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, 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.]