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.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Safety

Did you know that LDS Scouting units average more fatalities during activities than other Scouting units? Charles Dahlquist gave three reasons for this: "(1) lack of training, (2) lack of experience, and (3) failure to exercise good common sense."

There was a fantastic article posted recently on the Utah National Parks Council blog about safety in LDS Scouting units. One of the things the article linked to was another new website from the Church: http://safety.lds.org. I highly recommend checking both out. With warmer weather upon us, it is time to start heading outdoors with those boys. Let's remember when we do, the importance of following the guidelines in the Guide to Safe Scouting.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Youth Leadership

"When I was a mission president in northern Germany, Sister Dahlquist and I had a few minutes one day and took a short trip to the top of a little mount called, 'Hercules' right in the city Kassel. At the top of Hercules, I saw a shepherd with his staff, sheep dogs and sheep, and I thought I would ask him the age-old question, 'When you move your sheep from one place to another, do you go in front of the sheep or behind?' His answer surprised me: 'It depends,' he said. 'If they are going a route they are familiar with, they go ahead, with the dogs watching out to ensure that none go astray. But if they are going to a place where they have not been before, I go ahead and they follow.' What a wonderful principle of leadership.

"As leaders, we need to know where we are going, or we will go astray. We must be trained and directed; we must catch the vision. It is the same with the young men. When they are charting unknown waters, we must be close to them, often leading the way so they can follow and so they can be prepared to lead the next time. The moment I was called as a Scoutmaster, I felt an unusual sense of urgency, one I had not had before. I remember discussing that with the bishop and also with the boys in leadership. I told them, 'Boys, I have a feeling we do not have long to accomplish all we must in this quorum. For the next couple of weeks, I will be doing some things that, after you have seen how it's done, YOU will be doing, so watch carefully!' Within several weeks, they shouldered their proper share of the load, but only after they had seen it done and caught a vision of how things should be." (Charles Dahlquist, 2004 Young Men General Open House)


I love the story in the Book of Morning when the brother of Jared goes to the Lord and asks for his help lighting the boats that they would spend nearly a year shut up in, crossing the ocean. The Lord does not give him an answer. He tells the brother of Jared to let him know when he has a plan. Later, the brother of Jared comes back and asks the Lord for help lighting up the clear stones he has molten.

Someone pointed out to me recently that the Lord probably could have come up with a better plan. He might have had something great in mind. So they might have had better light on the boat, but what would the brother of Jared have learned from that? What was more important, the light, or doing something fro himself?

As a leader, it can be a lot easier sometimes to take the reigns ourselves. Someone in my "Scouting in the LDS Church" class a couple of weeks ago told a great story about being a Scoutmaster and allowing his scouts to plan and shop for a camp out. He said, "I have never eaten so much bacon in my life. When we were shopping, I kept trying to put bags of salad and things into the cart, but the boys would see them and say, 'Who put this in there?' and throw they out again." They may not have had a nutritionally balanced camp out, but it was definitely THEIR camp out.

What is more important? Perfect activities that flow the way we would like or learning opportunities for growing young men into leaders?

Some more from President Dahlquist: “Now that we have spoken about the priesthood leader and the adult Young Men leaders, let's focus for a minute on the quorum president and the individual Aaronic Priesthood quorum member. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we are instructed that it is the DUTY of the president of a quorum of deacons to PRESIDE over twelve deacons and “to sit in council with them, and to teach them their duty, edifying one another.” Since our call to the Young Men general presidency, I have pondered this direction given by the Lord to the Prophet Joseph in Kirtland in 1835 and have wondered how long it will take us before we take this guidance seriously and begin treating Aaronic Priesthood presidents as priesthood leaders – as leaders of a priesthood that, in the Lord's own words, 'is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances.'

“In many cases, the extent of their leadership experience is to stand, in the case of a deacons quorum, unprepared each Sunday, welcome the quorum members, ask for a volunteer to pray, ask for volunteers to pass the sacrament, turn the lesson over to Brother Johansen, and then ask for another volunteer to pray at the end. Then we wonder why they leave their Aaronic Priesthood experience unchallenged, untrained, and sorely unprepared to meet the challenges that await them."


Both the church and the BSA have tools for training these young men. You can find a page here with training that is meant to be given in a Troop, Team or Crew after every election cycle. I love the powerpoint presentations for creating an annual program plan found here and here, because are broken into two segments: one for the leaders to watch ahead of time and one for the youth to watch to help guide them through the process.

There needs to be a balance between guiding them and standing back to let them take over. The leaders who I have seen struggle most with youth leadership do not seem to understand the principle of first training, then easing the boys into things. One thing that can help is to give the boys specific choices instead of leaving things wide open. For example: Instead of leaving an open, "What do you want to do for activities?" give them a selection of merit badges and say, "Which ones would you most like to work on as a group this year?" Then let them come up with a plan to help make that happen. Ask questions that will lead them in the right directions while still making the final ideas and decisions theirs. Provide opportunities for safe learning experiences (by "safe" I mean making mistakes in a situation that will not lead to epic failure and giving up). Deciding what is most appropriate for your particular group of boys may require a lot of prayer and listening to the Spirit.

It would be great to hear more suggestions and thought on this from more experienced Scouters. What has worked or has not worked for you in helping your boys lead? What are some of your favorite stories about boy-led activities or scouts learning from their mistakes?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Key 3

As District Commissioner, I am part of the District "Key 3," and I can tell you, it has been an eye opening experience for me in a lot of ways. On the district level, the Key 3 consists of the District Executive, the District Commissioner and the District Chair. The three meet together once or more a month and stay in close contact throughout the month. They work together to set the direction of the district and keep things moving along as they should. I love the two other members of my Key 3. They are really great to work with, and it is pretty exciting to be a part of helping everything come together. I talk to both of them frequently, and we all keep each other updated on important things in our different areas of District Operation.

On a unit level, the Key 3 consists of the Chartered Organization Representative (in LDS units, this is a member of the bishopric), the Unit Leader (Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Varsity Coach, Venturing Leader), and the Committee Chair. Having seen the Key 3 concept in action, I can see now what a difference it makes whether a unit's Key 3 are working together closely to keep the unit on track.

In all honesty, I have only ever seen this in one unit - the first pack I was ever involved in. I was only an Assistant Den Leader, and I had never heard of a Key 3, but even from that position, I could see how closely the Bishopric member, committee chair and Cubmaster worked together, and how they supported each other. It was obvious they were on the same page and they were coordinating their efforts. The Committee Chair ran the Committee Meetings, but the Bishopric member was always there, and the presence of his priesthood authority was felt, without taking anything away from the authority of the Committee Chair. Since these were actually combined Committee/Leader Meetings (which I know is common), the Cubmaster ran the portion of the meeting pertaining to Pack Meetings. Everyone knew their part, and the coordinated efforts of the Key 3 trickled down to the rest of us and affected how we approached our callings.

The Church's Scouting Handbook states that every Scouting committee should have a member of the bishopric on it. I believe that bishopric member is most effective when he takes an active role, guiding and working closely with the Committee Chair and Unit Leader in everything. I do not know whether there needs to be a once a month meeting (the BSA does recommend once a month Key 3 meetings on a unit level). Even maintaining contact (e-mail, phone, touch base at church) throughout the month would make a huge difference, I think.

I know in the units I have been involved in since that first one, it would have made a huge difference if the Bishopric representative had taken on that role and worked closely with the unit leadership. Most of the problems the units had would never have happened.

This is another part of Scouting that draws a parallel to Church leadership. In every level of the priesthood (all the way up to the top; no I mean the step even above the First Presidency), there are presidencies of three. How well would a ward function if a Bishop did not meet with his counselors regularly and keep in close contact with them?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I used to be a Bobwhite...

...a good ol' Bobwhite too. Now I'm finished Bobwhiting, I don't know what to do. I'm growing old and feeble, and I can Bobwhite no more, So I'm going to work my ticket if I can!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Updates at LDS.org and LDSBSA.org

The LDS-BSA Relations office has a new newsletter out! You can find it here. The first page (the YM Presidency message) is all about a new Church website focused on youth activities. There is an entire section on Scouting (which is even broken into Boy Scouts, Varsity and Venturing), which you can find here. The rest of the newsletter focuses on the Celebration last October, with the final page covering five tips for recruiting scouts into your ward units.

[Edited to add]: Don't know how I missed this, but I found out this morning that the Handbook (Green Book) was updated again last month. You can find a link to the new Handbook here.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mining in Society

Some of our readers may remember a few years ago when firebirdluver posted a letter he had written and sent to the Chief Scout Executive. The letter advocated a Mining Merit Badge, and the post was meant as an example of how we should be involved in these kinds of things, outside of the boundaries of our callings and our comfort zones.

You may have heard that this week, at the SME's (the professional association mentioned in that letter) conference in Salt Lake, the new Mining in Society Merit Badge will be launched. Firebirdluver will be there. Having been on the task force that put the merit badge together, he was not about to miss the official unveiling of it.

He, of course, already has his name in to be a counselor for the merit badge in our district. There is a lot of excitement across the district about the merit badge, because mining is one of the two main industries here. A majority of the people who live in our town are involved in mining on some level.

I know there is, and will continue to be, a lot of debate over whether this merit badge is redundant alongside a couple of the others, whether it is politically correct, or whether it is something the scouts really need. It is an opportunity, though, to open the eyes of scouts to an industry that we could not live without.

So keep in mind, the next time you are thinking about whether your ideas are important enough to be listened to, or whether you should be involved in something that you feel is important, that you can make a difference, but only if you put forth the effort to do something.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Calling All LDS Scouters: What would you do?

Yes, my loyal readers, I need your help and suggestions. I have been asked to teach a session of the "Scouting in the LDS Church" class at our upcoming University of Scouting in a couple of weeks.

What I would like is any suggestions about what you think is the most important thing to tell people about LDS Scouting? If you were in the class, what would you want to hear? What would you want to tell others taking the class? Throw out any and all suggestions. They will be much appreciated!