The Church and the BSA: part 1

Peter Brown Mormon 56 Comments

In 2010, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will celebrate its Centennial anniversary. In 2012, the Church will celebrate its centennial contract with the BSA. With these upcoming historic events, its likely controversy over the BSA and its links with the LDS Church will grow for a time. On a macro scale, the BSA is no different than any other not-for-profit organization. It has a board, professionals, organization structure that is completely independent of the Church. Only 17%-18% of all units are LDS sponsored. Mormons and Methodists trade off on who charters more units. On a local scale, wards charter or own certain BSA units. They operate the BSA program within the parameters of both BSA policy and LDS general and local policy. The contract between the LDS Church and the BSA puts believing members in a strange corner. Does acceptance of the LDS Church and all that go along with it necessitate acceptance of the BSA? The answer to that question has many intricate layers. These layers involve an individual who may not like the BSA and its programs period, but it could be relegated to dislike in its organizational structure or its local professional and volunteer leadership. In this post, I want to focus on some of the typical problems I’ve found.*

Lack of Knowledge about Scouting—the calling versus the volunteer
Most members have no idea how Scouting and the Church work together unless they get called to serve in Scouting, and even then, they serve as a duty to the Bishop, and have no loyalty to the BSA organization. They only do Scouting insomuch as the local ward dictates the program. Then only about 20% attend BSA meetings or get trained to operate the program according to the guidelines of the BSA. This is unique in the Church. All other callings require no training from any outside organization. It is bizarre to those that see that “whom the Lord calls, he qualifies.” In the case of the BSA and the Church, whom the Lord calls, the individual is qualified by a 501-c3 organization. It’s counterintuitive, not to mention the fact that non-members can be called in BSA positions. Those that have committee callings find that most of their work is bureaucratic involving doing the annual charter, running fundraising campaigns, filling out tour permits, and registering membership with strict guidelines of adult leaders requiring a background check and parents signing forms indicating the movement of their sons from on program to the other. This bureaucracy isn’t required by the ward, it’s demanded by the BSA, some other entity that Joseph Smith didn’t have a revelation about. It’s a completely gentile organization and Mormons just don’t get it unless they are involved with the BSA in a mutually exclusive way. Unless they believe in the mission of the BSA independent of the Church, any work done on behalf of the BSA is done half-heartedly with a complete lack of faith. The first challenge is therefore understanding the mission of the BSA independent of Mormonism, and making a personal judgment call on its efficacy. If a person believes, he holds no longer perceives himself as called, he perceives himself as a volunteer—a much stronger keystone of service.

Lack of Buy-In
Thomas S. Monson loves Scouting. He is the longest serving executive board member for the National Council. This is another unique and intriguing layer to the BSA/LDS relationship. The BSA is a private organization same as the Red Cross, but it is influenced by the Mormon Church nationally. The general primary president also sits on its board. It’s safe to say that the top-level has buy-in. They are part of its guts, so to say. There is a new website operated by the LDS/BSA Relations division in the Church that attests to this fact. Down the line, you may have some lukewarm area authorities, but the real buy-in problem is with stake presidents. The LDS/BSA relations division attests to the confederate nature of the LDS church. They set certain guidelines in the LDS Scouting in the Handbook of Instructions, but they leave the implementation in the hands of local stakes. One of the primary functions of the website is to encourage attendance to Philmont, BSA’s premier training facility, by stake leaders. The Church feels that if local leaderships attend Philmont, they will buy-in to the mission of the BSA. The problem is that many don’t. If a stake doesn’t have buy-in, it’s likely a ward bishop won’t, and even if they do, many Priesthood leaders don’t see it as a priority. This affects implementation of the program down to the very troop level. Yet, there’s resistance at the top to strong-arming the local leaders into promoting Scouting. Discretion is allowed.

Girls/Gays/and God
Many people just don’t like Scouts, even in the Church, because of its perception as a nationalistic organization that is right wing, sexist, and homophobic. This is probably a small percentage. There are those however, that resent the Church’s promotion of Scouting at the neglect of the Young Women. Members with girls in their family often feel this perceived unfairness. Boys get to do all the fun stuff; girls just get to make glass grapes, bandanas, and canning jar crafts. Very few people know, however, that the BSA is open to girls 14 and up, but that the LDS Church will not allow girls into its own BSA programs.

Fundraisers
Once a year, each ward is “required” by the Church to help with the Friends of Scouting (FOS) campaign. In a Church where fundraising drives for programs and building funds used to be the norm, this is an anomaly to today’s modern Church budget program, where program funds are allocated based on attendance, and tithing is socialized from the central Church. Where does FOS go? Very few Mormons know. Much of FOS goes to pay for professional salaries with about half of the raised monies paying for salaries that translate into services performed—that professional Scouters are held to very rigorous achievement standards that are more stringent than any other not-for-profit. Indeed, many do not make the corresponding connection that much of tithing goes to pay for LDS “civic service employees” with very few achievement standards. They think it all goes to temples and ward houses. Wards will raise $250,000 – $350,000 in tithing a year without bating an eye, yet only contribute $1,000 – $2,000 in Friends of Scouting contributions and nitpick over each personal contribution of about $10.00 annually and want to follow every last dime to the end of the row. Again, this is an issue of mutual exclusivity between adherence and belief in the LDS Church and a disconnect with trusting the BSA, a small potatoes, non-revealed, gentile organization. You can add to this discontent the lack of service wards perceive from their local executive who only comes around demanding money and paperwork, and the ironic fact that many LDS stakes don’t allow local LDS scout troops to raise money for their own outings. It can be quite perplexing.

I Had a Bad Experience
Many people just had a bad experience with Scouting. They had a bad Scout leader, a lousy time in their troop as kids. They hated merit badges, or the fact that their dad didn’t let them drive until they earned their Eagle. Sometimes you have worse problems such as molestations of scout trips, hazing, homosexual behavior amongst the kids, etc, despite the fact that the BSA performs background checks and disapproves of behavior that is not “morally straight.” This hypocrisy nudges people to hang up their badges and say no to scouting forever. The BSA has the same problem as the LDS Church with respect to the doctrine being good, but the implementation often being poor.

There are probably other issues and concerns that stir people to dislike Scouting. I want to hear any other issues, problems, additions, or clarifications to the problems I have listed above. In my next post, I will outline why Scouting works for the Church, why it is still involved, and why it will probably continue to be involved.

*Dislaimer: I do work for the BSA, but I was also a volunteer for 8 years prior. My comments are not intended to represent the BSA or its local Councils. They are my own musings, and as such, should be taken this way. I do believe in the organization or I would not be working for it. My employment with the BSA is a choice.

Comments

comments

Comments 56

  1. Peter,

    I am always interested in the history of these things. I am struck by how young Boy Scouting actually is. When I was a kid, it seemed like it had been around since the Declaration of Independence or something.

    Did the Church get in on the ground floor of the BSA in 1910? Did Joseph F. Smith or Heber J. Grant adopt it as a program for the boys? When did the formal connection between the two begin? I know Baden-Powell started it in Britain, and it became an international movement, banned by the Nazis and Communists, etc.

  2. Very few people know, however, that the BSA is open to girls 14 and up, but that the LDS Church will not allow girls into its own BSA programs.

    When I was a teen, I wanted to join an explorer post that did EMT stuff. My ward leaders freaked, and my parents denied permission because it was co-ed.

    Then only about 20% attend BSA meetings or get trained to operate the program according to the guidelines of the BSA.

    20% seems high to me. Based upon my experience, for both boy and cub scout leaders, I would have guessed that number was ~5%.

    I’m looking forward to your outline of how you would fix scouting, or the church, depending how you look at things.

  3. I served as a Scoutmaster for 12 years in Massachusetts. I wasn’t happy when I was released, because I love scouting and the boys and I had great times together. We camped 12 months of the year regardless of the weather. We were a backpacking troop and focused on hiking. Along with hiking, canoeing is popular in New England, and I was able to call upon ward members (and sometimes on Stake leaders) for help with that. If the Teachers and Priests had wanted to have their own activities, they could have done that as Patrol activities. My only requirement was that their Patrols meet quarterly with the troop. However, they all enjoyed hiking and were happy to be with the troop for all of its activities.

    When I moved to Massachusetts in 1976, the Branch had no scouting program. When I first met the Branch President, I asked him if he would like a suggestion about my service in the Branch. He said “Yes”, and I said, “Scouting”. I was called as Scoutmaster and as Blazer Leader for the 11-year-olds. Because we were so small, it didn’t make any sense to limit the Scouting program to the Deacons. My Branch President (he later became my Bishop and later my Stake President) and the subsequent Bishops let me have all Aaronic Priesthood boys in the troop. Our Patrols mirrored the AP quorums. This was great, because the older boys were much more able to fill leadership positions than the younger boys. I had no problems with the varied ages of the boys, and the boys all got along fine with each other.

    We considered the Blazers as part of the troop, and they would join us Saturday morning and participate as a Patrol in the troop. Of course, they had their own activities, too.

    We were the only Mormon troop in our Scout District, and I soon gained the reputation as a good person to conduct the non-denominational religious service on Saturday afternoon at our District campouts. When I first moved to MA, the Stake had all of the ward troops meet together for the monthly training session (I guess I am getting old because I can’t remember the BSA name of the training). However, the Stake leaders soon realized it was better for the troops to attend their own BSA monthly meetings, and I immediately made that change.

    One practice that was followed by the Stake Scouters when I first moved to MA was having stake-level Courts of Honor. I didn’t like that practice because (a) it was such a large group that they didn’t give individual attention to the boys, and (b) because of travel, the boys were up late on a school night, and (c) the BSA literature stated the CoH was a troop function not a District function. So, I called my Stake Leader and told him my troop wouldn’t be participating in the Stake CoH anymore. He had a pretty liberal attitude about things and said that was fine with him. Even if he had said that wasn’t fine with him, I would have stopped going to the Stake CoH. We had great troop CoH, and I was glad I’d made that change.

    Another practice I changed was in the Blazer day camps, although I only got to change it once as a guest leader at a camp. The Blazers came from small wards & branches, and the Stake leader would combine them into one or two patrols so the boys could have the experience of a larger group and also get to know each better. I didn’t like that idea, because I spent the year developing leadership in my Patrol leaders, and I wanted to have my Blazers remain as a patrol during the day camps. However, there wasn’t much I could do about it since I wasn’t the Stake leader. The time came when I was asked to conduct a Blazer day camp, and I kept the boys together in their own groups. The first thing I did was to call a Troop Leaders Council and explain the days activities to the Patrol leaders, and then I sent the PLs back to their Patrols to explain it to their boys. After each activity I called another TL Council to review the activity and then sent the PLs back to their group so they could review the activity with their boys. In doing this, I was acting as the Senior Patrol Leader.

    A cultural change that I made in my scouting program was that I never, in the 12 years, contacted the parents about our monthly campouts. The boys knew what they were going to do, and they quickly learned that it was their responsibility to talk to their parents. The wife of my Stake President told me that she saw her son getting his camping gear ready. She asked him where he was going, and he said, “Camping with Brother Leigh.”

    In a similar vein, I never arranged transportation to/from Mutual for the boys. Our ward covered a geographical area about the size of the Salt Lake valley, and our boys came from half a dozen towns, and transportation was needed for most of the kids. I used to chuckle to myself as I watched the YW President running around getting transportation for her girls, and in contrast I watched my boys getting their own transportation.

    Also, a cultural change that I made was that the Eagles my boys earned were really earned by the boys, not by the parents. I met with each scout and helped him plan his project. The parents were brought in as “workers” but the scout, himself, was the motivator for the project. If anyone is interested in knowing how I helped the scouts plan their project, see

    http://www.mormonsite.org/eagle.html

    I had had project management training as a software engineer, and I used that training with my scouts.

    In many wards scouting has a bad reputation. That’s too bad, because the BSA has wonderful training programs in “shadow leadership”. During the 1970s, the church changed the Mutual program to have the kids in charge of more of the program, and many of the adult leaders didn’t adapt very well to the change. I was fortunate that my wife had had leadership experience at Utah State University and understood what “shadow leadership” was really about. I had had the BSA Scoutmaster training in Phoenix and understood “shadow leadership” from the scouting perspective. I think scouting is a great program and a great supplement to the Priesthood program of the church. I do think, though, that the church should allow small troops to have all AP age boys. I say “allow” because most Bishops will follow the proscribed program and not all their Scout leaders to do anything different. I was fortunate to put the welfare of the boys first and the written program second. When I moved to Utah 15 years ago, I wrote a letter to the general Scout committee with that suggestion, but I never received a reply, not even a thank you reply, from the committee.

  4. Ops.. missed a big typo. The sentence “I was fortunate to put the welfare of the boys first and the written program second” should be “I was fortunate to have Bishops who put the welfare of the boys first and the written program secone”.

  5. Here is a story to illustrate why I wanted the older boys in the troop. I had a scout, I’ll call him, Joe, whose father was a Master Sergeant in the Army. He ran his family like an Army platoon. Joe had never learned to be responsible for his own life. I talked privately with Joe’s mother about the need for her and her husband to “let go” of Joe and give him more responsibility for his life. She was the one who was getting Joe ready for the monthly campouts while Joe watched TV.

    Well, the next campout came, and Joe came with his parents. All Joe brought with him was a frying pan, no food, and a small baby receiving blanket. I knew the temperature that night would be in the high 20s and that Joe would need more than the blanket. I had to make a quick decision if Joe should remain at the campout or not. I gave a silent prayer and felt Joe should remain. I welcomed Joe and sent him down to the campfire program that was in progress. His parents left, probably thinking I was crazy.

    I walked down to the campfire program and found my Senior Patrol Leader. I said, “You have a problem” and explained about Joe’s lack of preparation. The SPL went to Joe’s Patrol Leader and said, “You have a problem”. The PL found his assistant and the two of them figured out what to do with Joe. Joe slept in a tent with another scout, which would have happened anyway during winter campouts, and the Patrol members shared their food with Joe. Joe did survive the night, and the first thing he said when I went to his tent was, “Brother Leigh, my feet are cold.” (I wasn’t worried about frostbite, because 28 degrees (F) is a pretty mild temperature for winter camping).

    During the morning we had our scout training and during the afternoon the scouts played games. I waited until the games to talk privately to Joe, and I asked him just one question. “Joe, what could you do next campout to make it more successful for you?” He started with “A” and went to “Z” in the things he should have done.

    A month later, Joe came to the next campout very well prepared, and his mother told me privately that Joe did the preparation by himself. From that time on, Joe blossomed as a beautiful teen.

    This is an example of a leadership experience that my SPLs, who were Priest age, and my PLs, who were Teacher age, could handle. I doubt that Deacon-age SPLs would have handled it very will without a lot of guidance from me. It was a situation that came up without notice, and the boys had to “wing it” to solve the problem.

  6. As a noneagle former scout, who was inducted into Order of the Arrow, did a LOT of activities and probably got the spirit of scouting as well as anyone, but never got the badges, let me tell you what can go seriously, deeply wrong:

    politics & paperwork.

    First, as a kid with a mom whose idea of paperwork was very vague, I never learned until much later how to keep up with paperwork. It’s still a skill that I have a VERY hard time with, and I struggle mightily. Thanks mom. That meant, however, that a scout leader SHOULD have picked up on the fact that I was having serious trouble keeping up with papers from one meeting to the next, losing things, etc. and made sure to teach the fundamental skills. Something no one did. I think its one of the reasons all the paperwork is there–to teach organizational skills that you need later in life, but no one tells you that!

    Second, because of the first, I did a lot of work twice. Merit badges would be completed, then the paperwork would be lost. Leaders would change, I would be unable to remember dates and details of previous work, and end up doing the requirements for a particular badge twice. Ranks were the same way. I finally gave up on scouting when a scoutmaster moved and I tried to discover where I was in the process of an application for a certain rank (can’t even remember which), only to discover that all that information had been lost at some level, and the district was asking for resubmission, and the scoutmaster had taken much of the paperwork with him. I gave up. It wasn’t worth the effort.

    I had a LOT of fun, but when a few years later I heard about 13 year old kids getting their eagle rank because with essentially a few merit badge fairs and a half-hearted project, I lost interest in the whole program. Yes scouting is a good idea, but if scouting is to retain the ability to drive boys to succeed and have any meaning at all in the future, then it absolutely 100% needs to change the way it works at the highest levels. The standards it applies to the merit badges and to the ranks must be absolutely uniform, and having some 12 or 13 year old kid getting one of the top ranks because daddy has connections, money or whatever is absolutely asinine.

    Now, the question here, and it may be addressed in a later part, is how long the LDS/BSA relationship can last. The answer lies, “as long as both retain the same views regarding homosexuals”. It comes to this: if the BSA is forced to make a choice between its congressional charter and allowing homosexual male leaders, then what will it do?

    The next question is: if the BSA makes the unlikely choice of allowing homosexual male leaders, then will the LDS church (given its current stance on the matter) choose to continue to support the BSA?

    [Given what’s above, I think the answer to the first question is no, but let’s just play along].
    [If the answer to the second question is no, then what? Make a separate program? Make it part of YM? I don’t know, but the answer is that the YM are likely to get much less outdoor activity, which is a shame).

    I have more to say, but no time.

  7. I think that Boy Scouts in the church is a love/hate thing. You either love it or you hate it.

    My experience shows that the programs are only as good as the support of the leaders allows. If, as Peter says, the Stake President is in to it, and the Bishops are into it, then it flows down from there. I have seen some incredible scout leaders in action (Allen sounds like one of those) and their boys blossomed under their tutelage and made eagle. I have also seen and witnessed the other side where no one seems to care one whit. And nothing happens are a result.

    Let’s talk for a bit about the “Duty to God” program. I think that program was probably designed to replace the BSA should it have to admit gays. But, it has to be the most neglected program in the church today. The parent’s don’t know or care much about it no matter how many firesides we’ve held. The leaders can only do some much in promoting it. I suspect some wards have fully embraced it just like scouting, but I haven’t been in one.

  8. While I certainly have nothing personal against the Scouting program–I readily acknowledge that it is a tremendous help for many boys by teaching them worthwhile skills, providing a helpful social outlet, and so on–I do believe that it would be better for the Church to emphasize that it may not be for everybody. (The Church website still has an interview with Elder F. Melvin Hammond where he asserts that Scouting is for everybody.) Experience (including my own) has shown that individuals with certain challenges and disabilities not only do not thrive on full-time missions, but that the mission experience can in fact be traumatic to these people. Scouting can have the same effect.

    Being mildly autistic and having difficulty with sensory issues, social integration, etc., I found that Scouting had very little to offer me personally and in fact had constant difficulty with the other young men calling me “gay”, “stupid”, “retard”, and other names. I attended weekly activities because my parents made me go, but that was the extent of my activity in Scouting. Imagine my horror the first day in the MTC when one of the presidency there asked the Eagle Scouts to stand up and told them that they would be the “good” missionaries because they had the character to be successful. From that point on I became crippled with an overwhelming sense of guilt. And this was far from the only time I had heard such things in the mission field.

    I have personally seen and heard similar statements in the Church: Bishopric members telling young men that no young woman who is worth anything will settle for marrying a non-Eagle Scout; regional scout leaders quoting President Benson’s statement that every young man should be an Eagle Scout and then stating that failure to achieve that rank is an act of disobedience that will keep one out of the Celestial Kingdom, and on and on. But you get the idea.

    My son is a Blazer Scout and I see in him many of the same challenges I experienced. He is deathly afraid of swimming, which means that unless adjustments are made for his situation, he will probably never achieve the rank of First Class. I have no problem with that; my wife and I will encourage him in the activities that he wants to do and leave him alone on the rest. Fortunately, he knows his own mind far better than I knew mine, and we tell him not to pay any attention to the nincompoops who would try to make him feel shame over not “going all the way” in Scouting. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, so he should be okay.

  9. This was an interesting review of the church’s relationship with scouting.

    One thing you didn’t discuss that I would like to learn more about is the church’s relationship with scouting outside of North America. My understanding is that the church gave up on scouting outside of North America because of lack of interest among the young men. They instead revamped the Duty to God award and made it more similar to the Personal Progress program in YW. From what I have seen, outside of North America LDS young men work towards their Duty to God and do not participate at all in scouting.

    I can understand why many members are ambivalent or hostile toward scouting. While I have many positive memories of scout campouts, as a youth, my experience with scouting in my ward was generally negative. Our weekly activities mostly consisted of playing basketball at the church (which was generally seen as a waste of time by those of us who didn’t enjoy basketball).

    Moreover, almost without exception, the boys in my ward who got their Eagle only received it because their mothers put forth most of the effort. It always bothered me when church leaders would talk about how important it was to get your Eagle. It seemed like a valueless award, since there was such little personal effort on the part of the boys who “earned” it. I have met many young women who, when describing desired qualities in a mate, give nearly equal importance to having an Eagle as serving a mission. I think an Eagle award would really most often just signal to them something about their mother-in-law, not their husband!

    I think it a pretty uncontroversial premise that one of the church’s main focuses should be the spiritual welfare of its members. Rather than feeling that YW is neglected because of scouting, I feel like the young men are neglected spiritually, at the expense of scouting. In my experience in scouting, very rarely did anything we do involve any sort of spiritual dimension. I’m jealous of the young men outside of North America who have a YM program that puts the emphasis on furthering their spiritual well-being, rather than tying knots, outdoor skills, and LOTS of basketball (with a little bit of moral and religious teaching thrown in).

    Any thoughts on whether the church’s focus on scouting leads to a decreased focus on spiritual matters for the young men of the church?

  10. Benjamine O,

    Your experience with record keeping is sad. I ran into a similar experience. It sounds like your troop didn’t have a functioning committee. The committee should have a member who keeps the advancement records.

    After I had been Scoutmaster for a few months, I had a call from an almost 18-year old boy who finally decided he wanted to get his Eagle. He said he had completed all of the merit badges and just needed advancement to Life scout and then the completion of his project. My troop had no records about his activity, and I called the Stake leader and the BSA leader in his District, but they had no information either. It was a sad day when I had to call him and tell him I couldn’t document any of his merit badges.

    One problem I’ve seen in LDS scouting is that Bishops often call people to be scout leaders like they call people to other callings: people who have no particular experience or interest in scouting. That doesn’t work very well, in my experience and observations at least. Bishops need to seek out men who love boys, love scouting, and love the outdoors. Those men are few and far between, but they must be found or men with the interest be trained. Next to the Bishop, the Scoutmaster probably puts in more time than anyone in the ward. Bishops, if they are realistic, can’t expect men who have just a casual interest in scouting to be that dedicated.

    Here is another story about my Bishop having to choose between his counselor or a scoutmaster. My son was 17 and had all of the merit badges for Eagle. He was Life and just needed his project. I visited with him during the months preceding his 18th birthday about a project, but he wasn’t interested. Finally, he had one month before his birthday, and I told him this weekend was it. He either had to do a project or forget it due to the time to get BSA approval of the project, the project completed, etc. He decided to do a project. I was a counselor in the Bishopric at the time. Our ward had no Scoutmaster, so I appointed myself Scoutmaster and worked with my son on his project (I’m always glad to break the church rules when necessary). After my son had his Eagle, I told my Bishop that I couldn’t remain as both Scoutmaster and his counselor, and that I would be happy to serve in either position but not both. I was relieved when he choose to keep me as Scoutmaster and not as his counselor. I served for several more years as Scoutmaster. I look upon my 12 years as Scoutmaster in Massachusetts as the highlight of my church service.

  11. I was glad to read comments that scouting isn’t for everyone, because it isn’t. My own experience as a scout wasn’t very good. At that time, boys became scouts at age 12. I enjoyed two years camping and hiking, but I had no interest in advancement or merit badges. When I turned 14, I was kicked out of the troop and put into something called “Advanced Scouting”. I was the only boy there, so I quit coming and didn’t return to Mutual until I was a Senior in high school and was preparing for college. My big interest during my teens was ham radio, and I would have loved to have had access to a radio club, but Exploring didn’t exist then.

    I remember during a long hike near Phoenix that I was walking with a boy who told me he hated scouting. He attended Mutual only because his folks made him go. Scouting isn’t for all boys, and if some boys are forced into it, it won’t work out very well. I don’t know what the church should do in this regard. The DTG award is a partial solution, but that doesn’t fulfill the need that many boys have for non-religious activities during their teens.

  12. Allen, I just want to say that I truly appreciate people like you, who are willing to go the extra mile to have a good impact on young men’s lives. I suspect that you’d be doing this sort of thing naturally, even if you didn’t have scouting as a vehicle for it. Bless you!

  13. As a former LDS scout I remain somewhat ambivalent about the program, even as I am raising two future scouts.

    One comment I have about the church’s implementation of the BSA program is that most wards I’ve lived in here in SoCal don’t have enough youth to staff fully functioning troops, as troops are presented in the BSA Quick Start training video. There seems to be about enough for about 1 patrol. I’ve often thought that implementing troops on the stake level, with each ward providing a patrol, would re-energize LDS scouting and concentrate the firepower of scouting volunteers across the stake.

  14. I compare my Cub Scout Pack growing up and my son’s in the Ward and it is like night and day. Even though therare about 15 boys, it pales in comparison to the 50 boys we had in my pack.

    the pinewood derby’s alone was incredible! But i do apprecaite how hard our ward cub scout leader try to give the obys a good experience , but it is probably easier at that level then Boy Scouts. Varsity and Venture is very tough!

  15. I’m and eagle scout and even worked at scout camp one year. Even so, I have very mixed feelings about the scouting program and especially about the involvement of the Church in it. I think that the focus of resources on scouting (especially from ages 8 to about 15) is detrimental to girls in that they see the effort that goes into the boys program and the stuff they get to do and the activity days and YW programs are simply not a “separate but equal” equivalent.

    I’m also concerned about the harsh stance the BSA has taken towards homosexuals. Some percentage of LDS children already know that they are gay and the constant demonization of gays can’t be helpful.

    I was interested to find out on my mission that the LDS Church has pulled out of the Brazilian Boy Scout program and has implemented its own scouting program based on the US BSA handbook. I’m convinced that there must have been some sort of copyright violation. The point was that the Church felt that the Brazilian program didn’t require its leaders to adhere to strict enough moral standards so they dropped it. From my observation the LDS version of the program was completely ineffective and it wasn’t clear to me that the kids were better off with the private program.

  16. a Random John–

    Before I began my mission in Brazil (1999-2001), the church had completely abandoned scouting (I was told is was because of lack of interest and participation among members) and replaced it with the souped-up “Duty to God” program.

  17. Allen said:

    I was glad to read comments that scouting isn’t for everyone, because it isn’t.

    Can Peter (or somebody who is convinced ov the value of BSA) please address this? Troops that are not sponsored by the church have voluntary participation, but with LDS units, every boy is roped into participation, even when it is clear that it isn’t working for 50% of them. Scouting requires an enormous commitment from a large number of adults, and the scouting organization is difficult for some wards to staff because of that. But what do we do for the young men who don’t enjoy scouting? Nothing at all, as far as I can see.

    Also, I’m very concerned about the difference between the YM program in the U.S. and the YM program everywhre else. Let’s face it, the BSA is a hard sell, even in the U.S. We routinely make claims about how wonderful scouting is (and I have my doubts about some of those claims), and then don’t even offer it in most places overseas. Is anybody else concerned about that?

  18. When I was scouting age I really couldn’t stand being around kids my own age except maybe one or two at a time. I did like outdoor activities as long as they involved shooting, hunting, fishing, or dogs, but those activities were very peripheral to scouting. So, because I didn’t like scouting and the young men’s program was so closely tied to scouting I avoided Mutual completely. Fortunately when I reached high school I was recruited into the basketball program because I was tall. I was never any good at basketball, but I tried very hard and it was a great experience. So I am indifferent to scouting but I think high school team sports are wonderful for young men. If I had sons, I would take them hunting and fishing myself and encourage them to participate in at one competitive team sport.

  19. (1) “Did the Church get in on the ground floor of the BSA in 1910? Did Joseph F. Smith or Heber J. Grant adopt it as a program for the boys? When did the formal connection between the two begin?”

    The Church did get in on the ground floor and helped to develop the charter partner process and probably helped to jump-start the organization. This event took place in 1916, not 1912.

    (8) “Imagine my horror the first day in the MTC when one of the presidency there asked the Eagle Scouts to stand up and told them that they would be the “good” missionaries because they had the character to be successful.”

    Terry, this is a shame. One of the problems with the LDS Church implemented Scouting is that the Eagle is a measurement of its success. Advancement and acheivement are only methods of the aims of Scouting. What Scouting and the Church want is character and citizenship development. If it works to do it through the Eagle process, great, if it works through outdoor leadership, great, and if it works by just repeating the Scout Oath and Law, great! LDS members get too hung up on the Eagle. It is overrated. It can ruin both the Scouting, Varsity, and Venturing program all from a non-trained leader who uses the Eagle process as measurement of his success, other than the quality unit process.

    (9) “My understanding is that the church gave up on scouting outside of North America because of lack of interest among the young men.”

    True, the BSA relationship is unique to North America. Part of the relationship as I’ll explain in my second post is about public relations and mainstreaming. The BSA has been a vehicle for Mormonism in the United States. Although there has been some efforts to help implement Scouting in other countries such as Russia with the help of the Church

    (17) “Troops that are not sponsored by the church have voluntary participation, but with LDS units, every boy is roped into participation, even when it is clear that it isn’t working for 50% of them. Scouting requires an enormous commitment from a large number of adults, and the scouting organization is difficult for some wards to staff because of that. But what do we do for the young men who don’t enjoy scouting? Nothing at all, as far as I can see.”

    I don’t know if it is for 100% of the boys, but it has a broader range than any other program. It can appeal to athletes, nerds, campers, acheivers. The problem with people assessing the effectiveness of a program is has it been set up correctly. Since only about 20% have, it would follow that many boys would feel shut out by a program only implemented through the naivete of a brand new leader only focusing on the Eagle. If a boy doesn’t like BSA advancement, and doesn’t like camping, and doesn’t like doing the citizenship stuff, he may have a problem, but part of the issue with Scouting is that it shouldn’t always be fun or wanted. The goal of the program is to teach values. The bait is the fun and advancement and outings. A caring Scout leader needs to find that particular boy’s bait and use that to help him engrain the values of Scouting.

  20. I almost forgot to mention that given the links between scouting (especially OA) and masonry I’m a bit surprised that the 1910 Church would have associated itself so closely with it.

  21. As somebody who dreaded boy scouts due to bullying from the older/bigger kids in my group, I wish the church didn’t put the two together. I probably would have liked scouts if I was with other boys that wanted to be there, not had to be there. I often felt scouts was used as a missionary tool or a reactivation tool, which, in my case, put me in with a group of kids that had no parental oversight, no sense of boundaries (one fellow YM/scout peed in my pillow to avoid a bathroom stop on a scout trip)and no real sense of values, but since they were “members” of the church, they were immediately added to the scout roster and invited to come on every outing in hopes to get them active in the church. My assumption is that the leaders hoped the invironment would insire these youth to be better, but the reverse happened.

    Had scouts and YM been separate, then those that wanted to live and obey the scout law and took the oath seriously, could hold each other up to that standard. It is hard to do that when most the group is only showing up cause their parents want them to go to “church.” A seperate young mens program with a strictly voluntary scout program would have offered the “church” that the parents wanted, and an outlet for leadership that I wished I had had.

    I was a YM president in a ward recently and our bishop, blessed be he, gave me one rule for my work. “Never call the young mens activity scouts.” We had several boys that were active but not interested in scouts. They refused to come anytime we refered to a scout activity. I honored that rule, and we created a seperate scouting wing of YM. We had YM activities weekly, and seperate scout activities on a different night. Often we would blend the two if the duty to God requirements matched with the scouting work. Most boys were part of scouts, but all were active in the YM program.

  22. Very interesting post, Peter.

    I’m an Eagle scout, but probably because I wasn’t allowed to get my driver’s license until I became one. My enthusiasm for Scouts was probably so-so overall, and it definitely waned as I got older. I loved the camp outs, but all the formality with the uniform and other rites seemed a bit silly. It was like the Citizens Auxiliary Police force from the Phil Hendrie show if anyone knows what I’m talking about there. If I were a Scout leader, the first thing I would dispense with would be the uniform, which would come out of the closet only for formal occasions like Courts of Honor. I can’t tell you how much I dreaded parading around town on Wednesday nights dressed like a 1940’s-era Brown Shirt. Just let the boys wear a “Class B” T-shirt with a small scout logo and call it good.

    My perspective on the Church’s involvement in Scouts is somewhat different now that I have four daughters. I understand what people are talking about when they say the young women can feel less important because they seem to receive less resources and opportunities for outdoor fun and education than the boys get through Scouting. However, I don’t know that the solution is to ditch Scouting, but rather, to pour some real resources and put some real focus on creating something amazing for Young Women.

  23. Good post. I’ve been following it all day.

    I was a scout when younger and have been involved in it as an adult for the past 20+ years (off and on, more on than off). I generally have had good experiences with the program and people.

    My thoughts:

    1- I HATE Friends of Scouting. I know it costs to run the troop, but I hate to ask for money. That’s just the way I am. The comment in the original post about church employees and professional scouters was a bit of an eye-opener, however. Our Council head honcho must be doing a heck of a lot, because he’s making a heck of a lot! So if his salary is performance based, we must be among the top councils in the nation.

    2- GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). I know this point has been mentioned, but the quality of adult leadership and length of service is critical. I know scouting is not for every boy, but more boys will participate if the program is cooking like bacon on a hot griddle on a fine morning at the Fall Camporee. The problem is the church treats calling a scoutmaster as a church calling and not as a life sentence. I’m almost serious on that one. Bishops are a dime a dozen, but a good scoutmaster and assistant scoutmaster and committee are hard to find, train, and retain. I think it was Pres. Dahlquist that asked that scoutmasters be left in their callings for at least 6-8 years, if not more.

    3- For those of you promoting the new DTG program as an alternative to scouting. I remember when it was introduced and the thought crossed my mind that maybe the church is getting ready in case they came to loggerheads with the BSA and had to drop the program. I was Stake YM Pres. at the time and oversaw the implementation of the new program in our stake. We talked to every ward bishop, YM president, and had a fireside in every ward for the boys AND their parents. I have since been involved with it on a ward level and have had close contact with the other stake here in town. And guess what? The units that have a good scouting program have a good DTG program. The YM that enjoy scouting and advance and the same YM that get their DTG award. There are a few exceptions, of course, but very few.

    4- Yes. there are mothers that practically get the Eagle for their sons. Not right. But parental support is critical to both programs. I’ve seen mothers stalk the halls with the DTG book hunting down quorom advisors to get things signed off for their boys!

    5- My biggest problem the way scouting is done in the church is that just when you get the deacon age boys to start getting the program, we send them off to Varsity Scouts and Venturers. And we know how that usually turns out, unfortunately. Keep them in the Boy Scouts, just another patrol and take advantage of their experience. I think this is one reason why we have so many 13 year old Eagles. Once they’ve left the troop, they are basically on their own, unless you have a good scout committee and Varsity and Venture leaders. Many scouts hit Star or Life in just two or three years, then take four or more years to get to Eagle, if they ever do.

    6- Paper work, trip permits, all the side stuff. I know it’s needed, but I still don’t like it!

    There may be more that comes to mind later, but it’s time to go home and get something to eat.

  24. I have enjoyed the comments very much and in agreement with most of them. The only one I have a problem with is this obsession with parity between the YM and YW. Believe it or not, girls and boys are different and have very different interests. Now, I am not saying that the YW should just do cooking and sewing and the traditional girly stuff, but there does not have to be a one-to-one program for each. I think the YW values and personal progress is a great program and the Duty to God is a good parallel.

    But, the YW should not be forced to hike, camp, rock climb just because the boys do it unless they want to participate in it. I have seen too many zealous leaders, both male and female, try to make the girls do exactly the same things as the boys because THEY (the leaders) demand parity.

    Perhaps the boys and girls could do those so-called high adventure activities together so the ones that wanted to would participate.

    Now if you have a activity that all you did was stare at your cell phone and texted your friends. I am afraid the girls would enthusiastically participate in that one…. 🙂

  25. Jeff, mi amigo, about “calls for parity.” I’m not suggesting the young women be forced to do anything. Just that local leaders put as much effort and emphasis into the YW program as they do into YM programs, and that the same caliber of activities be offered to YW as are offered to YM. We put a lot of emphasis and dedicate a lot of resources to boys because we’re trying to get them all on missions. I’ve become sensitive to this as my wife and I have had four girls in a row. At times, it can seem like the YW program is an afterthought compared to the YM program.

  26. Andrew Ainsworth,

    I agree with you about Class B T-shirts instead of the Class A traditional shirts for Mutual and campouts. We used the T-shirts a lot in Massachusetts — just personal preference.

    Just Another John,

    I agree with you on Friends of Scouting. When I lived in Phoenix, I wasn’t an official troop leader, but I helped with FoS for one year. I told the Scout Committee that I wouldn’t go out to beg for money within our ward but I would go into a different ward. The committee person said, “ok” and I went. But even with being a stranger to the people I visited, I could tell they felt uneasy about having a church member ask for money. Back in Massachusetts, our Stake didn’t participate in FoS, much to my relief as Scoutmaster. A guy from the District asked about FoS, and I told him we wouldn’t ask our members for money but he could come to a Court of Honor and ask for money if he wanted to. He came and gave his 1 minute speech. I think it is a serious conflict of interest to have Priesthood holders ask for money for a non-church organization. Our members have the feeling they shouldn’t say “No” to a Priesthood holder, and that puts them in a bind when the Priesthood holder comes begging for money. I’d much rather have the Stake pay “dues” from their budget to the Scout Council.

  27. Post
    Author

    (21) “If I were a Scout leader, the first thing I would dispense with would be the uniform, which would come out of the closet only for formal occasions like Courts of Honor.”

    The uniform just started to change last year, and the transition will be complete by the end of 2008/9? Supposedly it’ll be way more subtle.

    (23) “Our Council head honcho must be doing a heck of a lot, because he’s making a heck of a lot!”

    Most Council CEO’s have to raise money, lots and lots of money (capital campaigns, endowmnent, etc. This is how they fund camp properties) by rubbing shoulders with the community richie-richs. If he can’t raise the money, he’s not worth his salary, frankly.

    By the way, you can do FOS easily, but most wards choose to tract using less-than enthousiastic Elders. FOS is the only fundraiser you can pitch from the pulpit. Do it there, tell a life-changing story, then pass the plate in the quorums and RS. You can get it done in a couple of Sundays.

    “My biggest problem the way scouting is done in the church is that just when you get the deacon age boys to start getting the program, we send them off to Varsity Scouts and Venturers. And we know how that usually turns out, unfortunately. Keep them in the Boy Scouts, just another patrol and take advantage of their experience.”

    You know, I get you on the Varsity Scouts. I wish most leaders would just push Star and Life in Scouts, then become Eagle Project experts as Varsity Coaches. Venturing is a wholey another matter. Done right, it will beat the socks off of anything else, the boys will like it, and it will prepare them to be missionaries. No one takes Venturing seriously. I try till I’m hoarse to tell people because Scouting at 16 just doesn’t work. I have been involved with several successful Venturing efforts, efforts that are attributed by a missionary on his farewell talk for being the catalyst that helped him decide to serve.

    “Perhaps the boys and girls could do those so-called high adventure activities together so the ones that wanted to would participate.”

    We actually provide a discounted LDS Girls program at the camp I help direct.

    (25) “At times, it can seem like the YW program is an afterthought compared to the YM program.”

    Programmatically this may be true, but facility-wise the girls have it NICE. If you go to Heber Valley Girls Camp, you’ll see stake facitilites with kitchens pavilions and cabins with flushing toilets all for a mere 40 some odd dollars. Go to a typical Boy Scout camp and you have nice campsites at about half of them with shoddy facilities at triple the price.

  28. I have enjoyed the comments very much and in agreement with most of them. The only one I have a problem with is this obsession with parity between the YM and YW. Believe it or not, girls and boys are different and have very different interests. Now, I am not saying that the YW should just do cooking and sewing and the traditional girly stuff, but there does not have to be a one-to-one program for each. I think the YW values and personal progress is a great program and the Duty to God is a good parallel.

    Well, my daughter was four years varsity on the rifle team, last year as team captain. She had to go to a non-LDS group to get ready to do Philmont (which ended up in a conflict with when school started so her spot went to another girl) and loves rock climbing and Judo.

    I know, YW are different, they don’t need to do anything that costs money.

    /Sigh.

    I think it is a serious conflict of interest to have Priesthood holders ask for money for a non-church organization. In our ward they make a very strong point about how it is the duty of every member to donate substantially to FOS.

    No begging at all, pure demand.

  29. Post
    Author

    “I think it is a serious conflict of interest to have Priesthood holders ask for money for a non-church organization.”

    I am seriously against this sort of demanding or quota-filling. When we do FOS, we should 1) Tell the promise of Scouting, testimony, tear-jerking moment, and 2) Hand out pledge cards with a wide variety of donating possibilitys including pledging if you have no money in hand and then 3) INVITE people to give generously. Twisting people’s arms does no good. Ironically when wards follow the outline I’ve just shown, they often double what their goal is, and its pain-free.

  30. This week in our ward, we had a joint RS/PH opening exercises about Friends of Scouting. A letter was read from the Stake Presidency about how Scouting is the Lord’s after school activity (or something along those lines).

    The boys handed out pledge forms and tithing envelopes. We were told (by the high counselor) that we were ALL to fill out the form. He insisted that every family needed to fill out a form. If you didn’t want to donate, that’s fine, but fill out the form and put $0.00.

    They did the same thing last year. It’s manipulative and absurd. Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my wife to refuse to turn in the form (though we did not donate anything).

  31. I worked to summers at philmont. I met my first members there, got my first book of mormon there, met my wife there, and my second summer working there. It’s one of the most amazing places on earth in my book. I am an eagle scout and grew up in scouting outside of an LDS context. I often find scouting in the church frustrating. My experience has been that Young Women’s programs are given much more time and effort than scouting programs, and that the the Young Women’s leaders put a lot more thought and effort into their programs. When my wife was Young Women’s president, we essentially had a co-ed explorers program for laurels and priests, and went kayaking, rock climbing, pistol and rifle shooting, hiking, and had a trip planned to go to some ruins in mexico, until the stake told us we couldn’t travel out of our region.

    I am not a fan of friends of scouting. This is mainly because Coucil Executives make 200k a year, and I find that disgusting. I do believe in the program of scouting though, but would rather pay for local boys camp fees, than give to the Scouting Bueracracy, that I find to be somewhat non-functional and a waste of money. I am aware they do do some good things, like I said, I worked at Philmont. It just is weird to me that working at Philmont, I willingly made less than minimum wage for something I believed in while council execs, who are typically jerks, push district execs, who are usually underpaid, to make volunteers, who work for free, to do a lot of work.

  32. “There are probably other issues and concerns that stir people to dislike Scouting. I want to hear any other issues, problems, additions, or clarifications to the problems I have listed above.”

    Since no one else mentioned this, there are people who find the BSA’s appropriation of elements of Native American culture offensive.

  33. In response to MoJim 16 : Scouting, just as any activity, is a means to an end to teach youth the gospel. Scouting is the activity arm of the church. Therefore, leaders need to work within the great programs they have been given and make opportunities to teach the Gospel in a variety of settings. The best things for me about the youth programs of the church are that we ideally putting forth our ward and stake’s best people to rub shoulders with our kids to reinforce what they ideally are learning at home.

    I became “converted” to Scouting as I worked at Philmont for 3 summers. I think my wards growing up were probably like yours. My ward’s YM often spent their Mutual nights playing basketball, and I thought the Class A’s were super-dorky. I saw no value in Scouts and was frustrated that my brother wouldn’t tell me what he had done at his OA induction. Then I got recruited to work at Philmont. My introduction to real scouting was outside of the church in it’s idealic form. So yeah, I was hooked on the ideal. Then I came home, got married, and got called to be YW President. I saw how far from the ideal reality was. BUT I still had a vision in mind of what it could be. I personally felt that my calling was to help any youth I could, and since we had a small ward, I encouraged quarterly Priest/Laurel Activities. I took my ideas for these activities straight from the Explorers Manual and then let the kids pick and plan. They LOVED them. We had quarterly HIgh Adventure Activities for YM and YW. This was to appease certain YW who were genuinely interested in climbing, scuba diving, and kayaking. (Now, the YW in our ward are not interested and the High Adventure has been discontinued, but it served its purpose).

    My main point is as a leader you can teach the gospel anywhere. If you are tunnel visioned in any program you will lose your kids. Scouting and Personal Progress are amazing programs to use as vehicles and there is TONS of flexibility within both of those programs to make it work for your kids. No, they may not all be Eagle Scouts, and they may not all have their YW Recognition, but some of them will, and all of them can have powerfully positive meaningful experiences. Scouting is not perfect, but it is excellent.

  34. By the way, when we donated to FOS it was because of people like Peter Brown, but when we found out what the Chief Scout’s salary is, we decided we would focus on helping our local troop in ways where we knew the money wouldn’t go anywhere else. We saw that in our fundraisers for the YW and YM, people were willing to give to both, but it is difficult for the YM to try and raise money for camp AND for FOS from the same ward members.

  35. Stephen M,

    “I know, YW are different, they don’t need to do anything that costs money”

    Wierd, in the wards I have been in, the YW always had more money than the boys.

  36. This is one of my sore points.

    I’m an Eagle Scout, and was Senior Patrol Leader until I was “fired” by the new Scoutmaster. My crime? I held a Senior Patrol Leander Council and attended the Scout Committee- like the Patrol Leader Handbook says I was suppose too. I’d been bothering him for a month about when our next meeting was, cause I wanted to get him up to speed on the Scout Camp we were going to. So finally I just called one myself, and told the Patrol Leaders I’d filled the Scoutmaster in at the Committee meeting. He fired me for it, and promptly missed the deadline to send in our 2nd Camp reservation deposit, causing us to lose our spot at the Camp we had traditionally gone to for the last five years (Honor troop every time) and that all the boys had decided was the camp we wanted to go to again.

    It drives me nuts because all the Scouters know how to make a Scout troop successful and a source of strength for the Church, but local Church leaders refuse to let us do them because they don’t seem to get the purpose of Scouting.

    The purpose of Scouting is too teach boys how to lead. Making great memories is a secondary goal. This is why the Church sponsors Scout Troops. It prepares young men to be leaders- to organize committees, make decisions, and then implement them.

    Local Stake Presidents/Bishops never seem to understand this, so we have the say cycle over and over again. A program is doing terrible, the Bishop calls a man as Scoutmaster who has long experience with Scouting, hopefully he gets a good Committee Chairman to back him up. He then starts running the Troop, at first he has to do everything by himself. Hopefully he can convince the Bishop to let him combine all the Young Men into the Troop, but he’s got to at least get the Deacons, Blazers, and the Teachers- you have to have the Teachers, because they are the source of leadership examples for the younger boys. And because they are examples, the older boys start to shape up. After a couple years he’ll finally get a Senior Patrol Leader who helps him plan things. Then another year or two to get Patrol Leaders actually running their patrols. Finally after about 5 years he’ll have a Senior Patrol Leader and Patrol Leaders who make their own plans at the Patrol Leader Council and he’s just there as an adviser- like he’s supposed to be. Finally the Scout Troop is functioning, and Eagle Scouts start pouring out. It should be time to push something like a recruitment drive- inactive members being the first targets, but non-members should be invited too.

    But by this time the Scoutmaster is burnt out. Often there is a new Bishop/Stake President. He wants the Scout troop to “reach out and involve those who aren’t interested in Scouts” which somehow always means no longer doing Scout stuff, or wearing Scout uniforms, but instead doing “fun” stuff. New Committee members are appointed. The old guard of the Scouting adult leadership is openly attacked for diverging from the manual, and the “way it’s supposed to be”, since obviously the Church doesn’t want such a Scouting focus. (No kidding I repeatedly witnessed these arguments and people would get furious saying that Scouting was “the not activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood”.)

    A new Scoutmaster is appointed. He doesn’t know what to do with these Patrol Leaders who seem to think they run the Troop, since obviously he and the adults are supposed to be in charge. So he ignores them until they give up.

    They’re going to do High Adventure stuff and so on in the summer, but in the meantime the weekly meeting becomes an informal basketball league. Scouting stuff isn’t inclusive enough. Boys stop coming because after all, all they do is play basketball, and they can do that anytime with their friends. It’s decided that the Quorums should separate the weekday meeting so they can each do their own “age appropriate” thing, as maybe this will bring attendance back up- it doesn’t. Several years pass before a Scoutmaster with true Scouting spirit is appointed again, and then the cycle starts all over again.

  37. Ugh… lots of typos, I wish there was a preview button as long posts are hard to edit without one.

    I hope it’s comprehensible.

  38. A word on YM vs YW programs.

    In my experience the YW programs are usually more effective BECAUSE they receive less attention.

    The poor YM/Scouting program is always receiving so much attention because everybody argues about the right way to do it, and with everybody pulling in different directions, it takes twice as much time and money to get a poorer result.

  39. Council Executives make 200k a year

    Really? What level is a council executive? Does sound a bit exploitive, but they have a really nice building over in the expensive part of Las Colinas.

    Weird, in the wards I have been in, the YW always had more money than the boys.

    But did they use more funds (after you consider the overhead, see above)?

    If the wards you were in actually spent more on the girls than the boys, not that the girls had more in their budget unspent that got raided so they never actually got to spend their budget, I’m seriously thinking of moving. Can you give me a list of wards like that?

    My experience has been that the boy’s program had a lot more money flow through it, especially when you count FOS, that the girls weren’t allowed to spend their smaller part of the budget so that it could be raided at some point. I’d love a ward that didn’t find that a long established habit.

  40. Here is a Deseret News article on how much scout leaders make. When I worked at camp in the late 80s I made about $0.80 an hour, and was given the impression that all professional scouters were basically underpaid and doing if for love of the program. How wrong I was.

  41. Post
    Author

    (31) “I do believe in the program of scouting though, but would rather pay for local boys camp fees, than give to the Scouting Bueracracy, that I find to be somewhat non-functional and a waste of money.”

    One of the little known dirty secrets is that the local council execs work for the volunteer boards in each council. Getting people to serve on these policy-making boards is often very difficult, so there is little turnover and many positions remain vacant. Most people don’t know that bishiopric members are the only voting memebers along with a a few executive volunteeers. If more wards got involved, they could change what they don’t like about the organization, budget, etc. but they sadly don’t get invovled because there is a disconnect between their LDS position where up-level policy is not questioned, and the BSA, where policy-making is franchised down to the local-level and members can vote. One of my goals to to help wards understand that they are enfrahchised.

    (32) “By the way, when we donated to FOS it was because of people like Peter Brown, but when we found out what the Chief Scout’s salary is, we decided we would focus on helping our local troop”

    I appreaciate that sentiment, but like I stated before, Council CEO’s raise lots of money–this is how they earn their salary, or should be. They glad-hand people like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman for money in order to raise desperately needed capital and endowment monies that aren’t funded by FOS, which only goes to operate the Council. They need to be at a level financially in order to run in the circles that will get big donors to give. Their salaries are set by volunteer boards. Do a little investigation–if he’s warming a chair, I can understand your sentiment. Demand results! If you don’t like what’s going on after you investigate thoroughly, go to your voting bishopric member and challenge him to bring it up at an executive board meeting. That is the best place to get attention to your concerns, believe me.

  42. “But did they use more funds (after you consider the overhead, see above)?

    If the wards you were in actually spent more on the girls than the boys, not that the girls had more in their budget unspent that got raided so they never actually got to spend their budget, I’m seriously thinking of moving. Can you give me a list of wards like that?”

    Granted, the boys were expected to dish out money out of their own pockets (or their parent’s pockets), but the YW used much more money than the boys on a programtic standpoint.

    The FOS money did not stay in the ward, it is shipped to BSA HQ. I’ve never seen any BSA money come back to the ward.

  43. The biggest truth in the first 20 comments: “Scouting is not for everyone” Why then do we as a church persist in making it so? What if Little League baseball were the church program for young men? It also teaches teamwork, responsibility, hard work, goal setting, etc, etc. Some boys and some parents would excel and exult in meshing their avocation and interest with the church, others would chafe and others with no interest in team sports would be miserable. It is no different with scouting.

  44. But guess how much the Great Salt Lake Council pays its full-time, professional Scout executive, Paul Moore.

    It is $214,000 a year (including a salary of $194,458 and benefits of $19,544). In comparison, the salary of Vice President Dick Cheney is $215,700 a year, and the salaries of Chief Justice John Roberts and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are both $212,100.

    “I know people may drop their toast in their cereal when they read that,” Moore said.

    “But I’m not embarrassed by my compensation. I’ve worked very hard and been very successful in this business,” he said. “This is a life’s work for me that has purchased 60 to 80 hours (a week) of my time for all of my working life. … If I were not making that salary here, I would probably be making a larger salary in the BSA somewhere else.”

    He’s right. Other similar Scout leaders nationally often make much more. At the top of that in 2005, the last year for which public data are readily available, was then-national Scout executive Roy Williams.

    His compensation was nearly $1 million (including a salary of $552,379 and benefits of $436,040). President Bush was paid $400,000 that year.

    Such information — of special interest in Utah, home of the nation’s largest Scout councils as measured by membership in traditional troops and packs — is found in the Forms 990 that tax-exempt organizations must file with the Internal Revenue Service. An analysis of such forms for nearly 300 Boy Scout councils nationwide by the Deseret Morning News reveals:

    The article noted above goes on. Interesting, all in all.

  45. Professional Scouting appears to be one of the better-paying occupations in Utah.

    The Utah Department of Workforce Services reports that the highest average salary for any occupation it surveys is $193,960 annually for obstetricians/gynecologists. Moore’s 2005 compensation (salary and benefits) was higher at $201,000 (and is currently $214,000).

    Moore has 36 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree. Obstetricians need a bachelor’s plus four years of medical school and four years of residency.

    The 2005 compensation (salary and benefits) of Powell, who retired in September as chief of the Orem-based Utah National Parks Council, was $161,413. That is higher than the average salary that the state reported for all physicians here, $153,920.

    The 2005 compensation of Barnes at the Ogden-based Trapper Trails Council was $122,153. That is a bit below what the state reported as the average wage here for a lawyer, at $123,926. It is a bit above the average salary for psychiatrists, at $120,598.

    The new entry-level wage for Scout executives nationally is now $36,700. That is just below the average Utah wage for all jobs in 2005 — $37,700 — as reported by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  46. Post
    Author

    (44) That article was a bit sensational. I know Paul Moore and he’s been responsible for millions of dollars of capital fundraising personally. The article never says that.

  47. It is sensational to compare executive salaries to civil servants such as Dick Cheney. It is common knowledge that any of the listed people could make more money in the public sector than in office (Haliburton, for example). It is also an unfair comparison to compare non-profit executives compensation to that of a physician. A better comparison would be a hospital administrator (or other non-profit executive) who coordinates the similar amount of people and fund-raising activities.

    The CEO at my company made $10M last year, but that wouldn’t be as shocking of a comparison. Shameful reporting!

  48. A better comparison would be a hospital administrator (or other non-profit executive) who coordinates the similar amount of people and fund-raising activities.

    Well said.

    I will note that I’m a firm believer that charities should be run by people who are not making more than the President of the United States. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work over the years and I’m not fond of the attitude many people in charities have towards volunteers and funding and compensation.

    Cicero — please spell my name right, the miscaps comes across as a personal attack rather than a comment.

  49. Just a couple of general comments from a guy who’s devoted 20 years of volunteer service to Scouting with no signs of slowing down:

    I would love to see the Church use Venturing with the Young Women. Until that happens, my daughter is counting the days to her 14th birthday, when she plans to join the local community crew.

    Venturing is the hidden jewel in Scouting. If people would bother to learn what they can do with it, they would be tempted to scrap all of the other programs and just use Venturing. It’s highly flexible, has no required uniform, and can be modified to meet the needs of the members of the crew. Everyone has a say in what the crew does and how it operates.

    Our Young Women get and spend more budget money every year than the Young Men. The young men participate in stake-approved fundraising to help pay for Scout Camp expenses, as Scouts should earn their own way.

    Professionals perform more of the distasteful tasks such as fundraising than any volunteer. I wouldn’t want that job. If you don’t like your Scout Exec’s salary, start yelling at the members of the council executive board. They control the purse strings. They can hire and fire the professionals in the council.

    FOS pays for council operating expenses, including professional salaries, Scout Camp expenses, equipment, vehicles, and all the other sundry expenses involved in administering the program for the boys. We estimate that the council realizes $170/youth each year in admin costs, including maintenance of five camp properties. The thought that the money would ever come back to the local unit in cash is incorrect. The local unit benefits through the council being able to cover its budget. If it weren’t for FOS and other council fundraisers, all your unit costs would increase sigificantly in order to keep programs running throughout the council. You should attend the council’s annual meeting and read the financial reports. You might also want to schedule an appointment with the Scout Exec if you’re concerned about how funds are expended. Such a meeting might also help to address why the Scout Exec makes as much as he does.

  50. “In our ward they make a very strong point about how it is the duty of every member to donate substantially to FOS.”

    Ahaaa, the old guilt-trip method of coercion to force obedience.

  51. I am a 24 year old Scout Master in North Salt Lake Utah. I grew up in a Troop with committed outdoorsmen as leaders. Many were marathoners, some were experienced rafters and kayakers, one had travelled the world as a professional rock climber. The was much more an emphasis on being outdoors and building character than on wearing green socks and tight shorts. I learned that boys need structure to thrive. They need responsibility. I realize that many of you have sons my age and that my experience may be circumspect, but I will share it none the less.

    When I was invited to join the troop as an Assistant Scout Master I was ecstatic. I loved scouting as a young man, and was excited to share the lessons it had taught me. I was shocked at the lack of motivation, discipline and organization in the Troop. The Scout Master was completely apathetic to the program. The boys were suffering from a lack of discipline and a lack of progress. After some boundary changes I was called as the Scout Master. The Young Mens President and I got to work. We outlined a 12 month plan for advancement, developing a 9 month overnighter plan and planning a fifty mile Scout Camp in the late Summer. So far the boys have latched onto this aggressive schedule. They are motivated and excited to be a part of something dynamic. We have completed an overnight snowcaving adventure in the Wasatch Mountains where the boys learned about snowshoeing, star gazing, snow conditions and hard digging. 😉 Being the Scoutmaster, while working at a medical device start up and trying to raise a young family, has been challenging, but one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

    There is a cultural dread among LDS church members about serving in Scouting. Too many members have offered consolation to me when I tell them about upcoming activities or trips. I am disappointed in this attitude, because it ruins young lives. I believe that Baden Powell was an inspired man who developed a program that develops young men. There is no better spiritual, emotional and psychological program to mate with the Lord’s spiritual one. Scouting, when done appropriately and effectivley, raises strong young men who have the capacity to become capable missionaries, effective business leaders, strong fathers and dedicated husbands. It takes commitment, courage, and time. The rewards of seeing young men grow far outweigh the sacrifice. To those that are holding back, jump in.

  52. Only 17%-18% of all units are LDS sponsored. Mormons and Methodists trade off on who charters more units.

    This is factually inaccurate, at least according to the Boy Scouts.

    This data combined with this data show that the LDS church controls 53% of the units as compared to the top 5 chartered organizations, and 30% of the units overall. The Methodists control only 10% of all units.

  53. Unfortunately a lot of people have bad experiences in the Scouts. I have personally known many people who hated it growing up and have bed memories of it. On the other hand, I know many people who tried very hard to get the most out of their Scouting experience. Those who made it through the entire program and earned their Eagle Scout enjoyed their time and are probably better people for it. It is for those people that the Scouts were designed. If everyone got the most out of it and enjoyed it so much, then it wouldnt be such an exclusive club, and the Eagle Scout honor would not be as treasured an award. Many colleges and employers see the Eagle Scout badge as a very reputable one and in that case, the Scouts are a very positive thing.

  54. Pingback: Zelophehad’s Daughters | My Nacle Notebook 2008: Interesting Comments

  55. Interesting article but it seems you may have soured on Scouting.

    I am about to finish my third year as an LDS Scoutmaster, having previously been an LDS Cubmaster. I am also my District’s LDS Relations Rep (local position — not all districts have one).

    There are a couple of omissions in your article.

    1. Scouting is “the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood”. It is not the program, but just part of a larger program. If that larger program is intact, your Scouting organization will work.

    2. Scouting is not mandatory. About 40% of the young men in my ward don’t participate. While adults are “drafted” as I call it, the young men are not. They and their families make a decision based on facts only they know.

    3. A previous letter writer supposed that Duty to God is (1) supposed to replace Scouting and (2) is ignored in favor of Scouting. The Brethren have said the former is not true, and it has been repeated regularly at LDS-Scout activities in my area (area in the LDS sense) — maybe it needs to come up more often in yours. At our last area Scouting Activity, we had a whole class — one of just three we got that day — on how to tie DTG to advancements and merit badges and vice versa. We’re hardly ignoring it at that level. However, my ward has struggled with it and has not been especially successful; I hope we get better and have done a lot to help — clearly more must be done.

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