Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Then and Now

I recently came across a great website called The Art of Manliness. They published an interesting article comparing the 1911 BSA handbook with the modern one. Here's the thesis of the article:
Because the Scouts were designed to be a repository of traditionally manly values, tracing those changes offers an interesting prism through which to see how our views on manliness have shifted as well.
Find the entire article here:


I started this blog several years ago when I was serving as the Venturing Advisor in my ward. In the LDS church we don't choose where we serve and we don't volunteer--we are asked by a priesthood leader. We believe that we are called by inspiration to serve where we are needed. That also means we don't choose when we are finished.

About nine months ago I was asked to serve as the 2nd counselor in the bishopric and stayed involved in Scouting as the chartered organization representative.

On Sunday I got another change. Our ward boundaries were changed and I was called to serve as the bishop.

I'm still in a bit of a shock, I guess. It sounds strange to hear people call me "Bishop." It is even stranger to introduce myself that way. It's going to take a while to get used to this one.

That also means a change in my Scouting responsibilities. I intend to still be involved where I can, but it will be a very different role. I can't predict at the moment how involved I will be. I plan on registering as a committee member so I will be available for boards of review when needed. Since I will be closely involved with the Priests quorum I'll probably get to help out with Venturing again. I like that.

It's a big change for me and my family. I am worried and nervous and stressed, but I also see a lot of good ahead. It will be difficult and demanding, but I can also see that it will be very rewarding.

Monday, April 22, 2013


I received an email the other day from another Scouter that really has me thinking. Apparently several members of his family really do not like Scouting because their father spent so much time on it when they were younger. To quote a part of his email:
"I've seen that happen to... men... whose resulting losses on the home front haunted them to their graves. Men whose children have openly denounced Scouting and consequently the church, for drawing away their fathers from more important duties; including my own. Men who harbor unbridled devotion to Scouting as the deepest regret of their lives. Men who also served as Bishops and Stake Presidents who felt that even those demanding callings didn't do the harm that Scouting did."
Has anyone else seen this happen? For those involved with Scouting outside the LDS church, does it happen in community or other church groups? Does this happen with other organizations, such as the Elks lodge or Rotary club? If it does, why?

We are taught that everything in the church should serve to strengthen the family, our own as well as those we serve. If we are not strengthening our own families by our service, then shouldn't we change how we do things? I'm not suggesting we abandon Scouting or that we don't follow the program, but how do we find the balance?

I think that's something that we, as church leaders, need to do better when we ask people to serve. We usually tell them all the meetings they need to go to and all the training they need to have, but do we tell them that their family is the most important? If we don't, we really should.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Which is more important?

A conversation yesterday with our ward's scoutmaster got me thinking about something. I'm not sure I have any real answers, I'm just mulling things over in my mind and decided it might help to write down my thoughts. The question I've been pondering is: which is more important, having a well-run Scouting program, or blessing the lives of the boys in the program?

I realize this isn't really a fair question. After all, having a well-run Scouting program will bless the lives of the boys in that program and will, I think, always bless their lives more than a poorly run program will. I guess it comes down to where our focus is. Do we focus on the boys, or on the program?

Again, that might not be entirely fair. Maybe that dichotomy doesn't really exist. We can focus on the program because we realize it will benefit the boys and we can focus on the boys without neglecting the program. So what's the big deal?

I guess I wonder if too often we get focused so much on the details of the program, on trying to do things the way we think they should be done, that we sometimes lose sight of why we are doing it. I have talked with several dedicated Scouters in the LDS church that get really frustrated with the way the church does things. They get upset that we don't have enough boys in the ward to have multiple patrols in the troop. They get upset that the committee doesn't function the way it should and they have to do all the work themselves. They get upset that they don't have a large enough budget to do some really big things that would be really fun to do. They start to wonder why the church bothers to do scouting at all if certain constraints mean it can't be done exactly the way Green Bar Bill did it. I admit I have thought all those things myself.

As a Venturing advisor, I used to get so focused on trying to do the program the way it was outlined in the book that I maybe didn't give the boys the attention I should have. I'm not saying I was wrong to try to do things the right way, but I wonder if sometimes my focus sometimes moved away from the boys because of concerns over the program. I wonder how often that happens with other leaders.

I'm not trying to suggest that if we care about our youth that we can abandon the program. What should happen is that our focus on the boys drives our desire to build a good program. In reality, I think it does most of the time. I hope it does most of the time. But I also think that sometimes we can lose sight of the boys because we are overly concerned with details. I think it's something we should watch for in ourselves.

Robert Baden-Powell said it this way:
"Let us, therefore, in training our Scouts, keep the higher aims in the forefront, not let ourselves get too absorbed in the steps. Don't let the technical outweigh the moral. Field efficiency, back woodsmanship, camping, hiking, Good Turns, jamboree comradeship are all means, not the end. The end is CHARACTER with a purpose."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thomas S. Monson on Scouting

From a speech given at the BSA national meetings in May 1992:

"Throughout our country, we have been screaming ever louder for more and more of the things we cannot take with us, and paying less and less attention to the real sources of the very happiness we seek. We have been measuring our fellowmen more by balance sheets and less by morals standards.... We have become so concerned over the growth of our earning capacity that we have neglected the growth of our character. Perhaps this is indicative of the days in which we are living--days of compromise and diluting of principles, days when sin is labeled as error, when morality is relative and when materialism emphasizes the value of expediency and the shirking of responsibility. Well might a confused boy cry out using the words of Phillip of old, 'How can I [find my way], except some man should guide me?'"

As quoted in "To The Rescue, the biography of Thomas S. Monson," by Heidi Swinton, p. 448.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Advancement chair

One of my responsibilities as the Chartered Organization Representative is to see that a committee is organized and functioning. I'm trying to get parents involved, but I've really struggled with who to get for the advancement chair. I have wanted to avoid having a parent do this, just to avoid any potential problems, but I just haven't been able to figure out who it should be.

The other day I had a different thought that I think solves the problem of who to get. In the LDS church, scouting is a part of the young men's organization. Members of the young mens presidency act as scout leaders in Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, and Venturing. But there is also a secretary that isn't necessarily involved in scouting. Why not have the Young Mens secretary also act as the advancement chair? He is already working with the scout leaders in the presidency and involved in keeping records and training quorum secretaries. It makes sense to me to make him the advancement chair.

Now we just need to figure out who it should be (we've been without one for over a year).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Thoughts on youth leadership from LDS General Conference

Elder Tad R. Callister gave a talk during the priesthood session at General Conference about leadership in the young men. While it was  focused on priesthood leadership rather than scouting, in the LDS church those go hand in hand and the principles apply.

He gave three points for fostering leadership in youth:
1. Trust them with responsibility
2. Have high expectations for them
3. Train them to lead

You can listen to or watch (and eventually, read) his whole talk here.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Scriptural advice for Scouters

Just a few scriptural thoughts I've read/heard lately. I'll let you apply your own Scouting context to them:

"Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." (D&C:64:33)
"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed." (D&C 123:17)
"Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren; and on, on to the victory!"(D&C 128:22)