By Lee Hansen
Sep 28, 2015

The LDS Church Needs Scouting Because Boys Need Scouting

Pres. Monson said, “Scouting is in the church to save boys, one boy at a time.” For many boys in today’s world, Scouting substitutes for the support that families would normally provide. Many boys are being raised by single parents or parents that cannot provide the support they would like to give because of financial and other problems. While Scout leaders cannot substitute for parents in the life of a boy, a dedicated, well-trained Scout leader can be a huge benefit just by providing a listening ear and being a role model.

Eagle ScoutsTo illustrate some of the problems many boys currently face and the strengths and diligence with which they address these problems, consider the young man I recently met during an Eagle review board. He was going to UVU to finish his high school education and working two jobs to help support his mother, and still found the energy, time and wherewithal to finish the requirements for the Eagle rank. In the Eagle review, it became clear that he was only able to carry on because of Scout leaders that kept track of him during several moves, monitored his progress, and encouraged him.

I remember another young man in an Eagle review board who responded to a question about his family by saying, “I’d rather not”, a clear message that Scout leaders were filling in where his family was failing him.

rain at campMany boys need time away from their families to develop self-confidence in their ability to solve problems on their own. I remember a 12 year old who suffered from constant bullying at school until he found his self-confidence during a troop summer camp when I was Scoutmaster. A huge, violent thunderstorm with pouring rain came through about midweek. His tent became a large water balloon, and he did a face plant in the mud when he went to try to rescue his stuff. He was sure he was going to die if he didn’t go home, but with the other boys helping, we got him dried out and comfortable before bedtime.

The frosting on the cake came when the two oldest boys admitted their sleeping bags were still wet and they didn’t know what to do about it. After school started, the boy’s mother called to ask, “What happened at camp?” I didn’t remember anything in particular, but soon learned that nobody bullied her son at school anymore. That is what Scout camps can do for boys.

I still wonder about, and am troubled by, what happened to an 11 year old when I was the New Scout leader in our ward. The bishop told me about him when he and his single mother moved into an apartment in the ward. I visited him, gave him a Scout Handbook, arranged to give him some uniform parts our sons had grown out of, and invited him to come to patrol meetings and an upcoming campout. He was eager and excited to come.

Scouts Reading in a TentThe other boys welcomed him and we did some map and compass exercises. I gave the boys an assignment to read the map and compass section in their handbooks, but I could tell the new kid was troubled by it so I asked him to stay after for a few minutes. That is when he admitted to me that he could not read. School had failed him because of their frequent moves. He looked greatly relieved when I told him we could fix that if he would meet with me and my family two or three times a week and let us teach him to read.

Before we had a chance to put the plan into action, he called to say they were moving because of a problem with the landlord. He cried because he was going to miss the campout, but I told him I would make sure his new leader knew about him and would take care of him. I took his registration papers and met with his new leader who promised to see to him and get him into a reading program. But I learned much later that his new leader did not keep his promise even though he had sworn on his honor to do his best.

Scout leaders need to understand that we are in the business of saving boys, one boy at a time. I can testify that Scouting succeeds about 98% of the time when leaders keep their promise and do their best.

Lee Hansen

Author: Lee Hansen | Saratoga Springs, BYU Chemistry professor for 32 years. Boy Scout volunteer for over 35 years, including 20 years as a Scoutmaster. Current chair of Learning for Life.

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4 thoughts on “The LDS Church Needs Scouting Because Boys Need Scouting

  1. Susan Merle McDonald

    While I love Cub Scouting and Scouting alike, it is not wise to have the attitude that the church NEEDS Scouting. I could create a program for the church equivalent to scouting within a week. The goals and original desires of Scouting to establish a program for young men and boys that encouraged spiritual strength, patriotism and devotion to service was noble. The church used to have a great desire to be part of the community as a whole and not isolate our families from the rest of the world, but in the current political and anti-religious atmosphere we find ourselves in, it may be necessary to pull back and create church programs and schools to protect our children. If the church gave even a hint that they wanted the church to develop their own schools and programs to protect the children, all the many well educated and experienced mothers and fathers in the church would rise to the occasion spectacularly. Scouting needs us. Scouting needs the faithful Jewish and Catholic Packs and Troops. If they abandon Biblical principles or refuse to protect our children, we will leave.

    Reply
    1. Lee HansenLee Hansen

      Susan,

      Please consider the entire title, including “because boys need Scouting”. Scouting has not abandoned encouraging spiritual strength, patriotism and service by boys and young men, although much social media is trying to paint it that way. Part of patriotism is obeying the law of the land, and because it is non-denominational, BSA does not enjoy the protection of religious freedom granted to churches by the 1st amendment. Therefore the recent action of BSA was made to fully transfer the selection of leaders to chartered partners. The Scout Oath and Law have not changed, but It is left to chartered partners to interpret it according to their beliefs. BSA is not a part of the “current political and anti-religious atmosphere”, but by teaching boys to “obey the Scout law and help other people at all times” is a potent opposition force against political and religious extremism. To help other people at all times means understanding and respecting other people and mirrors Christ’s charge to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” We cannot change the climate by retreating from it, but by becoming more involved in our communities. If we are to be a “light unto the world” we cannot hide that light behind impenetrable walls. I agree we need to protect our children, but we need to do it, not by isolating them in a cocoon, but by properly educating them, and I have complete faith that “well educated and experienced mothers and fathers” are capable of doing this, and Scouting can help. Consider all that the Utah National Parks Council offers to chartered partners: Twelve camps, some with year-round programs, safe places for LDS Stakes and, yes, groups from all faiths and chartered partners, to have activities for boys, girls, young men and young women. An extensive literature for education in character development, careers, life skills, and family life. Training for leaders and parents in leadership and life skills to help them safely educate our children. Have you been to Woodbadge or an LDS Week at Philmont?

      Have you visited with Protestant, Muslim, Catholic, Jewish and LDS young men and women before and after an NYLT course or a Philmont trek? Yes, BSA needs more participation from all faiths and communities, but I focused the post on the LDS church in response to the recent spate of misleading information about the relation between the LDS church and BSA.

      Lee Hansen, a volunteer in the Utah National Parks Council.

      Reply
  2. Melissa

    I agree that “…Boys need Scouting”. I however disagree that the “The LDS Church Needs Scouting…”. My son had to join a Community Unit in order to advance from Star to Life and then Eagle. The Committee Chair in his LDS Unit would not give him a BOR in a timely manner (they were told over month in advance, by my son, that he was ready). He had a Scoutmaster review and everything. If “Scout leaders need to understand that we are in the business of saving boys, one boy at a time. I can testify that Scouting succeeds about 98% of the time when leaders keep their promise and do their best.” The LDS Unit has FAILED where my son is concerned. I have repeatedly been in contact with the Bishopric and the new Committee Chair (as our Ward was divided) and asked for help with the problem. My son refuses to go to most activities that involve the current Scoutmaster. No one has helped. I will not force him to go because of the way this person treats him.

    If “An extensive literature for education in character development, careers, life skills, and family life. Training for leaders and parents in leadership and life skills to help them safely educate our children” exists, then the leaders need to take advantage of it. I have been to more Roundtables then I have seen the leaders from my son’s LDS Scout Unit. I have seen my son’s Community Unit Leaders there more often then the LDS Unit Leaders. If the leader can’t do it, either get out or get some Assistant Scoutmasters that can help.

    Reply
    1. Lee HansenLee Hansen

      I fully agree with your comment, and my original post included a case where a Scout leader failed a boy. And we obviously also agree that your boy needs Scouting, and I am glad you found a way to meet the need. I have also made the observation that community units usually run a much better program than is often the case in the LDS church. But there are very few community units in our council because it is difficult to find leaders and committee members that will run a good program. If the LDS church was not supporting Scouting, there would be almost no Scouting in Utah. So, what is the solution? The only solution I see is to work with LDS leaders to get them to see the value in Scouting and to do a better job. I know that Council and District leadership works very hard at this, and thank you for your comments. That is one more way to get the message to LDS church leaders.

      Reply

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