When my fifth son was a tiny newborn we ventured downtown. Everywhere I went those days, people counted my little boys, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5!” and offered a variety of comments both kind and cutting. But I’ll never forget the lady who counted the boys, asked, “Are you LDS?” and on my affirmation exclaimed, “Oh no! All those Eagle projects!”
I laughed, but didn’t understand her words until several years later. It should be noted: I love and adore mothering my five boys. I would have happily taken a sixth– but the paperwork! Oh! The paperwork of Eagle projects.
Boy Scouts possesses it’s merits. I love the principles of service, love of the outdoors, faith and personal responsibility. My sons have had incredible leaders; men and women of character who taught/teach them real skills and values. But it’s also a program marred by huge expenses, bureaucracy and questionable ‘skills.’
I’m thrilled to hear of the church’s resolution to reevaluate our relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. Our leaders are insightful men and women, if they choose to leave the BSA, I know our church can create something so much better.
I frankly don’t care about the decision to allow gay leaders. I DO care about our young men and young women and I believe all the youth in the church are harmed by a program that requires a huge allocation of funds to a national organization, creates a great disparity between funds spent on boys and girls, wastes time on useless ‘merit’ badges and paralyzes real service with piles of paperwork.
In addition to fabulous leaders, my sons have also had those who loom over boys with a constant cloud of disapproval for some slight misstep– an untidy uniform, a partially filled form, the wrong signature etc. Perhaps in the past, we had the luxury of nitpicking our youth over meaningless trifles– secure in the knowledge they’d keep coming to church– but our youth today are in much greater danger. We need to instill values, teach principles and help our youth to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost. Adult leaders need to view themselves as missionaries to their young charges as they teach they gospel and model Christlike living. Do missionaries criticize the clothing and habits of their investigators? No. They teach line upon line, principle upon principle, recognizing a person will embrace more commandments as their testimony grows.
BSA demands much from it’s participants. As you’ll note in the opening story, the woman didn’t ask if I was interested in Scouting, she knew as a Mormon mom I’d be expected to support it. For the most part, we’ve enjoyed scouting at our house (with the exception of the paperwork and nights when I want my boys home). Even if the church does abandon the program, I’ll help my fifth son finish up his Eagle. But I’ve seen families ostracized because they chosen not to embrace scouting. The program requires a tremendous amount of time away from families, school and other pursuits, and, a whole lot of money.
How much money? Millions upon millions. I’m sure we’ll see more answers in the comments. I think we can all agree the church could create a better program for less. When we start comparing how much the church spends on scouting vs. young women activities, the numbers become shocking.
What if we combined all the virtues of Personal Progress with some of the outdoor fun of scouting? What if all our scout camps converted to youth and family camps? Our girls could do more white water rafting and our boys could benefit from an inspired program. Duty to God is great, but there’s scarcely time for it when you’re checking off your video game merit badge (not making that one up). As an active participant in four Eagle projects and a young women’s leader who finished the Personal Progress requirements, I’ll attest to the far superior structure and benefits of Personal Progress. The girls learn the gospel, develop skills and do it all with far less paperwork.
I have faith in our leaders, I’m sure they already have piles of ideas that will benefit our youth and their leaders all over the world. Scouting provided a valuable program to the church for many years and if they choose to continue with scouting, I’ll continue to support it. But I’d love to see the church create something new; we can do better.
I know my quickly and poorly written words will come to life in the comments as you add your voice to the discussion.
Please share your thoughts for the ideal program for our youth.
What are your frustrations with Scouting? Do you think we should move on?
Do you think the church should stay with Scouting? Why?