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, October 31, 2010

Scouting Ideals

One of the methods listed for both Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting is the Scouting Ideals. This year we celebrated 100 years since the founding of the Boy Scouts of America. The boy scouts originated in England in 1908. The movement was founded by Robert Baden-Powell. From the beginning, the idea of, "Do a good turn daily," was fundamental to Scouting. The scouting movement traveled to America with William D. Boyce. According to legend, he was visiting London and became lost in the fog. He was assisted by a boy scout and was so impressed that he decided this was something the U.S. needed too.

In his talk "Scouting Builds Men" Ezra Taft Benson had this to say about Scouting Ideals:

I would to God that every boy of Boy Scout age could have the benefits and the blessings of the great Boy Scout program. It is truly a noble program; it is a builder of character, not only in the boys, but also in the men who provide the leadership. And character, after all, is the priceless thing you build in this life and take with you into the next. I have often said that Scouting is essentially a spiritual program, a builder of men. It is established upon a deeply spiritual foundation.

In the first part of the Boy Scout Oath we declare, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.” Scouting emphasizes duty to God, reverence for sacred things, observance of the Sabbath, maintenance of the standards of the Church with which the boy is affiliated. As each boy repeats that pledge, usually at every Scout meeting or function, he says aloud in the presence of those whose friendship he values most highly, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God.” It cannot help but make a deep and lasting impression upon him. It becomes the foundation upon which a noble character is built. The oath also pledges duty to country, and that too is basically spiritual.

Scouting stresses service to others, and again this has a spiritual base. The Scout pledges to help other people at all times. Was it not the Master who said, “Whosoever will be chief among you; let him be your servant?” The slogan “Do a Good Turn Daily” has become emblazoned upon men’s lives far beyond its place of origin in the Boy Scout movement. Scouting also emphasizes duty to self. How charged with spiritual meaning are the words “to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight!”

There is a tendency to think of fitness solely in terms of the physical, in terms of bodily strength. But to be truly fit, truly equal to the demands of life, requires much more than bodily strength. It involves the mind and the training of the mind, the emotions and their use and control. Yes, and it involves the soul and the spiritual growth too. And that is why Scouting challenges our youth to be physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

It seems to me that the most successful program of complete youth fitness ever known to man was described in 14 words. They are the words of the beloved disciple Luke in the New Testament. He uses just one sentence to cover a period of 18 years—the 18 years in which the Savior of the world, after returning to Nazareth from Jerusalem, prepared himself for his public life: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” There is the ideal of any program of youth fitness, to help our youth increase in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. It covers everything: physical fitness, mental fitness, social fitness, emotional fitness, spiritual fitness.

The Scout Law is fundamentally spiritual. The points of the law are expressions of virtues, of ideals; they are the basis of sound character. These virtues of trustworthiness, loyalty, bravery, helpfulness, kindness, obedience, cleanliness, reverence, and all the rest are what the past progress of the world is built upon.

A recent news article about an incident between Baptist and Mormon Scouters in Montana prompted many comments along the lines of, "Religion doesn't belong in Scouting. The BSA should not allow churches as sponsors." This sentiment has been around for years, as has the attitude many Church members have that, "Scouting doesn't belong in our religion." Scouting founder Baden-Powell said, "I have clearly stated that our objective in the Scout movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God's Kingdom on earth." You could not get more in line with our goals as a Church than that. He also said, "We merely lay before the boys... the simplest fundamental ethics of religion, and get them to put these into practice...We put them as Christ taught them in their two simple forms: 'Love thy God with all thy heart; and the second is like unto it - Love thy neighbor as thyself.'"

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Purposes and Methods of Cub Scouting

As I mentioned in the article about the Aims and Methods of Scouting, Cub Scouting has its own set of purposes and methods, but most are the same or similar to the Boy Scouts.

There are ten Purposes of Cub Scouting which leaders and parents should be working toward. Most don't need an explanation, or it would be redundant to the last post, so instead I will simply list them and point out a few differences. In looking at the differences, we can understand the Cub Scout program a little better. Every activity with the Scouts should relate to at least one of the purposes. They are:

Character Development
Spiritual Growth
Good Citizenship
Sportsmanship and Fitness
Family Understanding
Respectful Relationships
Personal Achievement
Friendly Service
Fun and Adventure
Preparation for Boy Scouts

According to the BSA's website,"These purposes help us achieve the overall aims of the BSA of character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness." In a way, they are really just breaking down those three aims into more specific goals that are appropriate for boys 7-10.

Notice "Spiritual Growth" and "Family Understanding" are high on the list. Those are both things that the BSA wants to promote and we should keep in mind at our activities. The Church website has a table you can download that shows possible activity correlations between Cub Scouting and Faith in God. This chart can get you started in finding ways to combine Faith in God with your den meetings. The Faith in God book is also the guide for the religious knot that the boys can earn.

The final goal is preparation for Boy Scouts. Even starting at age eight we should be helping the boys prepare for missions. One things we can do at this age is give them a good Cub Scout program. If their enthusiasm for Scouting can grow and last until they reach Boy Scouts, their Boy Scout leaders will have a better opportunity to help prepare them in the next stage of their growth. Think of preparation for Boy Scouts as preparation for the priesthood.

The Methods of Cub Scouting are what we use to help meet the purposes. They are:

The Ideals - The Cub Scout Promise and Law of the Pack are very similar to those of the Boy Scouts. The boys are taught from this early age that they have a duty to their God, country and families. (When typed out like that, it's kind of reminiscent of Captain Moroni, isn't it? Alma 46:12)

The Den - The boys belong to a den instead of a patrol. They aren't running things like they will in Boy Scouts (although they love getting a turn to be denner), but it gives them a sense of camaraderie to belong to a den.

Advancement - Again, this is a method, not the goal. Advancement is important, but it is also only a means to an end, not the end itself.

Family Involvement - We see again that families are an essential part of Cub Scouting. The more involved parents and family are, the better a boy's experience will be. The program was designed to be done with parents, and we shouldn't miss this great opportunity to strengthen our relationships with our boys.

Activities - Having fun is what keeps the boys interested and coming back. They'll learn more when they're enjoying themselves.

Home and Neighborhood Centered - Here's something different about Cub Scouts. The emphasis is on home and neighborhood. The boys will enjoy getting to know the area they live in, and it will prepare them to be better able later to serve their community.

The Uniform - See previous post. At this age the boys are excited to wear a uniform. Take advantage of that. When they are older they will be more likely to want to wear a uniform if it was a positive experience in Cub Scouts.

Remember the article about Cheryl Lant at Philmont: "Bishops and branch presidents — want a deacons quorum filled with young men well prepared to perform their Aaronic Priesthood duties? Start first by building successful Cub Scout dens... Cub Scouts is another tool that local priesthood and Primary leaders can utilize to train and prepare boys to receive that 'preparatory' priesthood. 'Truly the work we are doing is the work of the priesthood.'"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Aims and Methods of Scouting

One of my purposes with the blog is to help members of the Church better understand the Scouting program. The "Aims and Methods" are the basic ideas on which the program is run. You will notice that the aims of both Boy Scouting and Cub Scouting are in line with our goals for our children in the Church and as parents. In fact, Church leaders have told us that our main goal for boys this age is to prepare them for a mission. The Aims and Methods of Scouting meet that end.

In this article I will cover the Aims and Methods of Boy Scouting. Cub Scouting is slightly different, but is designed to prepare boys to be Boy Scouts. I will cover those in another article.

The Aims of Boy Scouting are:

Character Development - "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent." One of the things I think is a testament to the BSA is that in the anti-religion climate that seems to be growing in America, they have never taken, "do my duty to God," out of the Boy Scout or Cub Scout Promises. Boys are encouraged to understand and follow their religion, as well as develop the character traits listed in the Scout Law. How many youth organizations do you know of that can claim that (or would want to)?

Citizenship Training - To me, citizenship has two sides: knowing about and loving your country, and being a good neighbor. Scouting covers both. Boys learn about flag etiquette, history and government. Most importantly, though, they learn about service. Service hours are required for advancement in rank, and they are also required for some of the merit badges. As leaders and parents, we should be helping the boys understand that these service projects and hours are not just something to do because they have to for rank. Service should become part of life, something we look for opportunities to perform. That is one of the things the program is meant to teach. The original Scouting program was founded on the idea to, "Do a good turn daily," and that's still the attitude the boys should have. We should be preparing the boys to not just "go on a mission" but to serve a mission. One of most important parts of missionary work is service.

Mental and Physical Fitness - This is something we all want for our children, especially in a time when we hear terms like "obesity epidemic" and "educational crisis" tossed around so often. Even in the gospel, the importance of intelligence (the one thing, besides your testimony, you can take with you to heaven) and physical fitness (Word of Wisdom) are stressed. These are also important qualities for missionaries to have. Your ability to share the gospel will be hampered if you aren't fit enough to walk or bike around town.

The Scouting program uses eight methods designed to meet these goals. This is a brief overview. We will cover many of these more thoroughly in future articles. I am going to list these in the order Bradley Harris uses - the acronym PAUL SOAP:

Patrol Method - This is one of the fundamental ideas of Boy Scouting, and so naturally it is one of the things that is most often misunderstood and misapplied. The patrol method puts the boys together in a group, or patrol, which they are expected to run through cooperation. In so doing, they learn many leadership and personal skills. The Scoutmaster should be there only as a background figure whose job is to help the boys succeed. According to Charles Dahlquist, there may be times when the Scoutmaster needs to take charge long enough to demonstrate to the boys what to do, but then he steps back and lets them take the lead once more.

Advancement - This is sometimes the only part of Scouting that we see. The Church puts a heavy emphasis on earning the Eagle, because it has been shown that a boy who earns the Eagle is more likely to accomplish a number of things, including going on a mission. However, we need to remember that this is one of the methods, not one of the aims. The purpose of the program is not to achieve as many advancements as possible. Rather, advancement, when applied correctly with the other methods, helps meet the goal of growing boys into men.

Uniform - The uniform is often a controversial part of the program, but it really does help meet the goals. It gives the boys group identity and it affects their behavior. A group of boys in a uniform with uniformed leaders will act differently than boys in street clothes. The Church Handbook says, "No boy or young man should be excluded from Scouting if he is unable to purchase a uniform... The wearing of Scouting uniforms by adult leaders is optional, but it is encouraged where feasible." Uniforms are not required, but they should be encouraged. If a boy cannot afford to purchase a uniform, his leaders, his troop, his ward, should be able to find a way to help him get one. Units can have a uniform library. Old uniforms can be donated. Cheaper uniforms can be found on ebay, at DI or other local thrift shop. Working together, your unit should be able to come up with a way for every boy to be in uniform, so they can all feel like an equal part of the group. Think of this in terms of mission or temple. Missionaries have their own uniform, and there is a uniform in the temple. Each serves its own purpose. What does a ward do when a boy cannot afford to serve a mission or buy a suit? What about when situations make it difficult for a member to take themselves to the temple or purchase temple clothing?

Leadership Development - All of the methods of Scouting together are designed to build leadership. If leaders know when to step back and when to help, the boys will be able to develop necessary leadership skills. They will learn through example as well as practical application. Older boys should be given the opportunity to mentor younger boys, both in the their patrols and in opportunities like being a Den Chief. The culmination of all of this leadership training is the Eagle Scout Leadership Service Project. The point of the project is more than a big service project - it's giving the boy a chance to organize and lead a major effort.

Scouting Ideals - These are contained in the Scout Motto, Scout Slogan, Scout Promise and Scout Law. Basically, Scouting teaches morality, citizenship, service and duty to God. It presents many opportunities to tie in the things the boys are learning on Sunday.

Outdoors - There are many reasons to give the boys plenty of opportunities to be outdoors - too many reasons to discuss well in just a brief paragraph. Camping and other outdoor activities provide room for the physical activity the boys need, opportunities to listen to the Spirit and grow closer to God, and a setting where the skills the boys have been learning can be practiced.

Adult Association - Bishop H. Burke Peterson said, "'The primary reason why we have youth activities is to give our youth opportunities to associate with men and women who have testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." It is important for the boys to have good leaders they can look up to, but Adult Association also refers to the merit badge counselors, another part of the program I have observed is often misunderstood and misapplied both in the Church and outside of it. Merit badges are meant to be earned through merit badge counselors, because those counselors are meant to be mentors for the boys, more examples of good men and women who contribute to society and share their time and talents with others. Boys should be contacting these merit badge counselors and setting up appointments themselves, as part of the path to personal growth.

Personal Growth - When a good program is provided, boys will increase in independence, spirituality and desire to serve others. Through Scouting and Young Men, we are helping "perfect the saints" (not that they will be perfect, but it's a good start) so that they can go on to "proclaim the gospel."

Keeping a proper balance of all of these methods, with the aims in mind, and more importantly the keeping the goal of "ensur[ing] that every deacon is prepared and worthy to be ordained an elder and serve a mission" (source) in mind will help Scout Leaders and Bishoprics accomplish the full potential of the Scouting program.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A little lightheartedness

I just came across a short article from the October 2002 Ensign titled, "Confessions of a Den Mother." I hope it will bring a smile to your face:

I first began worrying about being a Cub Scout den mother when my son was about 20 minutes old. After counting his toes in the delivery room, I fell into an uneasy sleep. I dreamed that 10 Cub Scout babies in disposable diapers were chasing me. I awoke in a cold sweat and spent the next eight years stewing over the inevitable.

When the day finally came for my first den meeting, I felt apprehensive but prepared. When the meeting ended at 4:30 p.m., I was sure my teeth were permanently clenched together under my smile and that my hearing had suffered irreparable damage. My own son had definitely been the loudest and worst.

I learned some basic truths quickly:

1. Under no circumstances should you hold den meetings in your own home if you have white carpeting or a nervous dog.

2. The three conditions of a Cub Scout uniform are (a) dirty at home, (b) dirty on the boy, or (c) clean but lost.

3. Two pairs of scissors cannot be equally divided among six boys.

4. If your own son is in the den, he will refuse to treat you as a den mother but will instead treat you simply as Mother.

5. The three conditions of Cub Scout books are (a) lost or forgotten; (b) in pieces, held together with rubber bands and paper clips; and (c) empty, as in devoid of any signatures or evidence of work. Several conditions may coexist at any given time.

6. Speaking of time, it’s relative. When you are reading a good book, an hour is hardly measurable. When you are in the midst of an unsuccessful Cub Scout craft project with nine boys ages eight to ten, an hour is hardly endurable.

7. An hour is sometimes longer than 60 minutes, since at least one mother is generally late to pick up her son after each meeting. This is especially true if the den mother has company coming for dinner exactly 60 minutes after den meeting.

Despite truth 6, the time, surprisingly, has passed; and my sanity, astonishingly, is intact. Den meetings held at the neighborhood school library, where there is no white carpeting or nervous dog, were mostly successful and often enjoyable.* My ears grew less sensitive to the enthusiastic noise, and now I clench my teeth only at night. Although the books and uniforms remained elusive, the rewards were tangible.

My son turned ten and advanced to Webelos. Content, I was ready to abdicate my responsibilities. Luckily, I had another son who would turn eight in a few weeks, and I confess I was happy to stay on as den mother.

*As a personal note, I am a big fan of holding den meetings at church instead of at home, but remember that as with any meetings held in the church, there should be priesthood somewhere in the building aware of your activities.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Learning and Teaching

I loved Brother McConkie's talk about teaching in General Conference. I thought it was just as applicable to being a Scout leader as teaching Sunday School or Primary. Here are some highlights I thought were especially relevant:

I am not going to talk about the “how” of teaching but rather about the “how” of learning. There can be a significant difference between what a teacher says and what those in the class hear or learn.

Think for a moment of a teacher who really made a difference in your life. What was it about him or her that caused you to remember what was taught, to want to discover the truth for yourself, to exercise your agency and act and not just to be acted upon—in other words, to learn? What was it about this teacher that set him or her apart from the rest?

A successful teacher and author said: “What matters most in learning is attitude. The attitude of the teacher.”

Note that what matters most in learning is not the number of years a teacher has been a member of the Church or how much teaching experience a person has or even the teacher’s knowledge of the gospel or teaching techniques. What matters most is the attitude or spirit by which the teacher teaches.


Successful gospel teachers love the gospel. They are excited about it. And because they love their students, they want them to feel as they feel and to experience what they have experienced. To teach the gospel is to share your love of the gospel.

Brothers and sisters, a teacher’s attitude is not taught; it’s caught.

Your attitude really does make the most difference in how well the boys learn and how well your meetings will go. Both your attitude toward each of the boys and your attitude towards Scouting will make a difference. That means you need to get to know both. Get to know each of the boys and learn to like them (yes, that's easier with some boys than with others). Learn about the program you are over and learn why the Church thinks Scouting is so important. I know when he said knowledge and techniques aren't as important you thought that meant you don't need training, but you do. You really need to know how the program works and what it's supposed to look like if you want to give the boys a good experience. And if you love the boys, you will want to give them the best possible experience.

How, then, do we develop the attitude necessary to be a successful teacher? I would like to discuss four basic principles of gospel teaching....

First, immerse yourself in the scriptures. We cannot love what we do not know...

Soon after I was called to be a stake president, our stake presidency received training from an Area Seventy. During the training, I asked a question to which he responded, “That is a good question. Let’s turn to the Church Handbook of Instructions for the answer.” We then went to the handbook, and there was the answer to my question. A little later in our training, I asked another question. Once again he responded, “Good question. Let’s turn to the handbook.” I did not venture to ask any more questions. I thought it best to read the handbook...

Second, apply in your life the things that you learn...

Third, seek heaven’s help. Appeal unto the Lord for His Spirit with all of the energy of your heart. The scriptures state, “If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach." This means that even if you use all the right teaching techniques and what you are teaching is true, without the Spirit real learning is not going to take place.

When was the last time you knelt in prayer and asked the Lord to help you not just with your lesson but also to help you to know and to meet the needs of each student in your class? No class is so large that we cannot pray for inspiration regarding how to reach each student.

It is natural for teachers to have feelings of inadequacy. You must understand that “age and maturity and intellectual training are not in any way or to any degree necessary to communion with the Lord and His Spirit."

The promises of the Lord are certain. If you earnestly search the scriptures and treasure up in your minds the words of life, if you keep the commandments with all of your heart and pray for each student, you will enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost and you will receive revelation.

Fourth, brothers and sisters, it is of utmost importance that we exercise our agency and act, without delay, in accordance with the spiritual promptings we receive.

President Thomas S. Monson taught: “We watch. We wait. We listen for that still, small voice. When it speaks, wise men and women obey. Promptings of the Spirit are not to be postponed.”

Scout Leaders in the Church are blessed with the number of resources they have. We have the gift of training with the BSA and all of the publications and program helps the organization provides, plus we have a relationship with Heavenly Father. We can go to Him for inspiration on how to best teach and help each boy. If you take full advantage of all these things, you really can't go wrong.

His story about the handbook reminded me especially of Scouting. Most of your questions will be answered by reviewing the handbook that goes with your particular level of Scouting. If you question how a Scouting practice fits with Church policy, check your Church Handbook on Scouting (the "Green Book"). It is small, but it covers all areas of conflict between the two programs (probably because there are actually very few areas of conflict).

Attitude, study and listening to the Spirit will benefit you no matter what you're teaching.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Importance of Your Calling in Scouting

In the last 15 years, I have taught many 8-11 year-old boys in both Primary and Cub Scouting. I think my biggest failing has been not understanding just how important the impact is that leaders and teachers of our boys and young men have. In his 2004 Open House talk, Charles W. Dahlquist made this clear:

"Shortly after April general conference, we met with the First Presidency to be set apart in our callings... President Hinckley placed his hands on my head and, among other things, said, 'Brother Dahlquist, I bless you that you might be almost consumed with the work of saving the young men of the Church.' And I tell you that in the months that have followed, I have learned a bit about what that means. But there is a greater extension of that blessing that I want to discuss with you tonight. In Moses 1:39 there is a great scripture that reads, 'For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.'

"I think we would all agree that if that is our Heavenly Father's work, it is our work too. In a corresponding manner, if it is my charge to become 'almost consumed' with the work of saving the young men of the Church, then it seems to me that is also the charge of every bishop; every bishop's counselor; every Young Men presidency; every quorum adviser; every Scoutmaster, Varsity Coach, or Venturing leader; every teacher of youth; and every parent.

"The objective and purpose of the Young Men general presidency is to assist parents and local leaders to strengthen the brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood—to prepare them to overcome the temptations of the world; to help them become spiritually and physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight; and to prepare them to become the greatest generation of missionaries, husbands, and fathers that this world has ever seen. Our objective is to help them become men who will lead with vision in their families, in their communities, and in their professions, men who live to bless those around them and in whom burns an almost consuming desire to 'bring to pass the immortality and eternal life' of those they serve.

"Our work is not easy, especially in the face of the onslaught of temptations being thrown continually at our young men. In a recent CES satellite broadcast, President Hinckley stated:
'What a frightening change has occurred in our culture. A great flood of sleaze has gathered and is washing over us. Language is used on our campuses that never crossed our lips back in the days of my youth. Pornography with all its titillating and vicious attraction is all about us. We have television, videos, DVDs, the Internet, and other means to deliver the filthy and the evil into our homes and lives. It is taking its toll. . . . This is the era of gutter-talk, of sloppy dress, of sloppy ways' (address to CES religious educators, Feb. 7, 2003).

"That which once was difficult for our youth to acquire now comes right into our homes on the Internet. If we are not careful, it will slip right into the minds of our youth. I was on an airplane recently as ABC News reported that if parents wish to take one more step in distancing themselves from their parental roles, they may consent to their children getting an 'R-card,' which allows them to enter any R-rated movie they wish without their parents. It is very apparent that a very real war for the souls of men is raging—a war especially for the souls of young men and young women. If we are not more vigilant than ever before, many of our youth will become prey to the wily darts of the adversary.

"Even in the face of all the temptations and challenges to youth of today, I believe in the strength of our youth. The young men and young women of today are stronger and more capable than ever before. Maybe that is why the adversary seems to have stepped up the onslaught. But in spite of the challenges and temptations, this is a glorious time to live! Speaking to the youth, President Hinckley said:

'There never was a time such as this. What a season in the history of the world to be alive! Never before has there been such a generation of youth. . . .

'You really are "a chosen generation." You are better educated. You desire to do the right thing. Many of you are trying to keep yourselves free from the corrosive stains of the world. In so many ways, you are remarkable! You are exceptional! I believe that as a group, you are the finest this world has ever seen.

'It is important for you to understand that you are part of a chosen generation. Limitless is your potential. Magnificent is your future, if you will take control of it and if you will decide now that you will not let your life drift in a fruitless and aimless manner' (Way to Be! [2002], 3–4).

"Now I say, in a corresponding way, 'Never has there been a cadre of leaders of youth than there is today. You are better qualified, better educated, better able to lead the youth of today than ever before. In so many ways, you truly are remarkable.'

"While we are pleased to report that many of the trends are improving, an alarming number of our young men fall into the ranks of the less active. We have a growing need for missionaries. We do not have enough missionaries even to fill our current needs, let alone future needs. Just think of it: When other countries open to missionary work, we will potentially need more missionaries for those countries alone than we currently have in the mission field worldwide.

"Unfortunately, in the face of that need, too many of our young men, particularly as they become teacher- and priest-aged, fall to the temptations of the world and are either unworthy to serve or have veered so far from the Church that they have lost the desire to serve or the hope that they can serve. Never has there been a time in the history of the world where there is a greater need for dedicated leaders of youth. Never before has there been a greater time for those who will, day after day, be so consumed with the work of strengthening our youth that not one goes astray.

"Soon after our call, we were in a meeting that included several members of the Twelve, the Presidents of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. In that meeting, as we stood to present our goals as a new presidency, Elder L. Tom Perry said, 'President, do you know what your task is?' I replied that I thought I did, to which Elder Perry stated, 'Your job is to ensure that every deacon is prepared and worthy to be ordained an elder and serve a mission. It's that simple!' I responded that we were devoted to doing all in our power to accomplish that task, to which Elder Perry stated, 'That's not good enough! Your work is to ensure that every deacon is prepared and worthy to be ordained an elder and serve a mission!'

"Not knowing exactly how to respond, I thought of a scripture in the book of Genesis that expressed our feelings. I do not have time to tell the sweet story of Joseph and his brothers, but emphasize only the words of Judah when he was confronted with the possibility of having to return home without his brother Benjamin: 'Thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father. . . . How shall I go up to my father, and the lad be not with me?' (Genesis 44:32, 34).

"And so my brethren, that is our charge: to do all that is in our power to prepare the lads of the Aaronic Priesthood to be worthy and prepared—to ensure that every deacon is prepared and worthy to be ordained a teacher, that every teacher is prepared and worthy to be ordained a priest, and that every priest is prepared and worthy to be ordained an elder and serve a mission.

"As leaders, our charge becomes even more vital as young men grow toward manhood. A Church study performed some years ago found that parents have the greatest impact on the 12- and 13-year-old boy in how he behaves and how he exercises his agency. However, as the boy grows, and particularly when a young man reaches 16 and 17 years of age, some major factors in his life are his peers and his leaders, particularly his bishop and his Young Men leaders."

If President Dahlquist's words don't give you a new perspective on your calling of working with the Young Men, I don't know what would. This isn't just about the older boys, though. I don't want those working in Primary and Cub Scouts to feel left out. In a message Cheryl C. Lant delivered at Philmont, she stressed the importance of Cub Scouting in the big picture. According to a Church News article which summarized the meeting:

"Bishops and branch presidents — want a deacons quorum filled with young men well prepared to perform their Aaronic Priesthood duties? Start first by building successful Cub Scout dens.

"That was the message shared here by Sister Cheryl C. Lant, Primary general president, during the recent Priesthood Leadership Conference at the Philmont Scout Ranch.

'Cub Scouts are part of the whole [priesthood] picture — it's where we lay the foundation,' she said.'


"Sister Lant said new Primary presidencies may not fully realize the importance of a well-run Cub Scout den.

'Priesthood leaders need to understand that these women need training so they understand [their callings].'

"In closing, Sister Lant shared her beliefs in the Scouting program and its role as the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. Cub Scouts is another tool that local priesthood and Primary leaders can utilize to train and prepare boys to receive that 'preparatory' priesthood. 'Truly the work we are doing is the work of the priesthood.'"

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Four T's

In a Priesthood Conference in 1996, Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone first coined the "Four T's" of being a good Scout Leader:

"There are four things that are absolutely essential in a great Scout leader. I call them the four T's:

1 - Testimony—that they have a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and that this Church is God's Church.
2 - Trained—they need to be trained, not only by the Church, but as well by Boy Scouts of America within the districts and council.
3 - Time—they need to have time to be a leader of boys.
4 - Tenure—short tenure if they don't enjoy the work and are not willing to put in the time necessary, and long tenure if they love the young men and want to serve them with all their hearts and souls."
(from LDS.org)

The details of that talk are not available. However, Charles Dahlquist covered the points thoroughly in a 2004 talk at an open house (I highly recommend reading the whole talk. It is excellent and will give you a new perspective on your calling to work with the youth.) President Dahlquist said:

"As we speak of strengthening and vitalizing the Aaronic Priesthood and the Aaronic Priesthood quorum, let me speak first of the leader and then of the boy.

"Priesthood and Young Men leaders are the vital link in the lives of these young men. Therefore, it is critical that men be called who can and will make a difference in the lives of our young men. I give you five guidelines for ensuring that every deacon is prepared and worthy to be ordained an elder and serve a mission. The first has to do with selecting youth leaders, and the remaining four have often been referred to as the 'Four Ts of Youth Leadership': testimony, training, time, and tenure.

"First, call good youth men to serve with the youth. Look for men who can be examples to your young men, who relate well to the youth and yet are able to keep a bit of a distance so they can still inspire them and lift them to greater heights. Look for men who can say, 'Come, follow me—to the temple and on a mission.' Listen for the promptings of the Spirit; you will know whom to call.

"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.

"If you are in the United States or Canada, teach leaders the role of Scouting, Varsity Scouting, and Venturing in supporting the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and helping the young men of the quorum become men of character and strength. While our experience has shown that it generally works most effectively when the deacons quorum adviser is also called as the Scoutmaster and, where possible, has an able assistant (or assistants) to help, the bishop may call one individual as the deacons quorum adviser and one as the Scoutmaster (see Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2: Priesthood and Auxiliary Leaders [1998], 181). In such cases, however, the two must work very closely together to help the deacons quorum presidency accomplish the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood in the quorum. The same holds true in the teachers quorum and the priests quorum.

"Most importantly (and this comprises the first T), ensure that the new leader is a man of character who has a strong testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Bishop H. Burke Peterson, formerly the Presiding Bishop, stated in 1975, 'The primary reason why we have youth activities is to give our youth opportunities to associate with men and women who have testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.' And President Kimball often quoted Walter MacPeek in stating: 'Boys need lots of heroes like Lincoln and Washington. But they also need to have some heroes close by. They need to know some man of towering strength and basic integrity, personally. They need to meet them on the street, to hike and camp with them, to see them in close-to-home, everyday, down-to-earth situations; to feel close enough to them to ask questions and to talk things over man-to-man with them' (in Conference Report, Apr. 1976, 71; or Ensign, May 1976, 47). Our young men need heroes today as never before, heroes who are men of character and who have testimonies of the gospel.

"Next, training. Along with testimony, training is essential to all we do. A recent graduate from a trade school must generally complete an apprenticeship before he can be employed. For a physician, it is called residency and internship. All jobs requiring competency require training.

"I was recently at Disney World and became acquainted with the Disney Institute, which is Disney's training school for Disney World employees, or cast members. All Disney World cast members receive training appropriate for their role in the Disney experience. Walt Disney himself once said, 'You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.' Those people must be trained in 'the Disney way.'

"It is no different in the Aaronic Priesthood. What makes us think that just because it is God's work, we don't need to be trained? The Prophet Joseph went through years of training at the feet of Moroni and other heavenly beings for his marvelous work (see D&C 128:19–21). So we too must become qualified for the work. The School of the Prophets was established to train and qualify the early leaders of the Church. In addition, in the Doctrine and Covenants we are instructed, 'Let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence.' (D&C 107:99).

"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 thought I would ask him the age-old question: 'When you move the 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 else 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 go.

"In our young single adult branch, I would often tell the brethren in elders quorum, 'Watch how things are administered in the branch by the branch presidency. Watch how meetings are conducted, how brethren and sisters are set apart, how new officers and teachers are presented for sustaining, how a proper priesthood executive committee or branch council is conducted, and how the presidency ministers to and watches over the flock, for it will not be long before you will be in our shoes, presiding over the flocks of the Lord's kingdoms! Your on-the-job training has already begun. May God bless you that you may be ready!'

"Each priesthood and Young Men leader has the responsibility of instructing the leaders of his assigned quorum in their duties in the Aaronic Priesthood and helping them catch a vision for their calling and fulfill it. These duties are outlined in the Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 2 in the section on Aaronic Priesthood. This section also has some excellent resource materials for Aaronic Priesthood presidency leadership training.

"In the United States and Canada, we have a wonderful partnership with the Boy Scouts of America. Scouting in these countries provides a vital application phase of the learning process for our Aaronic Priesthood quorums. I have found an unexplained reluctance on the part of some priesthood leaders to implement fully Scouting, Varsity Scouting, and Venturing as the activity arm of their quorums and to become trained themselves. Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone once said, 'I do not believe that Varsity Scouting is on trial in the Church, nor is Boy Scouting, Cub Scouting, or [Venturing]. But rather it is my firm belief that bishops, and the ward leaders, the advisers, Scoutmasters, coaches, and [Venturing] advisers are on trial. The program will work if they will work and become trained and put into effect the things they have been trained to do' (personal letter to Thane J. Packer, Oct. 7, 1997, in Thane J. Packer, On My Honor: A Guide to Scouting in the Church, [1998], 57).

"My experience has shown that this is true. As a newly called Scoutmaster, I think I did a reasonable job. We accomplished much, advancement was passable, and we garnered a number of awards at our annual council Scout camp. But not until I finished my basic Scouting training and then Wood Badge training did I realize how much more we could have done to strengthen our boys.

"As a presidency, we believe training—both Aaronic Priesthood training and training in the Boy Scouts of America—is vital to the success of an Aaronic Priesthood experience. In fact, in those parts of the world where Scouting is not a feasible partner, we must develop efforts to simulate that which Scouting does so well to support the Aaronic Priesthood and help young men accomplish the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. In that vein, Duty to God was not intended to take the place of Scouting but is intended to help young men of the Aaronic Priesthood become better prepared to go to the temple, serve missions, and accomplish the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. Brethren, it is time we received the training that is there to help us become better priesthood and Young Men leaders and recognized that Scouting is a vital part of the Aaronic Priesthood activity program and can help greatly to build better-prepared missionaries, better husbands and fathers, help prepare our young men to receive the ordinances of the temple, and help reactivate those who have drifted.

"The other day I was at the checkpoint for a 100-mile endurance run. I noticed, not unexpectedly, that not one of the runners was competing in flip-flops. They all had quality footwear because, to a great extent, their footwear would either make or break their experience during a very grueling 24- to 36-hour experience.

"To even think that someone would compete in such an event or in an Olympic event in flip-flops is unthinkable. Yet sometimes I think that in the Aaronic Priesthood it is as if we have purchased a $200 pair of running shoes that we then place on a shelf and then try running the marathon in flip-flops. Wouldn't it make more sense to use the wonderful, tried, and tested program in the way it was intended? I challenge each of us in these next six months to get with the program. Get those $200 running shoes down from the shelf, get trained, and then apply the program in the right way.


"Third, time—it takes time each week to be an effective leader of youth. It is much, much more than an hour on Sunday in quorum meeting and an hour-or-so during the week. It takes preparation to make a difference in the lives of boys. It is also vital that you become fully engaged in their lives and their activities.

"Years ago, when I was a stake president, a young man called me who had not been in our stake for three or four years. He was calling for help in making some changes in his life. I asked him why he was calling me, since he no longer lived in our stake. He replied simply, 'Because I know you love me.'

"I thought back on what I had done as a stake president to give him that impression. I recalled hearing one day that he was competing in a track meet at the local high school. I decided to go to support him. I stood near the track, and as he completed his vault, I waved to him. He came over to me and said, 'President, how come you're here?' I told him, 'I'm here to watch you break the state pole vault record!' 'No," he replied, 'you must have a daughter cheerleading today.' I reassured him that our daughters did not cheer for track meets and the only reason I was here was to support him. With an unusual look in his eye, he grinned and returned to his pole vaulting. Little did I realize that this single exchange was sufficient to express a stake president's love and concern for one of his flock—enough to bring the lamb back to the fold years later. Be involved with the youth, and in time you will find that they will develop confidence and trust in you.

"Finally, tenure. When I was stake president, I would tell our bishops, 'In this stake, when we speak of youth leader tenure in callings, we spell it t-e-n y-e-a-r.' It takes time in a calling before the youth build what missionaries have called a 'relationship of trust.' That someone is qualified to serve in another calling is not sufficient reason to release a Scoutmaster to become a counselor in an elders quorum presidency or for any other calling. Unless the Spirit shouts, I have found it a good rule of thumb to leave Young Men leaders in their calling for a sufficient length of time to be trained, to apply what they have learned, and to make a difference in the lives of the young men they serve.

"It is often very difficult to find good leaders of young men. If they are good, leave them there. If you must change them, change them to another age group, but leave them where they can make a difference in the lives of young men and in the generations unnumbered that follow. I have a friend who was just released as Varsity Coach and teachers quorum adviser in his ward. I asked him how long he had served there. His reply was 'four years!' And then he added, 'I have just been called as ward clerk, but I know that in a few months the Scoutmaster position will open up, and I believe that shortly I will be back with the youth!' What a wise bishop to keep those who are great with youth serving with the youth! Bishops, carry on!"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Two-deep Leadership

Dear Bishops,

I know it can be hard finding people to fill all of the callings in a ward, but I want to stress to you the importance of two-deep leadership in the Scouting program.

First and foremost, this is a "Youth Protection" issue and a legal issue. It helps protect the Church, you and the leaders from litigation issues. More importantly, it helps protect the boys. I am sure you have seen news stories about lawsuits against Scout leaders, the BSA and the chartering organizations for untoward conduct. Many cases even involve LDS leaders.

There are other reasons, though, that two-deep leadership is essential. Running even a small den of three or four boys is difficult for one leader alone. Often there is a boy who needs special one-on-one attention for many activities, and an Assistant Den Leader can help with that. An Assistant Den Leader can also help make things run more efficiently. For example, he or she can check the boys' books and mark the records so that the Den Leader's attention doesn't need to be diverted away from the boys or the business at hand.

Consider also the "train your replacement" aspect that goes with any calling. Having two people working together ensures that if one needs to leave the calling, for whatever reason (which will happen eventually), there is still someone there who knows what's going on. This is why it's nice to even have positions like Assistant Cubmaster filled, as well as extra Committee Members.

If the pool of willing people in your ward is so thin that you absolutely cannot accomplish two-deep leadership for every den, it might be time to consider combining meetings with other wards in your building. I have seen these two and three pack committees work very effectively. Either that or parents can be encouraged (or even called) to take turns attending meetings until an Assistant Den Leader can be found.

Remember also the importance of having these leaders registered right away with the BSA and properly trained. Church Leadership has stressed the importance of these two things and has come out and said that no one should work with the boys until he or she is registered with the BSA.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Encouraging Family Involvement

I wrote about how Cub Scouting is meant to be a family-centered program, but what are you supposed to do as a leader when the parents don't understand that? Here are a few ideas for encouraging more family involvement in Cub Scouts:

Some wards use the Primary's Baptism Preview to also introduce the activity programs for 8-11 year-olds. A Cub Scout leader and Activity Days leader are each invited to speak for a few minutes about the programs. This is a great opportunity to introduce the idea to parents that they are an important part of the program. Let them know that their own attitude and involvement will have a big influence on their son's experience. Show them the parent guide at the front of the Wolf book and let them know they can and should work on many of the achievements with their son. Let them know they are invited to Den Meetings and that the whole family should attend Pack Meetings. You may even want to quote Elder Oaks' "Good, Better, Best" talk and point out that Cub Scouting can actually provide them with more quality family time.

I know of one Wolf Leader who even visits personally with parents who cannot attend the Preview and tells them all the things she wishes someone had told her when her sons started Scouts.

Once the boys have started the program, it can be a challenge getting them and their parents to remember to work on assignments during the week. Oftentimes fliers or e-mails are not enough for busy parents who have many things to worry about throughout the week. One Den Leader I knew used post-it-type sticky tabs to mark the pages in each boy's book where the assigned achievements were. It made them easier for parents to find and served as a visual reminder. It was a very effective system. It also made it easier for the leader to mark things off the following week. She then put tabs on the new assignments before giving the books back to the boys. Some parents may even be persuaded to add tabs to any extra achievements they work on at home, to make those easier to find for the leader marking them off as well.

Use your parents. Hopefully you already make use of parents in things like driving for field trips and providing refreshments for Pack Meeting. Parents can be involved in other ways as well. Find out what all of the boys' parents do for a living, what their hobbies are, whether they were ever Scouts, etc. Most likely you will find that most of the parents have some knowledge in an area related to one of the achievements, electives or belt loops. Invite them to a meeting to help with that activity and share their experience with the boys.

In the Primary manuals for the older children, many of the lessons have a suggestion at the end for the boys to teach their family what they learned that week in Family Home Evening. This same idea can be applied to Cub Scouting. See if you can find ways to make some of the activities something the boys can take home to share with their families or teach them. Maybe you could provide the boys with some kind of handout or activity they could do with their families.

Families can be encouraged to earn BSA Family Award. This is a special award that families can earn through setting goals and working together.

You may have seen the Mother's Pin ribbon necklaces. They are something moms can wear to Pack Meetings or Courts of Honor to keep their Mother's Pins on from when their sons earn rank. I recently came across this blog post, where a mom made her own, as well as several others, which she planned to give out to the other moms at Blue & Gold. If you have some women in your ward who enjoy sewing, maybe they could be persuaded to donate time and supplies to make some Mother's Pin necklaces for the moms in your ward. They could be given out at the Blue & Gold Banquet or when each boy turns eight. Receiving and wearing the necklaces might help the mothers feel even more like part of the program, as well as giving them a place to keep those tiny, little pins from getting lost.

These are just some ideas. Anything that you can do as a leader to help strengthen the family is a good thing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Adding "Sparkle"

In the first training class we taught, there was a woman who said, "I don't know why they called me to this. I hate the stupid skits. I hate the stupid songs. I hate the stupid cheers. This is not the calling for me."

I cannot blame her. When I first started teaching this age group, I would always skip the "dumb" stuff, because they're going to think it's dumb too. Right?

I have since learned that boys this age, for the most part, do not think that stuff is dumb. They love it. There is nothing funnier to a boy than a skit with a groaner punch line. They love doing cheers, the more active the better. They even like the songs. I didn't think anyone would want to sing those goofy songs, but they really do.

I think realizing that the boys will actually enjoy that stuff and they won't think it's dumb is the first step to loosening up. If you're willing to relax a bit and have fun as a Scout leader, you'll find meetings becoming more enjoyable for both you and the boys. With enough practice, you too may someday find yourself in front of a large group of adults singing, "I'm a Little Teapot," to get their attention.

What many people aren't aware of is that in recent years the BSA has instituted some guidelines for things like skits and cheers. There are many resources online for skit ideas, but most of them come from old time Scouters who aren't aware of the guidelines (or choose to ignore them) so you need to be careful in selecting what you want to use. Just because it comes from a well-known site like USScouter doesn't mean it fits the guidelines.

The list the BSA has given of "some of the things that can make activities inappropriate and unacceptable," includes:

o Name-calling, put-downs, or hazing
o References to undergarments, nudity, or bodily functions
o Cross-gender impersonation that is in any way derogatory, rude, insulting, or lewd
o Derogatory references to or stereotyping of ethnic or cultural backgrounds, economic situations, or disabilities
o Sensitive social issues such as alcohol, drugs, gangs, guns, suicide, etc.
o Wasteful, ill-mannered, or improper use of food or water
o "Inside jokes" that exclude some of those present
o Cultural exclusion - emphasis on the culture or faith of part of the group while ignoring that of the rest of the group
o Changing lyrics to patriotic songs or to hymns or other spiritual songs

If you don't want to remember the whole list, just follow the rule, "When in doubt, take it out." If you think there's a chance it will offend anyone, or even make someone uncomfortable, find something else. In a way, this is kind of a nice cushion, because it gives you an excuse to nix things that make you uncomfortable: "I'm sorry. That sounds like a great idea, but it's against the rules."

My suggestion is to look through as many lists as you can, and compile from those your own lists of the skits, cheers and songs that you like best. Print these out and keep them in whatever it is that you take to den meetings and pack meetings, and in a pinch you can pull them out and have them ready. You may even want to keep a few extra gathering activities and game ideas in there as well, just in case.

Another popular idea for Cub Masters is to have a whole bunch of different cheers printed on slips of paper. Cut a hole for a hand to fit through out of a"Cheer" detergent box and keep the papers in there. Two or three times during a pack meeting, have different boys come up and take turns picking out a cheer for everyone to do.

However you do it, I strongly recommend you make use of skits, songs and cheers in your den meetings and pack meetings. They may take a little getting used to at first, but you'll be glad you did.