys down the path. BUT, and its a big but, we run the risk of pencil whipping or getting boys signed off who didn't really do the work. It is tempting. But it contributes to the overall weakness of the LDS program. We are notorious for having weak eagles. In fact, I've heard a derogatory term "Seagull" Scouts (Seagle Scouts?) to refer to LDS eagles. I have a scout who just turned 18, but he definitely meets that description. As much as we want to push, I hope we do things correctly and not just to get the boys advanced. 

Another discussion are the folks who have the best intention, but have become rules police. I have no problem with following the rules, but if you are going to be a self-appointed cop, make sure you know what you are talking about. Remember the green book is gone, we aren't using it anymore and we aren't held to its rules. 

On the other side are those who have checked out. If you are in that position and have no desire to do scouting anymore, please get out. Ask to be released. The boys deserve more from you. If you are willing, but unable to fulfill your calling, please ask to be released. The boys deserve a full program. 

I'm not. To quote what ever genius first said it, "Lead, Follow, or get out of the way." These boys deserve the best program we can deliver. Anything less is theft. 


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Creating a Plan - What is your LDS Unit doing to get boys to Eagle even if it is after 2020?

I generally share these posts on Facebook and Twitter so I will be sure to check there if we are not Facebook friends.

  • What is your unit planning on doing between now and 2020 to get boys to Eagle? The more details you can provide, the better. We need to be networking this issue.
  • Is your unit going to even try to get Scouts to Eagle?
  • What is the plan if the Scouts don't get to Eagle by 2020?

Image result for poll

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mormons Should Be Ashamed of Themselves

I have been quiet for too long.

Mormons should be ashamed of themselves. In the “split” with the BSA, I have absolutely shook in actual anger as I have heard how excited Mormons are to leave the BSA. Let’s make it very clear for those reading – if the Church believes it is time to provide a program that they feel better prepares the youth of the Church to be better missionaries, spouses and people, I am all for it. What I am not for is trashing the program we are leaving in a final hooray or trashing the fact that we were participating in the BSA, for over 100 years I might add, under the same dang inspiration that brings the new program to us in 2020. If this new program truly was given and inspired of God, then guess what? So was using the BSA, no matter their membership changes. It was and is inspiration that we participated in the BSA. And now it is inspiration that we are leaving. We don’t trash the past just because we are making changes.

Some might say we are leaving because of the membership changes but I say the changes came because we told the BSA we were leaving.  They are looking to replace soon to be missing membership. Homosexuals were already in the BSA but closeted. Might I also remind my Mormons that homosexuals are in the Church as well and can participate fully, just like a heterosexual, if they follow the standards of the Church. They can hold callings and attend the Temple. They can pay tithing. The standards for both are the exact same. Plus the BSA allowed organizations to set their own standards of membership. So what is the big deal? And the addition of girls………are we seriously freaked out by girls especially when they were already involved in Scouting in Venturing Crews? They have been involved since the 1970s. I have heard so many times that boys and girls would be sleeping in the same tent yet that hasn’t happened in current Venturing Crews. Can I again remind my Mormons that on Trek, boys and girls camp together multiple days and somehow, some way girls don’t end up pregnant or sleeping with boys? You all look like idiots for even bringing this up.

A couple other things that have been bugging me.
  1. The BSA has been called a breeding ground for pedophilia. I have been told because I am white, a man, I am older and because I am a Scout leader, I fit the profile of a pedophile. What in the HELL is going on that I am being judged because I am trying to help train and lead young men to be better people. Not only have I never been accused of anything but never done anything I shouldn’t have. It is very closed minded to think because a man wants to help, he is doing something wrong. We are killing the reputation of men in this world for having done nothing but being born a man but that is a post for another day. If you are worried about the BSA leaders you should be worried about every place your child goes and you should keep them at home in a bubble. I would also like to remind you that predators come in both sexes.
  2. This opportunity of the LDS Church leaving the BSA should have been an awesome send-off. Something where we express how great the last 100 years have been together, how we wished them luck, how if they needed our help to let us know what we can do to help (you know, the Christ-like thing to do….), how much we will miss them and then a parting hug as we rode off to our next destination. Instead, some have attempted to burn bridges and trash the BSA. I won’t stand for it. I won’t stand for your assumptions on why we are leaving and the joy you feel when 90% of you haven’t bothered to do the right thing and get trained. This is not the right attitude for a missionary church. This is not the right attitude of the followers of Christ. This is not the right attitude of a soon to be ex-Scout (thought I might again argue that once a Scout, always a Scout). Just like I am ready for the Old School Scouters to be out of Scouting, I am also ready for Old School Mormons to be out of the Church or in a retirement home. Enough is enough. The Mormon’s worst enemy is themselves and this situation has proven that is true. Shut up, shake the BSA’s hand and move on if you are so dang excited.

As for training with the new program, bad leaders will still be bad leaders. It will be easy to fall back into a basketball program for the young men. I hope there is some kind of training program for adults and youth in the new youth program. I hope Bishops hold their Primary Presidents, their Young Women leaders and their Young Men leaders accountable for being trained. Training should not be on the job training. Training should not be assumed through “inspiration”. It can’t be. When callings are extended, they should be explained fully. Vision should be explained. Training should be expected. And by golly, when members don’t hit the mark they should be given the opportunity to fix their mistakes or given the opportunity to be released. These youth’s lives are depending on dang good leaders who realize a calling in the youth is not a one hour class on Sunday but an invitation to get involved in their lives for forever, to be a mentor for the rest of their life.

I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continuallyJournal of Discourses, 9ː150 (January 12, 1862)

Between now and 2020, the BSA program better be used. You better work the dang program but I am pretty sure with the announcement you have already planned your very soon exit plan. On the other side, I know a Scoutmaster friend who is going to extra effort to make sure one of his Scouts has the opportunity to be Eagle. The Scout must just put in the effort if he wants it. Others are already looking at non-LDS units to put their kids – this is an idea I have pushed for a long time because most of the boys would have gotten a better program because Scout leaders outside of the Church actually get trained for the most part. They run the program as it is written instead of the “LDS version” of the program. And the BSA will not fail because we are not there. We, Mormons, are not that great and powerful. Get off your high horse.

To my non-Mormon friends in the BSA, some of us are staying. Some of us will continue to help because we understand a Scout is always a Scout and because you are our brothers and sisters and you need us as much as we need you. 

The Change Resources:


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.