We were living in south Texas when I had become friends was a boy at school who told me about his Scout troop at the Methodist church. His dad was the Scoutmaster. They needed more boys, so I decided to get involved with his troop. His dad welcomed me into their program and asked if there were more boys in the LDS church that might want to join the troop. The results were a combined troop of LDS boys and Methodist boys that ended up meeting at the LDS building. It was great fun and my friend’s dad – the Methodist Scoutmaster – even received an official calling in the LDS church as Scoutmaster.
I was so impressed with my friend’s family. Especially the relationship he had with his dad. Scouting opened the door to so many fun activities for a father and son and often my friend would invite me to come along with them and jointly work on our badges. I learned that our scoutmaster was an Eagle Scout and my friend had committed himself to become an Eagle Scout just like his dad. I was so impressed. I wanted the same goal for myself and I guess I really wanted the same relationship that my friend had with his dad.
Unfortunately, these three years in south Texas were the only years I would be involved in organized Scouting as a youth. We moved to another state and my Scouting time was over, but the memory of my friend and his dad and how Scouting brought them closer together was branded in my brain.
Years later – I found myself married, with a Scout aged son, and serving in a LDS bishopric. We were in a bishopric meeting discussing the Scoutmaster situation, it seemed our current Scoutmaster was moving out of the ward. The ward was full of young married families but we had very few Aaronic Priesthood aged youth. If I recall correctly we had couple of deacons and teachers and one priest. However, we had twelve 11-year-old boys [one of which was my son] and another dozen 10-year-old boys coming up in the primary program with similar numbers in the other age groups. We tried in vain to call a few men in the ward to accept the call as Scoutmaster. None would accept. Everyone knew of the huge influx of primary age boys that would be joining the Scout program the next few years and were afraid of the job.
I reflected on my time in south Texas, with my friend and his dad, and told the bishop that I would take the job. I said something like “you can find 10 men that are worthy, willing and able to serve in the bishopric but no one wants to be Scoutmaster.” I also told pointed out the fact that our ward was entering its the golden years of Scouting and that my son was going to have a positive Scouting experience even if I had to do it all by myself.
A few weeks later, I was conducting sacrament meeting and the stake president released me from the bishopric. Then under the stake president’s direction – I continued my conducting duties by releasing the old Scoutmaster and sustaining of myself as new Scoutmaster. I said something like “there is nothing like responsibility without authority”.
Being a new Scoutmaster was a constant learning curve. The troop grew quickly and I am sure I did a lot of unconventional things. However, I made it work and my time as Scoutmaster with my son was a wonderful experience. I did not get my Eagle award, but my son did. We spent quality time camping, working on various merit badges and doing service projects together. It would have been impossible to connect with my son on so many levels without Scouting. Hard times were easier, good times were better and memories have been made that will last a lifetime.
I have to thank my friend from junior high school for showing me the vision on how things could be with a father and son. I have to thank Scouting for providing the programs and opportunities to spend quality time with my son. This is why I am a Scout dad. Scouting made me a better dad and I thank God every night for the experiences I have shared with my son – because of Scouting.
Author: Jim Bethel | Retired Scout Executive