Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A change of attitude

Last weekend my wife and I attended our council's University of Scouting event. We were there to take classes to learn what we need to know to start a new family pack in our area. It was mostly a good day.

I say mostly because there was one major frustration. Over and over again we heard complaints and gripes about how members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do Scouting all wrong: We don't get trained and do stupid stuff, resulting in excessive insurance claims. We don't get parents involved in the committees, so important stuff doesn't happen. We don't tell Scout leaders what their job is when they are called so they don't even know what they're supposed to do. And on, and on, and on.

It was exhausting.

Look, I get it. I've been involved in Scouting in the Church for over 10 years. I've been a young men's president, and a bishop. I've taught basic training for nearly every program. I've helped with roundtable. I've been on stake Scouting committees. I've been there. And if you look at past posts on this blog you'll see I've contributed my fair share of gripes and complaints about Scouters in the Church not doing it "right."

That's when it hit me. The thing that I found so exhausting that day was something I have done myself for a decade.

Well, I'm tired of it and I'm going to make a change. And I'm going to start by saying I'm sorry to those who have been worn out hearing my complaints.

I'm going to try to approach things differently. When I look back on the 100+ year history of the Church and the BSA I am filled with gratitude for that partnership. It would be impossible to say what either organization would look like today had that partnership not happened. The fact is that both organizations are what they are today, at least in part, because of that relationship.

Just look at how many millions of members of the Church have been influenced by Scouting, either as a youth or because they were asked to help as a leader. Or think of the contributions the Church has made to the BSA, among them:

  • The chartered organization structure (read more about that, here.)
  • The push for women to be leaders for Cub Scouts (read about Lavern Watts Parmley, here.)
  • The involvement in creating both Varsity Scouting and Venturing
So, to the Church as a whole, I want to say thank you, for using the programs of the Boy Scouts of America for over 100 years to help millions of boys. To the BSA, I want to say thank you, for allowing such a close relationship to flourish.

Most importantly, to all the Scouters in the Church (past and present) I want to say, thank you for giving your time, talents, energy, and resources to help boys and young men. Thank you for doing what you have. For those currently serving, thank you for doing all that you can. And if there is anything I can offer to help you improve your service, I want to help.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

On this date...

Today is the day my Wood Badge course should have started.

For those who may not be familiar, in order for a Wood Badge course to go forward, there must be a minimum of 30 registered participants by 30 days before the course.

We didn't get 30.

We didn't get 20.

We didn't get 10.

We had 4.

And now, instead of sitting through an inspiring presentation on Values, Mission, and Vision, I am sitting at my computer thinking about what might have been.

In many ways it would be easy to try to lash out and blame other people. And, if I'm being perfectly honest, there are times when those feelings try to come out. But the thing that bothers me the most is the thought that maybe it's my own fault it didn't happen.

I know there are things I probably could have done differently. There are things I didn't do very well. I feel like the entire time I spent as a course director prominently displayed my own weaknesses more than anything else.

People have tried to tell me that it's not my fault, that I did everything I could have. I certainly tried. But still, I wonder. If I had done this differently, or tried that instead, maybe it would have made a difference. Or maybe it wouldn't have. The terrible thing is that I will never really know.

I am disappointed. There were lots of little things that I really wanted to try. From the content of the Gilwell Gazette, to the theme for our Blue and Gold Banquet, to the way we were going to handle the outdoor experience on the second weekend, there were lots of little details that I think would have made our course awesome.

I also feel a little guilty. I spent nearly a year and a half of my life working to make Wood Badge happen, and I have nothing to show for it. I won't be getting a fourth bead. I won't get a certificate that says "Wood Badge Course Director." My course number, burned into my memory, means nothing. And I feel guilty for thinking about these things because I know that conducting a Wood Badge course isn't for me. It's not so I can get another bead to hang around my neck.

Some time last winter I had what I thought was an inspired vision for my course. I had the strongest feeling that gave me a definite picture of future success. I felt like if we could get this course to happen, we would be re-charging, in a sense, the Scouting program in my area. I was certain that participants from my course would be transformed into the next generation of leaders who would continue to carry Scouting (and Wood Badge) forward in my area for the next 10 or 15 years.

But I don't have any participants. I don't have a course to provide training and inspiration to them that will change their lives and the lives of the youth they serve. And I don't know what the future holds.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Scouting

I wasn't sure if I was going to post a blog about this or not, but I keep hearing things that bother me just enough that I decided to do it.

As you know, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that, on 31 December 2019, the church will "conclude its relationship as a chartered organization with all Scouting programs around the world."

To be honest, this announcement hurt a little. And not just because I had just barely finished talking to a group of bishops to recruit for an upcoming Wood Badge course, of which I am the course director. 

But this post is not intended to be about what bothers me about the announcement. Rather, this post is intended to be about what bothers me relative to people's reactions to the announcement.

The first thing I saw in my area was that people just gave up on Scouting. In effect, they have said, "the Church is done anyway, so I don't have to do it anymore." I have heard from several people that Scouting has simply died in their wards and stakes; people have just stopped doing it. This year, the Utah National Parks Council offered 9 Wood Badge courses. As of today, 3 of them have been cancelled due to lack of participants, and we're on track to cancel two or three more of them, including mine. I even heard of one boy that expressed the thought that "now I don't have to earn my eagle."

On the off chance that anyone reading this has decided to give up on Scouting now, let me highlight a line from the Church announcement. 
"Until [December 31, 2019], the intention of the Church is to remain a fully engaged partner in Scouting for boys and young men ages 8–13. All youth, families and leaders are encouraged to continue their active participation and financial support of Scouting until that date."
The direction we have been given by the Church is to continue Scouting right up to the end. Not to give up early, but to keep going. Besides, if you stop Scouting now, what are you replacing it with? The Church hasn't released their new program yet.

The other thing that really, really bothers me is what I hear people say about why the Church is ending it's chartered relationship with Scouting. I overheard someone just today trying to explain the Church's action by saying it's because the BSA is allowing "the gays" and now girls into their ranks.

First of all, the decision to allow gay Scouts and leaders was made several years ago. Given the chartered organization structure, where the Church could still choose it's own leaders, those decisions had basically no effect on Church-sponsored Scouting. The Church didn't leave then, it doesn't make sense that this would factor into it now.

As for the issue with girls.... I'm not even sure where to begin with this. Let me just say that having seen the value of Scouting for boys, why in the world would I not want that for my daughters? (My daughter is now a Cub Scout and loving every minute of it!)

So, if it's not about "the gays and the girls," why is the Church stopping it's association? Let's go to the FAQ page included with the announcement:
1. Why is the Church changing its children and youth programs?
Over the past several years, the Church has been conducting an extensive review of all existing children and youth activities and personal development programs. As a global church with millions of children and youth, we need to address diverse needs and fortify all children and youth with gospel-centered growth and learning experiences now more than ever.
The reason's given are about helping all youth, worldwide. We belong to a global church, and it seems there is a desire to emphasize that global nature and see each other as One (We also see this with the new global hymn books under development).

(As an aside, please note that the change is going to affect all of the Church's youth programs, including Activity Days and Personal Progress for the girls. And yet I haven't heard any speculation about why those are going away....)

After a recent discussion with someone about these very issues, I heard them say something to the effect of "yeah, but you know they had some other conversations behind closed doors," the clear implication being that the "real" reason for leaving Scouting is because of "the gays and the girls."

In other words, you think our Church leaders are lying to us? You think they just made up these other reasons because they didn't want to say what they really thought? Perhaps they were afraid to condemn what you apparently see as unacceptable behavior? Absolutely ridiculous, I say!

Consider this statement from President Dallin H. Oaks:
“In a 1988 interview … I explained my attitude toward attempts to supply mortal reasons for divine revelation: 
“‘If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, “Why did the Lord command this or why did he command that,” you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We [mortals] can put reasons to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do, we’re on our own. Some people put reasons to the [revelation] … , and they turned out to be spectacularly wrong. There is a lesson in that. … I decided a long time ago that I had faith in the command and I had no faith in the reasons that had been suggested for it.’ 
“‘… The whole set of reasons seemed to me to be unnecessary risk taking. … Let’s don’t make the mistake that’s been made in the past, … trying to put reasons to revelation. The reasons turn out to be man-made to a great extent. The revelations are what we sustain as the will of the Lord and that’s where safety lies’” (Life’s Lessons Learned[2011], 68–69).
I will argue that anyone attempting to speculate about the Church's reasons for leaving Scouting are making a mistake and will turn out to be "spectacularly wrong." The Church has given a reason. And it's a good one. Let's just stick to that, shall we.

But just in case we can't, consider this from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in his speech at the BSA National Annual Meeting this year.  (Note: these are notes that someone took from his talk, and may not necessarily be direct quotes. They were originally published on the LDS-BSA relationships blog):
“Collectively and individually we are invested in this. My boys are Eagle Scouts and my grandsons are Eagle Scouts. There has been considerable anguish at the highest levels of the Church as we have made this decision. But we hope there can be comfort and understanding as we move forward.”
“This isn’t a divorce. This is sending kids off to college, in Stockholm and Johannesburg and all around the world. Right now in the Church there are 4.5 million young people. We have a very large responsibility to a very large Church and it’s getting larger. That’s the arena and the growth that we’re facing. We are obligated for all the right reasons to intentionally reach them around the world.”
“Please know how grateful we are to the BSA. We are friends now and we will be friends forever. In 18 months when our charters are finished, we hope that many LDS youth who wish to do so will still choose to be in Scouting. It is just the charter part that we are separating from. We’re going to stay in close contact. And we are locked arm in arm and hand in hand for the next 18 months. Please keep your shoulder to the wheel. Let me stress again, ‘This isn’t a divorce.’ It’s growth. We’re not in any way disavowing any of those virtues of Scouting. This is about children. We hope that you keep serving. Let me say it again, ‘Keep Serving.’”

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reaction to LDS Church Announcement about Scouting

This morning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made this announcement:

"As part of the Church's ongoing effort to evaluate and improve its service to families and young people worldwide, the Church will no longer charter Varsity or Venturing units with the Boy Scouts of America and Scouts Canada effective January 1, 2018."
If you haven't already, you can read everything the Church has said about it, here.

I always have and always will support the Church. The last time a serious question was raised about whether or not the Church would continue with Scouting, I made up my mind to follow the prophet and support whatever it was he decided. I will do the same this time.

My first reaction to the story was genuine surprise. I didn't see this coming. It's going to take me a while to fully come to terms with this. I'm going to outline my initial reactions here.

What follows are my own personal thoughts and feelings about the matter. In no way do I represent an official Church position.

In many ways I am saddened by this announcement, because I believe in the Varsity and Venturing programs. And I'm in good company. The Deseret News published an article today describing Charles W. Dahlquist's reaction:
"I really believe in the Varsity and the Venturing programs - they are very good programs, knowing what I know about them and knowing about the struggle in some places getting things going," he said.
In reading further on the Church's Young Men Activities page, I found a sheet with some principles and guidelines on what the new activities should look like. I just had to shake my head as I read through those guidelines because, when used correctly, I believe the Varsity and Venturing programs already accomplish all of those things.

So, why the change? The Church statement says that "In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14-18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church."

I can accept that. I have been a Venturing leader in an LDS crew. I've been a Bishop. I've seen what happens. Boys of that age are busy with all kinds of things and, in my area, few of them make Scouting a priority.

However, from my experience, the biggest obstacle to effectively implementing these programs in the Church is leaders who refuse to try.

My personal feeling is that the biggest reason for this change is that we have had too many leaders who were uncommitted to implementing these programs. While I think the information given about the new activity program is good, I think it is really not much different from what Varsity and Venturing leaders should have been doing all along.

I had similar thoughts when the Church introduced Preach My Gospel for missionaries. I heard lots of people talking about this big "new" emphasis to teach by the Spirit. Well, I think that's what missionaries should have been doing under the old program anyway.

When the Church introduced the Come, Follow Me curriculum for youth and Teaching in the Savior's Way for all Church teachers, I had similar thoughts. This isn't really much different from how we should have been doing it all along.

I think it is the same for Scouting. I suspect this change is not so much about the Scouting programs as it is about trying to get adults to lead boys the right way. If they aren't going to use Varsity and Venturing the way they were intended, then of course the programs won't help the boys. Hopefully, the new guidelines will be more effective in getting leaders to do it right.

One of my concerns with this announcement is that there will be members of the Church who look at this as an indication that Scouting isn't really as great as it has been made out to be. I fear that many in the Church will now look on Scouting more negatively. After all, if we're not using it anymore, it must be because it isn't good, right? Wrong!

In early Church history, there are several examples of commandments given by the Lord that were later revoked, always because the individuals involved were not obedient. (See D&C 56:3-6D&C 58:30-33D&C 75:6-8D&C 9:3, 10-11D&C 105)

It is my feeling that we are seeing this same scenario with Scouting. We were commanded to implement the Varsity and Venturing programs (the Church even had a major role in creating them). We didn't keep that commandment very well, and so the command has been revoked. Not because the programs weren't good, but because we failed.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Doing Hard Things

It has been a long time since I posted anything. So much has changed for me that I'm not even going to bother to give an update for those who may still be following this.

I've been thinking today about something I have often heard about Scouting: "Scouting teaches our young men that they can do hard things."

I think I've even said something like that myself.

But I began wondering today if we aren't missing something. Something so vitally important that I can't believe I hadn't thought about it until today.

Let me share a couple quotations with you. See if you can't figure out what is missing in the statement above.
"Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." - Isaiah 41:10

"My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep." - 2 Nephi 4:20

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." - Philipians 4:13.

"Since the Savior has suffered anything and everything that we could ever feel or experience, He can help the weak to become stronger." - James E. Faust

"And so we see that because of His Atonement, the Savior has the power to succor--to help--every mortal pain and affliction. Sometimes His power heals an infirmity, but the scriptures and our experiences teach that sometimes He succors or helps by giving us the strength or patience to endure our infirmities." - Dallin H. Oaks

"The difference between what I can do and what must be done is accomplished because of the grace of Christ." - H. Burke Petersen
Now, some of you may be saying something like "But those are all about getting help with spiritual things. That doesn't apply to hiking."

My response is, "Why not?" Don't we sing in our hymns, "I need thee every hour." Don't we believe that Christ, through the power of his atonement, can help us do anything we need to do?

Hopefully all of our young men will be leaving (sooner than they may realize) to go out into the world to teach about Christ and his atoning sacrifice. Shouldn't we help them understand it, by teaching them to rely on the atonement to do all those hard things they have to do in Scouting?

When we hold our reflections after each activity, shouldn't we "talk of Christ... rejoice in Christ... preach of Christ... prophesy of Christ" (2 Nephi 25:26)?

On one activity when I was 16 or 17 years old, I was nervous about participating in a part of the activity. Actually, "nervous" probably doesn't describe my feelings quite as well as "scared." Knowing a little something about me, and what would work for me, my young men's leader asked me to find a scripture that would convince me to do the activity. The scripture that came to mind was one I had recently learned in Seminary:
"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." - Joshua 1:9
Knowing that my Savior would be with me, my fear left me and I participated in the activity. I had a great time, and I learned a lesson I have never forgotten.

I'll end this post with one final scripture:
"And now, beloved, marvel not that I tell you these things; for why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him, as to attain to the knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?" - Jacob 4:12