Let me first make two key observations.
The LDS Church’s involvement in Scouting is not accidental. In fact, the opposite it true. The LDS Church supports Scouting as a result of revelation. President Benson clearly stated in 1978 that Scouting is an inspired program for our time. (Scouting and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, Appendix A)
- The Scout program works. Many prophets have testified to Scouting’s efficacy, including most recently President Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson. In 1996, President Hinckley stated:
“I love the Scouting movement. The promise of the Scout Oath and the 12 points of the Scout Law direct young men along the path of being prepared for the 21st century. They provide a solid and powerful magnetic force toward development of a well-rounded and noteworthy character that counts. If every boy in America knew and observed the Scout Oath, we would do away with most of the jails and prisons in this country.” (Scouting and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, Appendix A)
President Benson passionately stated that Scouting was “not on trial” affirming that it “builds men of character and spirituality and trains them for citizen and leadership responsibility. Scouting teaches a boy to take care of himself and stand on his own two feet.” (Scouting and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, Appendix A)
Then What’s the Problem?
So, if Scouting is an inspired program that works, what does my ‘full declaration’ of what is wrong with Scouting consist of? One simple truth – we don’t implement the full program.
From my observation, many wards and stakes treat Scouting as if it were a buffet dinner, taking a little of this, a portion of that, and a side of something else. They implement only some of the program and then proclaim, “It doesn’t work! We’ve tried it!” They indict the program as a failure when in fact the failure arises as a direct result of the elements of the program they did not implement.
Let me illustrate with a few examples of perceived problems within Scouting that arise from our ‘selective implementation’.
|An eleven-year-old leader complains that the boys won’t sit still for the Scout lesson.||He fails to use the Troop Meeting Plan which divides up a meeting into seven parts and keeps the boys moving from one element to the next.|
|A Scoutmaster experiences burn-out after less than a year in his calling.||The ward fails to provide a fully-staffed Troop Committee to support the Scoutmaster in all tasks that don’t involve working directly with boys.|
|Young men complain that Scouting is too much like school with ‘lessons’.||Adult advisors fail to use the patrol method and involve youth leaders in decision making.|
|A Bishopric second counselor is concerned that the ward Primary Presidency aren’t involved in the Cub program.||He fails to hold monthly Key Scouter meetings to engage all ward stakeholders in understanding and supporting all levels of the Scouting program.|
|An advisor struggles to engage members of the Teacher’s Quorum in mutual activities.||The Varsity Team focuses on merit badges which are more suited to Deacon age young men, rather than running the purposefully developed Varsity program.|
|New Young Men advisors struggle to understand their role in the programs they are assigned to.||The stake fails to provide leader-specific training and recruit Unit Commissioners to serve as consultants to each ward unit.|
|Parents prioritize sports activities over Scouting because their son doesn’t seem to be learning anything.||Adult advisors fail to recognize the role of Priesthood keys held by young men and the requirement for Scouting to be youth led.|
The dangers of the ‘buffet-method’ of Scouting are self-evident in the poor levels of engagement that are characteristic of too many wards. President Larry Gibson of the Young Men General Presidency warned of this in [an] … Ensign article, when he said:
“Many Young Men leaders in the Church understand the [Boy] Scouting program; fewer understand the Varsity and Venture programs. We encourage Varsity and Venture leaders to implement these excellent programs. They have been well developed and are some of the best tools anywhere for teaching leadership and self-reliance. Because we use the sacred funds of the Church to register our young men as Scouts, we need to make sure the Lord is pleased with how we use what we purchase.”
In addition, President Gibson’s admonition cautions us that we will be held accountable for the choices we make about implementing the full Scouting program, and supporting it with our best efforts. So, no more buffets!