LDS units in Utah, where Mormons are very much in the majority, should be as welcoming to the minorities among us as the Scouts Canada Units in Antigonish were to us. After all, Scouting’s program can benefit all youth and all communities. Including youth of other faiths in LDS units can benefit LDS youth as well as minority youth. Biases and prejudices disappear when youth associate in a safe and congenial environment where they are free to learn about one another. Welcoming youth of other faiths into LDS units can eliminate the “us and them” mentality that exists in our communities.
Being welcoming to members of other faiths show in a many ways, here are a few suggestions:
- Taking materials about their religious awards program to give them during an initial visit
- Telling them the LDS Church will pay their registration fees
- Assuring them they can fully participate in the program
- Giving them a copy of the unit’s annual calendar of events.
Most people of other faiths are of the opinion that LDS people are only interested in converting them, and giving them information on their religious awards program allays that fear and shows you respect their religious beliefs.
Many LDS Scout leaders believe, incorrectly, that the deacons quorum president must be the senior patrol leader in the troop, the teachers quorum president must be the team captain and the first assistant in the priests quorum must be the crew chief, and therefore youth of other faiths cannot fully participate in leadership. But the LDS Scouting Handbook makes it clear this is not true:
“Each Scouting unit should be led by a young man who is nominated by the bishopric and sustained by the quorum members. For Scouting purposes, this constitutes an election. This leader is usually the quorum president or an assistant in the priests quorum, but another worthy young man may serve, whether a member of the Church or not.”
— LDS Scouting Handbook, Section 5.2
The long tradition of patrol leaders council meetings in Boy Scouts is truly aligned with LDS Church teachings on councils. “The Lord’s church is organized with councils at every level …” and “In councils both men and women participate in every level of the Church.” (Church News, 1 January 2017) Welcoming youth of other faiths to participate in those councils can bring great benefits to all youth.
Because of experiences during a one-year stint as a Scoutmaster in an LDS ward in Davis, California, I can personally testify of those benefits. The ward was split shortly after our family arrived in Davis and I was called as Scoutmaster. Five boys were left in the troop, and two of those were only a month away from their 14th birthday when they would join the varsity team. They proceeded to grumble and complain about not having enough boys to play games and all their friends were in the other ward.
To alleviate the complaints, I sent the older two to join the team, and asked the three that were left, “Don’t you have any friends at school?” They were surprised and asked, “Can we do that?” I responded, “Of course, bring as many as you can get.” It was, and we shortly had nine boys in the troop. We assured the families of the Buddhist boys that they were welcome to come into the chapel, it was different than the temples, and they brought great Japanese food for courts of honor. The Catholic boys were eager to meet a “Mormon bishop”, and found out he was also their dentist. The LDS boys learned about Japan and Buddhism and discovered that Catholic boys liked camping in the rain just as much as they did.
Parents of boys of other faiths can provide a much needed service by serving on unit committees and as Scouting unit leaders. Many LDS wards struggle to find and train sufficient adult Scout leadership for their youth, and fail to use non-LDS adults in these roles. Failing to invite parents of boys of other faiths to serve in Scouting positions strengthens “us versus them” mentalities, and further divides our communities. Let’s take the benefits of Scouting to all members of our communities.
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 STEM Learning for Life.