The LDS Church and the BSA: Part 2 Why Scouting Won’t Disappear

Peter Brown Mormon 44 Comments

After what has been discussed about Scouting in the Church, I wanted to share some inside information that I have to explain why the Church will probably stay with Scouting (Cetus Paribus, meaning the homosexual ban remaining).

A year ago I was part of a seminar with Frazier Bullock, who is an area authority in Utah, who presented a presentation about Scouting. If you’d like it I have it and can send it to you. The presentation outlined that along the Wasatch Front, 40-50% of young men are going inactive. This is not because they are reading Fawn Brodie, guys and coming to some “enlightened” agency-based conclusion, but more like they are loosing their agency to cigarettes, immorality, and peer-based distraction. He also showed a graph that showcased some research results:

When Bishops were asked to rate their ward Scouting units quality (training, outdoors, achievement) as Poor, Fair, Good, or Great a matrix of results appeared.

Poor = Baseline

Fair = Slight Increase in Retention and Prospective Missionaries (about .3 increase from poor)

Good = Moderate Increase in Retention and Prospective Missionaries (about 1.5 times from poor)

Great = Large Increase in Retention and Prospective Missionaries (about double from poor)

In the presentation there are actual variable numbers applied. With this research data, it is showing to the Church that Scouting is making a difference. Now, it also may be autocorrelated with great leaders, not a great program, so its still hard to prove causality unless there is some sort of regression on the data. I’m not sure this was done, and it probably should be done.

Another market research I was involved with at BYU asking boys ages 16-18 about Scouting and what their feeling were about it as a series of older boy scouting events. About 85% of the boys reported that they had a positive experience. Now this doesn’t measure boys who have dropped out since 14-16, and its indicative of a those that already have buy-in. However, since this activity was billed to youth as a Young Men’s event and that it baited boys with Shotgun shooting, there was bound to be some boys that weren’t necessarily big scouters. Leaders on the other hand, when they were asked, only about 50% of the leaders submitted that they thought the boys has a positivie feeling about Scouting, showing a bit of discontect between what leaders think boys want and what boys actually want.

Now, why are this research important? One of my collegues sits on the General Young Men’s Board. On that board they were approached by Elder Oaks and Holland and told with respect to retention of young men “Bretheren, this is where the action of the Church is at.” They stated that it was much easier to retain teenagers than to retrain prosective Elders or the dissaffected. They stated that Scouting was an integral and seminal part of this retention process and thus, Scouting was more relevant to the Bretheren now than ever before. They were encouraging Stake Presidencies to put their top-tier Priesthood leadership over the Young Men and Scouting and not in Bishoprics and Elders’ quorums.

Unless the gay thing changes, I don’t see Scouting going away any time soon.

Comments

comments

Comments 44

  1. In several wards with excellent scouting programs, Dad’s are encouraged to participate in the monthly campouts and yearly 50-milers regardless of whether they had a son in scouting. This ment the boys got to rub shoulders with a greater number of Elders and High Priests.

  2. I guess I’m not seeing the connection between inactivity rates and Scouting. Are they correlated in some way?

    We’ve had Scouting since 1916, we’ve had inactive youth since 1916.

  3. I think you are right, but the real question is this, and will remain this: Will the BSA be forced to change position on allowing homosexual leaders?

    Actually, let me re-word that: Will the BSA forgo the congressional charter in order to maintain the current position on homosexual leaders when it becomes necessary to do so, given that it will become necessary to do so within the next 5-15 years?

    Because let’s face it: the congressional charter means a LOT to the BSA and the continued existence of the BSA (at least, as far as I understand it). With that in mind, and a rather liberal-leaning congress coming up for the forseeable future, I feel that this issue will become on that is pushed strongly. In Philadelphia, if I remember correctly, the BSA recently lost a historic meeting location because of this issue. It happened like this: the BSA had long rented as headquarters a location in downtown Philly from the government a building at very low prices–virtually for nothing. Some gay-rights activists found out about this and noised that this was unfair because the BSA is an organization that ‘discriminates’ against gays. Therefore, the BSA was told that they would need to begin paying market rates for the building, instead of the historic rates, with the market rates being some 10 or 20 times the historic rate.

    The BSA, not being flush with money, could not afford the new rate, and had to relocate their HQ in that area from downtown Philly to a suburb–I’m not sure where. At least, that’s how I recall the story–someone with more time may find it.

    What will happen when this is pushed on the national level? When the entire BSA is forced to accept homosexual leaders or essentially disappear? I suspect that given the choice of the harsh reality, it will become acceptible to have homosexual leaders. What will the church do then?

    I think that the church will then do what it has done in other countries: beef up the Duty to God Award even further. That award will then become a surrogate for the scouting program. What it comes down to, however, is that young men need a strong reason to be actively involved in service activities that are closely tied to the church. The idea of ranks, achievement, and similar things is very good. Why the paramilitary structure? Because it has always worked for a large segment of young men–even before there were militaries. It works in a tribal society, and it works in the gang societies of New York and LA. The strict hierarchy seems to be built in very strongly to that age group for the VAST majority, and its just a matter of where the young man derives their structure and sense of hierarchy, not if.

    The church seems to giving two strong choices: the Aaronic Priesthood, which is a weak but good choice (the hierarchy there is strong, but the responsibilities and actual authority too weak to produce the desired effect) and scouting, which has all of the desired traits (lots of service, duties, strict advancement rules, initiation, beauracracy, and politics).

    Outside the church there are lots of choices: band, gangs, JROTC, football and other sports (yes they count), clubs, and more recently, various internet gaming sites. These all have various degress of the structure required to provide an appropriate level of structure and hierarchy for the young males.

    Of course, if they aren’t getting enough structure from one source, then they’ll turn to another. If they get too much from one, they turn to a less restrictive one, although this is less common than one might think.

    I am going to write more about this–and it may turn into a major research project. Look for more soon. I’ve got a host of ideas swarming around this in my head, but I can’t fit it all here. Ben out.

  4. When Bishops were asked to rate their ward Scouting units quality (training, outdoors, achievement) as Poor, Fair, Good, or Great a matrix of results appeared.

    I hope there is more to it than that, because that is a horrible study.

    What causes a bishop to rate the program one way or another? It might be that he rates it based on the number of young men that have gone on missions, or the activity rate of young men. In which case you’re not measuring the effects of the scouting program, you’re simply measuring what the bishop thinks of the young men.

    The problem the church will have with replacing Scouting is that I can’t imagine the Church coming up with a program for YM (or YW for that matter) that is less “lame” than scouting. At least with Scouting there is the comfort of knowing that some of the non-LDS kids are doing it too.

    I wish that there were a good way to make Scouting much less ward based and be inclusive of all the kids in the neighborhood. The fact that it is tied at the hip with the YM program is its strength and its fatal flaw.

  5. I am immediately suspicious of all studies based on asking subjective “ratings” type questions to people (unless it is a widely vetted and studied tool such as the MMPI). This one looks far too subjective. People tend to equate success with some actions that happened in the past. The bishops may simply be observing that in their wards the young men are active, so the cause must the youth organization (scouting). Those whose youth go inactive put the cause on the scouts. We as Mormons don’t like to think it was just in the cards so we immediately look for causes for every single outcome.

    For a study like this to be convincing you would need to formulate some very objective criteria as to what makes for a quality troop (leaders trained, number of years leader served, number of outings a year, acheivments, service projects performed, etc) and then attempt to correlate it with youth activity. That kind of study would prove something.

    My next questions would be: So what does the church do to help young men everywhere besides US/Canada? If anything the need to retain youth in those areas is even greater since inactivity rates are much higher. If scouting is so effective why is it nonexistent in those areas? If the church finds a way to keep young men active in those even tougher areas wouldn’t it make sense to then scrap scouting and go with the hypothetical program that proves itself even more effective (by working in those tougher areas)?

    The point I am trying to get at is that the globalization concerns and economic considerations are probably going to be driving church policy on this one. At some point someone is going to realize that it doesn’t make sense to run a program that 1) only caters to males, 2) only caters to those males in the US/Canada, and 3) is very expensive which widens economic disparities which are already pretty large in the church.

  6. I agree with what’s been said earlier about this study methodology. Asking bishops to rate their own Scouting programs is a little ludicrous. I mean the relationship could go the other way. The causation might flow: because many boys are active and involved, Scouting is good; NOT Scouting in my ward is good, ergo we have more active youth.

  7. #3:
    It happened like this: the BSA had long rented as headquarters a location in downtown Philly from the government a building at very low prices–virtually for nothing. Some gay-rights activists found out about this and noised that this was unfair because the BSA is an organization that ‘discriminates’ against gays. Therefore, the BSA was told that they would need to begin paying market rates for the building, instead of the historic rates, with the market rates being some 10 or 20 times the historic rate.

    Keep in mind that this involved the BSA renting a government-owned facility, at $1.00 per year. This equates to government sponsorship of unequal treatment, and is improper. It appears to me that you’ve described the situation as if to present the BSA as the “poor victims” of “gay-rights activists.”

  8. The moral of the story is:

    If done right, the BSA program in the church can be a great blessing to the boys and leaders who participate. If done badly or not at all, it is a bad problem to the ward/branch. I have seen incredible things done for the boys by dedicated leaders. The Bishopric should put the best men on the program. period!

  9. I think that if BSA is forced by political forces to accept gay leaders, the LDS church will reevaluate its decision. In the meantime, I’m glad that the General Authorities are encouraging Bishops and Stake Presidents to call their best men as scout and AP leaders.

    For those who might be interested, here are my thoughts on raising our children.

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

  10. I think this study is highly questionable. We know absolutely nothing about what the inactive boys thought of scouting.

    Here’s some anecdotal evidence. While I enjoyed cub scouting, I LOATHED boy scouting. I lived in NH during the scouting years. My brother grew up in Ogden during his scouting years, and didn’t enjoy scouting either. My other brother grew up in St George, and didn’t enjoy scouting either.

    Now, all 3 of us remain active in the church. We hate camping, shooting, etc. It’s just not our thing. I got annoyed by leaders who tried to guilt us into coming. Luckily, my parents never pushed it on us, and told the leaders to leave us alone. There’s nothing wrong with scouting, and I’m sure it might help some people stay active, but this study is highly subjective, and subject to all sorts of flaws.

    Not all boys like scouting–some prefer basketball, band, chess, or other interests, simply not covered by scouting. Some boys do scouting for social reasons. I dropped out of scouting at about age 13–I think it would be much more interesting to find out what kids that age thought than only the 16 year olds who liked scouting.

  11. As the private accommodation/club that it has become, the BSA will never be forced to accept gay leaders or atheist scouts under any circumstance.

    The BSA may choose to accept both in order to continue to enjoy the benefits (public financed meeting places, etc.) that it enjoyed historically when it used to be a public accommodation.

    Either way, it is entirely the BSA’s choice.

    If it wants to be a private club, I will support its right to discriminate against anyone and everyone the same way I support the KKK’s right as a private club to do so. However, if it is a private club (and not a public accommodation), it does not deserve my tax dollars any more than my tax dollars should be used to pay the salaries of leaders of the Free Masons.

  12. John, I think I should step in and clarify something in your post, lest misunderstandings ensue. The structure of your post appears to lump Freemasons in with the KKK and BSA as discriminatory groups. While there will always be bigotted individuals within any group, Freemasonry has absolutely no restriction against gay members. As a gay Freemason, I wish to have that understood properly.

  13. RE: They were encouraging Stake Presidencies to put their top-tier Priesthood leadership over the Young Men and Scouting and not in Bishoprics and Elders’ quorums.

    The question of what defines “top-tier Priesthood leadership” is a good one. I know that I don’t fit into that category. But at least that means that I should be safe, under this new strategy, from being called to the scoutmaster position. Whew.

  14. I’m a bit confused about the whole congressional charter thing. What is the value of the charter, and what benefits does BSA get from it?

    I’m not sure the BSA would be willing to allow homosexuals in, even if it lost the charter because BSA would lose so many members. Another post about the BSA said that LDS boy scout units make up about 18% of BSA units, and Methodist units account for a similar percentage. It is pretty safe to say BSA would lose all the LDS units, and at least some of the Methodist–so we’re talking about a 20-30% reduction in membership overnight. The congressional charter would have to be pretty valuable to be willing to lose that many members. Does the BSA value the charter that much?

  15. Nick (#12): Don’t Freemasons discriminate against women?

    The point is that Masons are a private club and they are free to discriminate (or not discriminate) as they see fit. If they don’t let women in or let women hold all the ranks, etc., the government isn’t going to force them to, because they are a private club.

    Organizations aren’t bad or good just because they are private clubs (as opposed to public accommodations). And they aren’t necessarily bad or good just because they discriminate. You could have a Norwegian American heritage club that requires its members to have Norwegian ancestry. I would be able to join, but many other people wouldn’t. That’s fine; but it shouldn’t be subsidized by taxes.

    If it functions with the freedom of a private club, an organization should not get public funding. Our tax dollars are not going to build new Masonic Temples and Masons without temples are not renting the local elementary school for their ceremonies at tax-subsidized rates.

  16. Excellent post Peter. The value of the Scouts in incredible along with other uplifting institutions.

    Also being a freemason I find John Hamer’s explanation and Nick’s caveats about misunderstanding freemasonry both valuable and spot on.

    Mormon Heretic….you raise a good point. I wonder if scouting is a sort of “one size fits all” model. I wonder if there are other organizations that young men could get involved in that could be brought within cultural mormonism.

  17. I think where the LDS church’s youth programs are failing is that it is age-grouped and a “one size fits for each age group” mentality. I know there are those wards who successfully work around this, but it’s been the exception from my past experience. Especially when the yound men’s program fails, the program becomes impromptu “basketball scrimmage.” (Sometimes the leadership is so under-committed this is the planned norm.) The weekly activities often don’t meet the needs of kids in terms of futhering their interests, building friendships, and especially, making spirituality and religion a cool, and vital part of it. As an Eagle Scout who loved my Scouting experience, I regret to say what I see of Scouting today just doesn’t meet well enough the needs of most kids I know, including my own son. (I also know so as a former adult Scout leader.)

    In contrast our Christian congregation has a Wednesday youth worship where they get together to sing praise music and worship, played by a band mostly composed of youth. The Youth pastor is married, but with a young family, and he really knows how to make sermons reach the kids. He talks very open and direct to challenges they face, so not all vague warm and fuzzy stuff, or just disconnected scripture study. (It’s great to have a head leader, expert in what he does, whose job it is to be available 24-7 for the youth.) Every week it starts with 50-60 youth all jamming together in praise, and then turning to the Word to learn. After this 30-45 min meeting, they get together in interest-oriented groups. The activity groups are mixed by age (and often gender) though within a range for Jr High School or High School age ranges. This makes for the a more life-like social and interrelational growth. If they want to get together to study computers, play sports, play video or board games, talk about pop culture, or to make crafts, etc., there are smaller, intimate groups of about 45 minutes in length where the kids can make closer friends while doing activities they personally enjoy. They have freedom to organize their own interest groups, though the pastor facilitates so that everyone has something they can do, and so there is periodical change around in focus. Our church began as a Christian outreach minsitry at a local college, so as it has grown bigger to include families, too, it has never lost the zeal for appealing to youth at this important time in their spiritual lives.

    We don’t have Scouts, so my son still participates semi-regularly with an LDS troop. We don’t care so much about the rank advancement barriers this causes, but does give him some exposure to some life skills learning and camping opportunities. But if our congregation had enough interest to do its own Scouting-like activities, without all the paramilitary ranks, etc., like some Christian congregations we know do, then we’d probably say goodbye to Scouting with the LDS troop for good.

    When we changed religious affiliation we saw our son go from thinking church was dull and boring, and weekly activities disconnected from spiritual pursuits, to now he looks forward to going. He especially enjoyed once he got old enough to join in with the youth program. (Sunday worship also fits his attention span better when it’s only 75-90 minutes long.) If he wants to attend worship, he’s welcome, but no one bugs him if he misses a week. (So when people tell him they missed him it eally counts for something.) He has good time, does things he likes to do with a few friends of similar interest (they play board games or practice their guitars), and also gets to rock out with a whole room of kids, boys and girls, who are having fun worshipping. I think his choice, autonomy, and freedom is much more honored and harnessed to better use.

    In the Summer one group of kids are going to travel to Houston to sightsee and do some ministry and community service. Others are going to do the same in Jamaica.

    I know this all would be perhaps too great a paradigm shift for the LDS Youth program to imitate. But if the LDS church committees could look more broadly to see why many Christian ministries are doing so well among young people I think they could learn a lot about how to stave off the trend of LDS kids who drop out of involvement, with church and with God.

  18. My observation has been that much of the fruits we are now seeing in the Church today have their root in the centralization of finances in the early 1990’s. Church programs, including Scouting, are now an extremely watered-down, dull version of what I experienced in my youth 25-30 years ago. And the Church wonders why youth are leaving?

    I know many LDS youth leaders that are frustrated. They are instructed to run a quality program on less than meager budget. In spite of the Church’s disagreement, quality programs require a financial baseline much higher than that provided. (The Church seems to acknowlege this to some degree with the modest “youth budget stipend” provided in recent years.) As a result of no resources and the prohibition to pursue additional resources, it has been my experience that many quality leaders become quickly frustrated and burn out. The reason seems to be two-fold: the lack of resources and no feedback loop or recourse in the highly autocratic system that micro-manages most every decision from the top down.

  19. Frazier Bullock, who is an area authority in Utah, who presented a presentation about Scouting. If you’d like it I have it and can send it to you.

    Would love to get the above

    Thanks
    James

  20. In response to Just for Quix….I think you hit the nail on the head. The youth program in the LDS church where we live is not interesting or relevant to my teenagers. The LDS should try to figure out why they are losing youth and then adjust the youth program. Instead, they continue with the tired outdated formula. I see no change in the future if the men at the top will not take input from those of us in the trenches. I have given up on the LDS youth programs.

  21. California Observer,

    The change hit just as I was about to turn 14 and be able to go on the fun activities. Our ward had in the recent past gone rafting down the grand canyon and taken all the 14 and older youth to San Diego. Then we cut back so hard that they didn’t even have a pioneer trek until after I was back from my mission.

    I’m sure there are a number of reasons why the activity rate of today’s 20-somethings to early 30-somethings has plummeted. But I think you’re right when you bring up the funding of the youth programs. If you’re going to make the youth a priority you have to put your money where your mouth is. I’ll admit that extravagant activities have their own perils, but on balance I think that I’d take them over what I got.

  22. Post
    Author

    Look I’m not sure of the methodology of the test as i stated in the first post. There were 21 stakes surveyed. All I know is that whether you believe it or I believe it, the Church Bretheren believe it if they’re sending Elder Batemen out with Frazier Bullock to teach Stakes about it. While people may fuss and bluster about the need for the Church to leave Scouting its probably here for awhile (again, cetus paribus). I do wish people would give it a try or study it out a big–then come to a conclusion. That’s all I ask.

    One other thing, the idea of globalizatin of all programs may not be as important as stated. The Church is sophisiticated enough to apply some programs in some places in different programs in others. One BIG reason Scouting stays state-side is the number of converts that come from Mormons interacting with Non-Momons through the BSA. It’s a missionary goldmine.

  23. From #17: “When we changed religious affiliation we saw our son go from thinking church was dull and boring, and weekly activities disconnected from spiritual pursuits, to now he looks forward to going.”

    I have seen the same thing with my three kids, ages 15, 9, and 6. The church I have been taking them to for the past year or so is not as elaborate as what Quix describes, but appeals to the youth in a way that the LDS church seems not to do. The kids actually like going (both on Sunday and to the activities the church plans). To be fair, my two youngest ones also like some of the LDS activities (but do not like Sunday meetings at all). I went to LDS Sacrament meeting today for the first time as an ex-member and the first time in over a year (my daughter was singing and asked me to go, which I was happy to do). After attending various other churches and then returning today to the LDS, it really struck me how agonizing sacrament meeting is for kids. Sorry for the threadjack, this is only tangentially related to the OP, but I think it speaks to the general theme of the post, which is that the LDS church is losing its youth. I seriously question whether a strong Scouting program at the ward level is really the panacea it is being sold as. I think the problems of youth attrition are deeper and the solutions more complex than that.

  24. To the average youth, the only thing less cool than scouting is church. I was willing to play along with scouts because it was “not mormon.” I’m worried that if Duty to God replaces scouting, many of our youth will turn their noses up at it.

    The church is highly unlikely to drop the scouting program overnight. What about the kids that have just spent 5 years working towards an Eagle?

  25. SingleSpeed,

    The Church dropping Scouting would have minimal (I would argue positive) impact on those trying to get their Eagles done. The fact that the Church is no longer sponsoring a troop doesn’t mean that the troop would evaporate. What would likely happen is that those that want to participate in Scouting would stay in their troop and these smaller troops would consolidate into a smaller number of more serious troops. The more serious makeup of these troops and leaders would mean that those who want to work towards their eagle scout rank (as opposed to those whose mothers want to do it) would have better support of their peers and leaders.

  26. One reason, that isn’t apparently obvious to the casual observer, that the Church won’t drop Scouting or consolidate troops into Stake sponsored troops with Ward “patrols” is the numbers game that is played behind the scenes. I discovered this a couple of years ago while going through the annual rechartering process. In my experience, the Stakes require each ward to register 3 units, a troop, a team, and a crew (one for each AP Quorum). These three units don’t function individually (at least very well) in many wards. To my surprise, I learned that to some measure this is the policy because the Scout Districts are rated as a Quality District (similar to each unit being rated as a Quality Unit) based on the number of units it retains or better yet recruits each year. Three units per ward, inflates this statistic significantly. A reduction in unit numbers would reflect poorly on the District.

  27. John #15:
    I don’t disagree with your philosophy at all, John, nor do I believe for a moment that government resources should support Freemasonry (let alone the BSA). I was merely correcting a misconception that your earlier post seemed to suggest, lest you or anyone else think that gay men were not allowed to become Freemasons.

  28. The Quality District explanation is a little over-simplified, and doesn’t apply as much since the changes that happened with the new Centennial Quality awards program started in 2007. It’s true that it made it easier for a district to make Quality status if units exist/are created. However, units that don’t grow and don’t make quality themselves actually drive down Quality District rather than contribute to it.

    I must live in a very strange ward. I see none of the youth unrest that I’ve seen mentioned in the previous posts, nor have I seen the problems related to one-size-fits-all, cram-it-down-their-throats Scouting that is alluded to. We make the young men earn whatever they receive. No shortcuts, no gimmes. We make our leaders go through BSA training, and make them run the units according to BSA guidelines. Believe it or not, when run correctly, these programs have real value.

    We do move young men through troop/team/crew, but by choice. The stake only required a pack for the primary and a troop for the young men. We added the other programs to add variety, and saw activity increase when we ran the programs correctly.

    As a district Scouter, I’d say Scouting’s biggest obstacle is usually adults, mostly parents, who show little interest in the program and who don’t bother to learn it and get involved. As with most things in life, you get out what you put in. Drop the kids off and do nothing, you’ll get very little result. Get involved with your son, work on advancement with him, camp with him, volunteer with him, and you’ll see tangible results. The youth with involved parents, both in LDS and non-LDS Scouting, are those who thrive.

    I see the same thing, largely, with Church activity among the youth. My own sons are rebelling a little now, but still attend church on Sunday and activity night. Neither is interested in early morning seminary, but they are interested in maintaining overall activity. I have two sons who’ve made Eagle, both of whom took 4-5 years in Scouting to do it, and both of whom got lazy and stopped progressing for at least 18 months before moving again. The younger two boys still progressing. Do they like it all the time? Of course not! Do they understand why they’re doing this? Yes. Scouting is more about getting these young men out of their normal environment and into a totally different environment where they can learn something new, associate with interested, involved adults, and have opportunities to develop a rapport with good role models outside the meetinghouse. Advancement, uniforming, etc. are all methods of Scouting, not the sole purposes. I would recommend attending BSA leader training before you judge the programs.

    I disagree with the attacks on the BSA’s stand. There’s nothing wrong with cutting a youth organization with a 97-year track record of excellence a few financial breaks. If the offended parties could offer alternative activites that had the same impact on youth, I would hope they could qualify for the same incentives. Rather than attempting to make the BSA change a proven formula, I think the offended groups should come up with their own programs rather than try to force the BSA to change. People are so blinded by their politics that they are failing to see how their intolerance of the BSA’s policies is going to negatively impact the youth they claim to care about.

  29. People are so blinded by their politics that they are failing to see how their intolerance of the BSA’s policies is going to negatively impact the youth they claim to care about.

    So let’s suppose the BSA suddenly found another major source of funding to replace LDS donations, and was dominated by evangelicals who initiated a ban on LDS members or leaders. Would you still be as quick to “cut them a few financial breaks” at the cost of taxpayers?

  30. I must live in a very strange ward. You do. Was admitting it cathartic?

    We make our leaders go through BSA training, and make them run the units according to BSA guidelines. I would imagine this is a given, or at least a lot more common, in non-LDS troops. It’s because some/many/most LDS leaders don’t want to be there.

    Really, you could make scouts much more effective for those involved if you did just two little things:

    1) Made participation in the troops voluntary for the boys
    2) Made all BSA related callings volunteer positions. Early morning seminary teachers are treated this way right now. It’s an assignment, not a calling. The teachers can say no to the assignment, no questions asked, no ecclesiastical involvement. They can also quit at any time, no questions asked, no ecclesiastical involvement. However, it is also understood that you won’t have other callings during your tenure as a teacher.

    Of course participation would go WAY down, but I would imagine that the program would be highly rewarding for those who choose to lead and participate.

  31. Nick #30,

    I don’t support some of the policies of the Girl Scouts, and my daughter withdrew after the last time they changed some of the program to be more progressive. But I still support their right to use public lands and facilities, and buy cookies every year even though my diabetes doesn’t allow me to eat them. Is this about the kids, or about ideology?

    David #31,

    We make leaders aware of our expectations, including uniforming, training, tenure, etc. before ever extending a call. I even created a “calling checklist” for Scouting leaders that several stakes in our area use when proposing a Scouting call to a member. If they aren’t willing to make the full commitment, I encourage them to decline the call. It’s not good for them or the youth if they won’t commit.

    You’re correct. Training among non-LDS leaders is far more common. Again, that’s why I set the expectation before issuing the call.

    We register all our boys, but they don’t have to participate in Scouting. Personal agency is still in effect. We do Scouting-exclusive activities about twice monthly, then have combined activity with the young women and more of a just-for-fun, Duty to God type of activity monthly.

    All church callings are voluntary. I’ve had members decline calls numerous times if they don’t feel up for it. We release members when they ask for a release as this usually indicates discontent and a change in commitment to the call.

    Why does this seem odd to people? Even a cursory reading of the Handbook of Instructions and scriptures makes it pretty clear as to how ward operations are supposed to be conducted. As nearly as we can tell, our ward is simply doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re not perfect, we don’t have 100% activity, and we do lose youth. But we don’t get discontented and upset, and we strive to be aware of and meet the needs of the individual youth as best we can. Why is this odd?

  32. Scott #32:
    I don’t support some of the policies of the Girl Scouts . . . But I still support their right to use public lands and facilities, and buy cookies every year even though my diabetes doesn’t allow me to eat them. Is this about the kids, or about ideology?

    I’d say it’s about both, Scott. Similar to you, I have individually supported the Girl Scouts. This past weekend, I made a direct donation to the local troops which exceeded what I would have purchased in cookies, because I know from my own daughters’ experience what a small fraction of the cookie income actually goes to support the local troop, where the girls’ needs are met. The majority of the cookie income goes to national administrative salaries, and I wanted to support the girls, not the corporation.

    With regard to the Philadelphia situation with the BSA, the city had long supported the BSA with taxpayer dollars. Mind you, the BSA wasn’t renting a meeting room. They were renting a large building and parking lot, for the sum of $1.00 per year. The annual market rental value, on the other hand, was approximately $200,000.00. The city government (elected by the people) had thus chosen to impose what economists call an “opportunity cost” on taxpayers, in order to subsidize the BSA. When the BSA’s policy violated the express non-descrimination policies of the city government, the city government found itself obligated to discontinue the subsidy. While certain elements of the electorate may not find the BSA’s version of discrimination to be odious, a non-discrimination policy needs to be applied fairly, so as not to create the very problem it seeks to address.

    There is no claim that the BSA will cease to meet the needs of young people in Philadelphia without a near-complete government rent subsidy. I’m sure a full investigation would demonstrate that most BSA troops meet their goals quite admirably without such measures. There’s simply no evidence at this time to indicate that the boys will suffer for lack of a $199,999.00 annual discount.

    In fact, the city’s action will ultimately benefit the boys, by teaching them a vitally important principle of American values. We teach our children to be shocked when they see racial discrimination, or even gender discrimination. We should likewise help young people learn that discrimination based on sexual orientation is offensive (the majority of Americans already believe this), particularly when an organization seeks to excuse that discrimination (as the BSA does) by falsely declaring an entire class of society as suspected pedophiles.

  33. Nick #33:

    The Cradle of Liberty Council made in excess of $5 million in improvements over the years as part of the subsidized rental agreement with the city. Funny how the city had no problem with taking the property and improvements away from the Scouts without compensating them. I’d say they made a bunch of their money back in the eviction. Funny how that didn’t get much press.

    Similarly, in California, the Scouts are losing a camp property that they have had a free lease on. They have invested millions in the property, kept it fully open to all members of the public, year-round, and have provided all care, maintenance and improvements for the property. While being evicted, no one has acknowledged the work the Scouts did to improve and maintain the property, nor was there any talk of reimbursement.

    All new costs incurred due to the loss of these properties takes resources away from the youth being served. The council has to meet their budget, and the money to pay for new facilities will have to come from somewhere. Based on our council’s figures, it costs the council itself $170/youth annually to offer programs, administer paperwork, maintain camps, etc. $199,999 equals 1176 youth that can no longer be served using those figures. Guess that’s okay so long as it’s not your kid.

    Most BSA troops get free rent from their chartering organizations. The chartering organization provides a meeting place and recruits leadership to help in offering Scouting programs to youth. The youth learn the value of supporting Scouting and similar programs by being willing to sacrifice resources for the youth. This goes to the discussion in the recent Glenn Beck thread concerning choosing how we wish to support those in need, whatever that need may be.

    You thought in the Beck thread that subsidies through taxation and forced redistribution of wealth against the will of those taxed were good, and those who disagreed were greedy people who wanted someone else to deal with the poor and needy. Now, since the BSA doesn’t fit your ideology, it’s okay to deny subsidies to an organization that supports poor and minority youth (Scoutreach, Soccer and Scouting, etc.), that teaches leadership, lifesaving skills and moral character. The audience is the same, but your attitude about the provider is different. It’s not about the kids, it’s about your politics.

    We aren’t going to sway each other concerning the BSA policy. I support it as a somewhat over-protective measure to try and prevent abuse. Do I think all homosexuals are pedophiles? No. However, would you put a couple of hetero men out in the woods alone with a bunch of teenage girls on a campout? Most people would reasonably say “no”, citing the temptation that attraction between leaders and youth could cause. Would they be saying that all hetero men are pedophiles looking to abuse teenage girls, or would they be saying that taking precautions where obvious temptation may exist would be prudent and wise?

    No one screamed when the Church stated that male Primary teachers need a teaching companion in their classes on Sunday (two-deep leadership). Your logic says Salt Lake now assumes that all adult males in the Church wish to abuse Primary children. Those affected in our ward, some of whom are volunteer Scouters, saw it as wisdom, meant to protect them as much as the children. Maybe people should stop looking for excuses to be offended and ascribe these limits on a desire to protect children?

  34. Scott,
    I appreciate the detail with regard to the BSA making improvements on the building. If such is the case, then the city certainly should properly compensate the BSA for any loss due to property improvements. (I’d point out, btw, that another possible solution was to transfer the deed to the BSA, which could pretty easily be justified if the BSA made $5 million in property improvements!)

    You thought in the Beck thread that subsidies through taxation and forced redistribution of wealth against the will of those taxed were good, and those who disagreed were greedy people who wanted someone else to deal with the poor and needy.

    I pay my taxes willingly, Scott, thus I’m not “forced.”

    Now, since the BSA doesn’t fit your ideology, it’s okay to deny subsidies to an organization that supports poor and minority youth (Scoutreach, Soccer and Scouting, etc.),

    “Minority youth” includes those youth who happen to be gay, Scott, and the BSA refuses to allow them membership, let alone “support” them.

    that teaches leadership, lifesaving skills and moral character.

    Real “moral character” prompts educated adults to eschew discrimination, Scott.

    The audience is the same, but your attitude about the provider is different. It’s not about the kids, it’s about your politics.

    Scott, I could just as easily claim that your support of BSA discrimination is “not about the kids, but about your politics (or religious beliefs).” As you know, young men who happen to be gay are excluded from the benefits of Scouting–even if they are celibate. Where is your concern for those kids, who don’t happen to fit your political/religious approval? If you think these young men don’t need caring, positive adult role models, you’re sadly mistaken. I have an acquaintance who is mentally handicapped to a moderately severe degree. He wasn’t born that way. He made the “mistake” of coming out to his father, who responded by beating him so severely as to cause serious brain damage. (I’m sure Jesus really loved the dad for that!) Of course, these young men don’t really matter to the BSA, since they don’t fit a very recent, twisted interpretation of “morally straight.”

    No one screamed when the Church stated that male Primary teachers need a teaching companion in their classes on Sunday (two-deep leadership). Your logic says Salt Lake now assumes that all adult males in the Church wish to abuse Primary children. Those affected in our ward, some of whom are volunteer Scouters, saw it as wisdom, meant to protect them as much as the children. Maybe people should stop looking for excuses to be offended and ascribe these limits on a desire to protect children?

    Actually, Scott, I fully support the LDS church’s action in this regard, primarily because of increasing lawsuit claims. If I were teaching young children, I’d be quite thankful to have another adult present, for that very reason. I wish they likewise required that female teachers have a second adult present, as women are by no means exempt from similar accusations these days.

    However, that also demonstrates where your analogy breaks down. The BSA doesn’t just require that gay scout leaders have another adult present; it bans them altogether from participation in the organization. You’ll note that men are not banned from teaching Primary, so the situation is really quite different. I would have no problem with the BSA allowing gay members/leaders, but requiring a second adult to be present for the protection of all concerned. While I understand that this would create an additional burden in terms of needed volunteers, it would also remove the current stench of bigotry.

  35. Nick #35:

    We could fire shots back and forth all day, both feeling we’re justified in our positions, and both taking the other’s apart. Obviously, if this were an easy topic, we could find agreement and move forward. We could resort to quoting scriptures that would support each position, and still get nowhere. I see only one course left – we agree to disagree.

    I don’t approve of the actions of the father you mentioned, and feel some old fashioned, Mosaic Law justice would be perfectly appropriate in his case, though it would solve nothing.

    I agree that all youth need to be helped, but the reality is that it’s probably not going to happen in this context. If BSA acquiesces, the Church (and other faiths) likely drop the program, and thousands of youth lose. If the current position is held, hundreds to thousands of youth and adults get excluded, and they lose. One size, and one program, does not fit all. In reality, BSA’s flavor of youth service won’t meet everyone’s needs. If we change it, we just change who gets left behind. Maybe a new alternative is required. Any ideas?

  36. I appreciate your compassion, Scott. I truly do believe that the BSA provides many very positive things for a portion of young men. We differ, of course, on whether taxpayer dollars are appropriately spent in supporting the organization.

  37. I just got appointed SM in my LDS congregation and I accepted it because I care about boys. Prior to this I was the Deacon’s advisor. Duty to God in my opinion is a better program in numerous ways and costs a lot less. This will be my third tour of duty as a scoutmaster so I have some frame of reference to suggest that scouting is a bloated and ineffective bureaucracy that exists to perpetuate itself at the expense of boys, their leaders ad sponsoring organizations. I could care less if a single one of my scouts obtains his Eagle rank. I have not met a single Eagle Scout who could tie a bowline and tell me the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

    Scouting ought to be allowed to go away buried under its own bloated weight.

  38. BTW, my boys and I are engaged in the building of a 15′ marine mahogany and epoxy composite boat. The merit badge for Composite Materials recommended a cardboard birdhouse wrapped in fiberglass. I hope to teach some life skills of wood working, composite manufacture and a couple hobbies such as fishing, rowing and sailing.

    We also shun all organized scout camps with their merit badge factories and high costs.

    Remember the CEO of the GSL Council makes $210K a year in salary and benefits. He ain’t worth half that.

  39. Scott Gerlach,

    Could you possibly send me a copy of the “Scouter Expectations” list you described being used in the extending of new calls?

    Thanks,

    Gary M.

  40. I believe the scouting program should be abondoned by the church. The church could easily roll the camping, physcial fitness, and other activities into the Duty to God award. Like it or not, and whether we follow the manual to a tee, the scouting program is about advancement.. and parents have been accustomed to believing that their kids need to be an Eagle Scout.

    Hmmm… requirements/rank advancement versus building up the kids. Not all kids want to do scouting or care about the advancements. If I run a scouting program, it’s assume that I will help them move up in the ranks. However, John Doe has no interest, and stops attending activities.

    We can’t cater our programs to meet the needs of all our kids if parents want rank advancement and almost-inactive kids just want to have fun. Let’s incorporate the best of scouting in to the Duty to God, and allow us to focus more on the dynamics of our own groups — and their own needs.

    We live in a day where kids have school competitions (sports, music, debate, science, etc). They are already pushed to the limit without worrying about rank advancement. I realize the purpose of scouting is to build character, teach, and expose the youth to many experiences. However, as long as scouting is part of the church, parents will always worry about their kid advancing — and missing the point.

    — former Eagle Scout and YM counselor.

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