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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Monthly Pack Planning Meetings

The BSA updated a lot of things this year, including the training slide shows. There were only a few changes to the training class I give (Den Leader Specifics), but I really like them. They add some specifics that I think will be really beneficial to leaders, their dens and their packs.

One addition that I especially like is a more detailed look at Monthly Pack Planning Meetings. The training now includes a very specific outline of what a Pack Planning Meeting looks like:

1 - Evaluating the previous month
2 - Finalizing the current month
3 - Planning ahead
4 - Unit Leadership Enhancements
5 - Social time and fellowship

The notes include allusions to special committees reporting during parts 2 and 3 and den leaders turning in den advancement reports to the person in charge the awards for the next pack meeting during part 2. The suggestion for "Unit Leadership Enhancements" is that "the pack trainer should include one of the Unit Leadership Enhancement topics."

There are two reasons I like this so much. In the different packs I have observed and been part of, I have seen a big difference in Monthly Pack Planning Meetings, and the difference in the meetings reflected the difference in the overall quality of the programs. In the very best Cub Scout program I have seen, the Monthly Pack Planning Meetings looked almost exactly like this.

These meetings even included what I would call Unit Leadership Enhancements. Everyone had a copy of the Scouting Handbook in his or her binder, and at every meeting we would read a section out of the Handbook. I think this served several purposes. It kept the program in check with the standards set up by the Church. Even our knowledgeable Pack Chair or Bishopric member would occasionally find something he didn't know that needed to be changed. It reminded everyone what his job in the pack was. It let us know what everyone else's job, was and we didn't have to worry about whether anyone else was doing what he was supposed to. Finally, I think it gave everyone a sense of pack solidarity and that we all had a place there. I highly recommend LDS units consider adopting this practice of reading from the Handbook at planning meetings.

There are several other things about the way that pack held its planning meetings that I think helped its success. The meetings were held at the church, consistently on the same night every month, so everyone knew when to expect them (for example, everyone knows to try and keep the second Thursday of every month free). The meeting included all the Den Leaders and Assistant Den Leaders, the Cub Master, several Committee Members (including the Primary representative), the Committee Chair and the member of the Bishopric over the Scout program. Just as the involvement and support of parents have a big impact on a an individual Scout's experience in the program, my observation is that the involvement and support of the Bishopric makes a big diference in the Ward's experience with Scouting. Having a good Committee Chair is also important. If one isn't called, the Bishopric can act as the Committee Chair.

In contrast, I witnessed a pack in another state with very different meetings. The meeting time was not consistent. They were usually held on a Friday morning, whenever it was convenient for the person whose house they were at. Of course, most of the men in the pack couldn't make it to these meetings (there was one who worked 4-10's who was able to come). There was no Committee Chair and the Bishopric didn't attend or have much to do with the program at all. The meetings were usually made up of 2-3 people who would briefly go over plans for the next Pack Meeting. Often, meetings ended up in arguments over Church policy, whether the pack would be run the "right way" or "our way," and whether things like training and uniforms were really necessary.

Needless to say, the program was lacking in several areas. Very little was accomplished at the meetings. Most leaders were not trained. Mostly everyone in the pack did his own thing. There was no cohesion, a lot of contention, and the boys didn't get the kind of program they deserved.

I have also seen Pack's that were at some level in between, and whatever level they were at usually corelated with the amount of involvement and support from the Bishopric.

If you have a "lower level" calling in your pack, you may not think that there is much you can do about the way your pack is run. The best thing you can do is to remember that you are an important part of pack planning and that it is important for everyone to be on the same page. It is also important for you to have proper training for your position and to encourage others to attend the training as well.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Some of these are in the sidebar, but I thought it would be nice to give a description of each. Also included in the list here but not in the sidebar are helpful links for general Scouting information (not LDS-specific).

AmericaJane.net - I just recently discovered this site. It is full of easy to follow explanations of all of the youth programs of the Church, including Boy Scout and Cub Scout basics. If you are brand new to the Cub Scout program (as a parent or leader) you might find her Cub Scout Cheat Sheet especially helpful. She also has a blog called America Jane Speaks, where she not only posts about Scouting and other youth programs, she posts about great FHE ideas and other relevant topics.

LDS Scouting Resources - This is a page put together by LDS Scouters in Virginia. It includes a PDF scan of the Scouting Handbook as well as some other helpful and inspiring resources.

LDS Scouting Relations - This is an informative site from the Francis Peak District of the Trapper Trails Council. It includes links to several Power Point presentations (some with PDF versions as well) including "Best Practices of Successful Scouting Programs" and presentations to give to parents of new Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts.

LDS_CSL Yahoo Group - If you don't mind creating a yahoo account (or you already have one) this group is definitely worth checking out. It is a great source of information, advice and encouragement for Cub Scout leaders in the Church. Members range from leaders brand new to their callings looking for advice to those that have been a part of Cub Scouts and the group for years, who are very helpful.

U.S. Scouting Service Project - This is a website you can spend a long time at without seeing everything. It is filled with general information, ideas, sparklers and sections like Ask Andy and Baloo's Bugle.

Boy Scout Trail - Another site with explanations and information about both the Boy Scout and Cub Scout Trails. This is a great site for information about Advancements as well as sparkler ideas. I like it when I need to look up requirements for belt loops or other special awards.

Kismif.org - "Awesome Cub Scouting" - This is another source for Baloo's Bugle. It also has a blog on the front page that offers tidbits that might be handy to Cub Scout leaders.

BSA Uniform Website - A new interactive website by the BSA with an easy interface for finding out exactly what goes where on uniforms for all ranks and ages.

The following are articles and files that I think are especially good and worth sharing with others in your Pack/Troop/Ward:

Message from the Young Men General Presidency (May 2010): Four reasons Scouting is used as the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood

Cub Scouting is the Foundation (Church News article featuring Cheryl C. Lant)

The Importance of Woodbadge Training by Charles W. Dalhquist II

Q&A on Popcorn Sales and Other Church Fundraising Policies

Church Policy Concerning BSA Registration

Here are direct links to Scouting resources on LDS.org:


Cub Scouting

Information for Scout Leaders

Possible Activity Correlations for Cub Scouting and the Faith in God Award

Statements by Church Leaders in Support of Scouting

Requirements for Adult Religious Knot

If you have any links you'd like to add to the list, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Call

We’ve almost all been there at one time or another. You’re rushing to Sunday School and pass a member of the Bishopric or the Ward Secretary in the hall. You offer greetings only to be asked, “Can you meet with the Bishop for a few minutes after church?” (In my case, the first counselor is generally grinning wickedly when he asks).

In my ideal Scouting world the interview with the Bishop (or counselor) would go something like this:

The Bishop sits across from the callee and his or her spouse;

Bishop: “As you well know, we have a couple callings within the Young Men (Primary) that are vacant. Ever since the scouts lit Brother Smith on fire at the last summer camp, we’ve had a difficult time filling the position of Scout Master. Poor man, his hair is only growing in patches. But we are sure that you are up to the challenge and the Lord would like to extend the calling of Scout Master (Cub Master, Committee Member, etc) to you.”

Callee: Clears throat; shifts uncomfortably in his or her chair and has a few dozen pictures flash through his or her mind simultaneously, the most prominent is a self portrait of a burned scalp with an ill-looking comb over.

Bishop: “Of course, in this calling you will have the full support of the Bishopric and the Ward Scout Committee. We are extending callings to several other people so that the Scouting program can be fully staffed. The ward will be happy to get you the training you need to be successful. As you know, a calling in the church shouldn’t cost you financially, so we will, as a ward, help you in any way possible, including paying for your training and your scout registration with the Council. You will need to obtain a uniform, and we will offer you several alternatives to purchasing a new uniform, if you like. You should know though, that this is a calling that will require a good deal of your time. Beyond the training and the time you spend with the boys, you will also probably spend a lot of time preparing for activities. You may even be called on to assist in activities outside your regular troop meetings, such as Day Camp or Summer Camp. In your position you will meet with the Troop (Pack) Committee to plan for activities and you will work closely with Brother Anderson and Sister Jones, and of course, the member of the Bishopric who is over Scouting. Will you pray to know that this calling is what you should be doing at this time?”
OK, maybe it wouldn’t go exactly like that, but I think a few points should certainly be covered in that first meeting:

  • It should be made clear that the Bishopric fully supports the program and will be involved, at the very least, peripherally.

  • It should be made clear that this can be a time intensive calling, but one that most people come to love dearly.

  • It should be clear that the program will be run within the ward as it was meant to be run; no shortcuts, no buffet-style “we like this and not that” and no “we don’t need no stinking training”.

  • It should be extremely clear that the ward (or stake) will provide training opportunities. In fact, it wouldn’t be amiss for the person extending the calling to have a list of upcoming training opportunities to pass along to the callee. This training should not be limited to new leader training, but should include opportunities to attend University of Scouting, Balloo, Woodbadge, National Camping School, Fremont, etc. In fact, the ward itself should be providing some training to leaders; a brief paragraph or two from the scout leader manual during committee meetings would suffice.

  • Of course, in an ideal world, a calling doesn’t cost anything but our time and talents, but in the real world we do need to provide our own uniforms and some of your own personal equipment, but there are less-expensive alternatives. The unit (ward or stake) should also pay for a leader’s registration, which should be submitted as soon after the calling has been accepted as possible. It probably wouldn’t hurt for the person extending the calling to have a blank registration form handy either, just in case the callee accepts immediately.

I would encourage those extending these callings to consider these thoughts and I would certainly encourage those being asked to fulfill a calling in the Scout program to ask if they are going to be supported in the calling. If you don’t think you are willing to commit the time and energy, please don’t accept the calling. Be sure your spouse is also thoroughly engaged in accepting the calling; believe it or not, he or she will be nearly as involved with it as you are.


Editor's Note: You don't have to take our word for it. Charles W. Dahlquist (former Young Men General President) said, "When you call leaders, make it a memorable call. Take time to discuss your expectations and what is required of them. Talk to them about time commitments, training expectations, personal preparation, and the need for one-on-one contact with each boy. Have in your hand a list of young men in the quorum, and take time to discuss the needs of each boy with the new leader. " (source)

Trails to Testimony

In an earlier post, I mentioned the talk Trails to Testimony: Bringing Young Men to Christ Through Scouting by Bradley D. Harris. What is it, and who is Bradley Harris?

Trails to Testimony is both a book and an audio CD. The CD is a fireside talk based on the book.

Bradley D. Harris is an associate professor at BYU. His specialty is Scouting Education. He recruits students for the major, teaches them about being professional Scouters, and helps place graduates into professional Scouting positions. His experience in the Scouting program is extensive, including teaching at National Camping School and being a member of the faculty of the Philmont Training Ranch for five years. (source)

His wide experience, both in Scouting callings and as a professional Scouter, has given him insights into how the program should be run and how it fits into the Church. He has become a well-known speaker both for Church gatherings and Scouting functions not associated with the Church. He recently spoke at our local Jamboree here in Nevada. He gave two talks, one aimed at LDS Scouters and one for non-LDS Scouters.

I highly recommend getting a copy of either the book or the CD Trails to Testimony and sharing it with as many people as you can, Scouters and parents of Scouts. The main topic is the Boy Scout program, how it works and how it should look incorporated into the Young Men program. Harris explains the patrol method well, and he gives a good picture of exactly how Scouting helps build men. He gives several examples of how Scout activities can become the "lab" for what Young Men learn on Sunday. He touches lightly on Cub Scouting, focusing mostly on how Cub Scouting should be a family-centered program, a way for parents to spend more time with and grow closer to their boys. It not only paints a picture of the optimal Scouting experience, it should get the people involved in your Pack or Troop more enthusiastic about the program. I told my recent training class that it is the next best thing to Woodbadge for generating enthusiasm as well as understanding.

Trails to Testimony is available at book sellers like Seagull Book & Tape and Deseret Book. It was even being sold by the Trading Post at our last University of Scouting.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cub Scouting As A Family-centered Program

After several months serving as a Den Leader in California, our pack began combining meetings with another pack in our building. It was a beneficial move, one we had been asking for for a while. I learned a lot from the Den Leaders from the other ward, but I also learned something important from one of the parents.

He and his son were not LDS. They had joined the den after meeting them at a bowling alley. They had been looking for a good, Christian Cub Scout pack, and they felt this one fit what they wanted.

The thing I learned is that in traditional (non-LDS) packs, parents view their role in the Scouting program very differently. This dad not only attended pack meetings, he attended all of the den meetings with his son. He saw Scouting as something he could do together with his son. He wanted to be more involved in things, so he started to come to committee meetings. Seeing this, the bishop called him to be an official member of the committee.

I realize it is not always possible for parents to attend den meetings. If meetings are in the afternoon, dad is at work and mom is taking care of the other kids and fixing dinner. If meetings are in the evening, they are probably at the same time as the activities of other family members. That does not mean, though, that parents can't or shouldn't be involved in their boys' Cub Scout experience.

In fact, Cub Scouting is designed to be a family-centered program. That is one of the things we are supposed to emphasize in training. The bulk of the Achievements are meant to be done at home with parents. Many of them are designed so that they can only be done at home. The involvement of parents really has a huge impact on a boy's Scouting experience. There is a reason rank advancements come with a "mother's pin."

In his talk Trails to Testimony, Bradley Harris says,"Cub Scouting is simply hundreds of Father-Son/Mother-Son outings waiting to happen, not just a checklist to complete and receive the reward. I'll never forget a mother coming to me three weeks after her son joined Cub Scouting. She was all excited. She said that her eight-year-old son had earned the Wolf Badge, and I asked, 'Well, how could that be in three weeks?'

"She said, 'Well, I went through the Wolf book, and in his eight years of life, he had done everything in the book,' so she checked it off.

"She wasn't thinking that the purpose of this book is to spend time with my son. She thought the purpose of the program was to put a badge on his uniform, so I had to explain to her, 'Well you may have gone on a picnic three years ago with your son. That's wonderful. Go on a picnic with him this year and spend some time with him, and then check it off in the book.'"

How strange is it that in a church that focuses so much on the family, we don't take more advantage of the various activity programs as a way to strengthen the family?

In his talk Good, Better, Best, Dallin H. Oaks talks about prioritizing our time to make the best use of it. He says, "In choosing how we spend time as a family, we should be careful not to exhaust our available time on things that are merely good and leave little time for that which is better or best....Church leaders should be aware that Church meetings and activities can become too complex and burdensome if a ward or a stake tries to have the membership do everything that is good and possible in our numerous Church programs. Priorities are needed there also....Elder Richard G. Scott said: 'Adjust your activities to be consistent with your local conditions and resources. … Make sure that the essential needs are met, but do not go overboard in creating so many good things to do that the essential ones are not accomplished.… Remember, don’t magnify the work to be done—simplify it.'"

Church leaders don't want us to have to choose between Church activities and family time. If the activity provides an opportunity for a parent and child to spend more time together and strengthen their relationship, then it meets both needs. What could be better than that? In the end, it also simplifies both, as Elder Scott recommends.

Implemented correctly, the Scouting program might even become a template for how to turn other Church activities to focus more on the family.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"The church needs its own program."

I have heard this from so many people. Most of these people either inherited this attitude from parents (possibly unknowingly) or the scouting program didn't "work" for them, a brother, a son, a husband. Oftentimes it's both, because if one or more of your parents doesn't like the scouting program, it's very likely it won't work out for you. Scouting is primarily a family-based program, so if the family is not involved, it just isn't the same.

Often scouting doesn't "work out" because it is not implemented correctly. This is why it is so important for parents and leaders to learn everything they can about the program. Leaders should attend the training courses, and parents should get involved. (Ambitious parents can even take training courses.) Church leaders have emphasized the importance of registering and training all scout leaders, and the Church Handbook on Scouting states that stake and ward leaders should ensure that everyone with a calling in scouts gets proper training.

The Important of Woodbadge Training by Charles W. Dalhquist

In fact, training is the first thing mentioned in a recent newsletter message by the Young Men's General Presidency. The message specifically talks, point-by-point, about why the church uses the scouting program. The very first point listed is: "It provides an outstanding training program for adults on how to successfully guide young men to achieve their very best. Many have said that, 'Scouting is for the boy.' In reality it is for the adult. Boy Scouts of America provides the training, programs, and resources necessary to help adults effectively prepare young men for today and their future." They go on to list three more reasons the church makes use of the Boy Scout program. This is a message I recommend everyone read and share.

I like to remind people that there are plenty of young women our there for whom "Personal Progress" didn't "work." Some women don't care for Relief Society or its activities. Does this mean the church should stop using those programs, because they don't work for everyone? Of course not.

All of the programs the church uses are inspired by God, including the scouting program. He is the one running this church, and I think He knows what He is doing. Oftentimes imperfect people or our own bad attitudes keep us from reaping the full benefits of the programs. It is important not to dwell on past experience, but to always move forward in faith.

Did you know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the first ever chartered organization of the Boy Scouts of America? From the beginning the program has been inspired. Church leadership also works closely with the National Board to keep the program running in a way that will work for LDS and non-LDS scouters alike. The Primary General President and Young Men General President both serve on the National Board. Did you know that President Monson has served on the National Scouting Board longer than any other person? Ever.

President Benson (and others) told us that, "The prophet will never lead the Church astray." Is it possible that nearly 100 years of prophets have all been deceived on this one thing? Please remember, the prophet is not the head of the Church, just His mouthpiece.

Why I started this blog

There are already a lot of resources online for LDS scouters (BSA), so it is possible this blog is redundant, adding to the information clutter. However, I hope, at least for the first little while, to use this as a place to list and describe those other sources so that you don't have to do the search work yourself. You can see them all laid out in one place. Maybe I can even answer some questions people have about scouting in the LDS church.

So why do LDS scouters need their own special resources? Is scouting in the church really that different? The answer is yes and no. In terms of the technical aspects, there are only a few minor differences. The method of delivery is really not supposed to be any different. The difference comes in because of the way people become involved in scouting in the church. Parents and leaders of scouts are not usually people who were particularly interested in scouting. So what happens? I like the way America Jane puts it: "Too often in the LDS Scouting community, boys are short-changed because parents and/or leaders don’t really know what’s expected. I don’t fault individuals for this. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know."

Sometimes it takes a while to really "get" the scout program. Some people need to be involved a few times before they really understand the program and appreciate it. I know people who have been involved for decades before finally really gaining a testimony of the program and seeing it for what it really is.

There are even people who think the church shouldn't be using the scouting program. I'll address that in a later post, but it is an attitude that can end up being very harmful to the boys' experience if it is held by a parent or someone with a calling related to the program. I hope that spreading information can help prevent this in at least a few programs. I hope that all parents and leaders remember that this needs to be about providing the boys under your stewardship with a good program, not about your personal feelings.