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

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Congratulations

Last night when I got home from meetings my wife gave me a gift. It was the last goal toward her Wood Badge ticket, all finished.

Congratulations, Christine!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Help for Webelos leaders

My wife is currently serving as the Webelos den leader in our ward. Most weeks we get to do den meetings together, which is a lot of fun. We were able to go to Wood Badge together last fall, too.

As part of her ticket, she wanted to share some of the things that have worked well for her. She has been sharing things at round table, but also decided to start a blog to share with a wider audience. Her blog can be found at www.thewebelosden.blogspot.com.

Check it out.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What level of youth-led is appropriate?

I had an interesting Scouting discussion last night. A very well-intentioned someone was trying to explain to someone else how much the adult leaders should be involved in the different programs of Scouting. They said that for Venturing, the program is 75% youth led, Varsity is 50% youth led and Boy Scouts is maybe 25% led by youth.

My response to that was if that is the way we are doing it, then we're not doing Scouting. I tried to explain that even for our 11-13 year old boys, the program should be completely youth led. The Scoutmaster's job is to train them how to lead and then let them do it. He should be working a lot behind the scenes but if he is doing his job right most people wouldn't see his leadership. But they would see the leadership of the boys. The same applies to Varsity.

For Venturing, I said that the role of the adult leaders is a little different. The youth should be leading everything, with the adult there almost more in the role of an experienced peer who can give wise advice rather than an adult on some higher plane. I say the adult should be there as a peer, not because he lowers himself to their level but because by that point, the youth who are leading are more on the level of the adult. They are capable of acting in an adult capacity and we should help them and let them do so.

What do you think? Did I respond appropriately and accurately? Or am I up in the night? What would you have said?