The Mormon Scouts of America

eaglescout-imageI am an Eagle Scout.

Ever heard of it?

Apparently more and more people don’t even know what that is – and the days of “this is a good thing to put on your resume” are long gone.

This weekend I had a lively discussion prompted by my new Home Teacher in which we extolled the pros and cons of the Boy Scout program as it is sponsored by our Church.  This prompted an extended conversation afterward with our house guests (thanks for coming McKay and Annie!) about the scouting program.

Which gets me to the question of this blog: Should the Church continue to mandate that each congregation in the United States and Canada sponsor a Boy Scout Troop?

Pros:

  • The BSA has taken firm stances, especially in recent times, about what is stands for and supports.  It is a non-profit, inter-denominational group that supports many of the same morals that the Church tries to teach the young men.  The commonality of faith, showing the young men that other boys (not nec
  • The BSA provides a structured program where boys can have a broad exposure to an array of different activities, giving them a good chance of finding their niche in society and discovering their aptitudes.

Cons:

  • Scouts and the “Duty to God” program compete for the time and attention of the young men.  They have to work on the two awards simultaneously.  In this sense, Scouts can be a real distraction from the boy being focused on and setting the more spiritually-based goals in the Duty to God program, and understanding and developing himself as a priesthood holder.  Duty to God was designed to prepare young men for missions, while Scouts prepares them to be men and tie knots.
  • Scouting is SUPER expensive!  Not only for the Ward, but for the Scout leaders, their parents, and the ward members who are oftentimes guilted into giving to the Friends of Scouting program.
  • Wards with “great” scouting “success” have turned into machines that just crank the boys through the required merit badges and an Eagle project in 2-3  years, since they have found the boys who do not finish scouting by the time they’re 16 rarely do.  Many wards don’t even register their Priest quorum as Scouts.
  • Scouting has turned into a babysitting program.  The Church calls leaders who give up most (if not all) their vacation time to take the boys camping, with little to no support from the parents in these activities.  This was most aptly described by my home teacher when he said that one particular young man told him during scout camp that as soon as they got home, his father was taking a week off to take him to Alaska — and yet this leader was taking his precious time off, away from his own family, to provide free babysitting and other activities to the young man.
  • The rest of the Church in the world does just fine without scouting.  Why does the US and Canada need it if they don’t?  (especially inasmuch as it consumes precious church resources)
  • The callings associated with Scouting consume the most precious church resource: good people.  You have to put your best, most dedicated ward members in callings related to scouting, and you lose the chance to use them in other much more crucial priesthood capacities.  These leaders can easily and quickly get burned out by the rigorous demands of the scouting program, due to their already backbreaking load of church meetings and assignments.
  • Boy Scouts have become a very un-cool organization.  Young men nowadays do not want to be affiliated with the program.  If the church embraces this program so tightly that they lose the attendance of young men to church, then we are doing a disservice to the young men.

Factors to Consider

  • Many in Church leadership are die-hard scouters.  They firmly believe in the program.
  • Many in BSA leadership are LDS.  The BSA recruits heavily from the Church’s universities.
  • President Monson and others have received top scouting honors, including the Silver Buffalo.  It would be very awkward for the church to turn its back on an organization that it has championed and become an integral part of for so many years.

Myths

  • Without the Church, the BSA would die.  McKay shared with me his research that this simply isn’t true.  The BSA would definitely be dealt a difficult blow, especially in the western US, but it would not be eradicated.  In fact, Troops would continue outside of the church in places with high concentrations of church membership, and church members would have to decide for themselves (just as they do with athletics and other activities) if the cost of participating in this organization would justify the benefits of it.

The truth is that Scouting provides little to no value for the young men, their leaders, and their parents.

It is no secret that Eagle Scouts typically only get their award because of their mothers or scout leaders.  Rarely will you find a Boy Scout who can honestly say: I did this all on my own, and because I totally wanted it.

Scouting provides nothing that the church itself, following the Duty to God program, could not provide.  In fact, Scouting cannot provide an environment where the Gospel is taught and where Priesthood holders are trained in their duties.  This is a responsibility to be held by the church, not the scouting program.

In fact, if the church is so much in support of service organizations with conservative morals, why doesn’t every High Priest group of the church sponsor a Rotary club?  Or a Masonic lodge?  Or any other inter-denominational, morality-based service organization?

The Church needs to take ownership and supply it’s own program, not rely on an outside organization to muddy up the water for these precious young men who are already “hemmoraging” from the church at the first young adult opportunity.

17 thoughts on “The Mormon Scouts of America”

  1. I’d personally like to see scouting permenantly eliminated from official status as a church program. My greatest reason for this is that scouting is not for everyone. Not every young many likes camping and burning things in the fire. Not every young man cares tying knots, emergency preparedness, or Order of the Arrow. Because this program is church sponsored, it has the unintended consequence of making young men who don’t care for scouting feel like outcasts in a community that should be about spiritual improvement.

    What I don’t understand is why the church feels it necessary to throw its weight behind a program for young men that has absolutely nothing to do with spiritual growth. Yet, for women, the entire program is abouts spiritual growth. They’ve got it backward. They take the segment that is naturally more spiritual and focus them on spirituality. Then they take the segment that is naturally less spiritual and focus on camping.

    I got my Eagle Scout…and I hated every minute of it. I loved music, computers, theater, dance, and art. I would have gotten much more out of sitting in the chapel and practicing the piano and writing my religious-based music than I would have sitting through my troop meetings learning how to sharpen a knife or pack for a backpacking trip. And since I hated it, as soon as I wasn’t forced to do it, I stopped going.

    And you’re right. So many of my scout “leaders” hated being there even more than I did. Their lack of enthusiasm rubbed off, and nobody got anything productive out of the entire program.

    If I had children, I would not put them into the scouting program unless they really wanted to do it. The church’s real job should be to encourage spiritual growth in its members, not teach them how to camp and chase snipe. It doesn’t improve camraderie, make better boys and men, help bring people closer to Christ. It’s a waste of time, money, and effort (at least it was for me and most of my friends).

    And don’t even get me started on it’s bigoted, exclusionary practices. Yep. The way to help improve your members is by banning people who believe differently than you. Way to teach love, tolerance, and possibly help those who are struggling to find a place to belong.

  2. I had a teenage son who hated scouts. But because it was a church sanctioned program I forced him to participate in this program. This became a large wedge between us. He is now no longer active and at times bitter about his teen age years. I wonder if we had focused more on his spiritual development and less on scouts things may have been different.

  3. Thanks for having us Sam! I also enjoyed that “lively discussion,” so much so that I think it might come up as a topic for my Deseret News column in the near future. If it is, I will be sure to link to this post. I think you outlined everything pretty well.

  4. Since I grew up in a house full of girls (4 girls and 1 boy) I know nothing about the Scouting program. I’d be interested to see what my brother thinks though.

    I do remember that for alot of the boys my age at mutual, their parents didn’t allow them to get their drivers license until they got their Eagle. I’m not a huge fan of that rule…but in my ward growing up it was very common. I’m guessing that with a bunch of naggin’ moms that did most of the work anyway, these guys finally got their Eagle.

  5. I think it ought to become optional. My brothers didn’t go very far in Scouts, and I agree that it’s a drain on precious resources – good people, funds, etc. – that are needed in the youth program.

    As a side note, my one brother came the closest to getting his Eagle Scout, but lost enthusiasm when his project wasn’t approved. All the other boys in his class had done big, outdoorsy things like cleaning parks, building play areas, etc. – my brother wanted to collect personal history interviews from WW2 survivors in our county. When that project was rejected, he gave up and the rest of our family was so surprised and disappointed that such a worthy project wasn’t good enough, we gave up trying to encourage him to find something else.

  6. First of all I think that it’s the silver beaver not the buffalo right?

    Second I too believe that the association with BSA is now based solely upon some BSA being made up of many LDS affiliations.

    I think that until President Monson passes away there will always be an association with BSA. He is a huge proponent of scouting

    I especially feel that while the BSA has had it’s place and it’s purpose and it’s time in the church, but just as the young women program has changed over the years and met the needs for the time, that the boys program should too. There has been little change over the 110 years that scouting has existed for the young men of the church. I think that the church should allow the programs to evolve with the times a little more. Boys need to become strong stand-up men, but there are lots and lots of ways to become that. Scouting is not the only way. I have hoped for awhile that there begins to be a shift away from scouting. And to be honest this is my NUMBER ONE reason that I glad I don’t have sons. Is that bad?

    BTW, I don’t have a personal problem with scouting itself. I have a husband that LOVED scouting as a boy. He learned valuable things from it, and it helped him grow and develop. I think that LDS boys that enjoy scouting should certainly continue if they want to do that. Just as a boys that like swimming should be enrolled in swimming lessons and a boy that runs should join the track team. Boys that like camping and scouting should be scouts. I would just like to see the iron clad association between the church’s young men program and scouts lessen.

    AS a side note….. As a young women leader for 5+ years, I can also say that there is a GREAT problem with the scouts vs girls in the youth program. While we were strictly told to stay in our budget, have no fundraisers (but maybe one for camp), do activities at no or low cost, and to NEVER ask the YW families for money, and then we would attend BYC (youth correlation meetings) and the 14-15 year old boys stated that they were going snow skiing for their activity at a cost of $50 per boy, it sure paints an unfair picture to the young women. Many of the YW wanted to river raft or go on biking trips. We were never allowed. I can see how 100 years ago that was totally inappropriate for girls to do those things, but now that is normal for a girl to want to go rock climbing. I would hope that as the years pass, again… that the church will evolve to fit modern day needs of modern day youth.

  7. PS you only became an eagle scout because your mother wanted it so badly.

    and

    PPS now you have cursed yourself, you will be now have sons and be called to a scout master.

  8. I received my Eagle Scout award and did have a little fun on the way getting it but ultimately I hated it. I cannot remember one time i was actually excited to go to scouts, i was forced to go every time any scout related activity was set up i was never given a choice. I hated going, i hated wearing the uniform, doing the oath/slogan/law/motto it felt like they were breeding clones and it was the furthest i can think of from a good time.

  9. I believe that there are loads of spiritual experiences found on camp-outs. I also believe that it is important to learn
    and experience some semblance of basic survival. I might also venture to guess that if you polled a reasonable sample
    of RMs they’d tell you some of their most memorable teen experiences were camp-outs or hiking trips or some fun quorum trip for
    Boy Scouts.

    Most all of your points are right on, but I do think the pros are being slighted too much.

  10. From what I’ve heard, they recently changed the Duty to God award because (and this is a rumor) that the Church is trying to move away from scouting and make the Duty to God similar to scouting in order to replace the Scout Program. I’m sure it will be a few more years before this actually happens, but it’s something I’ve heard (just like how they are thinking about getting rid of the Sunday School hour and just having Sacrament and RS/Priesthood).

    I agree that when it comes time for the Church to move away from Scouting, that 1) it will have a huge impact on BSA (seeing as most of their meeting places/roundtables are held at our church meetinghouses), but it won’t go away, and 2)it should still be an option for those that still want to participate. Scouting and BSA will still be around and those boys that enjoy learning and are wanting to do those types of things can join a school pack instead of one that consists of the ward.

    Scouting is a very good program and it does teach many things. There are hundreds of merit badges that even get added or replaced from time to time that cover a whole range of things, from cinematography and law to electricity and skiing. I think although most of us think of scouting as hiking, camping, and wilderness survival (although it is a big part), it has many other things to help those boys find something they will enjoy.

    My family is a big “scouting” family: my mom has been a den leader several times and on the cub committee; my dad is an eagle scout, has been a Cub Scoutmaster, Asst. Scoutmaster, and is currently the Scoutmaster and also in the past has been in charge of Cub Scout Daycamp for several years; and both of my brothers are eagle scouts (one just got his award on Sunday). Scouting does take up alot of time and my dad is gone alot, but my dad and the scouting program helps many of the young men in his charge become better young men and bond more with their peers.

    My one brother who is now 18 got his eagle when he was 14, and yes, my dad pushed and pushed him to get it done. I wouldn’t say he hated it, but going to scouts wasn’t the highlight of his week. My brother who just received his eagle is 13, and he wanted to do it; he loves camping and hiking and doing the “scout thing” so although my dad helped, it was my brother who pushed himself to finish. But, I will say that both of my brothers got a non-member friend to join our ward scout pack, which I see as a very great missionary tool to introduce them to the Church.

    Scouting is a good program and the Church championed it because they felt it was necessary for the time, and until the Church sees fit that it no longer has a use for the scouting program and that it can use it’s own program/resources (Duty to God), then that will be the time it will break away from BSA.

  11. I just want to say something because I like the scouting program and most of my friends in scouting enjoyed it. Yes, There were a few that never enjoyed wearing the uniform, but we always had fun on campouts. Example: I grew up mainly in a ward in Fresno, Cal. Many youth,and the scouting program was very good. My dad and others were the scout masters. They made scouting fun. So us boys had a good time doing the many different activities. All of us but one served missions. We formed a close bond and friendship through scouting.

    Example #2: I moved to Florida in high school and the scouting program pretty much did not exist. Results, three of us served missions. There was always fights, and hatred towards some of the boys in church. Yes, parents have there responsiblity to discipline and such, but I feel that scouting could have prevented alot of these fights and could have helped these boys serve missions. Instead, there was no boy unity within the ward. So, from one ward where scouting was big, there were great results, and another place where scouting was non- existent, the results were not good. Remember also that there should be firesides on every campout, with sharing of tesitmonies. When it is done the correct way, you see good spiritual results. So the leaders play a huge role on the spiritual growth of the boy. I mean come on, being with nature, You can feel the spirit there. I guess you’d have to enjoy nature and understand it.

    I feel that scouting is good for some, but make those kids choose if they want to do scouting or not. let them get there feet wet a few times at the activities and camp outs, and if they still dont like it, then they dont have to do it. I have had non-member friends join scouts and they have enjoyed it thoroughly. So it depends on the person and there desire to actually do manly things. HA. I will admit though, the knot tieing did get annoying but the campouts were always a blast.

    Also, the young woman don’t get alot of $ to do things, which should change.
    Without scouting though what would the young men do/? Play basketball? we do that anyways.

    P.s Being an Eagle Scout in any branch of military you will be paid more and be ranked higher.

  12. perhaps if they had a merrit badge on playing video games or texting it would be more fun.. bahh.. no imagination in gen Y

  13. Although not an Eagle Scout myself, I have surely seen the benefits of having both programs in the church. I was once told that, statistically, 95% of the young men who get their Eagle Scout award, serve an honorable mission and get married in the temple remain active in the church thoughout their lives. That’s a very powerful statistic. I would be very careful about eliminating part of such a successful formula or ignoring its significance.

  14. I believe that many of the requirements for the Eagle Scout award can be used to meet the requirements in the Duty to God. So it is easier to do the two together than you might think.
    Just to get you thinking- if a young man decides that he doesn’t like the Duty to God program ( or even hates it for that matter )and decides that he doesn’t want to do it, is it okay for him not to do it? It seems to me that people are assuming that all young men will be okay with the Duty to God award, which I just don’t think is true. In fact, I KNOW young men who do not want to be bothered with the requirements of Duty to God. With that in mind, is it okay to let him NOT do the program? Would it be wrong for his parents to encourage him to actively participate? What if there were expectations from his parents about fulfilling the Duty to God- would that be wrong or a bad thing? If it was your son, what would you do? Would you risk having some tension in your relationship with your son to encourage him and assist him in obtaining the Duty to God award? This leads to another question- is it okay to make your children do things that they don’t necessarily want to do? Even if it is for their own benefit? So when is it okay to force your kids to do something they don’t want to do? Keep in mind, both Scouting and the Duty to God are sactioned and encouraged by the president and apostles of our church, and neither one of them is necessarily “essential” to eternal salvation.

    I know that a lot of parents force thier kids to do scouting in order to enjoy other privelages. Who is to say that parents won’t do that with the Duty to God program or are not doing it already? If it is happening or will happen in the future- is it any better than doing it with scouting? And is that a good reason to get rid of the Duty to God program altogether?

    So just what is the purpose of these programs? Yes, scouting uses camping, and hiking, and knots, and knives and ugly uniforms with short shorts to try and meet its objectives (which is not entirely true because there is a merit badge for just about everything- even music, finances, etc. I bet we’d be surprised at all the various ways that one can fulfill scouting requirements in a way that is appealing to and fits the person involved). Can seem kinda wierd and pointless sometimes. But is the purpose really the camping, hiking, knots, knives and short shorts, or is it something else? Do we really trust that the leaders of our church know what is best for us and our youth, or are they just old men with old fashioned ideas? With all thier spiritual resources, do you think that they would use them when it came to supporting a program that uses up monetary and leadership resources like scouting? The church is very careful when it comes to using its resources, and would not do so unless there was a VERY good reason for it.

    Anyways, those are just a few of my ideas just to keep you thinking. I know that scouting is not a perfect program, and that it is not always carried out or supported in the best ways sometimes. But obviously there is enough good there that the prophet and apostles feel that it is worth supporting as a church. That in and of itself is worth considering, and I know that for me, I will support scouting in any way that I am asked by the bretheren until they decide otherwise.

  15. I’m a proud Life Scout who came all too close to getting his Eagle, but not quite. While I’d like to have my Eagle, I sure don’t regret not getting it. Perhaps one of the most destructive things to a young man is too much idle free time. The vast number of merit badges I think can really help a young man his talents and abilities. I sure don’t remember the young women in my ward doing lots of spiritual activities. If you remember being a teenager, practical and tangible holds your attention way more than lectures and abstract concepts.

    And what is all this talk about money? I think we as boy scouts were forking over more money than the girls were, but that was only for uniforms and camp outs. Ski Trips? I think some member let us borrow their extra cross country skis. We did do fund raising, but that only offset the cost of Scout Camp.

    Of course, I grew up in Vermont with a dysfunctional scouting program, but I’m with Alan. It’s not about forcing kids into being an Eagle at 13 1/2, it’s about exploring life around you in a constructive way.

  16. As the mother of 2.5 boys I know that this will certainly come up when my boys reach that age. However, in our previous ward I had a lot of opportunity to observe the scouting program as my husband was in the bishopric and over the YM organization. We had a huge number of new converts who were transplants from West Africa. The scouting program brought them some enormous benefits: 1) Many of the young men did not have both parents and so were able to have a lot of time with worthy and enthusiastic priesthood leaders who really cared about their well-being. 2) They had the opportunity to experience things that they never would otherwise experience in the dillapidated part of the city where they live. Actually, the first time most of the boys ever set toe in a swimming pool is when the scout leaders took them to prepare for a swimming merit badge. And don’t even get me started on the impact the camping trips had on these boys. We actually had less discipline problems with the YM in that ward than the YW.
    Scouting might be passe in some wards but I think to get rid of the program all together would be a huge mistake especially for boys like these who would never have the means or opportunity to participate otherwise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.