By Melany Gardner
Feb 25, 2015

Is the Boy Scouts of America an inspired program? A Challenge to all seekers of truth

In a recent article, the question was raised about “What is the REAL problem with Scouting in the LDS Church.” People of every opinion flooded the comments section, sharing their view and experience on the subject with great passion. As the comments came in at an unexpected rate, all I could imagine was Dr. Frankenstein cackling to the stormy sky, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” I thought to myself, “We’ve awoken the internet.”


As I read through the conversations, one thing continued to come to my mind, “How do I know the Boy Scouts of America is an inspired program?” I knew then, that I wanted to share with you my process.

When I have concerns about something very important to me –for example, the well-being of my family, or young people under my guidance– there is a special method I use in seeking direction. The method I’m going to walk you through, I have used dozens of times to answer life’s questions, including questions about the Church’s and my own involvement in Scouting.

I invite and challenge you to follow it for yourself.

Step 1: Pray

Do you have doubts, questions, concerns, misgivings, misunderstandings about the relationship between the BSA and the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Why not try asking the only person who knows your heart, knows the youth in your influence, and loves them, probably more than you do.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James 1:5

prayAsk with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith. Ask your Heavenly Father if the Boy Scouts of America is not an inspired program relevant to your young men today. (Moroni 10:4)

If you are brave enough to ask the Almighty about the relevancy of a program supported by the Church — realizing that this step requires one to put aside their pride and opinions — then you are brave enough to take on the next step.

Step 2: How

This next step is dependent on your receiving an answer, of course. But I am confident that those who seek an answer with real intent, will indeed receive an answer. I won’t go into the complicated ways in which individuals receive personal revelation, but if you’re ready, here’s the next question to ask the Lord – “How?”

For this part we’ll do a little role playing and go through both scenarios.

Let’s say the Holy Ghost has manifested to you that the Boy Scouts of America is indeed an inspired program relevant to your young men today.

Wow. Let’s take a moment and ponder that. What does that mean? At this point I feel the urge to take some sort of action. I know if we stop there and don’t take any action, then that glimpse of a testimony will fade quickly.

Okay, so Scouting is intimidating. Where do I start? There are so many good (and bad) examples out there, how do I know what to do? (Internal screaming, pulling out hair, etc.)

Simple. Ask of God. This time let’s try asking Him, “How should I implement the program?”

Again there’s a lot of complicated ways people receive revelation. You can look here –> <– for guidance on how to receive personal revelation.

merit badges

Hopefully the answer to the “how” question won’t frustrate everyone else like the Scout volunteers, professionals, young men, leaders etc, but I make no promises. (If you live in the Utah National Parks Council, BSA, you’re in luck; see in step 3.)

Now, perhaps your answer was to the negative and, for you, the Boy Scouts of America is not an inspired program for your youth. Then the question you may ask God is: “How do you I proceed?” or “Where can I go to find help and direction for my young men?”

Especially for some international cases, or likewise you may get this answer. Which is okay, there’s nothing wrong with that, when it was the Lord who told you, rather than the teachings of men. Now it’s just a matter of creativity and inspiration to find what’s best for your youth.

Step 3: Share

Now that your ready to implement the BSA programs, and you have an idea of how, it’s time to share the load. Let everyone know! Especially tell your local council and district leaders. That way they can know how to better serve you.

webelosHere at the Utah National Parks Council, BSA, we have taken this to heart. We have actively sought out the views, opinions and counsel of the key holders in our area. From Districts meeting personally with stake presidents about the needs of their youth, to professional research, we want to know the answer to the question “How can we better serve you?” Read more about this research and the outcomes here –>Why Scouting Matters to LDS Church Leaders<–. We’re listening!

Sometimes even we, the Council, don’t know how best to implement the program for your youth and that’s why we need your direction and often your help. Tell us how we can help you help the young men!

In closing, I want you to know that I believe that the Boy Scouts of America is an inspired program and is relevant for the young men today. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be here. I believe there’s room for improvement on all sides of the big picture of Scouting, and that’s an exciting challenge to overcome in our day.

Just as I believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, I believe that the Boy Scouts of America is an inspired program as long as implemented correctly. I love the bible. Sometimes I get frustrated by it’s difficult wording and confusing passages, but when I finally get it, it’s beautiful. I feel that reading the bible enhances my reading of the Book of Mormon. I love Scouting, sometimes it’s frustratingly confusing or difficult. But, similarly, I believe that the BSA enhances the use of the priesthood and puts teaching into practice.

I invite you to take on this challenge and take action.

Melany Gardner2

Author: Melany Gardner | Editor, The Boy Scout | Wasatch District Executive, Utah National Parks Council, BSA


Editor’s Note: Be advised that this article was written for the perspective of a priesthood leader who has authority to guide direction for their youth, but the principles certainly apply to anyone with a question about the LDS-BSA relationship.

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14 thoughts on “Is the Boy Scouts of America an inspired program? A Challenge to all seekers of truth

  1. AvatarLeah Overson

    I really appreciate you and your husband and think you are both amazingly wonderful. Sometimes people can be REALLY mean in emails. I don’t know why. I hope you are doing well.

  2. AvatarSteve Faber

    I would personally love to read a post on “The Boy Scout” blog in response to Mat’s article and this article from Melany, from a non-scouter, perhaps a mother, or perhaps someone who is a parent of only girls, who can lovingly address some of the deep concerns of scouters or non-scouters who are and who are not members of the LDS Church about what I often hear as the most challenging aspects of scouting in the LDS Church:

    1) money (cost of uniforms, cost of BSA camps, Friends of Scouting – where the money goes and why, the perceived high salaries for professional scouters, etc.),

    2) perceived inequality between energy/resources spent on YW vs. YM activities,

    3) sacrifice of time away from ones own family for scouting activities, especially when you don’t have a son of your own in the program.

    4) the perception that “Young Men’s” and “Scouting” are two different things,

    5) personal experiences on “calling” vs. “volunteering”, etc.

    I know the spirit is working on whoever you are to write down your thoughts. If anything, these posts appear to have started conversations that will hopefully result in good fruit.

    1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner Post author

      Thanks Steve. I too would like to hear more from those with points of views that are different from true-blue Scouters, or haters.

      I don’t consider myself much of a “Scouter.” My only experience with the program before becoming an employee was a summer as an assistant Den Leader when I was 17 yrs-old because they needed help in my LDS ward. I thought it was fun, but at the time, it was no more than daycare to me. I never had a brother, or a father that took part in the movement and I don’t have any children.

      Most of my life I’ve been an observer of Scouting. I observed it as a large part of the lives of the young men
      around me. I’ve observed it in the preparation and skill set of my husband. Now, I’ve observed how those young men around me have turned into Scoutmasters and leaders teaching the next generation.

      I never thought that small testimony of Scouting would unexpectedly land me as a professional Scouter. I’ve only learned most of what Scouting really is since becoming a professional. I’ve had to learn things step by step, precept by precept. It was harder at first, but I have never felt like what I was diving into something that wasn’t worthy of my time and talents.

      If I hadn’t gone through my own conversion process, I wouldn’t be here. That’s what I hope all of you are willing to do as you are asked, called, volunteered to take on the responsibility to serve our young men.

      1. AvatarSteve Faber

        Melany, I appreciate your bravery in allowing personal thoughts and feelings related to scouting and the LDS church to be reviewed, commented on and even mocked by others. Thanks for your reply. I personally believe that the relationship between the LDS church and the BSA is one good way that helps good boys become great men and good men and women become better men and women.

        1. AvatarTravis

          Hey Steve,

          I have nothing against the Scouts, my issue is with Scouts and the Priesthood being the “same” as many imply. The Truth is the Gospel doesn’t need the BSA to fulfill it’s eternal purposes. Yes, the BSA can add value to it, but so can a lot of programs, so the BSA ultimately should not have the “Exclusive, Inside Access” to the gospel.

          I think the Frustration is ultimately the same from the “Scouters” and the “Non-Scouters” a like, how the Scout program is ran in the Church. The simple solution is to run them separately. Let Agency dictate which 3rd party programs members chose to be involved in. Let the BSA run in the way that it is intended to at its full capacity without the Church effecting that. Let the Church administer the Saving Ordinances and teach the simple truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without the BSA dictating any direction to the priesthood.

          I have nothing against you or any other Scouters. I enjoyed the Scouts growing up and the older I got, I was ready to move on from it and focus on mission preparation.


  3. AvatarSteve

    Is scouting inspired? The answer is, parts of it are inspired and other parts are not. However, I get frustrated with scouters in an LDS setting who extra-doctrinally elevate the program to the level above that which is intended.
    I have heard multiple scouters come home from Philmont and say the following:

    “Scouting is the Aaronic Priesthood; they are one in the same.”
    “Why do we continue to separate scouts from the priesthood? They are the same.”
    “Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood are two parts of a larger whole.”

    The problem is, when somebody holds this extra-doctrinal view of the program, there can be no debate on the merits of scouting. Opposing views are shut down and immediately dismissed as – “well, you’re just not implementing the program correctly.” As if the program is perfect, and only those who struggle are those who are lazy, ignorant or obstinate.

    The arrogance of so many who believe scouting is inspired – at least to this extent, puts me and many others in a defensive stance as we see obvious deficiencies in the program. The Priesthood is perfect, it is eternal. Scouts is neither. Yet, there is a strong current among the ultra-scouters in the church who say they are the same thing.

    While I’d like to agree that the program is inspired, I would like others to acknowledge that while inspired it is also imperfect and is not essential to salvation. Many of the hard-line scouters I’ve met in the church immediately dismiss this viewpoint.

    1. AvatarTravis

      I couldn’t agree more! I cringe when I hear people say that Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood are the same. It just doesn’t feel right.

      This article frankly seems a little manipulative and a way for the author to share some of the lime light of the other article. No disrespect, but kind of feel like I am in Primary.

      I have prayed a lot about it and although I feel like it is a good program I still don’t feel like it is right for every boy. I have always tried to put the YM needs before my own thoughts and opinions. I do feel however the Scout Program and Priesthood would be stronger if they were ran Separately.

      To say they are “One in the Same” causes all sorts of red flags to go up. Sure they share some similar goals and values, but my Testimony is in the Gospel and not the BSA.

    2. AvatarSteve Faber


      I’ll take back my statement above and agree with you that Scouting and the Priesthood are not the same thing, and I’ll also acknowledge that Scouting is not essential to salvation.

      I should have used the Church’s words that “Scouting supports the Priesthood” Because I believe everything men and women do in the church is about the Priesthood.

      Since the statements you make above about scouters saying that Scouting and the Priesthood are the same thing, and are not statements from the general authorities or general officers of the church, do you and others without last names on these blogs have it in your heart to forgive scouters for their inaccurate statements?

      And, if you don’t mind, I’m curious:
      – Can you elaborate on the parts of Scouting you feel are or are not inspired?
      – Also, knowing that all scouters do not think Scouting and the Priesthood are the same thing, which merits of scouting need debate?

      1. AvatarSteve

        Steve Faber, my last name is Winn, and I live in AZ. You ask some good questions, and I appreciate the fairness with which you respond. I strive to do the same.

        What needs a debate in regards to the merits of scouting? In my mind, we spend too much time and money on the program and we do not see enough benefit out of it. The overwhelming response I get from scouters is, “If you’re not getting the full benefit out of scouting, then clearly you aren’t doing it the right way.”

        Not true. I see benefits of the program. But I also see a diminishing marginal return. In a typical month, we could do a campout, a service project, go to round table, do our regular mutual activities, conduct a court of Honor, etc. Scouting, in and of itself, does not provide opportunities in any of those settings to testify of the Savior. You must be extremely proactive in doing so, and the scouting materials don’t give you the direction to take that proactive step in building the Boy’s testimonies.

        Case in point, I used the Venturing planner to plan a campout with our boys. We wanted to follow the program, so we used the scout materials. We invited our friends; we used the scout committee to fill out a tour permit. The boys planned and shopped for the food. The boys planned the activities.

        At the end of the activity, both the Bishop and I felt like we really missed an opportunity to teach the boys about the Savior at the fireside program. We were so focused on “following the program” that we missed the most important opportunity to build testimony.

        I regret spending 3 hours a month going to a round table meeting. I should stay home and spend more time with my kids. I regret spending a weekend a month with young men doing activities that aren’t necessarily building their testimonies – because we’re too focused on following the program. I regret every time I see an Eagle scout who fails to qualify for the blessings of the temple, because they were too focused on the scouting side.

        In general, I think we would be well-served to scale back the involvement required in scouting. We should spend less time on it. We should spend less money on it. And we should take a cue from the YW whose program entirely focuses them totally and completely on the temple. I admire their program and wish our boys’ time and energy could be focused more fully to that end.

        However, when somebody holds the view that “Scouting is the Priesthood”, that person doesn’t see the difference between the scouting program and the gospel of Jesus Christ. They confuse activity with conversion. And any de-emphasis on the program would be frowned upon. It’s impossible to talk rationally about these things with someone who holds those views. I’m not angry at those folks, so I don’t see a need to forgive. I just wouldn’t ever have my voice heard by someone who holds those views.

        1. Melany GardnerMelany Gardner Post author

          Steve Winn,

          I agree that Scouting doesn’t by itself build testimonies in our young men. Priesthood service and Scouting are not the same thing, but they do build on each other. Taking your experience , for example, you were running the program as set forth and having a boy lead program. Great! That’s awesome! Sounds like a fairly successful leadership-building experience. You used Scouting as a tool to create that outcome. Now how about using Scouting to create the the testimony-building outcome you wanted? For example, as the venturing advisor you could have pointed out to the First Assistant (possibly this boy is also your Crew President) where he can implement testimony-building experiences into your outing. In his priesthood function, he should also be concerned about the spiritual well-being of his quorum members. After brainstorming a few ideas, the youth leadership could have implemented something like nightly scripture study, quiet reflection hike, or firesides that are youth-taught and led by the bishop. It’s a fact that youth learn better by doing and teaching, than by sitting in a classroom in school or in church.

          We did this very thing with camp staff this last year, asking them how they can add more testimony-building experiences into summer camp. It had never occurred to them, that they could or should do this. The challenge was well accepted and generally enhanced the spiritual aspects of camp.

          Scouting is a tool to be used by any chartered organization to achieve their goals. The Church asks us to use Scouting because they see the value of the tool. Why do we blame Scouting for not creating the outcomes that we want? Would we expect a shovel to tell us which hole to dig? No, but we certainly would use that shovel to dig the hole we want.

          1. AvatarSteve

            You make great points, and I appreciate your perspective.

            I’m not blaming the tool, I’m frustrated with those who continually tell me it’s the only tool we need. Consequently, we spend the bulk of our time and money on it. There’s an old saying that goes “When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”

            That said, your suggestions are clearly the next steps that we need to take in the program. I’ve been a YM president going on 6 years now. One day, I’ll figure it all out, and then get I’ll released – lol.

  4. AvatarScott Roskelley

    No real comment to add here on BSA and the church – any non-profit which pulls kids’ heads out of digital escape from reality through the consumption of content on smart phones and PS4 to the outdoors, astronomy, and STEM is cool in my opinion. It is really amazing how kids through scouting donated some 14M hours of service to local communities in 2014. I just don’t like the exclusive arrangement with BSA+LDS boys. We should have more non-profit options for boys to consider joining without ostracization. You see young men today are really drawn to groups like Sons of Liberty International headed up by Matthew VanDyke, idTech camps, SEAL team 6, music, motorcycles, snowboarding, and robotics. They have moved on from Baden Powell as their hero (God rest his soul) and they really want to be like Chris Kyle. So I’m looking for the church to create it’s own program. A blend of its own STEM/Nova + mixed martial arts + helaman special forces + community service. And how do they graduate? By taking the oath of the melchizedek priesthood together as a close-knit graduating class before serving missions.


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