My understanding of our youth organizations and youth programs is based upon the importance of those kinds of relationships as a fundamental. That is, that in every young man and young woman’s life there needs to be somebody who cares, who loves them, who really respects them and who is watching their back. That’s what we have to achieve in our youth programs today. I know these relationships are significant because when I preside at stake conferences around Utah, quite often, I’ll ask members who have grown up in less-active homes to stand and indicate how they were able to overcome the effects. Prominent among the stated deciding factors are caring and trusted relationships with a Young Women or Young Men leader.
I didn’t spend much time in Scouting until I was a stake presidency member in New Hampshire from 1981-1987 and was in charge of youth programs. We did Scouting, but it was probably a B- overall. I didn’t understand Scouting very well because I’d never seen it operate. Our focus was activities, spiritual growth, and so forth, with a little bit of Scouting thrown in, and I relied on people who really understood Scouting to push that forward.
That applecart was upset in a move to San Diego, where I was called to be the assistant Scoutmaster for a few months working under ace Scoutmaster Graham Bullock, and then became the Scoutmaster over a troop of 24 boys. A “goin’” operation when I was called, the Poway 1st Ward troop forced a steep but visionary learning curve with regard to youth leadership. I was converted to the efficacy of Scouting as a framework for leading young men, and saw firsthand its power to help them prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, assume temple covenants, serve honorable missions and become successful husbands and fathers.
After becoming Scoutmaster, I spent about six months visiting homes, looking in shoeboxes for blue cards and other rank advancement information and establishing the current rank status of each young man. Nicknamed Brother MacGyver by the boys for his ability to improvise in any situation, Ed Christensen was called as assistant Scoutmaster. His greatest talent—loving, supporting and empowering young men! We had a ball.
The troop backpacked monthly in beautiful Southern California. Through camps and mid-week activities, the merit badges rolled and rank advancements became a source of pride to the young men. Most importantly, Ed and I really learned to love them. In reflecting upon those years, I only hope that we were instrumental in helping them prepare for their most important life’s work in some meaningful way.
From San Diego, I moved to Utah to start a software company and was called to be bishop again and then stake president. I drew heavily upon my Poway experience to shape our youth programs, and Scouting in particular, with great men like Dale Benson and Mike Parry who served with me in the stake presidency. Roundtables, Wood Badge and Philmont experiences added important dimensions to my understanding.
As a stake presidency, we discovered an advantage in simplifying the older boy programs (14-18) to improve the probability that new leaders could adopt them quickly and be successful, never taking our eye off that essential ingredient of adult/youth personal relationships. Our attempt at simplification included eliminating the awards part of the Venture and Varsity programs and using quorum titles and nomenclature in the leadership structure.
I have recently been assigned by the Seven Presidents of the Seventy to serve as chairman of the LDS-BSA Relations Committee for the Utah National Parks Council. A special delight to me, this assignment could not be more desired. I have a high regard for Dave Pack, Stan Lockhart and Richard Dubois, men who I feel are dedicated to our young men and who, first and foremost, support the purposes of the priesthood. They are providing excellent leadership and wise stewardship in this great cause.
Author: Dale Munk | Chairman, LDS-BSA Relations Committee, UNPC. Elder Munk and his wife, JoAnn, are avid hikers and snowshoers who met at the University of Utah and have five children and 16 ½ grandchildren. Elder Munk was ordained a Seventy in April, 2014.