By Madison Austin
Jul 06, 2017

LDS Scouts Do NOT Have to Get Their Eagle Before They’re 14

Growing up, I lived very close to my elementary school, so every weekday I found myself walking to school. My mom told me it was good for me, but I was not a fan. I walked to and from school every day, head down, feet moving as quickly as possible.This was my routine for many years until one day, something happened that changed my walking-home-from-school experience.

That morning, the principal of our school came on the morning announcements. She shared an experience she had on the way home from school the day before. As she drove past the students walking home, she noticed many like me, with their heads down and feet moving as quickly as they could. She told us to “look up.” Because we were in such a hurry to get home, we were missing the view along the way. She mentioned the beautiful spring skies filled with singing birds and blossoming trees that we had been missing.

At this moment, I realized she was right! I had never once looked around me and appreciated the beautiful path I got to walk up and down every day. After that day, I would remind myself to slow down and “look up.” This same principle should be applied to all young men as they work towards their Eagle Scout Award. 

Enjoying the Journey

While supporting young men through their journey to an Eagle, It is important to remember that the best part of the trail to an Eagle is the journey, not the destination. Eagle Scout awards are designed to help young men learn and grow. It is not something to finish as quickly as possible. It is not just a box to check off. 

With that in mind, it is important to remember that your son does NOT need to complete his Eagle before the age of 14. Although the LDS church ended their affiliation with venturing and varsity programs, it does not mean that boys are encouraged to complete their Eagle by the age of 14. 

Elder Holland spoke concerning this issue. He reminded listeners that LDS boys can still identify with a troop. They can continue to work on their Eagle until they are eighteen with full support from the Church. The Utah National Parks Council also made a similar statement. They said, “young men who desire to continue to work toward the rank of Eagle Scout or Queen Scout should be encouraged and supported in their efforts and should be properly registered as Scouts.”

There is nowhere in the Church or Council statements that encourage boys to complete an Eagle by age 14. It is important to experience the journey to an Eagle. The Council still provides many resources, programs, and facilities that are geared toward helping LDS leaders “Be with [ the youth], connect them to heaven, and let them lead.” 

The Council looks forward to providing Scout programs to all interested youth. This includes those age 14 and older who want to continue participating or are on the trail to Eagle. Of those who earn an Eagle in our council, 93 percent complete the requirements at age 14 or older. 67 percent also attain the Eagle rank after age 16. Taking the necessary time to complete these requirements helps young men appreciate the journey. They also better retain the information and skills they are learning. You can read more on the Council’s position here. 

So, help your young men enjoy the journey on the trail to an Eagle.  Remind your young men to “look up” and slow down. In the end, the purpose of all this hard work is to connect boys to heaven. Let the journey to an Eagle be the path that takes them there.  

 

Author: Madison Austin | Marketing Associate, Utah National Parks Council 

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25 thoughts on “LDS Scouts Do NOT Have to Get Their Eagle Before They’re 14

  1. Darryl AlderDarryl Alder

    I was 15 1/2 when I received my Eagle. I was glad that I had taken the additional time; I had joined the Order of the Arrow and was a leader in my chapter; I had served on camp staff that year and taught Junior Leader Training in my District. Together these things along with troop activities made me a better Scout.
    I remember one of our young OA Chapter members who had just gotten back from Jamboree; hr had earned his Eagle at 13 1/2 just prior to going. He said that he was sad when he saw the older Eagles who really knew their stuff and vowed that he would relearn or practice Scoutcraft until he was really worthy of the award.
    It made me feel better about taking my time and I was glad to help him as he became a stronger Scout.

    Reply
  2. Maloree Anderson

    My husband earned his Eagle when he was 17. His Eagle took a lot of time and prep work. He understood the importance and meaning behind achieving the Eagle Rank and that being older meant that he personally was mature enough to see the effect of completing his Eagle project on his future. I believe that as long as you do Scouting for the right reason and the right passion it doesn’t matter the age.

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  3. Paul kimbrell

    Older more experienced Eagle Scouts in my opinion are by far more mature scouters !
    As a scoutmaster for 10 years I really thought 13-14 year old boys were not quite ready for the high rank of Eagle. But it seemed to me that someone was pressing hard for them to rush it and leaders sometime felt pressured to sign off prematurely .. sorry to say !

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  4. Derrick LarsenDerrick Larsen

    I got my Eagle when I was almost 18. I was grateful to a mother who helped me on my path but did not force me to get it. I moved three times and experienced three different troops. One had a very poor Scouting program and the other two had really active Scouting programs. If my leaders didn’t love or care for me and help me to learn what it was like to be a good person and a good priesthood holder the Eagle would have meant nothing. When I look back, although the Eagle award means a lot to me, I was encouraged to get it because of the love of my mother and the love of my leaders to see me successful in this regard. The Eagle is not the end all but it is by far one of the absolute best paths a young man can take to prepare for his mission, to become a husband, father, and just as important, a good provider. I was able to learn many skills that pushed me out of my comfort zone and showed me that I could do hard things. It was a 50 mile hike at Philmont Scout Ranch that showed me I could be away from my family, be a trusting buddy to a good friend, lead a group of young men through the mountains, and see God in all his infinite goodness as only nature can show us. I served an honorable mission because Scouting helped me get there. I pray that Scouting continues to be an impactful program for all young men even up to their 18th birthday. Now more than ever we need good leaders but even more than that we need young men to learn to lead themselves. Scouting is the best young men program in the world that can teach a young man leadership.

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  5. Jason Petty

    How does the Utah National Parks Council and the LDS Church plan to help boys older than 14 staying active in scouts and also holding a scout leadership position for each rank for the required months without having a BSA chartered organization for them to be in? How will they be able to stay active with their troop and hold a leadership position in their troop but still be active with their age group and still work on those requirements?

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    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner

      That’s a good question, Jason. Since the announcement we’re still working out the details and waiting for further instruction on policy or best practices, but here are a few suggestions that may help.

      1. Those young men who want to continue working on their Eagle can still be registered in the troop after they are 14. The Church still pays for this registration in a previously negotiated lump sum to the BSA (no matter how many boys are registered) and expects this young man to be supported. So an easy fix would be to register all the boys currently on the trail to Eagle in the troop. This ensures they are keeping their membership consistent and getting the leadership opportunities in their quorums.
      2. Becoming camp staff, doing NYLT and/or Order of the Arrow are other great ways of getting leadership opportunities in Scouting.

      Again, no statement of policy here, until we get any further instructions, these are just the ideas I’ve had so far.

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      1. Sheldon Allred

        Melany, this misses the point. Being registered is the least of their worries. So they are registered, and they are put in an “older scout ” patrol. Now what? they will still be expected to meet with their quorums on mutual night. So, they will essentially be “lone scouts” or home study scouts. Yes, they might be able to go on camp outs to finish camping and cooking merit badges, but will be very difficult to do it all alone. The NEW PROGRAM offers possibilities, but if the adult leaders wouldn’t implement a 100+ year program that had all the support and training, are they all of a sudden going to create some awesome program? We shall see. There isnt anything in the new program that wasnt available in the scouting program.

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        1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner

          Sheldon,

          I agree, I think we need to have to discussion in our wards and stakes about how to support these young men who want to get their Eagle. Since we still know very little about the older-boy young men’s program it’s hard to say what helps there will be. In a way, the change to removing the Varsity and Venturing programs possibly offers up some time and manpower to helping boys specifically on earning the Eagle. Perhaps we focus on robust troop committees and Eagle coaches at the ward, stake and district level. I know in the case of the Council, we are working on creating more opportunities for individuals and troops to earn the required merit badges (with the understanding that merit badges is only one outcome and method of Scouting), whether that is at camp or with our new merit badge adventures (ex: http://blog.utahscouts.org/eagle-scout-trail/cooking-merit-badge-adventures/).

          I don’t think any of us have all the answers yet, but there needs to be discussion. I’m open to ideas. Anybody else have some ideas for helping boys get their Eagle (no matter the age)?

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          1. Mike Walton (Settummanque)

            Hi Melany and fellow Scouters!!

            As a non LDS Scouter, I can certainly feel many of your pains and concerns with regard to the central question: what happens with our 14 and older Scouts?

            I don’t know why the Church nor the BSA thought through this and “used their resources” but a 70 year old program called Lone Boy Scouting has assisted many a Scout including many LDS Scouts who find themselves without a unit to be a member of. By combining association with a Troop; and with allowing the Lone Boy Scout at 14 or older to continue his faith path through Scouting by meeting the requirements as stated, he can earn Eagle at 15, 16 or even 17 years of age — AND still be able to be an active member of “the next component” in the Church’s religious and social education program.

            Lone Scouting works because of committed families supporting a Scout; with a local Council supporting the Lone Scouting program and providing resources like merit badge counselors, summer camp opportunities and leadership development workshops. The requirements for Scout rank calls for the young man to take leadership — this can be accomphished as a Lone Boy Scout by being a leader in any number of organizations and clubs in his community OR by participating in a “Lone Scout Friend and Counselor – arranged” leadership project (such a project may be to take leadership in a community event; by taking leadership as a member of a Rotary or Lions Club…) for Star and Life. This cannot be done for Eagle, however, and he will have to demonstrate active leadership by holding down a student council or a BETA Club presidency; or by being chairman of a significant community event.

            Keep in mind that Lone Boy Scouting is NOT “an easy way out” of the traditional Scouting Troop program. It is an option and a tough one for those not with a strong church and home family supporting the Scout and his Friend and Counselor — a combination Scoutmaster, Troop Committee Chair, and fellow Scout. It is a bit easier when there are Scouts around to assist him and Scouters familiar with the program to help pave the way.

            The SCOUT, however, has to want to do this.

            Hope this helps move the discussion forward!

            Settummanque!

        2. JC Cloe

          In a place where a bunch of boys earned all the merit badges by twelve and waited until they were 13 to have enough time in to pass the time requirements and then did some cursory project to call it good enough, it will be really tough. People will wonder why this one boy didn’t get it done already, why he is “so lazy” and “unproductive”. There will be judgement and more than likely, faced with such, a lot if not most boys who aren’t done by 14 will probably fall off and never finish their eagle. It is on the leadership and the parents to encourage and set the environment for each boy in a way to help him reach his full potential. It would be good to start working with those young eagles as well to see if they have their minds set right on the fact that not everything in life is a competition and that there are things they need to figure out about dealing with failure and rejection, etc. They should be encouraged to “mentor” and help the boys who come after them and perhaps participate in that boys project.

          Reply
          1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner

            I agree, JC. I predict that the culture will change (especially in Utah) that boys will “just have” to get their Eagle by the time they are 14, because if they don’t, they’ll be seen as “lazy” or whatever. Which is why I think talking about it now is so important. We cannot allow our culture to push these boys so much that they will lose the meaning of achieving their Eagle and why they service in the first place. In some ways, there is very little we can do about changing culture, so the Council will be doing all it can to assist young men to get their Eagle whenever they choose, while maintaining the integrity of the title. It’s going to be a difficult, but we all need to take a minute and decided how we are going to treat these young men, and be there to help, and encourage along the way.

        3. Nate B

          I’m not saying this is THE answer, but in our ward, the plan next year is to ask some of the older boys who need leadership to take on some other roles that do not require weekly attendance except at a patrol leader’s council. For instance, webmaster or librarian are easy to do for the troop.

          We will have 5 patrols (11-year old scouts, two for Deacons, one for teachers, and one for priests). 3 times per year the whole troop will go on a camp out or outing together. If a young man is meeting with his “patrol” by attending Teacher’s Quorum Functions and attends 2 of these camp outs, he will satisfy the “be active in troop requirement.” See http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/33088.pdf

          Reply
      2. Ty Lagerberg

        Melany, unfortunately working on camp staff, attending NYLT, and being active in the Order of the Arrow (unless as the Troop OA Representative) do not fulfill the leadership requirements for Eagle Scout. Requirement 4 states:
        While a Life Scout, serve actively in your troop for six months in one or more of the following positions of responsibility:
        Patrol leader,
        assistant senior patrol leader,
        senior patrol leader,
        troop guide,
        Order of the Arrow troop representative,
        den chief,
        scribe,
        librarian,
        historian,
        quartermaster,
        junior assistant Scoutmaster,
        chaplain aide,
        instructor,
        webmaster, or
        outdoor ethics guide.

        Unless the boy is officially a Lone Scout, no other positions (including Priesthood Quorum callings) will qualify. The requirement says “serve actively” which usually means participating in meetings and Scouting activities such as campouts. Before the elimination of Varsity Scouts and Ventures, young men could fulfill leadership positions unique to these programs. This will no longer be possible and the young men 14 and up will have to be active in the Troop along with the 12 and 13 year old young men who will also need to serve actively in the same positions for Star and Life ranks.. The old school thought of maintaining quorum integrity and leadership during Scouting activities can no longer apply.

        As a convert to the Church at age 18, my Scouting (including Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Exploring [traditional, aviation, and law enforcement] was outside the Church. Our Senior Patrol Leader was usually 14 or 15 and either was or was soon to be an Eagle. Integrating the older Scouts with the younger ones in the troop would definitely allow leadership mentoring by the older boys. This was what helped me but the Church will have to let young men who are persuing Scout advancements meet with the Troop on mutual night and not require them to go with their quorums for other activities.

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  6. Aaron

    I would suggest they try to get their Eagles before 15 1/2. By then they are old enough to get a part time job, they start to notice girls and get more active in school extra-curricular activities. They get their license and want to go places and do things with their friends. Scouts tends to get pushed to the side.

    Reply
    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner

      I hear ya, Aaron. Even before the announcement, if I have sons, I always wanted to suggest to them that they get their Eagle before they are 16. Not because of the whole, “You can’t have a license until you get your Eagle” thing, but because I have noticed a trend and there are other great things you can do later. It just feels like a good thing to do before high school, before jobs and before dating.

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  7. Bob

    I earned my Eagle Scout in 1961 at age 13, very unusual in those days. I didn’t feel pressured or uncomfortable. I loved scouting and noticing girls was as strong as ever, but had no effect on my scouting events. In fact due to circumstances regarding transportation and more, I ended up being in 4 different troops sponsored by 4 different religious organizations. The LDS troop had the least impact on me. Those decisions were mine based on my love of scouting. I only earned 40 merit badges, then got a little tired of my troop so I joined the Explorer Post that was mostly an older scout troop in those days. Eventually I joined an Air Explorer Post sponsored by the Civil Air Patrol and earned my Explorer Silver Award through the last of the old Ace Program, only 40 or so of us in the Air Explorers earned it that last year of it’s existence in 1964. Point is, all comes down to priorities. My priorities, not someone else’s. Scouts need encouragement and example setting, not just lecturing on what they should or shouldn’t do. I would suggest letting a scout earn their Eagle Scout Award according to their timelines and according to their priorities. Was I mature enough? Under who’s guidelines is mature enough? I made that decision myself as other boy’s of scouting age should be allowed to. Eagle at age 13 was fun, I certainly have no regrets! Still registered with scouts after 61 years! I indeed had a lot of adults who gave me support in those days, but in the late 50s and early 60s it took a lot of work with a lot of merit badge counselors and wonderful scout leaders.

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  8. Kristen

    Our ward has dedicated and supportive scout leaders for the older boys, but out of fifteen boys in our 14-15 year old program, only 3 are pursuing their Eagle. So for all intents and purposes, those three boys (my son included) are already “lone scouts/home-study scouts.” Tuesday nights they don’t do scouting since 12 of the boys aren’t interested and wouldn’t come. It puts the leaders in a tough position. I think the church pulling out makes sense, sadly. Luckily, thanks to a wonderful scoutmaster by the time he turned 14 my son was 90% of the way there already, so we as his parents and leaders are working together on an individual program to help him get his last things finished and on to his Eagle project. Luckily we have lots of stake and community resources.

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  9. EagleBy14OrBust

    Having got my Eagle at 14, I can say it’s by far the best decision I have ever made. I could focus on school, athletics, social life, mountain biking, fishing, etc. I could apply the things I learned as an Eagle Scout in real life instead of having to make up a project when I was 18. I was also the Eagle Board of Review chair for a year in my stake and interviewed dozens of 18 years olds who had no clue what the motto, scout law, etc were. A very small percentage of those young men went on missions. If a boy earned his Eagle before 15/16, they all went on missions. If a boy hasn’t received his Eagle by 15/16, they shouldn’t be allowed to. Move on, find another hobby, how about reading the Book of Mormon… I’d rather have a son who has read the Book of Mormon by the time they are 14 then earned his Eagle. I have hope for the new program because leaders will actually take it seriously because they can’t just ‘Do what I did when I was in Scouts…’ It will hopefully become clear who is anxiously engaged in their callings. Bishops will finally be able to actually be supportive of young men activities instead of feeling obligated to attend a court of honor.

    We are creating a very dangerous scenario for the 12-13 year olds though as Sheldon mentions. The only way I can see 13+ boys staying active in scouting is to do it at home (not ideal) or stakes will need to create troops that are led by lifetime scouters. That would have to be on another night which is another night away from family. Yikes. Not good.

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    1. JC Cloe

      My scout master taught my troop and I a lot about the scriptures and prayer on all the camp-outs and various activities we did. The stories and the comradery I had with the older scouts while I was younger provided a very rich environment. (It’s too bad not everyone could have such a great experience) It is true that the older boys who did last minute projects to get in before midnight on their 18th birthday were not doing it right. At the same time, I served a mission with boys who were the “early” eagles and found a lot of issues with their common sense. A lot of them didn’t know what it was like to fail, to struggle, or to deal with hard things. They had always checked the box on scouts and academics and got the accolades, awards, and high grades. Yet, some of them never once looked up to interact with others and really learn what it meant to relate to another person who wasn’t “on their level”. Some of them fell from the church upon returning home because there weren’t any more easy paths to get the recognition they craved. Yet some of those boys who were late in the game, who didn’t serve missions, they got low, they hit bottom and then some of them came back, took their lumps and repented and are now steady stalwart people. Nobody can put a path on anyone else and call it a guaranteed success. But, we can put a few road signs up telling boys to slow down, to think about what they are doing and why. We can find way to touch their hearts and minds and provide them with love and fellowship. The church didn’t stop supporting Varsity and Venture scouting because of some political statement. They stopped supporting those events and activities because the dynamics of what the boys were doing have no value in light of gospel principles as compared to what boys who carefully and thoughtfully proceed with the program might gain. The Church will likely come up with a new program; some curriculum or something to accommodate the boys in a more gospel oriented path. Guaranteed, it will be lined with instructions to leaders and parents to love and fellowship the boys more instead of just dropping them off at church to run amuck or conversely frantically grabbing every merit badge possible before 13.

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  10. Chris

    For decades part of the LDS plan for boys was ‘an Eagle for all’. . . . Get baptized, get Priesthood, get Eagle, get Mission Call . . .
    So what happens now? Is the LDS Church backing away from encouraging every young man to get his Eagle award?

    Reply
    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner

      I don’t think it has anything to do with backing away from encouraging young men to get their Eagle, but more to do with expecting our young men to have the maturity to get their Eagle sooner. So, just like the missionary age has changed, so must the day of preparation change too.

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  11. JC Cloe

    The question at hand is, “What is the purpose of the Eagle Scout Award?”. We teach even the cub scouts that the Eagle is an award for a boy who demonstrates leadership and who has earned all the ranks of a scout while building experience and knowledge. How can a boy of only 13, really lead and really grasp the meaning of an award that was earned by a fraction of society who are now leaders, presidents, astronauts, etc. He can’t in my opinion. He can be stalwart an dedicated and he can live up to the Oath and the Law of Scouting but he is not in a place of maturity and mental preparation to take his lessons with him into adulthood from the tender age of 13. There are too many distractions in the later teen years to hold such a fast experience in the forefront of his mind. In fact, the sacrifice of other activities and events for the older boy are integral to putting a priority and value on the award that an overachieving youngster with few other endeavors could fathom.
    The time limits for holding a rank are a minimum for participation and activity with the troop, not the expected time for completion of all the badges for the next rank. Additionally, what are the boards of review accepting as Eagle projects these days? What genuine good for the community and what level of demonstrated leadership are being accomplished with the projects of any boy 13-18? If the boy ties himself to an already established service program, or does a bit of cleaning, or builds a thing, and then calls it a project, has he really looked into his community and found a need? Has he really done more than just invite a handful of other boys and some nice adults from church to help for a day? Projects should require thoughtful, meaningful efforts to touch a community need; found with careful examination by a boy who has been serving for enough years to know how to identify such needs. That boy should also be sure to involve many members of the community itself in addition to his troop and church. He should be scheduling and managing the effort over a good portion of time before we can call it a worthy project.
    My Eagle project took a year to complete and had so many bumps and setbacks. I had to work with people all over town, in businesses and government. It was so intense at times, but I have carried with me very distinct memories and lessons from that time that I still use today in my professional and personal life. I was 17 when I earned by Eagle and I am so glad I did not waste away my experience in the 5 years of scouting that I had from 12 to 17 by cramming merit badges in my pockets without developing a wide range of experiences and growing the relationships with my fellow scouts. I have stories and adventures to tell and a deep respect for the principles of scouting.

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  12. Jerry

    After reading the above article and comments I understand the concerns for the scouts to be able to finish the path to Eagle at the scouts pace. The Scouts and their parents are free to reach out to the community troops who are sponsored by the Lions club and Elks clubs. Both troops are active will support and welcome the scouts.

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    1. Tyler NorthTyler North

      I second that notion! I got my Eagle at 17 because I took a little detour in the middle of my scouting years to do Law Enforcement Exploring with the local Sherff´s office. I was 15-16 when I did Explorers, and yes it took me away from the weekly Mutual activites, but to be honest I could care less because Mutual in my ward was often unorganized and un-productive. I learned and saw things in the Sheriff Explorers that I could have never imagined, and it brewed in me a passion for law enforcement. And yes, heaven forbid, it was a non-LDS chartered Boy Scout Exploring Post. I think there is a taboo in the LDS church that the youth shouldn´t go outside the church for Scouting or Exploring, while sports are obviously not looked down upon for not being a church-sponsored sports team.
      There are great resources out there like Jerry mentioned, there are troops chartered by the Elks and Moose lodges, where scouts can earn their Eagle with a troop that really wants to be involved in Scouting. The youth should feel free to look to these community troops to earn their Eagle at a more reasonable pace, and I would hope the members of their ward would support them in that decision.

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  13. Rick Kidman

    With my 30+ years in Scouting in the LDS Church, I would suggest that it is best when a young man obtains his Eagle by age 14 because of the way the Young Men program is divided into age groups and quorums. I have been Scoutmaster in my ward for 4 years now and I helped a group of 8 young men to their Life rank when they started passing over to the Teachers Quorum at age 14. They have been in Teachers Quorum for over a year now and they had not been helped one bit in planning and doing their Eagle Project so they can finally earn their Eagle Rank. They have all the required merit badges and other leadership and service requirements done, but they have been sitting in that Teachers Quorum basically doing other things but earning their Eagle. This is reality. In the meantime, they are now distracted with school sports, girls, some are almost ready to get their driver’s license and are now beginning to get their first jobs. The older they get, the harder it is to get their Eagle Rank. I have three sons that got their Eagle at 18 and 16. The two that did it at 16 were far easier than the one that did it at 18. They wasted time because of poorly organized troops and lack of committed leaders. The other thing we ought to be considering is not so much how fast or soon they can check off all the requirements but what have they learned and become? Are there certain qualities that they should exemplify as Eagles? I have seen far too many that do get their Eagle Rank but that have no clue what it means and what kind of men they ought to be for their God, their country, their families, and their community. The biggest problem I see in the LDS Church is calling leaders that are clueless, that are not interested in finding out what their responsibilities are, that don’t get trained, and that leave the callings within 1-3 years (and this includes bishopric members). The turnover and lack of interest in helping these boys is what cultivates apathy for the program. The Teachers Quorum members should attend the regular troop meetings until the boys obtain the Eagle Rank, they should form a patrol, they should provide the leadership for most of the troop, and remain active. It seems like once they cross that line into the Teachers Quorum, it is time to forget everything they’ve learned and to begin experimenting with inactivity from Church and from Scouting. This is where the danger is, in my opinion. We need to pull together to provide a program that will help these boys that are 14+ to pursue their Eagle if they want to, or other meaningful careers and interests. While we continue to wait on the Church to disclose their NEW and GREAT PROGRAM, the boys are wasting valuable time.

    Reply

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