Friday, October 19, 2007

Mediocre LDS Scouting

I have served in a number of positions at a variety of levels both in the LDS Church and in the Boy Scouts of America. I currently serve in the BSA as chairman of the district camping and outdoor promotion committee; although, I have served in unit, council, district, and regional positions. I think I have sufficient experience with both the LDS Church and the BSA to offer an informed and experienced opinion on the interaction of the two organizations.

The BSA was founded in 1910 and the LDS Church jumped into sponsoring BSA units in a big way in 1913. Since that time, the BSA program has officially been the activity arm of LDS young men in the United States. Over the decades following those early days, Scouting flourished throughout the United States.

But things have changed for both the BSA and the LDS Church over the past four decades. Scouting is still a very strong movement in the U.S., but the percentage of American young men that participate has been trending downward for some time. And while the LDS Church promotes the BSA program as the activity arm of the church’s young men, most LDS sponsored units approach the program in a mediocre way at best.

As I attend leadership meetings of adult BSA volunteers, it seems that the average age of this corps has grown over the past few decades. In fact, we are frequently bringing men and women back into the same positions in which they served well 20 years ago. Although I have been an adult volunteer for two and a half decades, I’m one of the young bucks in many of these meetings.

As I live in an area where most units are sponsored by the LDS Church, one of the constant laments bandied about is the low level of commitment local LDS leaders have with respect to the BSA program. Many people seem genuinely mystified by this. But having been on many sides of the issue, I think I understand.

Perhaps the major factor at play here is the general decline in civic engagement throughout our nation that I noted in this post. It’s not just the Boy Scouts that are experiencing declining participation trends. This is general in civic groups of all types. In my post I took a quick look at the complex reasons behind this trend, which include an increasingly mobile society, decline in acceptability of single-sex organizations, TV, the Internet, expanding entertainment and athletic opportunities, and even societal diversity. I mentioned that people born after 1945 are far less civic minded than those born in the generation before them.

Frankly, these are factors that churches and civic organizations can only marginally slow down. They cannot stop them, so they must ultimately learn to deal with them if they are to remain viable.

Some of the research to which I referred in that post found that people today are far less willing to dawn special uniforms that denote their involvement in civic organizations. Up through the 50s and even into the 60s, boys craved to wear Scout uniforms. Today? Not so much. It is now an uphill struggle to get boys into uniforms, although, uniforms are actually more affordable than they used to be in real terms.

I can say from experience that local LDS Church leaders have a lot of responsibilities. Sometimes they can feel like the guy they used to have on the Ed Sullivan Show that would spin plates atop long sticks. He’d get four or five plates spinning, and then he’d have to go back and spin the first few before he could put up another one. He was constantly running around keeping plates spinning so that none would crash to the floor. With so many responsibilities, many of which are classed as top priority, it can frankly be difficult to give the Scouting program the focus it needs to function properly.

It is deucedly difficult to call and retain great Scout leaders at the local level. It is hard to find men and women that can develop a good rapport with the boys and that are willing to spend the time it takes to provide a decent program for the boys. (LDS leaders for boys under 12 can be female, but must be male for boys 12 and older.)

For Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Ventures, I have found that even if you manage to get a guy that will spend the time, you usually get a guy that is good at advancement and organization, or you get a guy that has good outdoor skills. Often you get a guy that is good at neither. But very rarely do you get a man that has both qualities. Failure to fit well into the position results in a high leader turnover rate. A similar situation exists for Cub Scouts.

If you ever do get a guy that can do both the program and the outdoor portions well, and that also works well with youth, you’ve found a rare gem. Most of the time, this man will soon be called to other leadership responsibilities, or else he will get burned out because he is doing far more than just his job. It is nearly impossible to build and retain a properly functioning unit committee that is the support system a Scout leader needs to properly do his job, so the leader often ends up doing the support functions as well.

In fact, properly running a Scouting program is enough work that many leaders accept mediocrity because they just don’t want to do the work. A friend of mine was called to be a Venture adviser (for 16-18-year-olds). He was required to attend the leader basic training. He returned to the next unit meeting and said, “None of you guys are interested in doing this program, are you?” You can imagine how the youth responded. He went back to the bishop and said, “None of these guys are interested in Venturing, so we’re just going to do what we’ve been doing.” In my own unit, the Venture Adviser position has turned over twice in the past 16 months.

Unlike when I was a kid, you can’t just find one guy for each age group, either. You need at least one other man that will be reliable enough to be there all of the time (or you can use two women for Cub dens). All adult leaders must submit social security and driver license numbers for a background check before they can begin working in their assigned Scouting positions. This two-deep leadership method is meant to provide protection from abuse and to improve general safety. The BSA has endured many lawsuits (mostly over the past 2½ decades) regarding alleged child abuse. Documents submitted in a recent lawsuit show that the BSA has expelled about one leader every other day for the past 15 years for abuse allegations.

Risk mitigation has become a major focus for youth organizations like the BSA. Some of this arguably reduces the adventure that many experts say young males naturally crave. Boys will find adventure through less favorable means if they cannot find it through positive programs. But when you have organizations of pedophiles that promote to their members ways they can successfully infiltrate youth programs, somewhat extreme measures may be necessary. However, this level of scrutiny and risk of personal legal problems is a disincentive to some good people that would otherwise be willing to serve.

Another factor in Scouting mediocrity from an LDS perspective is the increasing cosmopolitan nature of the church. Until a few decades ago, church membership was concentrated mostly in North America. And most of that was in one swath running from Idaho, through Utah, and into Arizona. Today more than half of church members reside outside of the U.S., where available Scouting programs often do not support LDS standards. Consequently the church does not sponsor many Scouting units outside of North America.

While LDS Church President George Albert Smith once prominently carried the flag at a national BSA jamboree and worked for years to get Scouting properly organized in the LDS Church, top leaders today are required to have a more global focus. Consequently, local leaders and members do not get Scouting promoted to them from the highest levels of the church like they used to. Accordingly, local leaders focus more on those messages they do get from the top level.

Despite the common perception that today’s youth are far lazier than their parents, research shows that the lives of today’s youth are far more structured and programmed than were their parents’ lives. Unstructured free time of our nation’s young people has declined by half in the last 30 years. There are so many more options clamoring for our time and attention that programs like Scouting simply fall by the wayside for many people. They’re just too busy.

Another issue that drives toward mediocre Scouting in LDS sponsored units is the fact that all of the church’s boys in the U.S. are automatically enrolled in the age appropriate Scouting program. BSA membership is not optional for these boys, as it is in units sponsored by other organizations. Let’s face it; regardless of how strongly local church leaders preach about the merits of Scouting, there will be a broad range of interest and enthusiasm about the program among boys, their parents, and their leaders when enrollment is mandatory.

It’s hard to run an effective program when you get a lot of pushback from those you are trying to serve. When you bust your tail to put on a great program only to have most of the boys not show up or to have them and their parents act disinterested, you don’t feel much like putting your whole heart and soul into it. Still, the few LDS sponsored units I have seen that do the Scouting program to the hilt have no problem with attendance or enthusiasm. They often draw boys from other units as well. But building a program like that requires a lot of committed leadership from the organization head and from every adult called into the program. That level of commitment to the Scouting program in an LDS unit is very rare indeed.

It’s really no mystery why most LDS sponsored BSA units approach the program in a mediocre and haphazard way. The broader American society has far less civic commitment than once was the case and this is reflected among church members as well. Kids and families are busier than ever, so they choose not to commit the time needed. Leaders don’t want to do the work required to run an effective Scouting program and they are not thrilled about the personal risks involved. There isn’t as much obvious leadership from top church leaders on the Scouting program as there used to be, mainly because their focus has changed from regional to global.

So why do I continue to spend my free time working in the Scouting program? Because this program played a huge role in my life and in the development of my character. It took me from my Cub Scout den, where I was one of the less popular kids, to my first completely miserable overnight hiking experience, to my first homesick week at camp, to youth leadership positions, to learning to love to serve others through the Order of the Arrow, to spending summers working at the rustic Camp Loll high in the Tetons, to becoming an outdoorsman, to serving for years as an adult Scouting leader.

I will be forever grateful to the men who were my mentors in the Scouting program over the years. I owe a particular debt to Delose Conner that I believe cannot possibly be repaid. In the past few years, the Scouting program has provided a welding link between me and my two oldest sons, both of whom worked at Camp Loll this past summer. I have seen the lives of thousands of young men improved through the Scouting program.

And so, despite the challenges, I continue to serve. I do not delude myself into thinking that the Scouting program will ever be more than mediocre in all but a handful of LDS sponsored units. I guess I’ll accept the concept that for the most part, some is better than none.


Anonymous said...

I was spoiled as a scout-aged youth. I didn't know it at the time, but I had an unusually well-run scout troop. I learned a lot there. I am an eagle scout, Order of the Arrow, youth leadership - the works. I love scouting and was excited to be called two years ago to work with the local scout unit. It has been two years of frustration. Thank you for helping me to see some of the reasons why.

I am good at the organization and the outdoor elements of scouting, but I have zero rapport with the boys. They don't care for scouting, and most of the parents are apathetic as well.

There are lots of other activities for young men to devote their time to, but even those who are not busy don't care to participate in scouting most of the time.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to motivate the youth, or parents? If we could do that much it would be a good start at making the program work.

Anonymous said...

I am an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow. Frankly, I do not believe the LDS Church will continue its current level of support to scouting in the future. I cannot think of any other organization that is so closely affiliated to the church, without being a church entity itself.

My brothers have both had callings recently with scouting programs in their local wards. Constant frustration only begins to describe their experience. Not to mention the absolute mess of the friends of scouting fundraiser.

As the church becomes more and more international, I believe the time will come when scouting is shelved altogether in lieu of other church-sponsored programs for young men.

And honestly, I think such a decision will be a blessing for both the church and local scout enthusiasts. Sure, BSA will lose a lot of money, but those boys who will actually be in the program will be there because they want to be there, not because the church expects them there.

Scout leaders won't have to pull teeth just to get kids and parents to work with them. It's a win-win situation I believe.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Anonymous: I have long felt as you do. I even mentioned during a priesthood leadership meeting with a general authority that it appears that the LDS Church has been positioning itself for a future split with the BSA for some time.

The GA there was very knowledgeable of the situation. He alluded to the idea that the Church was at one time prepared to take such a drastic step back when the Supreme Court was mulling whether the BSA would be forced to accept male leaders that openly practice and promote homosexuality. However, he also said that the LDS-BSA relationship is "rock solid" and that, while the church likes to be prepared, there are no plans or discussions at present to drop the church's affiliation with Scouting. He said that the two organizations are running on parallel tracks rather than tracks that go away from each other. So, I guess only time will tell.

Scott Hinrichs said...

David, I'm afraid that I have no quick solutions to your problem. My experience is that overcoming youth and parent apathy requires a lot more than one person can provide. It works best when you have a bishop that is very enthusiastic about Scouting, but I have found that it can work to some degree even without that kind of leadership.

The first thing needed is dedicated leaders at all levels of Scouting preceding the level in which you serve. For example, when I was a Scoutmaster I had a great Cub program and a superb New Scout Patrol program. That made my job a heck of a lot nicer. Youth and parents had already had four good years of Scouting by the time they got to me.

Programs like this are not built overnight. It takes years. And frankly, most people don't have the patience for it. Another problem is that as soon as you get a few good Cub den leaders, they get pulled out to serve in the Primary presidency or something. A Scoutmast has to continually harp on the organizational rep (usually bishopric 2nd counselor) to put good people into Cub positions and keep them there.

When I became Scoutmaster, I took over with a group of boys that didn't much care for the program. I tried working with them, but as bad as it sounds, I ended up focusing my efforts on the new boys coming into the program and bided my time until the older boys moved on.

I found that an effective program revolves around boy leaders, regular meeting times, established patterns, outdoor activities, discipline, Scouting ideals, and rewards.

Meeting at the same time and place every week -- and then being there and doing it -- lets youth and parents know that the program will be there for them. Always hold a pre-opening activity. It took a lot of work, but I was eventually able to transfer responsibility for this activity to the boy leaders and they became very good at it.

Spending 5-10 minutes each week (outside of the troop meeting) planning with the troop leader council works wonders, especially when the boys feel that they are responsible for portions of the program. It took a long time before I had a functioning troop leader council, and we only got there through sheer dedication to the concept.

I was amazed at how well the new boys coming into the troop responded to very simple incentives to achieve full uniforming. By the time they were the older boys, they provided peer pressure on the younger boys to be in full uniform. The same is true of various Scoutcraft skills, around which most of our pre-openers were centered. Weekly flag ceremonies and recitals of the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, Slogan, and Outdoor Code imprinted these matters deeply. Simple incentives for passing these things off helped a lot.

We played a Scout game every week during end portion of the meeting. Even boys that didn't like Scouting would come out just to play these games. I soon found which ones worked well for our troop and which ones didn't. The game lasted only 10 mintues, but it was an indispensible part of the meeting.

Boys and parents soon came to know that we would be doing some kind of camping activity every month. Once I had a functioning troop leader council, they helped run these campouts and hikes very effectively. Like I said, it took months (even years) to get there.

The "meat" portion of each weekly meeting has to be well planned and executed. It can't last too long and it must be planned so that no boy is sitting in a chair listening to lecture for more than three to five minutes at a shot. While the Scoutmaster doesn't have to always run these things (guests can help a lot), it is very difficult to pull this off week after week. However, a good two-year plan can make this easier, because you center these around advancement and you recycle them every 24 months.

The thing that a good Scouting program really needs is a functioning and supportive unit committee. I have sometimes had such a thing for brief periods, but it's a hard thing to build and maintain. One problem is that the leader gets used to doing everything the committee should be doing, so that when new people are called to the committee, they don't think they have anything to do. Lack of a good committee is a major cause for burnout. But Scout leaders can help by actually expecting the committee members to get trained and to do their jobs. It can hurt, but when you let these people fail and then hold them accountable for it, they will often step up and do better the next time.

The two indispensible factors in all of this are dedication and time. Dedication to putting on a great program week after week, month after month, regardless of how well received it is can be extremely difficult. But I have found that if it is done consistently over time, boys begin to get interested and involved. Once they do that, their parents follow suit. But, as I said, it takes time -- even years. Most people are not up to the task.

There are people that naturally and easily relate with the youth. But not all of us are blessed with that talent. I suggest repeatedly forcing yourself to think of these boys the way God must think of them, and praying for them individually on a regular basis. The respect and love that develops within you for the boys will help open doors and improve relationships; although, there is no guarantee that the boys will act as if they like you.

Being a Scouting leader is tough work. But the rewards for doing the job right are worth it.

Cameron said...

Great post, and great comments. A few years ago I was a scoutmaster in the Rose Park neighborhood of Salt Lake. It was incredibly challenging, but the rewards, when they came, were awesome.

Frank Staheli said...

In Santaquin, where I've lived for 15 years, we've found just the type of men you're talking about. The mistake we made for about two years (and then we fixed it by bringing him back) was to replace one of these guys with someone who was not committed.

But now we've got kids doing service, earning a multitude of merit badges, camping out on a regular basis, and otherwise being very successful scouts.

It's interesting that there are so few who have a genuine interest in making it work. The trick, which may be a detriment in the long run, is for us to have kept the same person in as scoutmaster for several years. He loves it, and we love the results.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the encouragement.

"Lack of a good committee is a major cause for burnout."

That is a big part of my problem - I am the committee. Technically I'm the chair, but what do you call a one-man committee? On top of that, I help out with the older youth because we don't have enough leaders for two-deep leadership.

The younger boys (13 or younger) seem to be much better - they have a Scoutmaster who really gets it and they are generally much more interested in the program as a result.

We had one leader for the older boys who really got it too, but it was so hard on him that he had to be released after our last disastrous summer camp. I'm torn between hoping to survive without burning out until the program gets better established and wishing to be released from the current futility.

I have to agree with Anonymous - I think the church and BSA would both benefit by making their connection a little looser - sponsoring a troop in every ward might be too much. I wonder if a troop or two in every stake (especially here in Utah) would be better and let the individual wards focus more on the church Duty to God program.

Scott Hinrichs said...

One of the stakes in our district has a relatively small combined population of Aaronic Priesthood young men. Although each ward registers as a separate unit, they operate as a single unit. It's a big unit, with as many as 30 boys in each age group. But they also have at least one adult from each ward for each age group. It makes for a pretty good program. Of course, they only meet together for Scouting and not on Sundays. But the results look pretty good to me.

In this stake, the stake YM presidency take on more Scouting responsibilities than in other stakes. Each ward calls a person to serve on the unit committee for each age group, and that works more like a stake calling. But it actually works. They've got fully staffed committees that actually do their jobs.

This stake is quite compact, fitting within a relatively small geographic area. I'm not sure it would work everywhere. And the program has a strong champion in a member of the stake presidency. I don't think it would happen at all without him.

Obi wan liberali said...

Interesting perspectives:

It seems to me as a former scout and former church member, that the church is demanding more and more time of members, even as societal demands on time seem to be growing as well. The LDS Church is also starved for good leadership. When someone illustrates those leadership abilities in a scouting program, they will ultimately find themselves serving in other "more lofty" positions within the church.

My own scoutmaster growing up was dedicated to scouting and served effectively. Because of limited education and a speech defect, he was never considered an option for Bishop or Bishop's councilor. He served in scouting until his age-related health forced him to step back.

A challenge that will always face Mormon sponsored scouting units will be automatic enrollment and the fact that demographics change in Wards. If your ward has 2 scout-aged young men (yes I've seen this), options are limited.

As a liberal, I take exception of course to the ban the Boy Scouts make regarding gay leaders. But that is a different issue for a different day. Even with this ban, I still contribute to the local Ward's boy scout troop, even recognizing that if I had boys of that age, they would most likely not feel welcome there except as potential converts.

The Girl Scout program in my community is far more ecumenical, even though they generally meet at the Catholic Church. Girls from all religious expressions attend, including a large Mormon contingent. In this regard, I view that program as superior to the Boy Scouts, which allow a religion to intermingle their own agenda with that of Scouting which I disagree with the General Authority you mention, it is not paralell, nor necessarily should it be if it is to meet the needs of our community.

Atleast that is my take.

Bradley Ross said...

Phenomenal post and follow-up comments. Thanks. I spent a short time in our ward working with the Venture scouts, but they weren't Venture scouts in any meaningful sense of the word. They had no desire and I was a poor motivator.

I'm more convinced than ever after reading your post that training is the secret for successful scouting. I felt very little connection to anything in scouting larger than my own ward.

The ultimate way to learn, of course, would be to serve alongside someone like Scott who really understands how the program is supposed to work. The lack of longevity for most leaders makes this impractical or impossible.

Given these hurdles, it makes little sense to me for the Church to continue to mandate scouting for young men. I'm all in favor of chartering a stake troop or two for those boys who are interested.

Brian Phelps said...

I am YM Second Counselor and SM of our very small LDS troop, and I have a looong history in non-LDS Scouting prior to my joining the church 16 years ago. I do not like the LDS method of Scouting. It might work in Idaho or Utah with 30 boys in the Aaronic Priesthood, but in the three stakes I've been in, there's never been enough youth in a single ward to support the essence of Scouting: the Patrol Method.

Add to that the challenges others have mentioned -- disinterested parents, boys compelled to join Scouting, lack of ward support, ward leaders (even our Young Men's 1st Counselor) who do not get or enjoy Scouting, and competing demands on my time. If I did not have three sons in Scouting (3 of 6 boys that made our 4 day Yosemite hike last week), I'd probably ask to be released. I'm striving to give them the best experience possible.

I am working to persuade the YM President and through him the Bishopric that it does not work to have one boy selected as the PL and another as the Deacon's Quorum President; no one ever knows who's in charge. It also is incredibly frustrating when we schedule (only) two Scout meetings a month, and then I here from the YM leadership (choose one):

-- "Oh we switched nights, we're going to have YM/YW tonight instead."
-- "We are doing a YM/YW service project Saturday, so there's no Scouts next week."
-- "The boys don't like to wear uniforms."

A joint Stake-wide troop might be a possible solution, but I have not seen any evidence of support for this concept from the Stake. I'm certainly going to raise the issue.

I agree with another commenter about the Church's demands on our time. I think some leaders forget that we go to church in order to live, not live in order to go to Church.

Anonymous said...

I am a frustrated LDS mom of a 13 year old boy in scouting. I do not comprehend how leaders are called and released. They receive minimal training because the turnover is so high and then the parents are accused of being apathetic to scouting? I am being asked to trust my son's LIFE into the hands of someone I say hello to on Sunday? It is so unbelievable to me the experience I have had with scouting. My father was always in scouting on and off when I was growing up. It was so organized and ran like a well oiled machine. My son was so excited to start scouting and it breaks my heart to watch his enthusiasm dwindle and dwindle. I hold no ill will towards the leaders. They are volunteers but I feel that people should not accept the calling if they do not LOVE being around adolescent boys. If they do not have an appreciation for the role they are playing in that boys life they should say no. Not every parent has the financial means to be active in scouting. What some leaders may feel is apathy from the parents is actually the parents inability to do much outside of what they already do for the scout. I really really wish that I could have positive feelings towards scouting but I do not. By the way I live in a ward where the vast majority of scouts earn their eagle and I think that it means NOTHING after I have seen how the program works.

Bradley Ross said...

"I feel that people should not accept the calling if they do not LOVE being around adolescent boys."

If that were the standard, I'm afraid there wouldn't be many wards with a scout troop. I think there is a very limited supply of (1) adult (2) males (3) who will accept a calling (4) who will show up for the calling (5) who will help boys learn to lead (6) who can take the time away from family and work to participate in scouting activities (7) and who LOVE being around adolescent boys.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Just a note on Bradley's comment. After being deeply involved in the BSA program for decades, it is my observation that you have to be careful about some of the men that "LOVE being around boys."

From sad experience I have found that some men that are absolutely great with kids also have a propensity toward being pedophiles. The ones you really have to watch for are the ones that frequently relate with the youth on a peer-to-peer basis. If a man is frequently like one of the boys, it is important to never-ever-ever let that man be alone with a boy. That means having three-deep leadership so that someone can always babysit the guy.

From a church leader perspective, it's better to keep such a guy away from callings that involve youth interactions. Unfortunately, you could lose the opportunity of some high quality Scouting by following this advice. It's a lot harder to be the guy issuing the callings than many people think.

Anonymous said...

Today my husband was told 15 minutes before sacrament that he was being released as the Scoutmaster. It has broken his heart and our families spirit. I was not informed of the release until the rest of the congregation.

Last week he awarded 5 boys ages 13-14 thier Life scout rank. Over the last year he was worked hard to put the scouting program on the right track. He has taken well over two weeks of personal leave to help with the boys. He is a fully trained leader as of last month. He has been the first to organize temple trips for the young men and about 60% of the time taught the classes combined for the deacons, teachers and priests due to issues with leaders in other positions.

I do not know if I will be as willing to support my husband in future callings. This has caused us many tears today.

Bradley Ross said...

pamiperry2, I'm sorry to hear about the release. There must have been a lot of love for the calling for the release to be so sad. That is a testament to your husband's and your family's commitment.

I hope that the next callings that come down the line for you all will bring you as much joy as this one did. "I'll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. I'll be what you want me to be."

Anonymous said...

Our son was so excited to become a Boy Scout, but found himself the only 11-year-old in our ward. We dual enrolled him - in the ward troop (which had no 11-year-old leader), and in an outside troop.

The outside troop was boy led, camped every month, and had trained leaders. It followed the patrol method and attended council events. It was a scouter's dream.

We always supported the ward troop as much as we could, which rotated new leaders through about every 8 months - most of them untrained. We saw the young men in the ward troop sitting on their Life ranks for 2-3 years and then struggle to get their applications in for Eagle rank days, or in one case hours before they turned 18. Meanwhile, we became happily entrenched in the outside troop, attending summer camps and trainings making lifelong friends.

Suddenly, after 15 years of having Young Men's on one night a week, the program has been changed to another night during the week - the same night as our outside troop. Now we are faced with an agonizing choice. We know the right place for our son is to be with his quorum, but we love our outside troop so much. Our involvement in the outside troop has brought joy to our lives and help us define our family mission. We don't want to leave them! And yet, we know with the Young Men's program of the ward is the right place for our son to be.

Has anyone else gone through anything like this? How did you cope? We have to give up the shining jewel of a properly running troop in which we got to volunteer, for a pale shadow of what could be. The comparison is too great to ignore. It is a bitter moment for us.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Scouter Ann, I feel your pain. You are being forced to choose between two goods and you know that how you choose could have long-term impacts on your posterity and perhaps on others as well.

I can only suggest two things. 1) Remember what this is all about. Put the things of eternity and the things of this world in proper perspective. 2) Consider this article from the October 2008 Ensign entitled, "Have Ye Inquired of the Lord?"

I currently have a son in Venturing, one in Varsity, one in Scouts, and one in Cubs in our ward. We have some great leaders involved in each of these programs -- some that are in for the long haul. But it would be incorrect to say that any of the programs function as designed by the BSA. Without substantial (very substantial) extra efforts on the parts of my wife and me, our boys would not achieve what they do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. I am clinging to the big picture, and trying to hang on to the eternal scope. I have seen too many people become angry and disaffected over scouting and other issue, and don't want to fall into that category. I will check out the article link you provided. You've helped me take a step back and ask myself what is of eternal worth.

Blaine Bachman said...

Your experiences and thoughts mirror my own - it's like we've both trod the same path. Interestingly, even bishops and stake presidents sometimes fail to catch the vision regarding Scouting - at the moment, that is NOT a problem in my 'part of the vineyard' (Taylor Ranch Ward, Albuquerque West Stake).

Blaine's recommended reading list for LDS Scouters includes "On My Honor" by Thane Packer - an excellent treatise on how Scouting ought to be taken seriously by local Church leaders. Buy it; read it; give it to your bishop!

Anonymous said...

In 2009, Delose Conner's staff alumni site was moved to a new address. It is now His personal blog is

Scott Hinrichs said...

Tyler, thanks for the update.

Bryan Williams said...

This post is 3 years old, yet I have never found it more relevant. I and 3 of my brothers are in young men presidencies in different wards and even parts of the country and this describes the situation perfectly. I'd love to get more opinions and experience to help overcome some of these fundamental issues. As I see it though you are dead on and your insight definitely helps to pick apart the problems in hopes to overcome them.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Bryan, I take my hat off to you and your brothers. Dedicated scouting leaders are tough to come by. Even harder to come by are church leaders that are dedicated to the scouting program. But it is what it is. You make the best of what you have and move ahead.

Bryan Williams said...

Thanks for the words of encouragement. We'll keep trying to move forward. I'll post if I find anything that I find to be helpful. I'm quite surprised at how big of an issue this is and how little insight there is online. I've been looking on blogs and forums and your post is the best description of the situation.

I was feeling like I was the only one dealing with this until I called all my brothers who are running into the same challenges. Then I started asking all of the other leaders around that I know and they feel the same. Your post described it perfectly, so this must be a bigger problem that is being let on.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Bryan, I think that LDS culture encourages members to refrain from rocking the boat, as it were. It is as if bringing up problems with church programs constitutes a form of rebellion.

While rebelliousness can certainly be the root of criticism of leaders and programs, there is nothing wrong with honest and constructive criticism brought out as part of trying to truly magnify one's calling.

Many times, favorable changes in church policies and programs have bubbled up from the bottom as leaders have become aware of improved ways of doing things.

Jeff (彭智寧) said...

Thanks for the post and comments. Still very relevant. I came upon this post when I was looking for discussion on Mutual Shared Opening Exercises:,17884,5095-1,00.html

I find that following this to the letter disrupts setting up a pre-opener and causes the boys to transition twice before getting into their night's activities. I feel like this has been turned into something to take up more time so that leaders don't have to spend much time on lessons. Sort of like the 30 minutes of announcements at Priesthood on Sundays.

Luckily, the words "usually" / "generally" appear and that the Bishop can make the call. So, with luck, we can change this tradition.

Otherwise, most of the boys just hang out in the hallways or disappear.

Sean said...

Hi! I have come back to this blog time and time again over the past couple of years. Thank you for such an honest and heartfelt appraisal, which I take not as an indictment of LDS scouting, but as a straightforward and hopeful one.
Many of us involved with LDS scouting over the years, have finally come to understand its potential and impact even though the program is hobbled by a myriad of challenges by us. THis is an excellent piece of writing and insight which has helped me "stick with it"--nice to know others have dealt with this too!

Jake said...

Apathy and ignorance are hard to fight against. I was the scoutmaster in my previous ward and after moving, I've been called both to the scout committee over advancement and as the 11-year old scout leader. Our committee chairman is new to scouting and doens't want to take the time to get the training he needs. Our other scout leaders aren't interested in doing the programs and prefer to just "plan by committee" with the boys. Most of the other leaders look to find any excuse they can to cancel scouts each week. Activity on Saturday? That means no scouts on Wednesday. Church fireside on a Tuesday? No scouts on Wednesday. Ward activity this month? No campout this month.

The COR in the bishopric doesn't want to tell anyone they *have* to do anything. The whole program is 'optional'. Uniforms are optional. Training is just something that 'would be good', but it's not required.

Why is it in the church, where developing young men into well rounded adults and preparing them to serve missions and married in the temple is so stressed, that one of the most effective programs to help it in that goal is so underutilized? Why aren't more stake presidents and bishops pushing for scouting to be run effectively? How would they be reacting if eleder's quorum presidents told their quorums that general conference and stake conference are just optional. How would they react if auxiliary presidents skipped important meetings, like Ward Council, just because they already had a church activity that week?

I really don't know how much more I can do before I just tell them to release me from my calling and don't bother asking me to help with scouting any more.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Don't give up. I just read the book Trails to Testimony by Bradley Harris. I recommend the book to any LDS young men leader. While the whole book is useful for anyone that has any kind of involvement with LDS scouting, it has some portions that are particularly valuable for bishoprics and leaders that set the pace for wards.

The trouble with giving up is that you may someday find yourself called to be over the scouting program in a bishopric. You may think that if you are ever in that position you will be able to champion the cause and make the program work like it should. But if you give up now you might not have the reservoir to draw from to make that happen.

Ask yourself whether your call came only from the bishopric or from the Lord by way of the bishopric. If it's the latter, counsel with the Lord about how you can best magnify your calling. But don't give up. He won't give up on you or your calling.

Brian Phelps said...

Have you tried the Stake YM Presidency yet?

Unknown said...

I live on the East Coast in an area very sparsely populated with "Mormons" Our Stake comprises of parts of there states, ME, MA, and NH.

I am an LDS Scout Leader (sort of) I was initially called as a Scoutmaster, then just as I was learning the job, the New Bishop seemed to like my Organizational Skills and asked me to be his "Executive Secretary" I felt so strongly about the Scouting Program that I asked to be allowed to serve as the Troop Committee Chair as well. In the meantime I attended all BSA trainings on-line, classroom, and Outdoors including Wood Badge. After about three years. The District Exec asked if I would be willing to work as a "Unit Commissioner" I accepted and now serve as a Assistant District Commissioner, as well as a member of the District Committee (I serve on the Training Committee and work with the Activities Committee"

I asked to be released from my "Troop Committee Position. and shortly thereafter was 'released from my other "ward calling" (Exec Secretary). I remained on the Troop Committee as a member serving Boards of Review, but also served as the Commissioner to my old Troop.

I have since been 'called' to be the 'eleven year old scout leader' It is frustrating because I try to run a program to help the youth advance without much support from the YM Presidency. The Scoutmaster helps but does not seem overly excited about serving. His Son is progressing towards Eagle, but as far as helping the other youth advance, I'm not getting a warm fuzzy feeling. I have actually kept meeting with my "Eleven Year Olds" even after those who have turned Twelve to try to get them to First Class, the biggest drawback is Scheduling Outdoor Activities. It is like pulling teeth, to get adults willing to help us meet the two deep leadership requirements. I don't get the feeling of "Commitment" if anything on our YM / Scout nights needs to be preempted, it will be Scouts.

Before I got involved Scout / Young Men Meetings usually devolved into Basketball after a few minutes of working on a skill or religious lesson.

PS Our Stake YM Presidency is even more clueless when it comes to Scouting.


Scott Hinrichs said...

Charles, I hear your cry for help. Let me point you to a resource that many LDS Scouters have found invaluable in recent months. Starting on 9/8/2014 Mac MacIntire published a weekly blog post at LDS-BSA Relationships aimed specifically at the question you are asking. His message #1 is a must-read for all LDS Scouters. Mac recently published his 75th message, which is the final message in the series. Please consider reading through some of Mac's blog posts. They are chock full of great counsel for LDS Scouters.