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.’”


  1. I've said before, and I'll repeat it here, the inclusion of more youth is an avowal that the world needs more of trustworthiness, of loyalty, of helpfulness, cheerfulness, bravery, thrift, reverence and the rest, not less; these values need to be spread as far and as wide as possible. It's a cynical kind of possessive provincialism that insists others can't and shouldn't be served in the same way they were (ignoring the coed programs that BSA has sponsored for decades).

    I'm of the opinion that if there is a 'real reason', it's that they finally tired of paying for a program that almost no one was using; of trying to get the bulk of people to care enough to put together a halfway decent Pack and Troop, with leaders who cared enough to be trained in what they were supposed to be doing; of some form yet no substance, and bars raised just high enough to trip over (but that's my own special kind of cynicism). I hope that I'm wrong about that, even spectacularly so...

  2. I was just recently called in my ward as the Scoutmaster and it really saddens me that the Church will no longer be a chartered organization of Scouting. I look back on my Scouting days with fondness and I can see that it shaped me into the man I am today.

    Coming into my new calling I see that my Ward seemed to have given up on Scouting. A Troop meeting hadn't been held in years and the boys have not advanced at all as a result. I hope I can get trained and help revitalize our troop and keep going strong before 2020, and hopefully have an Eagle Court of Honor before the end of the year.