Welcome to the LDS Scouter Blog. We hope to provide you with valuable information, share useful resources and maybe even improve some attitudes and Ward Scouting programs. The recommended way to use this blog is to start with the post, "Why I started this blog." Then browse through the post titles in the archive (found in the sidebar) for topics of interest.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Using Scouting As A Tool To Prepare Youth For Missions

I have a friend who recently served a mission with his wife. A few weeks ago, he was speaking with his mission president about what he felt were some of the biggest problem areas with the missionaries that served under him. My friend, also being an avid Scouter, noted just how closely these problems aligned with the purposes and aims of Scouting. Here's an abridged version of what my friend had to say about the conversation (he asks, though, that you "remember that these are areas that the mission president, his wife, and I observed and it should never detract from the work these wonderful missionaries are doing. They are good missionaries that did they best they could in a home or system (young mens/young women) that wasn’t perfect."

"1. Many Elders and Sisters did not know how to budget so they would not go thru all their money in 1-2 weeks. Many times my wife received a call [from] a missionary stating they were out of money. They were not given any additional funds and had to 'leech' off their companion for the rest of the month. For those with wealthy parents, they had a personal credit card that they would use as their backup when they ran out of the church money they were given. This led to problems when one companion would spend like there was no tomorrow (using his/her personal credit card) and the other coming from a poor family and couldn’t afford such luxurious activities. We need to teach our youth to budget their money; one problem I see is that there are parents who don’t know how to budget either, thus creating a cycle of ignorance regarding finances.

"2. Many of the missionaries did not know how to cook a simple meal (including oatmeal). Those that did, had problems in learning to cook within their budget (being creative with less costly food items).

"3. The senior missionary couples, along with the mission president and his wife, had to keep drilling manners into the young missionaries. The missionaries frequently failed to thank their host for the meal or taking the time to let the missionaries in to teach, etc. On the first day in the mission field we advised the new missionaries they had better use good manners at the mission home dinner table and to thank the mission president’s wife for the meal. If they forgot, they were reminded before they could leave the dinner table. Manner, Manners, and Manners is a must, and too many of our youth lack such.

"4. The parents of missionaries are creating a child that is dependent upon the parent(s) to do the work for the youth. As a result, the youth has a poor work habit and does not take responsibility for their actions (or lack of them). They have become codependent. The cause may be in that too many moms or dads have earned their son’s merit badges or built the sons pinewood derby car, etc. The parents need to let the son take responsibility and do the work.

"5. In the mission we found a good percentage of missionaries that were not good at communicating. The missionaries first need to learn to listen, then speak (one of the topics the adult scouters are taught in Wood Badge). The missionaries need to learn to speak in public and be held to a high expectation. For example, a 5 minute talk by a Deacon is understandable; however, a 5 minute by a Priest is not. The Priest should be able to provide a 12-15 minute talk. Too many leaders are helping in the cause of missionaries sharing the gospel by allowing mediocrity to be the standard. We truly must raise the bar."

I found it interesting how closely these relate to several of the "required" merit badges and to letting the youth learn to lead and do things on their own. My friend's observations/suggestions were:

"First, a major key is that leaders must allow the YM to lead. Let them preside in their quorum, presidency meeting, report at the priesthood opening exercise. Quite frankly, we need to teach the adult leaders to stand back and be patient so the youth can lead. Either that or we muzzle the adults who try to lead without the proper authority :)

"Second, we must never assume the young man knows what a council is or what we mean when we say “keys” (of the priesthood). A missionary actually advised the mission president he did not know what was meant by “keys” or “council” (as in ward council for example). Apparently he had never been part of a Bishop’s Youth Council or a Patrol Leaders Council.

"Third, the young men must engage in the work and responsibilities of the Aaronic Priesthood. Parents need to support their son in this marvelous work. The goal of a scouter is to use scouting to help the young men fulfill the mission of the Aaronic Priesthood, not just get the Eagle rank.

"Fourth, a good work ethic needs to be taught at home. Service projects are a weekly part in the missionary field. Having service projects that reinforce a good work ethic is important. (Planting flowers by young men is not very challenging and probably better left to the primary children; helping to fix an elderly member’s home is a more effective service project). Sacrifice should be part of the service project.

"Fifth, adult leaders should start to correlate scouting merit badges and activities to help the young man become a better missionary. For example, cycling merit badge teaches a YM to ride a bike, repair it, and build up his endurance; automotive maintenance teaches the YM about taking care of a car and maintaining the vehicle in top notch shape; etc."

The Scouting program really is the Lord's program for preparing young men to serve missions (and likewise, Personal Progress and Young Women are the Lord's programs for preparing young women with what they need). I think this list shows just how much of a disservice we are doing these young men when we do not use this inspired program exactly as it is laid out. What are everyone else's thoughts on this?

Monday, August 24, 2015

To Scout or not to Scout, that is the question.

I have so many tools that I have to store them in two different places. I have auto mechanic tools, construction tools, mining tools, and specialty tools. With my tools I could rebuild and restore a car, build a house, dig a tunnel, or any of a number of other activities. I have tools I’ve never used and tools that are well past being worn out. There are any number of activities I could approach from different aspects using a number of different tools. Right now, the tool the Lord has instructed us to use to help our young men grow into self-sufficient missionaries, temple-going husbands, dedicated fathers, and responsible citizens is the Boy Scouts of America. Despite all that is going on in the political climate, the Lord has not yet retracted that guidance. During a recent troop committee meeting, one of our committee members, a man I hold deep respect for, made it very clear that whether the church decides to stay with the BSA or not, if the recent vote by the BSA to allow homosexual leaders stands, he will no longer participate. I understand his viewpoint and don’t hold it against him. As we prepared for our upcoming annual planning meetings I reflected on how to approach this. It occurred to me that it is irrelevant which organization we call ourselves, it is the activities that the youth need to develop that are important and we’ll be doing those activities whether in BSA uniforms or in homemade activity shirts as a Deacons quorum. So this is the statement I read at the beginning of our planning meeting: There are a lot of questions going on right now about the future of the relationship of the church and the BSA. Before we start planning our year let’s take a moment and think about what we’re really doing. We are NOT planning a BSA event; we are planning the activities that we hope will help the young men in our quorum become better priesthood holders, better missionaries, better fathers, and better citizens. The BSA is only the tool we are using to accomplish that. We know that activities that we are planning will, like the Mormon Battalion experience of the early church, prepare these youth for great things. I propose that whether the church stays with or separates from the BSA is irrelevant; we’ll still be holding these activities. It’s the experience that is important, not the organization. So let’s do our best to plan thoroughly and with due diligence. I encourage you to keep the big picture in mind when you approach this delicate subject. Pray for direction and remember the Lord’s most recent counsel. Until He gives us new guidance, carry on as if nothing has or will change. firebirdlvuer

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Ward Campout

This weekend was our ward campout, during which I ended up in conversations with more than one family about the future of Scouting in the Church. It is difficult not to speculate about what might happen, but it was interesting to hear different thoughts, and I found a common thread running through every conversation. In the end, no matter what our Church leaders announce, we can be assured it is the best answer to the situation. What a blessing it is to have living prophets who can tell us exactly what the Lord wants for us. What a blessing, also, that we have the opportunity to pray about it for ourselves as well and receive our own witness. No matter what happens, we will always have that.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Week At Camp

I had an opportunity this summer that few LDS women get - I spent a week at scout camp as part of the camp "staff."

For a long time, I have pondered why the Lord wants us to provide as many opportunities as we can for young men and young women to spend time outdoors. Over time, I have thought of a number of reasons, but this week of getting to see the scouts at camp showed me just how much of an impact it can have, especially when combined with a good program and good leadership.

As I interacted with these young men and observed them during the week, I noticed a difference from when I had seen them outside of camp. It was almost as if being at camp gave them the freedom to be themselves for the week. They did not need to act tough or cool or any of the other things expected from teenage boys in their every day lives. Sometimes that meant extra silly or dangerous, but mostly I saw young men who were sincere, mature and helpful. I believe having this opportunity to be themselves helps them find the best in themselves.

As I have reflected more on this, it came to me that I had the exact same experience at Wood Badge. I figured at the same it was related to severe lack of sleep, but at Wood Badge I know I acted differently than I do in my normal every day interactions as well. And I know the Wood Badge experience (including working on my ticket afterward) helped me to improve myself and find qualities I did not know I had. I guess Wood Badge mirrors the experience of the boys even more than I thought - at least, it did for me.

Baden-Powell was right when he said that a week of camp life can teach more than six months in the classroom.

Have you noticed a difference in the youth you know during camp or other outdoor experiences? What about the leaders?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Mission Statement

We had University of Scouting this last weekend, where I spent quite a bit of time with our new Council Commissioner, one of the Assistant Council Commissioners, another commissioner from the other side of the state, and even a little bit with the new Council President (who all happen to be LDS). We had some interesting discussions about programs and how to help units and how to bring more youth into Scouting.

Something I heard more than once from them was to use the mission statement of the BSA. I have been pondering for a while about how to help people better understand what Scouting is all about, how it's not just a camping club, how it's about building character and leadership. It's a message I feel we need to get out both to parents in the Church who don't understand why the Lord picked this great program for their sons, and people in the community who have not yet discovered Scouting for their kids. These brethren taught me that what I was looking for already exists in one simple statement:
"The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law."
I am going to see how I can put it to better use.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Wear Your Uniform"

Do you follow the LDS-BSA blog? They have regular posts these days. There was a great one a while back called, "Wear Your Uniform!" with a story of successful recruiting.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Choose Wisely

"I believe Elder Dallin H. Oaks’s inspired message distinguishing between 'good, better, best' provides an effective way to evaluate choices and priorities. Many choices are not inherently evil, but if they absorb all of our time and keep us from the best choices, then they become insidious.

"Even worthwhile endeavors need evaluation in order to determine if they have become distractions from the best goals. I had a memorable discussion with my father when I was a teenager. He did not believe enough young people were focused on or preparing for long-term important goals—like employment and providing for families.

"Meaningful study and preparatory work experience were always at the top of my father’s recommended priorities. He appreciated that extracurricular activities like debate and student government might have a direct connection with some of my important goals. He was less certain about the extensive time I spent participating in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He acknowledged that athletics could build strength, endurance, and teamwork but asserted that perhaps concentrating on one sport for a shorter time would be better. In his view, sports were good but not the best for me. He was concerned that some sports were about building local celebrity or fame at the expense of more important long-term goals."

I love this part of Quentin L. Cook's talk from the most recent Conference, because it sounds so much like what my husband recently told his scouts, when talking to them about planning their activities.