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, December 18, 2011

The Limbo Patrol

Welcome to our first guest post:

Let’s get one thing straight: If you go to your local Scout Shop and ask what you need to get started as a new 11-year-old Scout Leader, they’ll tell you there’s no such thing. It doesn’t’ exist. It’s a construct of our highly compartmentalized Mormon culture. The actual BSA position is Assistant Scoutmaster; I’m 35, not 11, and boys lead their own patrols.

The only place you will find anything at all about the “eleven-year-old Scout Patrol” is in the LDS Scouting Handbook. The Green Book of Salt Lake contains just over six pages of instructions. One paragraph addresses Cub Scouts; six cover Scouting, including the entire Aaronic Priesthood Scouting program. (This doesn’t mean that’s all the Church says about Scouting, it means you’re supposed to go to the BSA literature.) Fully one and a half pages discuss how to run the EYOS program (this is supplemental to the BSA instructions on running a troop). I attribute this to the neither/nor nature of the EYOS patrol: It’s still Primary, but it’s not Cubs; it’s Scouts, but it’s not Deacons’ quorum. Because of this compartmentalization, the EYOS often functions as its own troop: it’s the Limbo Patrol.

What, then, is the EYOS purpose? It’s really no different from the one for older boys: “Scouting can help [boys] increase in confidence, testimony, brotherhood, and understanding of Aaronic Priesthood duties.” Scouting aims to develop men of high moral character, physical, emotional, and spiritual fitness, and who are good citizens, regardless of something as arbitrary as a birth date. It does this by instilling in our sons the values of the Scout Oath and Law through participation in fun and challenging activities. It empowers them to act, and not be acted upon. These two organizations’ purposes are really the same thing; the Church uses Scouting because it reinforces the qualities and behaviors we expect from an Aaronic Priesthood bearer. It teaches them to be responsible for their actions.

My job is to provide the boys in my charge with all the opportunities they need to successfully complete the requirements for First Class (and to do so in a fun and safe manner). That’s it. Of course it goes much deeper than that, but that's a good summary. I’ve told my Scouts and their parents that I don’t worry about advancement. If they take advantage of the program by attending patrol meetings and activities and working with the other boys in the patrol, advancement will take care of itself. To be sure, there will be conflicts in their schedules; their interest and commitment to Scouting will wax and wane with the (athletic) seasons, so they get to work at their own pace. Even if they barely squeak by with Tenderfoot in this first year, I let them know that they have plenty of opportunity to enjoy Scouting in the years ahead. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that their advancement milestones, fast or slow, are a reflection on you. We’re not accountable for a patch-count in this calling. Having Fun Is Job One.

There are several challenges in running an EYOS patrol. I’ve already discussed the compartmentalization that naturally occurs in Church organizations. A corollary to that is the tendency for the EYOS to be left out of the loop. The only solution to this is to make yourself visible to both the Primary Presidency and the Scout Committee, kind of like the Whos down in Whoville shouting, “We are here! We are here! We are here!”

Another challenge is that parents, especially those new to Scouting, have no idea what to expect. Their experience till now is with Cub Scouts, and the transition for them is just as dramatic as it is for a boy. Of my seven Scouts this summer, five were the oldest in their families - I had five first-timer families! It took me a while to realize this, and that the parents needed patient coaching just as much as the boys. It helps to be up front with expectations and responsibilities, especially regarding who signs off requirements, or what they might be asked to contribute. (Akela is great for Cub Scouts, but he doesn’t cross over with your son.) If you can get parents to come observe meetings and help on day hikes and camps (as volunteers, not parents), you’re way ahead of the game. If you can get one to serve on the committee, you're golden!

Then there’s the camping challenge. The Green Book limits EYOS to three camp outs per year, and stipulates:
“Fathers are invited and encouraged to participate in the overnight camping experiences with their sons and with boys whose fathers cannot attend” (emphasis added).
Unfortunately, the first half of this instruction is usually interpreted severely, while the second half is ignored, usually in a single sentence: “if you want to go on a camp out, your dad has to come with you.” Besides defeating the spirit of the actual instruction, this has the potential to penalize a boy for circumstances beyond his control. It’s telling him, “we want you to earn First Class in this first year, but we won’t let you because we have this extra, well-meant but conflicting, policy.” Patient, reasoned (and possibly irritating) advocacy is your only recourse.

The final challenge I’d like to address is the tendency to forget why we’re doing this in the first place. It’s super easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of keeping the patrol vibrant. Depending on how well your Committee functions and how well you utilize the Patrol Method, you can easily be overwhelmed. That’s when we forget that this is a preparatory time for the boys. Find moments to bring the spiritual dimension to their activities. The boys are still working on their Faith in God award, specifically the Priesthood preparation section. You have a great opportunity to help them understand and see what that is all about. Scoutmaster minutes and other moments around the campfire, not to mention your example, will go a long way toward helping them be ready for the big one-two.

The other thing you need is to have a plan. When I was first asked to do this, Google became my best friend. I found several one-year plans designed to get boys from nothing to First Class in 12 months. I’ve adapted them and expanded them into tools that are flexible enough to accommodate the boys’ own plans for their patrol (remember the Patrol Method), but still cover all the requirements. You can download them below. By following this plan, I provide the opportunities that each boy needs to complete the First Class requirements. Some may go faster or slower, but this ensures all the bases are covered.

In conclusion, as far as BSA is concerned, eleven-year-old (new) Scouts are just inexperienced Scouts who need guidance from competent leadership. Their parents also need to know what to expect. As we teach them first aid, the difference between a maple and a scrub oak, or maybe how to lash together a catapult, we are in a position to help them not only understand the world around them, but we’re also in a unique position to influence their lives in a way not available to teachers and parents. We’re Scoutmasters.

New Parent Orientation my Wood Badge patrol built (.pptx)
Planning tools I use:

Eric the Half-bee has been an 11-year-old Scout Leader Assistant Scoutmaster in Bountiful, Utah for a year and some change. He’s happily married and the father of four, including an 11-year-old scout in the patrol he is training. His interests include photography and gardening, one of which he actually enjoys some success with. He spent eight years on Active Duty in the US Air Force and attended Wood Badge in May, 2011. He is a last-minute Eagle and has also served stints as Cubmaster and Cub Committee Chair, where he didn’t have a clue what he was doing. In other words, he didn’t bother to get trained. He is the author of The Volun-told Scouter blog.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

You may be losing comments

This is just a heads up to fellow bloggers. If you have a blogger blog and are using the type of comment box that opens at the end of the post (as opposed to opening in a new window or going to a new page) then some people may have trouble or not be able to post comments on your blog, especially if you don't allow the name/anonymous option.

To change it, go to your dashboard (blogger.com) and select "settings." Choose the "comments" link under the settings tab (not to be confused with the comments tab next to the settings tab). The third item on the list should be, "Comment Form Placement."

I know many bloggers love getting comments, so I thought you should know that you might be missing out on some just because of your comment box style. I seldom comment on those blogs, because I have to change browsers to do it, and I am sure there are others who are doing the same.

I also wanted to mention again that if you have or know of a blog about Scouting in the Church, please let me know so that I can add it to the sidebar. My little list is growing slowly. There's some great blogs out there. Check them out, if you haven't already.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Beginning Boy Scouts

We were asked to review Beginning Boy Scouts by Jeremy C. Reed and Heather R. Reed. We both read it so that you could have the viewpoints of someone who has experience as a Boy Scout and Boy Scout leader and a parent of boys who has no experience in the Boy Scouting program.

From firebirdluver:

I found this book to be an excellent introduction to Boy Scouting. It includes most of the basic “need to know” items and includes references to more in depth material. I would highly recommend this book, even for experienced scouters. Novices will find it to be a good introduction of what is expected of them, as parents, leaders or as a new Boy Scout. I particularly appreciated the sections on the Patrol Method and Adult Leadership. (The individual Boy Scout could easily use this to help improve his troop, because it will tell him what he and his leaders should be doing). This book is a relatively easy read and the format facilitates rapidly looking up a specific points of interest.

From Evenspor:

I thought this was a really good overview of the program. I think many parents would find this a useful resource to understand the program and help them know how they can best help their boys. I think it would also be useful as a continual reference as their boys progress through the ranks. I found the section in the back about the Eagle Scout project to be especially useful. I am really glad we will have this on our shelf as our boys go through Boy Scouts.

I can also see this being useful to leaders, although definitely not a replacement for training. In fact, I felt there could have been more emphasis on training (as you know, I think that is a pretty important part of Scout leadership). It not only gives a good overall picture of how the program is supposed to work, it is full of little tips to help you find that balance between helping the boys and letting them lead.

A few notes about this book: This only covers Boy Scouting, not Cub Scouts, Varsity or Venturing. According to the authors, there will probably be a Cub Scouting book in the future, but Varsity and Venturing books seem unlikely. I inquired about digital versions, and they said there is a possibility of digital format in the future, but right now it is not a guarantee. One disappointment for me was that I felt it could use more editing, but I do not think that would ruin most people's reading experience.

Disclosure: We were provided a copy of the book in exchange for review. We received no other compensation and all opinions are our own.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Until we meet again...

I debated whether to post this, because it is not inspirational or instructional. It is about Scouter camaraderie, though, and it's what's on my mind.

Yesterday there was going to be a Cub Scout Pow Wow in our district. It was to be the first ever in our area. Pow Wows are usually held on the other side of the state where the Council Headquarters are.

It was only going to be a smallish Pow Wow. After a big push, we managed to get 30 people signed up. (About a third of those were from our Quad Pack - yay us). I was excited we were going to get so many trained. I was excited about the class I was teaching. I was excited to be spending the day with my Scouting friends.

They had a good reason to cancel, though. One of the people running the Pow Wow - one of our district training chairs - died unexpectedly Wednesday night. They were going to proceed anyway, but the funeral was scheduled for Saturday, and since most of the training staff was going to be at the funeral, that wouldn't work.

We, unfortunately, weren't able to make it to the funeral due to sickness. It was held in the same building that the Pow Wow would have been in, because that was her ward house. I imagine she was the one who had arranged for the Pow Wow to be there. I heard all her Scouting friends were going in uniform (they asked the Stake President if it would be okay).

I first met Marilyn last year when she was in charge of a district training day we helped with. I liked her right away. She was the first person, besides my husband, that I told my idea about this blog. Then when I got it up and going I sent it to her before anyone else. I had to turn her down recently when she asked me to help with another district training. Then she was the one who gave me my assignment for Pow Wow.

Goodbye, Marilyn. We will get everyone trained another way. We will have another chance to try Pow Wow next year. And I am sure we will have you in our hearts as we do.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Academics and Sports

The Cub Scout Academics and Sports program is a great way to supplement regular advancement. It gives an opportunity for frequent recognition, which has been shown to better maintain the boys' interest in Scouting.

Many of the requirements for the belt loops and pins match up with things the boys are doing anyway. Here is a list of some possible places to take advantage of overlap. Some of these correspond directly, and some are just related. This list isn't comprehensive. I am sure you will find more ways to combine things. But this should give you a good start. (Note: The list includes Tiger requirements, even though the Church does not sponsor Tiger dens)

Art - Tiger: Elective 15; Wolf: Elective 12; Bear: Elective 9; Webelos: Artist*
Astronomy – Bear: Elective 1, Webelos: Scientist*
Chess – Tiger: Elective 3; Wolf: Achievement 10g; Bear: Achievement 10b; Webelos: Scholar*
Citizenship – Tiger: Achievement 1, Elective 10 or 11, Elective 47; Wolf: Achievement 4e & 4f, Achievement 9b, Achievement 7c & 7f; Bear: Achievement 3a & 3j, Achievement 6a, d, e, f, g; Webelos: Family Member, Citizen*
Collecting – Tiger: Elective 16; Wolf: Achievement 6, Elective 6b; Bear: Achievement 17d, Elective 22; Webelos: Geologist
Communicating – Tiger: Achievement 4, Elective 20; Wolf: Elective 1c, Elective 2, Elective 6, Elective 22c; Bear: Achievement 17a, Achievement 18b & 18f; Webelos: Communicator*
Computers – Wolf: Elective 21; Bear: Achievement 17d, Achievement 18e; Webelos: Communicator*
Disabilities Awareness – Wolf: Elective 6b; Webelos: Communicator
Family Travel – Webelos: Traveler
Geography – Bear: Achievement 17d; Webelos: Traveler*
Geology - Tiger: Elective 16; Wolf: Achievement 6; Bear: Elective 22; Webelos: Geologist*
Good Manners – Tiger: Elective 9; Wolf: Achievement 8, Elective 12f; Bear: Achievement 18e
Heritages – Tiger: Achievement 1; Bear: Achievement 8; Webelos: Family Member*
Language and Culture – Tiger: Elective 3, Elective 16; Wolf: Achievement 6, Achievement 10g, Elective 22; Bear: Achievement 10b, Elective 22; Webelos: Scholar*
Map and Compass – Tiger: Achievement 2; Wolf: Elective 12f; Bear: Elective 23; Webelos: Traveler*
Mathematics – Tiger: Elective 13; Wolf: Elective 21b; Bear: Achievement 9a & 9b Achievement 13; Webelos: Family Member, Engineer* Scholar*
Music – Tiger: Elective 6, Elective 7, Elective 36; Wolf: Elective 11; Bear: Elective 8; Webelos: Showman*
Nutrition – Tiger: Elective 23, Elective 25Wolf: Achievement 8, Elective 12f; Bear: Achievement 9, Achievement 13a; Webelos: Fitness
Pet Care – Tiger: Elective 43; Wolf: Elective 12a & 12f, Elective 14; Bear: Achievement 17d, Elective 16; Webelos: Naturalist
Photography – Wolf: Elective 21b; Bear: Elective 11
Reading and Writing – Wolf: Elective 1a, Elective 6; Bear: Achievement 18
Science – Tiger: Elective 30, Elective 42; Wolf: Achievement 6, Elective 8b & 8c, Elective 15; Bear: Achievement 5d, Elective 4, Elective 15; Webelos: Science*
Video Games – Bear: Achievement 13; Webelos: Family Member
Weather – Tiger: Achievement 5; Bear: Elective 2; Webelos: Scientist*
Wildlife Conservation – Wolf: Elective 13; Bear: Achievement 5; Webelos: Naturalist

Archery – (Day Camp Only) Wolf: Elective 20c, Elective 23e; Bear: Elective 20a
Badminton – Tiger: Elective 35; Wolf: Elective 20a; Bear: Achievement 23b & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Baseball - Tiger: Elective 35; Wolf: Elective 20l; Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman***
Basketball – Wolf: Achievement 1j, Elective 20m; Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman***
BB Gun Shooting – (Day Camp Only) Wolf: Elective 20n; Elective 23e
Bicycling – Tiger: Elective 37; Bear: Achievement 14; Webelos: Sportsman**
Bowling – Wolf: Elective 20g; Bear: Achievement 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Fishing – Wolf: Elective 19; Bear: Achievement 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Flag Football - Tiger: Elective 35; Wolf: Elective 20j; Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman***
Golf - Tiger: Elective 35; Bear: Achievement 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Gymnastics – Bear: Achievement 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Hiking – All: Leave No Trace Award, Outdoor Activity Award, Wolf: Elective 18b, Elective 23c; Bear: Achievement 12b
Hockey – Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman***
Horseback Riding – Bear: Achievement 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Ice Skating – Wolf: Elective 20e; Bear: Achievement 23c, Elective 20c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Kickball - Tiger: Elective 35; Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman***
Marbles - Tiger: Elective 35; Webelos: Sportsman**
Physical Fitness – Wolf: Achievement 1h, Elective 20; Webelos: Athlete* Sportsman**
Roller Skating – Wolf: Elective 20f; Bear: Elective 20e; Webelos: Sportsman**
Skateboarding - Webelos: Sportsman**
Snow Ski and Board Sports – Wolf: Elective 20d; Bear: Achievement 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Soccer - Tiger: Elective 35; Wolf: Elective 20k; Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c, Elective 20b; Webelos: Sportsman***
Softball - Tiger: Elective 35; Wolf: Elective 20l; Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c;
Webelos: Sportsman***
Swimming – Wolf: Achievement 1h & 1i; Bear: Achievement 23c, Elective 19; Webelos: Aquanaut*
Table Tennis - Wolf: Elective 20a; Bear: Achievement 23b & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Tennis - Tiger: Elective 35; Wolf: Elective 20a; Achievement 23b & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman**
Ultimate - Tiger: Elective 35; Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman***
Volleyball - Tiger: Elective 35; Bear: Achievement 23a & 23c; Webelos: Sportsman***

* Earning this belt loop as a Webelos is possible requirement for this Activity Badge
**One of the Sportsman requirements is to earn any two individual sports belt loops
***One of the Sportsman requirements is to earn any two team sports belt loops

Sunday, November 6, 2011


7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study‍ it out in your mind; then you must ask‍ me... (
D&C 9:7-8)

We teach our primary children that this applies to the temporal as well as the spiritual. "You can't just pray for God to give you the answers on a test. You need to study first, then pray for help remembering what you studied."

Before sending missionaries out to teach the gospel, we send them to an MTC to receive training, and if it's relevant, to receive a foundation in a new language. Then we rely on the Spirit to guide them as needed.

We know these things, yet we often forget to apply them as adults. Dallin H. Oaks reminded us last year that we should use available medical help and current science in addition to prayer, fasting and priesthood blessings in matters of health.

It is tempting to think, "This is a Church activity, so we'll be safe," or, "I was called and set apart, so I will receive all the inspiration I need," or, "The Lord called me, so that means He feels I am qualified," then to do nothing, save it be to ask for inspiration or for the boys to listen or for the activity to go well and that we'll all be safe.

Get trained. Attend Roundtables. Read the Handbook. Know the rules of Safe Scouting.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

House Rules

I remember when I first learned about "house rules." Someone told me that earning money for landing on "Free Parking" in Monopoly was not actually part of the real game rules. In disbelief I read through all the rules, and they were right! My family had always played that way, so I assumed that was the way it was.

I made it a point after that to always read and know the game rules. Uno is worse. Everyone uses house rules when they play Uno. I have met very few people who actually know the real rules. It can be a pretty good way to pick a fight.

There is nothing wrong with house rules, as long as everyone knows they are house rules and they are agreed on by everyone before playing. I have seen some pretty crazy house rules for Uno that make the game even more cut-throat, but that can be a lot of fun. If that's the way everyone wants to play, so be it. It's only a game.

However, I have had people say, "This is the way we are going to play." There was no choice. There have also been games where no rules were agreed on ahead of time, and everyone played differently. That's when fights really break out. Or tears.

I think often in Church programs we end up with house rules. A certain ward does things a certain way, and some people end up thinking that is the way things are done, because they have always seen it done that way.

Scouting has the same problem, whether in the Church or not. Maybe that is why the problem seems so prominent in Church Scouting - because it falls under both categories. Does it sometimes seem like Church Scouting has twice as many house rules as anything else?

Like in the games, house rules in Scouting aren't necessarily a bad thing. After all, that's what Scouting is, right? A game (with a purpose). House rules may help fulfill the needs of a particular unit. They may create traditions which give the program more meaning.

It is important, though, that they do not conflict with the real rules. Everyone should know that they are only house rules, and everyone should be familiar with what the actual policies are of both the BSA and the Church.

I have been told several times, "We should ________. That is the way it is supposed to be," but I know it says no where in the training or literature that that is the way it is supposed to be. Like Free Parking money, it is a really good idea that makes the game more fun, but it is not something we absolutely have to do.

House rules need to be flexible. Which is one reason it is important for everyone to know that they are house rules. Even really good ideas that meet the needs of most units may not fit your unit's needs. Even if something fit your unit's needs before, maybe it does not now. Maybe you have a tighter budget now, and you need to find a way to be more provident. (Our primary president used that word in a committee meeting a few months back. I have been thinking about that ever since - looking for ways to be more provident while still accomplishing what we need to.)

We need to know where we can be flexible and where we cannot, because that will help avoid contention. Contention interferes with Spirit-driven programs. The Spirit reminds us what the purpose of the program is, and it helps us know the best ways to meet that purpose in our individual units under our individual circumstances.

If we get stuck on "the way we have always done things" it can make those directions hard to hear. Stop and listen.

And don't forget to read the rules.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Adult Recognition

I have to admit this was one of my early motivators as a scout leader. I think I have mentioned that I have three brothers and was always a little jealous of their scouting experiences. I thought it was cool when I found out that as an adult I could earn a few patches for my scout uniform.

In fact, I did not buy a uniform until close to the end of my second time being a den leader (I put it off that time because I was pregnant when called). Yet, I had saved my "Trained" and "Quality Unit" patches from the first unit I was in three years earlier, just in case I ever did buy a uniform, and now I wear them both proudly. It's a near miracle I was able to keep track of them so long.

Earning patches is certainly not the most pure reason to be a good leader, but it can help motivate someone who needs a push in the right direction. They are also a nice recognition for someone who just is a good leader. For those of us in between those two points, the square knots can act as a guide for ways to "magnify your calling" and do a little better.

The last one is where I am at right now. When I was asked to help out as a Pack Trainer, I was not exactly sure what that entailed. After all, everyone can get their training online now. What I have been doing could be a whole post by itself (I can see now why it's a good idea for every pack to have a Pack Trainer), but one thing I have been using as a guide is the little card of requirements for the Pack Trainer square knot. It lets me know what kinds of things I can be doing to give my pack the best.

So what are the square knots? Just about every position in scouting has at least one you can earn. Each award has a tenure requirement, which cannot overlap another (for example, if you were a Den Leader and wanted to earn both the Den Leader knot and the Cub Scouter knot, you would need to spend at least three years in your position). However, I believe the tenure does not have to be continuous, so if you spent a year here and a year there, that would be okay, as long as you met the other requirements. There are training requirements, which usually involve completing basic training and attending either University of Scouting or Roundtables. Then there are the performance requirements, which are the ones that let you know ways you can improve what you are doing. For some of the knots you need to complete all of the performance requirements. For some, you only need to complete a certain number.

You can read about the different knots here. You can also download the progress cards here.

If you were a scout as a boy, you may also wear knots for certain awards you earned. If you earned the Arrow of Light, Eagle or the religious award (this can be either as a Cub Scout or a Boy Scout) there are knots you can wear on your uniform representing each of those.

There is also a religious knot you can earn as an adult. You can see the requirements for the LDS knot here. Cards for this knot (there is also a medal that can be given with it) can be obtained from the Distribution Center (sometimes) or the LDS-BSA. Your bishop should provide a card for you, but occasionally a Scouter may want to take the initiative of procuring his own card. The tenure for this award can overlap your other awards. Interpretation of the award is up to your bishop. So if something seems vague (for example, you may wonder whether the three years serving in primary or young men need to all be in the same ward) you should ask your bishop. It's up to him to decide.

Once earned, the knots are to be worn centered, directly above the left pocket of your uniform (you can see this in the insignia guide and uniform inspection sheets). After three knots, you start a new row above the first (I saw Scouters in Omaha with multiple rows of knots). If you want to get things just right, the side of the knot with the loop on top is supposed to point to the right. There is no set order, but traditionally the knot that means the most to you is placed furthest right.

Good Scouters work hard and recognition is important. This is one way to recognize them. Bishops and Committee Chairs, I encourage you not only to encourage your leaders to earn knots, but to also find other ways to recognize and support them. Strong Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs will strengthen your whole ward, and that is worth some thank yous.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"The problem with Scouting in the Church is..."

I have heard it said over and over. I have heard it from those who don't like Scouting and those who love it. I have heard it from members of the Church as well as traditional Scouters. "The problem with Scouting in the Church is that it is a calling. The leaders don't necessarily want to be there. They are not invested in the program."

I can see at least one flaw in this argument. Me.

Twice I was called to be a Cub Scout leader when I did not particularly want to be. I had no son in the program, no vested interest. My experience up until that point with Scouting was watching my brothers have fun that I wasn't having.

In fact, the second time I was called, I had specifically mentioned to a member of the bishopric a couple of weeks earlier that I had done Cub Scouting before and would rather not do it again. You should have seen the look on his face when he told me what they wanted me to do and asked me if I would accept. I have thought back on that many times with a smile. There is no doubt in my mind where that calling came from. That bishopric would not have given me the assignment otherwise.

As often happens in life, the Lord chose better for me than I would have chosen for myself. In both cases I gained valuable experience and learned valuable things. Those led me later to learn more things on my own. I have grown a lot since, and much of that growth started with seeds planted during those two brief callings. Scouting has even affected the way I parent.

An article from the Young Men General Presidency states, "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."

It turns out that those experiences were not just for my benefit. Now I am part of a program in a relatively young ward. We currently have many leaders who are willing to build a great program, but most have no experience in Cub Scouts. They have no idea where to start. The things that I learned in other wards can now benefit this ward.

When my own sons become scouts, I will be able to support them properly. I will already know the program and what my role is. If I had not had that previous experience as a Den Leader, I would probably be one of those parents who drop their sons at the curb once a week, then show up for the awards ceremony when it is time to pin the badge on.

I am very thankful the Lord gave me the experiences he did. We have all heard the phrase, "The Church is perfect, but the people aren't." We need to have patience with those people at whatever level they are at and trust that the Lord knows how to run His Church. His ways are not our ways, and we do not always see the reasons for things until long after they happen. Sometimes we never do.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


I remember when I first went to New Leader Essentials training with the Den Leader I was assistant to several years ago. We agreed with each other that most of the things they covered were not relevant to LDS Scouters, especially the parts about recruiting.

Now that I have some more experience, and a different attitude towards Scouting in general, I beg to differ. I think pretty much everything in the training is valuable to everyone, and I think recruiting is an angle LDS Packs and Troops ought to be considering, for two reasons.

In an article by the Young Men General Presidency about reasons the Church uses the Scouting program, they state, "If used correctly, the four Scouting programs will provide both a safe and neutral environment... Because Sunday quorum involvement is not specifically required, it provides for those who are less active or of other faiths to be invited to participate in meaningful and enjoyable activities."

A den from the other ward in our building in California had "recruited" a boy and his father. It was not something they had done actively. It happened because they were a good den out having fun. This boy and his father had been looking for a Christian Cub Scout Pack to be involved in, but none of the others in the area were exactly what they wanted. They saw this den at a bowling alley (and since the boys were all in uniform, it was obvious they were Cub Scouts), got to talking to them, and ended up joining. What a great chance to expose someone to the Church who probably would not have heard of it otherwise. I was not involved there for long, but my impression while I was there was that this was a good experience for both the boy and his father (who became involved on the Pack Committee) and gave them a favorable view of the Church.

The other reason we should take a look at the recruiting angle is that sometimes we are faced with a need to "recruit" members of our own pack/den/troop/team/crew. Because the Church automatically registers every boy on the records within the appropriate age groups into its Scouting units, we often end up with boys who are less active, or even boys who are active on Sundays but who have no interest in Scouting. We should consider taking some steps to "recruit" these boys who are signed up, but who are not really on board.

I think in either case, the most valuable recruiting tool is to make sure you have a program that boys (and their parents) will want to be a part of. Try evaluating your program from the viewpoint of a boy and his parents looking for a unit to join. Beginning Boy Scouts (review coming soon), gives a list for parents to use to evaluate potential troops. Consider some of these points and how well your troop is doing (some of these are more specific to Boy Scouting, but a few apply to Cub Scouting as well):

- Are boys or adult leaders running the troop meeting? BSA is designed to be a boy-run program and this should be evident during the meetings.

- Does the meeting seem well-planned and are the scouts busy? Is there a feeling of enthusiasm among the scouts?

- Are the scouts dressed in uniforms? The uniform reminds scouts that they are part of a team. By wearing a uniform, they show their commitment to the BSA program.

- Are there several leaders in uniform present during the meeting? Have the leaders completed BSA training?

- Does the troop have a calendar of scheduled activities that includes at least one camping trip or hike per month? Was the calendar planned by the youth leaders of the troop?

- Does the troop have a program for older scouts? A High Adventure program that includes challenging hikes and other outdoor adventures will keep older boys engaged in Scouting.

How did you do? Would you join your own troop (or pack, etc)? Just because the boys are supposed to attend activities does not mean we should not work to make the activities something they want to attend.

I have known a few boys who were active members of the Church who never went to scout meetings because they were not "into" the camping and things. Further investigation in each case showed that at some point something had happened to the boy or a family member that turned the boy and/or family off of Scouting. Those problems may have been prevented by having trained and experienced leaders running the program the way it was supposed to be set up. Personality conflicts do happen, but we should do everything we can to make sure the boys are having a good time and feel welcome.

The same thing can happen at the other end of the spectrum. You may have a family in your ward that is really into Scouting. If the program is not a very good one, they may decided they would rather have their boy in a community pack/troop rather than risk him not having a good scout experience. When this happens, your ward misses out on the help and involvement of that family, and that family misses out on things that the program, coming from the Church perspective, can offer.

Which is another thing you may want to evaluate about your program. Do you offer a reason for members of your ward to be a part of Church activities rather than turning elsewhere for enrichment, whether it be other Scouting programs, 4H, soccer or other activities? There is not anything wrong with the boys participating in those other things, of course, but they will never get from them some essential things. Those programs are not designed to prepare the boys for or help them honor their priesthood. Does yours? Are your troop activities a laboratory for Sunday lessons? Do your Cub Scout meeting incorporate Faith in God achievements? Remember Elder Oaks and “Good, Better, Best?” Make sure Scouts is a “better” or “best” option so that families can “choose the better part.”

In some wards it will take a lot of work for parents and leaders to all see Scouting in the right light, rather than as just the drop-off babysitting service or another activity that we “have” to do. Try to remember the purpose, and keep working on your ten percent.

Finally,, don't forget ministering to the youth under your stewardship. Make sure you know who they are and they know who you are, and they know you want them to be there.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Teaching With a Purpose

This is something about teaching that took me a long time to really grasp, so I wanted to share some of my experience with the hope that it will help someone else.

I have taught Primary and Cub Scouts several times in several different wards, but there has been a big difference in my teaching in our current ward to all of those other times. There are probably a few reasons for this, but I think a big one is that I have been teaching with a purpose.

The difference seems subtle, but the effect is big.

The first year teaching in this ward, I decided that I wanted to get the students excited about the scriptures. It was not hard, because I love the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, which was what we were studying that year. The Book of Mormon is full of so many great stories that eight-year-olds can enjoy, especially when told by someone who is enthusiastic about the stories. The students were excited to come back every week to hear the next story. (Not every week was perfect, of course, but I think most everyone enjoyed being there most of the time. Then again, my memory may wear rose-colored glasses.)

Last year, teaching the same group of boys again, this time as ten-year-olds, I received an impression that I needed to be preparing them to go on missions. Ever since, we have kept that goal in mind when we plan and teach our lessons. We also try to keep the purpose stated at the beginning of the lesson in mind as we teach, but if there is some way we can relate it to missionary work or some skill that is valuable to a missionary (such as knowing the scriptures or gospel better or listening to the Spirit), that becomes the main purpose of the lesson. If we end up on a tangent that is mission-related, we go with it.

We are teaching the same lessons we would teach otherwise out of the same manual, but I can see a difference in the boys. You will have to wait another seven years, though, before I can really tell you how things turn out.

In Scouting, we have our goals spelled out for us with the Aims of Scouting and the Purposes of Cub Scouting. If you try to keep those goals in mind when planning, you will see a difference. You may think the difference in what you teach is subtle, but over time there will be a big difference in the effect.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Sobering Thought

Bishops and stake presidents, once your leaders are trained, do everything you can to ensure that they stay in their callings long enough to make a difference in the lives of the boys they serve. In 2004, LDS troops had one of the largest percentage of boys registered in the Boy Scouts of America. Unfortunately, we also had a much higher percentage of the fatalities that occurred during Scout activities. We have learned that there are three reasons for this: (1) lack of training, (2) lack of experience, and (3) failure to exercise good common sense. We plead with you as you prayerfully consider calling them to serve as leaders of our young men, to ensure that they are committed to receiving appropriate BSA training and that they serve with the youth for an extended time. - Charles Dahlquist in a 2005 address

I saw a discussion about this where someone posted a list of all the articles he could find on Scouting fatalities. Almost all of them were LDS scouts (I think a couple were unknown). Almost all of them involved inadequate supervision and/or no buddy.

We all think we will be fine. Our boys will be fine. Right up until something happens.

This is why it is so important to get trained, know the guidelines and follow them. The guidelines are there for your safety as well as the boys'. You do not want to be the one whose watch (or lack thereof) a serious accident occurs under. When I did the severe weather course online a few months back, I thought it was cheesy. How much of this do I really need to worry about? I wondered. At least one of the fatalities on the list I saw could have been prevented by following the severe weather guidelines. Ask yourself, What if that had been a boy under my watch?

Am I being over-dramatic? Maybe. Better safe than sorry? Definitely.

[Edit: Here is a letter from the First Presidency from earlier this year about safety precautions when planning activities. This would be a good thing for all youth and YSA leaders to keep on hand.]

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Starting Where You Are At

My first callings in Cub Scouts and Primary were when I was a young single adult. I look back now and see how much better I could have done things (like incorporating more Faith in God activities).

I have to tell myself that the Lord knew where I was at when he called me. He knew what was going to happen when he called me as a very, very young adult to teach a class full of rowdy eight-year-old boys. He probably would not have called me if it was going to ruin them for life. Very likely He did it so that I could learn and grow a little from the experience (and hopefully those poor boys had an outstanding leader or teacher at some other point who could influence their lives for good).

I am learning and growing all the time, seeing things that I could have done better even just last year. We all have to start somewhere, though.

What I can do is keep learning and growing to best take advantage of future opportunities. My husband recently pointed out that with three boys we will guaranteed be involved in Cub Scouts at some level for at least the next eleven years. There will be many opportunities (which makes me grateful that I did start learning as a young adult and grateful to those who were a patient example and help - especially a certain committee chair who pushed me to get my training).

No matter where you are at, this comes down to the same answers we always give: study (get trained!), pray and listen to the Spirit for guidance. Do the best you can and try to be prepared (hmm, those sound familiar too).

Bishops, this is a good reason to allow your leaders tenure. Charles Dahlquist said, "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 young men and in the generations unnumbered that follow." The new Handbook says, "When possible, leaders should be allowed to serve in Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting callings long enough to become fully trained, establish strong activity programs, and effectively touch the lives of boys and men."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Incorporating Faith in God into Cub Scouts

One of the things that is emphasized a lot more in the new Handbook is that Faith in God should be a part of your Cub Scout program. This is something I have wondered about as both a den leader and a primary teacher – whose job exactly is it to do Faith in God with the boys? Well, number one should be the parents, of course, just like with the Cub Scout requirements. But prepared leaders and teachers can find ways to work Faith in God into what they are already doing. I am trying to get better at this, and I wanted to share some of the ideas I have had.

I am still getting to know the new Cub Scout program (err.... delivery method) with using Character Connections as the themes. I think these make it easier than ever to work Faith in God into meetings. I have just started putting together a resource book with our Ward's Wolf Den Leader with ideas organized by theme. I went through the Faith in God for Boys book and matched many of the suggestions up to the themes:

Health and Fitness:

Learning and Living the Gospel: Read D&C 89. Discuss how Heavenly Father blesses us when we faithfully live the Word of Wisdom. Help plan and conduct an activity to teach the Word of Wisdom to others.

Serving Others: Plan, prepare and serve a nutritious meal.

Developing Talents: Plan a physical fitness program for yourself that may include learning to play a sport or game. Participate in the program for one month.

Developing Talents: Learn about and practice good nutrition, good health, and good grooming, including modest dress.


Serving Others: Read the twelfth article of faith. Discuss what it means to be a good citizen and how your actions can affect others.

Memorize Twelfth Article of Faith.


Serving Others: Write a letter to a teacher, your parents, or your grandparents telling them what you appreciate and respect about them. (one of the requirements for square knot)

Serving Others: Make a list of qualities you like in a person. Choose one quality to develop in yourself. Discuss how showing respect and kindness strengthens you, your family, and others.

Memorize Eleventh Article of Faith.


Learning and Living the Gospel: Learn to sing “Choose the Right” (Hymn 239). Explain what agency is and what it means to be responsible for your choices. Discuss how making good choices has helped you develop greater faith.

Serving Others: Entertain young children with songs or games you have learned or made yourself. Show that you know how to care for and protect a young child.

Memorize Second Article of Faith


Memorize Thirteenth Article of Faith.

For Faith and Compassion there are entire sections of possibilities, so I will not list them all, but I will share one more idea my den leader friend used. She made half-sized versions of the Joseph Smith's First Vision flannel board characters from here. She gave a set to each of her Wolves to help them teach about the First Vision in Family Home Evening (another square knot requirement).

The Church has also put out a list of where Faith in God suggestions overlap with Cub Scout requirements.

How about working the Articles of Faith into your den and pack meetings? Here is a post on another blog about activities ideas I am using as a Primary teacher to help the boys with their Articles of Faith. Many of them could be used in den meetings. Here a couple more ideas that could be used in pack meetings:

As a gathering activity you could break several Articles of Faith into short phrases, each on a separate card. Give these cards to people as they arrive. They have to find the other people who will complete their Article of Faith.

For an activity you could have 1-3 words (depending on which Article of Faith you choose and how much participation you expect to get) from an Article of Faith written on cards. Hand these out and have the people line up in order without talking. Then have them read the cards in order to see how they did. If you have especially large pack meetings you could have two or three teams, each with a different Article of Faith (use a different color of cards for each one to keep them straight).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Scouting and Agency

I'd like to share with you a blog post by an LDS Varsity Team Coach that illustrates the frustration a leader can feel in watching a youth not live up to his full potential: Why Won't He Just Earn His Eagle?

As leaders, teachers and parents, we try to help those under our stewardship succeed in any way we can. In the end, though, our charges have their agency, and we cannot force them to succeed. Nor should we. As the author of the article puts it, "At some point this boy must become responsible for his Scouting career."

One thing we have tried to emphasize recently with the boys we teach in Primary is that Satan's plan would not have allowed us to learn and grow. We need to learn and grow if we are ever to become like our Father in Heaven. Part of that process (a large part) is making mistakes.

It is the same with Scouting. Rank advancements and awards are not the purpose of Scouting any more than "getting through" is the purpose of earth life. Advancement is one of the methods of Scouting, a means to an end, not the end itself. (Here's a great blog post about that by another LDS scout blogger.)

Scouting is about creating leaders. The boys start as Wolves with a very defined path, but even then there are some choices they make themselves, the biggest choice being to do the work given to them. As the program progresses, they are given more and more freedom in their path. By the end, each boy should be directing his own path. A Scout who has had his hand held every step of the way, has been pushed through the program, or has had requirements signed off that he did not fully complete, just for the sake of getting through, has been short-changed. A very small percentage of Scouts become Eagle Scouts. That is why it means so much.

This may be one of the most difficult parts of being a leader. I cannot imagine the pain our Heavenly Father must feel watching His children make poor choices, and knowing that only a few will make it back to Him. Why did He let us come here, knowing so few would make it back? Because it is the only way we could ever become what we were meant to be.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Online Community

We're trying to get up and running again now that we are getting a little sleep again (some nights). We were recently asked to help out with our ward's Cub Scout Pack Committee and are looking forward to serving in Scouting again.

I have been coming across other great blogs by LDS Scouters, and I have decided to add a blogroll to the sidebar. I have added a few of you already, but my future scouts are demanding my attention, so help me out, if you would. If you have a blog you'd like added, let me know. I am looking for blogs that focus on Scouting (or at least, like American Jane, are about Church programs and one of the focuses is Scouting). It would be nice, too, if you provided a link back to us somewhere on your blog.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Church Website Update

The Scouting section on the Church website has been updated. There is an updated version of the Scouting Handbook that has more information and clarification on some things. There are also some new pdf graphics about the importance of training and Scouting as a Church program. They couldn't have made things more clear and to the point. Go check it out!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Letter to Robert Mazzuca, Chief Scouting Executive

This is a letter I wrote to the Chief Scout Exec. I think it's important we all be involved in this kind of thing.

May 18, 2011

Mr. Robert Mazzuca
Chief Scouting Executive
Boy Scouts of America
1325 West Walnut Hill Lane
Irving, TX 75015-2079

Dear Mr. Mazzuca:

I’m writing to you as a 6th generation miner, an Eagle Scout, a Merit Badge Counselor and a Day Camp Director.

I’m currently employed as a geologist in the mining industry. As a professional in the mining industry I would like to see the BSA “reinstate” the mining merit badge that my professional organization, the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc. has been recommending for a number of years. I have been peripherally involved with its development.

As a professional geologist, I was curious to note the changes, some years ago, in the Geology Merit Badge. (It is severely lacking, in my opinion; the old requirements were much more well-rounded). When I do the Geology Belt Loop with our Cub Scouts and other local youth groups, I often explain to them that geology is related to almost all the other sciences and almost all the other sciences contribute to geology. Mining is dependent on geology and those same sciences, but in a more practical way. In many respects, it’s the hands-on version of geology and there are many careers (very well-paying careers) in mining.

I’m also somewhat distressed that Scouting has been for so long without a Mining Merit Badge. Mining is integral to EVERYTHING we do. You couldn’t dress in the morning, drive to work, flush the toilet, turn on the lights, eat fresh-baked bread, check your email, buy groceries at your local super-mart, get a life-saving medical procedure or do any of the many activities most people take for granted, without the support of mining. As the old saying goes, “If it can’t be grown, it has to be mined”. (I might add that current farming techniques would be impossible without mining to support the manufacture of modern farming equipment and production of fertilizers). To help our Scouts be well-rounded and knowledgeable adults, we must train them to look at these things objectively and to understand the dependence their lives and lifestyles have on mining. They need to know where all this stuff comes from and how we turn it from raw materials into something useable.

I’ve been to many places in this great world and I’ve met few groups of people who are more in tune with the environment than miners. When we’re not mining, most of us are out enjoying nature. We are the ones that live next to these mines and we are the ones most concerned about maintaining the beauty of our homes. We are the people most dependent on maintaining sustainable use and production of resources. Mining isn’t a job for most of us, it’s a lifestyle.

One of the greatest thrills in life is finding something valuable. (Even if it’s only valuable in your own mind)! The thrill of finding a beautiful specimen or a small bit of something valuable can lead to a lifetime pursuit. (There’s a reason they call it gold fever! I’ve heard the same term applied to other minerals). I spent several hours a week ago with a young cub scout reviewing his collection of fossils. The only spectacular thing I saw that day was the enthusiasm my young friend has for his “mining” adventure. His specimens were only spectacular in his mind.

When I was a young scout, I really don’t recall safety being emphasized like it is now. When I was a young miner, I know we didn’t practice the same safety habits we now try to ingrain in workers. Our scouts today benefit from some hard lessons learned. The mining industry today is safer than it has ever been and I think scouts could benefit even more by associating with mine safety professionals. Most of the safety practices we advocate are relevant to life in general, not just mining.

With respect,

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Expect Delays

Our family is foused right now on preparing for a new baby and getting ready for Day Camp. Consequently, there will few posts on this blog between now and June.

In the mean time, feel free to read through the archives if you haven't already. If there are any topics you would like to see addressed in future posts, send us an e-mail (evenspor(at)gmail(dot)com). We can't really give specific advice to indivdual unit problems (that's up to your unit commissioner and those with the proper stewardship) but we can answer general questions on Church or BSA policies and procedures.

We are also looking for guest posts. If there is a particular part of the Scouting program or Scouting in the Church that interests you or you feel strongly about, please write something up and submit it to the e-mail above. Submission is no guaranteed of publication, but if we feel it is appropriate and in line with what we are trying to accomplish, we will post it.

Thanks for reading and for your patience.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Merit Badge Counselor

Yesterday we had University of Scouting. I was asked to teach the Merit Badge Counselor course. It's not a difficult process, being a Merit Badge Counselor, but there are some key ingredients to success. The course agenda starts with the aims of Scouting, which are:
1. The ideals of Scouting (the Oath, Law, Motto and Slogan)
2. The patrol method
3. The outdoors
4. Advancement
5. Association with adults
6. Personal growth
7. Leadership development
8. The uniform

Merit badges factor into each of those aims to some degree, but particularly with association with adults. Or rather I should say, a variety of adults. (Because in almost all Scouting activity there is some adult supervision, but when doing Merit Badges, a Scout has the opportunity to get to know someone they otherwise wouldn't). Enter the Merit Badge Counselor! This is a person, who by vocation, avocation or special training has the knowledge to guide and instruct a scout on a particular subject.

Merit Badge Counselors must meet certain requirements:
  • he or she must register annually with the BSA and submit a Merit Badge Counselor form each year.
  • must be at least 18 years old.
  • be of good character (i.e., a good role model).
  • be proficient in the merit badge subject matter.
  • be able (and willing) to work with scout-age youth.
  • be approved by the Counsel advancement committee.

Those conditions being met, there are few other limitations. (Two-deep leadership isn't specifically required for Merit Badge Counselors, but according to the Gospel of firebirdluver, it would be unwise to put oneself in a situation where there might be the appearance of evil. In other words, never be alone with a Scout and always have another adult present. Besides, each Scout earning a merit badge should have a buddy to work through the badge with). Youth Protection training is also very important for Merit Badge Counselors.

There is no limit to the number of Merit Badges a Counselor can make him or herself available to teach, although he or she must be approved for each Merit Badge by the Council.

In fact, one of the few limits is that a Counselor cannot change the requirements of a Merit Badge. A Scout must do only the requirements, no more, no less. (Which isn't to say that if the Scout is interested, the Counselor can't help pave the way for the Scout to do more, just that the Scout isn't required to do more. This rule makes the merit badges fair and equitable for everyone). The exception to the rule is in the case of a special needs scout.

Two things that I think are important to note are that Scoutmasters and their assistants are not automatically approved to be Merit Badge Counselors. I was involved in a troop some years ago where the Scoutmaster, who was a good and well-meaning man, taught the Photography Merit Badge. During the course of the instruction, it became apparent that he had common knowledge (nothing technical or specific) of film photography, but was completely in the dark about anything digital. He should have found someone better trained to teach the Scouts.

The other important note is that a Merit Badge is an individual award. Group instruction is great and can be very beneficial to both the Scout group (who can help each other accomplish their goals) and to the Counselor (who then doesn't have to repeat the instruction over and over). However, each Scout must individually pass off all of the requirements.

The process for a Scout earning a merit badge goes something like this:

  • The Scout decides he wishes to pursue a Merit Badge. He tells his Scoutmaster.
  • The Scoutmaster either approves or dis-approves the Merit Badge. (Why might a Scoutmaster tell a Scout he can't work on a Merit Badge? Well, there could be a number of reasons; perhaps the boy is already working on several Merit Badges and the Scoutmaster feels it would be appropriate for the Scout to finish some of them before he starts another. There are some Merit Badges that are better earned in a certain order (Family Life, Cit. in the Community, Cit. in the Nation, Cit. in the World).
  • If approved, then the Scoutmaster gives the Scout a Blue Card and tells the Scout the name of a counselor for that Merit Badge. (It is the Scoutmaster's prerogative to either select a Counselor or let the Scout select one from a list. This might help the Scout be exposed to a number of different individuals, as he might otherwise be tempted to always select people he knows).
  • The Scout contacts the Counselor, discusses the topic, makes arrangements to complete the requirements and meet again with the Counselor. This may have to happen more than once.
  • The Scout works on the requirements. When complete, he contacts the Counselor, who ensures the Scout has completed all the requirements and signs the appropriate documentation (Blue Card). The Counselor keeps his or her portion of the Blue Card.
  • The Scout takes the Blue Card to the Scoutmaster, who verifies completion of the Merit Badge.
  • The Scoutmaster gives the Blue Card to the Advancement Chair.
  • The Advancement Chair submits the award to the Council and purchases the award.
  • The award is presented to the Scout, along with the Scout's portion of the Blue Card.

My recommendation is to carefully complete and guard any documentation (Blue Card) while completing a Merit Badge. Even if it's only partially complete, because a partially completed Merit Badge can still be completed up until a Scout's 18th birthday. (But if you lose it, you'll probably have to start over). Also, it's not entirely unknown for Counsel records to be incomplete, so it's good to have a copy of your own to back up your claim that you have completed the requirements for an award.

Merit Badge counseling can be a very rewarding experience for the Counselor. If you have some in-depth knowledge on a subject, please consider applying to be a Merit Badge Counselor. It could change a life!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Setting Them Up For Failure

We team teach the Valiant 10 and 11's in our ward. In one of those strange flukes, both classes are all boys. There are over a dozen in there, and a majority are in the younger class, so they will stay with us for the whole year. Surprisingly, I think this is actually the most I have ever enjoyed a calling in the Church. I know it is not one most people would ask for. It was certainly not my ideal calling ten years ago. This is our fourth year teaching Primary in this ward, and during that time we have taught almost all of these boys before, so we have gotten to really know and love them. They may not be the best at sitting still, but they are really good kids.

I want to open up the discussion for a bit on various aspects of teaching and mentoring boys. I don't claim to be an expert in the area (is anyone, really?), but it is a topic that is near to my heart, and I have found a few things to be helpful in my experiences with boys, so I'll share those, and if anyone has any others, I hope they will share as well in the comments or by e-mail.

Something that often comes up in the Ask Andy columns is that the goal of leaders should be to help the boys succeed, but what often happens instead is leaders finding ways for the boys to fail.
To be clear, by, "helping the boys succeed," I am not suggested doing everything for them or making sure they get pushed through an achievement or advancement. That is not success for the boy, since he doesn't get anything out of it besides a badge. There is no learning, growing or real sense of achievement. Boys Scouts especially is about stepping back to let the boys do things for themselves and learn from their mistakes.

The setting up for failure comes in when adults try to interfere too much in the other direction. Sometimes we try to add in our own rules that we think are best, when really what we are doing is thinking of ways for the boys to fail. One example is an advancement committee that denies Scouts rank advancement due to troop imposed attendance requirements (third from the last letter on that page). Another is a Scoutmaster who tries to subjectively decide whether a boy is "ready" to advance, when he has met all of the requirements (here's one example, first letter on the page.)

I think even the small and subtle things we do, thinking we are being clever or tricky, can accumulate in a way that may be harmful to the boys' attitudes. I was recently reading the section in Teaching: No Greater Call about teaching with questions (one of our favorite methods, because it helps the boys become really engaged with the lesson). The book says, "When asking such questions, be open to all answers (see “Listening,” pages 66–67). Encourage learners to ponder the scriptures and gospel principles being discussed and to express their ideas. Do not try to get them to give specific answers to questions; they will quickly become aware of what you are doing and either stop participating or start guessing instead of thinking. When you need a specific answer, it is best to ask a factual question or present the information in some other way." I have been in classes where this is exactly what happens. It doesn't take long for students to become disinterested in the discussion because they can't ever get the "right" answer.

It is a difficult skill to learn - how to push the boys enough to build character, but not make things impossible for them. I see it at home too with my oldest son. We want to build him into a fine young man, but I think sometimes we expect so much, and we spend so much time pointing out his faults that he must feel like he's never going to get things right. It is difficult but very important to find just the right level of difficulty for him, things that he can accomplish but will require some effort on his part, and then to step back and not point out every mistake, but to help him see how much he has grown.

If you have any thoughts, comments or questions on this topic or anything else related to teaching and raising boys, please contribute to the discussion.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ministering to Youth

The Church held another Worldwide Leader Training Meeting yesterday. Some of you may have attended. If you didn't, you can find the broadcast in streaming video, streaming audio and mp3 formats here on the Church website.

I think the segment most relevant to Scout, Young Men and Primary leaders is the second to last, "Ministering to Youth." It gives specific guidelines, an outline, for recognizing and helping the youth under our stewardship who need help. I know this is something I have found difficult in my Primary callings, and I suspect there are others who find it difficult as well. You should find watching or listening to the segment to be helpful.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Scouting and Family History

An unexpected side effect of the Year of Celebration last year for me was family history research. I already knew that my dad was an Eagle Scout and that his dad earned the Silver Beaver, but as I worked on some of the requirements for my ribbons, I ended up learning quite a bit more, which led me to asking more questions and learning even more about the history of Scouting and how it related to my family and the Church.

One of the requirements I chose to do was to write an article about a Scouting leader who made a positive difference in my life. I decided to write about my granddad, because, even though he was not my Scouting leader, he was a Scouting leader, and he definitely had a big impact on my life. I asked my dad some questions, and in the course of writing the article, learned not only some fun things about both my dad and granddad, I realized a few things about leadership that I had not thought about before. You can read the full article here.

I also made a Scouting Family Tree. This involved asking my brothers and dad for a few details so that I could fill out the chart. Through this I learned things I didn't know about my brothers' differing exeriences and opinions about Scouting.

I even came across, through chance, some interesting information about the history of Scouting in the Church. You may know that the Church became the first official chartered organization of the BSA three years after Scouting came to the US. But did you know that the Church actually implemented Scouting as part of the YMMIA two years before that, and that it was Gordon B. Hinkley's father who made the motion to make the affiliation official? (source) I thought that was an interesting bit of trivia.

Scouting can provide a similar opportunity to open up some family history conversations with your relations. It might give you some common ground you never knew you had with fathers, grandfathers, uncles, cousins, etc. One leader I know has been enthusiastic and done great things ever since she was called. I was not surprised to learn that it was due in large part to her dad being an avid Scouter. It is certainly a worthy legacy to live up to.

I look forward to being able to pass on the things I learned to my boys, to be able to share with them their Scouting family history.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Supplemental Training

Church leaders have made many statements over the years regarding the importance of Scout leaders receiving training as soon as possible for their positions. Charles Dahlquist likened not getting training to having a pair of expensive running shoes, then deciding to run a marathon in flip-flops: "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." (source)

The first training you need to get is Youth Protection. The Church has said that every Scout leader should be registered with the BSA before working with the youth. It is now mandatory for Scout leaders to take Youth Protection before registering. It is an easy online training that will give you the basic guidelines of the BSA that help protect the youth as well as limiting liability for leaders and chartering organizations. To take the training, you need to create an account on MyScouting.org, then go to the E-learning section. After you take the training, you need to print out the certificate and attach it (or a copy of it) to your registration. Your ward leaders should be able to provide you with a registration form, and they will probably be the ones to submit the form to the council for you.

All Cub Scout basic leader training is now available online. This is nice, because it give everyone an opportunity to receive training for their positions right away. I encourage all Cub Scout leaders to take full advantage of this.

However, there is something you miss out on by not receiving the training in person. President Dahlquist said, "For me, my Woodbadge experience was life changing and has affected each calling I have had since. With few exceptions, where leaders are well trained and Scouting is strong, so is the Aaronic Priesthood and Duty to God. Your training will also give you an ideal opportunity to rub shoulders with members of other faiths who are devoted youth leaders." (source) There are intangible benefits to attending District training and "rubbing shoulders" with other Scouters.

That is why I recommend, after taking the online training, taking advantage of available supplemental trainings. They may seem unnecessary in the beginning, but I think in the end you will find yourself glad you took the time to attend.

My personal favorite supplemental training opportunity is University of Scouting. You should have one in your area at least once a year. It probably seems like a lot to ask to take an entire Saturday just to attend classes about Scouting, but I have never talked to anyone who was sorry they went. University of Scouting is a great way to charge your enthusiasm for the program, meet lots of Scouters and glean a lot of tips to improve your program that you would have missed otherwise.

Some areas also hold an annual Pow Wow. This is University of Scouting geared specifically toward Cub Scout leaders. Some Councils aim the classes at University of Scouting specifically toward Boy Scout stuff because the Pow Wow covers Cub Scout topics. You should be able to find out what is available in your area on your Council's website and when classes are held.

Another great opportunity are monthly roundtables. These are evening time meetings each District holds which give you an opportunity to learn from other Scout leaders. Leaders share tips with each other, things they have learned, what has worked for them, and ideas for upcoming themes. This can be an especially good opportunity if you are feeling discouraged or burned out to receive some support and help.

Wood Badge is part of the required training for Boy Scout leaders and optional for Cub Scout leaders. At Wood Badge, leaders learn about the patrol method through firsthand participation. It is such a powerful leadership training tool that many businesses take advantage of it and use it as leadership training for their employees.

Wood Badge is a six day training that takes place either over the course of a week or two consecutive three-day weekends. Often the weekend training is on Friday-Sunday, but if you live in or near Utah, the Councils there (Great Salt Lake, Utah National Parks and Trapper Trails) hold their weekend Wood Badges on Thursday-Saturday.

As a mother of small children, I know that leaving family for that many days can be a challenge, often impossible. The Trapper Trails Council (and possibly others I don't know about) offer a solution with a special Family Wood Badge. This is a little bit more expensive option, of course, but you can think of it as combining Wood Badge with a family vacation, turning it into yet another way to strengthen your family and share the Scout experience with each other. There are activities available for different age groups, and youth have the opportunity to take NYLT, an invaluable leadership opportunity for them. You can find out more about Trapper Trails Wood Badge opportunities here.

There are even more training opportunities available, but these are a good place to start. One of these best things our family has done is get involved in Scouting on the District level. It is a growing opportunity, which is something we all need. Like President Dahlquist, you may even find it to be life changing.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Going to training is like going to church. There are three kinds of people; 1) those that simply don’t want to go and don’t make excuses; 2) those that don’t want to go because they think they don’t need to; 3) those that go and are edified by the experience. There’s not much you can do with the first group. In the second group, there are those that say they don’t need to go to church because they’re already well in tune with the Spirit and have no need of lectures from the pulpit to help them be closer to God. There are also those that say they already know enough and they are doing what they need to do to attain fulfillment in the hereafter. All the people in that second category need to go to church to help the rest of us poor souls who aren’t firmly on the path to Celestial Glory.

In Scouting you find the same groups; there are those that just don’t want to go to training; those that don’t think they need to go to training because they’ve “been in Scouts since I was 8-years-old” or that figure “the program is running smoothly enough, so why bother with training?” And there are those that go to training, become better leaders and guide young men to Celestial Glory. Again, there’s not much you can do with the first group. As to the second group, if those people are so good at what they are doing, they have a duty to share their secrets to success with other leaders. And the third group is stuck carrying the water.

The truth is, in most cases, things are not going as smoothly as they think and in all likelihood a person’s experience in scouts as a scout is entirely different from what is expected as an adult leader. And further, times have changed; things that were acceptable when I was a scout are now frowned upon and I’m positive there has got to be more paperwork involved than there ever was when I was a kid.

Training offers opportunities to reinvigorate yourself, to share success stories (and failures - it’s always easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes), and to enjoy the company of other adults. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss out on training!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Is Scouting a personal financial burden?

As a leader, scouting can be expensive. You should set a good example for the boys, which means purchasing a uniform. You can skimp and buy just a shirt, with a few patches, but that could still set you back $50 (adult shirts start at $29.99 on Scoutstuff.org). If you opt to go in for a belt, pants, socks, hat and the whole ball of wax you could be into it well over $120. The first time I was called to be an Assistant Scout Master I decided to ramp things up a bit for myself and went in for the shirt, belt, and pants. The pants snagged on something the first time I wore them and I shredded my nifty $60 pants. I swore off Scout pants then and there. (I’ve since found that olive-colored Levi’s are far superior in longevity and they go well enough with the uniform).

Then there’s camping equipment, if you’re in with the older boys, or crafts, games and snacks for younger scouts. When I was a scout my family was not in the money. Our camping equipment was generally sub-standard. I still enjoyed camping, but there were a few times when not having the right equipment made our excursions miserable. (Imagine 13-year-old me wearing cotton gloves and tennis shoes the morning after a sleepless winter night in a summer-weight sleeping bag; I couldn’t move my fingers; the tears were freezing on my cheeks; I couldn’t fix my breakfast. I was not a happy camper. Fortunately, I had an advisor that eventually realized I was going into the early (or middle) stages of hypothermia). As a result, I hate winter camping. After having nearly frozen to death on several Klondikes and snow cave events, I swore off winter camping and avoided it studiously for years. I want nothing less than insulated 2x4 walls between me and a cold winter night. So when I was called to scouting as an adult, I started collecting (as I could afford it) equipment suited for winter camping. It’s not cheap, but I’ve learned that sleeping on the cold ground isn’t so bad if you have a good 2” sleeping mat ($80) and a winter-weight sleeping bag ($50 on clearance, good to -20°F). The only thing keeping you up at night is the Scouts complaining that their tent ($20, end of season clearance) is blowing away.

The second time I was called to be an Assistant Scout Master I was in a rather well-to-do ward. I was excited about the prospects and asked where the scout closet was so I could inventory equipment. I was told, somewhat sheepishly, that the “scout cupboard” was in one of the church house classrooms. When I finally tracked down someone with a key, I found about 135 merit badge books (133 of which were outdated), two or three seriously dented pans, a ball of twine and a bunch of junk. I asked where the camping equipment was. They told me most of the kids supplied their own tents and sleeping bags. I asked about cooking gear and my jaw dropped when they told me the boys “usually bring pans from their mother’s kitchens.” At that point, I’d been involved with scouting for well over 20 years. I knew how those pans in the cupboard got dented. I knew how my mother would react if I said I was going to take her pans on a camp out. We eventually got organized enough to actually go on a campout in the high Sierra’s. (By “high” I mean nearly a mile and a half elevation). Someone had rounded up a gas camp stove to cook breakfast on; no campfires permitted in that area. That’s when I learned that not all camp stoves are created equally. It took an hour and a half to cook a half dozen eggs. When I got home from that trip, I logged onto eBay and found a high altitude cook stove ($100 plus shipping, used).

By now you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Yes, Scouting can be expensive. But as a calling in the church, it shouldn’t have to be. In my opinion, a calling to scouting shouldn’t cost you anything more than the bare minimum. You shouldn’t need to buy much more than your uniform shirt; everything else should be provided. All training costs (and you really do need to go to training) should be covered by the troop or pack. As President Monson stated in this April 1990 talk, “many costs heretofore borne by individual Church members now being covered through their tithes” and “The budget allowance program was created to reduce financial burdens on members” and “Members should not pay fees or be assessed to participate in Church programs.” In short, to fully participate in the Scouting programs, you should be registered and trained and the costs should be borne by your local Church unit. It is my contention that the boys we are responsible for deserve well-training leadership. That being said, however, if you happen to be financially well-off enough to cover some of your own expenses, funds may be used for activities or equipment that would also benefit the boys.

The last time I went to training, a faithful brother, who has been unemployed for some time now, told me that he has been saving for over a year so that he can afford to attend Wood Badge. It is my personal belief that he will likely get a lot more out of Wood Badge for his efforts in getting there. However, it concerns me that his unit leadership is so uninvolved in the Scout programs that they are unaware of his desire to get the training he is supposed to have. If they are aware, why have they done nothing to resolve the situation?

I find nothing in the new Administering the Church handbook that contradicts what President Monson stated in 1990. I encourage you to take full advantage of the opportunities in the Scouting program without letting it become a personal financial burden to you. Speak with your leaders if you find that you’re spending an inordinate amount of money on your activities. There are options other than doing without or going into debt.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


In recent years, fundraising has not been encouraged by Church leaders. However, they do understand the need for youth programs to sometimes raise money to pay for expensive annual camps. They have left it up to each ward to decide whether each youth group in the ward needs to hold a fundraiser or if expenses can be covered by the ward budget or the families of the youth. This decision is ultimately up to the bishop.

Church policy allows one fundraiser a year per group for the purpose of paying for one camp or needed equipment. The fundraiser must fit within the following guidelines (from the most recent version of the Church Handbook):

If a fund-raising activity is held, it should provide a meaningful value or service. It should be a positive experience that builds unity.

Contributions to fund-raising activities are voluntary. Priesthood leaders should take special care to ensure that members do not feel obligated to contribute.

Stakes and wards that sponsor fund-raising activities should not advertise or solicit beyond their boundaries. Nor should they sell products or services door to door.

Examples of fund-raising activities that are not approved include:

1. Activities that would be taxable.
2. Activities completed with paid labor, either by employees or by contract.
3. Entertainment for which the stake or ward pays performers for their services, when admission is charged, and when the intent of the activity is to raise funds.
4. The sale of commercial goods or services, including food storage items.
5. Games of chance, such as raffles, lotteries, and bingo.

Any exceptions to these instructions must be approved by a member of the Presidency of the Seventy or the Area Presidency.

The Friends of Scouting fund drive in the United States will continue as a separate, voluntary solicitation.

In the past, popcorn sales has been an approved method of fundraising for Scouts, but a statement has not been made by Church leaders as to whether that is still the case with the newest fundraising guidelines.

Here is an article where several people contributed ideas of fundraisers that had been successful in their wards. Some of the ideas in the article specifically mention ways to overcome awkwardness in ward dinners with suggested donations as well as inherent problems in service and cake auctions. This article gives some ideas for services that could be offered for auction. Here is the story of a ward that used an auction for its Cub Scout Pack and did it in such a way that the ward as a whole was strengthened by it.

It is my opinion that when the ward is the main audience for the fund-raiser that it is best when the fundraiser somehow brings the ward together like in the story. Another example is a pack I participated in where a pancake breakfast was held in conjunction with the pinewood derby on a Saturday morning. This not only raised money for the Cub Scouts, it encouraged support for the program by turning the derby into a ward activity to be shared by everyone. There were extra races held after the boys' cars were raced that anyone who wanted to could enter a car. This gave siblings, those who had never had the opportunity to be Cub Scouts, as well as dads who might otherwise be tempted to more than "help" with their sons' cars an opportunity to build and race their own cars. These "leader and family races" were very informal and fun for everyone. I have heard of some packs having similar races and charging a small admission fee for entering a car in the extra races as part of the fundraiser. Pancake breakfasts are low cost and easy to do, and the suggested donation price does not need to be very high. In addition, if you look on the back of the large Krusteaz bags, you will find information about how to receive some money back from the company if you use the product as part of a fundraiser (remember to save a copy of your receipt).

Not selling products door-to-door does not mean that the ward has to be the main source of funds. Look for opportunities for meaningful ways to help the community as whole. Car washes are a classic way for youth to raise money. You may find that there is a need in your community that is not being met that is also a way for your Scouts to earn money. For example, our community has a Fourth of July celebration that is relatively new. There are activities in the park in the morning before the parade, including a breakfast. The event has only been going on for a few years, so there isn't a particular group established to run the breakfast every year. Last year the committee had to look for a group willing to do it. This would be a great opportunity for a troop to provide a service that benefits the community and raises funds for their camp at the same time.

Remember that any fundraising activity needs to be approved by your bishop. He is the one who is appointed to receive revelation in this area. Follow the Spirit, and good luck finding ways to fund your program.

The final post in this series tomorrow will cover some additional thoughts on expenses associated with Scouting.