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 16, 2012


I was talking to our ward's newly called Relief Society president one day. She was called around the same time as our new bishopric. Her husband was in the old bishopric. She told me about knowing her husband would soon be released. She had all kinds of plans, things their family would be able to do now that they would have extra time together that they have not had for the last five years. It would be impossible for me to fully relate to you how important family is to this woman and how much she was looking forward to that extra time to work on strengthening their family.

Then she was asked to be Relief Society president.

Obviously this was a hard moment for her. She felt her desires for her family were righteous desires. She told me that she decided go forward with faith and put things in the Lord's hands. Basically she said, "Lord, I will trust that if I accept this calling, you will bless my family in ways that will make up for the time we will not have together."

I have taken her perspective and applied it to the sacrifices our family makes in the pursuit of trying to build God's kingdom. We have become so busy with Scouting this year that it has meant sacrificing a lot of things, but this sister's story reminded me that we sacrifice the good for better and best. In fact, I can already see in our boys many blessings we have received for our involvement in Scouting and the other service we try to do as a family.

Anyone who has been through the temple has covenanted to make sacrifices to help build God's kingdom. One of the tricky things about that, though, is knowing which sacrifices to make. There has to be a balance. President Uchtdorf has taught us, for example, that there are good sacrifices and foolish sacrifices.

How do you know which is which? How do you know when it is appropriate to say no? I know of no better way than the Spirit. If we are truly open, if we truly have the attitude of, "I'll go where you want me to go and be what you want me to be," the Spirit will show the way. It seems to me that was one of the big themes in the most recent General Conference. I know as I watched the conference, in the beginning my attitude was that I do more than my fair share. However, as I listened to the words of the prophets, the Spirit whispered, "You can do more." Since then, things have come up, and the same Spirit has whispered, "This is it. This is what else you can be doing."

I want to remind you as well of one thing Joseph Smith taught us. You cannot hear the Holy Ghost when you have the spirit of contention about you. If you are angry, the Spirit cannot speak to you.

Unfortunately, I have noticed that often in ward Scouting programs, the spirit of contention is prevalent. When someone is stuck on preconceived ideas or prejudices regarding Scouting, it can add contention to meetings and interfere with the program moving forward. It can also interfere with an individual's attitude toward the sacrifices required by a calling.

I believe that if we are reading the Church Handbook on Scouting and trying to follow it, if we keep in mind that this is the Lord's program, and if we try to focus on what is best for the boys, then our programs will move forward, and we will find the proper perspective.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


"...yea, he hath led us out of the land of Jerusalem, and we have wandered in the wilderness for these many years; and our women have toiled, being big with child; and they have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death; and it would have been better that they had died before they came out of Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions." (1 Nephi 17:20)

Those were the words of Laman and Lemuel, as quoted by Nephi. Certainly there was nothing unusual about Laman and Lemuel finding something to complain about, and in this case, well, I think most people would consider those hard things to bear. What I find interesting, however, is that just a few verses earlier, Nephi had been saying:

"...so great were the blessings of the Lord upon us, that while we did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, our women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong, yea, even like unto the men; and they began to bear their journeyings without murmurings." (1 Nephi 17:2)

What others saw as trials, Nephi saw as blessings. His attitude made a huge difference in his outlook, as did Laman's.

Our attitudes have a huge impact on our experience as Scouters. I think, though, that it is even more important to realize how ours attitudes affect those around us. Laman's attitude rubbed off on his brother, his in-laws, and on at least one occasion, even his father, the prophet, had difficulty staying positive when surrounded by so much negativity. In the end, though, Nephi's optimism and faith (in his father, as well as in God) helped his father regain a little faith of his own.

I have noticed that the attitude of Scout leaders definitely rubs off on their Scouts. And the leaders' attitudes are usually affected by the attitude of ward leaders. When a committee chair, primary president, bishop,, etc. is less than enthusiastic about Scouting, it ends up showing in the leaders and boys.

Fortunately, the inverse is also true. When I spoke to the den leader from another ward recently, and she was so enthusiastic about how things were going, attitude was something she mentioned several times. Her attitude had improved (which she attributed to training). The new committee chair had a more positive attitude than the old one. The same went for the new Cubmaster and the primary representative. She kept mentioning how this or that person had "such a good attitude". When I visited a den meeting, I saw boys who were so excited to be there, you could practically feel the energy radiating from them. Several boys were lined up and ready to do an opening flag ceremony several minutes before it was time for the meeting to start. I have no doubt that those boys wanted to be there because their leaders wanted to be there

I know that is one reason I like going to district events, like University of Scouting and Roundtable. Being around other Scouters who are enthusiastic recharges my Scouting battery.

I think the real reason dedicated Scouters end up burning out is not so much all of the work. Scouters get burned out when they are faced with constant negativity and/or lack of interest from their fellow leaders and/or ward leaders. If there are any bishops reading this, please take note. I think the best way to keep your best Scouters from getting burned out is to support them. Support them in their efforts to try and run the program correctly, get them good assistants (and encourage those assistants to get trained), take the training yourself, listen when someone has an idea, take Scouting seriously. When those things do not happen, a good leader can feel like he is banging his head against the wall. When you are banging your head, it does not take long to get a headache.

In the end, it is the boys that suffer when you lose good leaders or when leaders lose their enthusiasm, and that is not fair to the boys.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Future Missionary

I have started wearing a "Future Missionary" tag on my "temporary patch" pocket on my uniform to help remind myself and others that one of the main focuses of LDS Scouting is training future missionaries.

I think it would be cool to have "Future Missionary" patches that looked like tags that we could give each boy who enters our program, and they could choose whether or not to wear the patches on their right pockets.

We may not have "Future Missionary" patches, but we do have "Recruiter" patches. There are no national requirements for earning a "Recruiter" patch. It is up to each unit to designate how its boys can earn the patch. I know one pack where we live who will give it to any scout who attends one of their two annual recruiting nights in uniform, because having current scouts there shows prospective scouts how cool and fun Scouting is.

One thing I remember from the first time I attended Den Leader training is that when our instructor started talking about recruiting, my fellow den leader and I rolled our eyes at each other and tuned out the "irrelevant" topic. We did not care about recruiting, because we did not need to recruit.

I think the real reason, though, was that we did not want to recruit. It is hard for someone who is only a half-hearted participant in something to find any interest in recruiting others to be a part of that program.

Now, however, I see the value in making recruiting an integral part of our programs. What better way to train future missionaries than to give them practice being missionaries right now? (Did you notice, by the way, that the Young Men General Presidency message in the last two issues of the LDS-BSA newsletters focused on recruiting?)

In a roundtable a couple months ago, our district executive gave us some tips on recruiting. The first thing to do, of course, is to have a program that boys will want to be a part of. Besides that, he told us, the best tool for recruiting is the boys.

If your boys are enjoying themselves at Scouting activities, they will be a lot more likely to tell their friends how great Scouts is, and to invite their friends to activities.

Our DE told us to not only encourage our scouts to invite their friends, we need to coach them in what to say. Keep in mind that the approach is different, depending on the age of the scout. A Cub Scout can tell his friend about how much fun he has, what kinds of activities his den has been doing and what awards he has earned. Then all he needs to do is ask, "Do you want to come to den meeting with me next week?" Boy Scouts may want to focus on specific activities and leave out the word "scout." Almost certainly they will want to avoid mentioning a uniform. To younger boys, the idea of being in scouts and wearing a uniform sounds exciting - I saw this in boy after boy when we helped with the Scouting booth at a local elementary school open house. As they hit middle school, it becomes much less cool, but "Wanna go camping with me and some buddies?" can still create some interest. Or the scout might want to mention knives, fire starting, robotics, photography, whatever is going on that might interest his friend.

Our pack is going to start awarding the recruiter patch to any boy who brings a friend to a den or pack meeting. I encourage your pack/troop/team/crew to consider whether you might want to make use of the recruiter patch in a similar way to encourage your future missionaries.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Using Your Resources

Several months ago, I happened to talk to a den leader from another ward in our area. She was newly called, and she was discouraged, for a number of reasons. I listened to her, gave her a few resources and let her know about an upcoming district training. Then I dropped by their ward on den meeting night and brought registration forms for the training. The three people that were there all filled them out, and I was able to turn them in the next day.

This last week I had a chance to talk to this same person again. I asked her whether she was still doing Cub Scouts and how it was going. She smiled and told me how much better things were going. Her den had improved, the pack had improved. “I remember you told me I would love it eventually, when I had gotten the hang of it. I didn't believe you, but I do love it now!” She attributed this all to training and to having gotten the Den and Pack Meeting Resource Guide. She is such a big fan of training that she encouraged everyone in her pack that hadn't been earlier to go to the district training in September. They have a 100% trained pack.

In a talk by Charles Dahlquist (2004 General Young Men Open House Address) he spoke of having expensive running shoes and leaving them up on the shelf, never used. We often take for granted the resources available to us in Scouting. Yet, the BSA has a number of resources available, and when we take advantage of them, our jobs are easier and our programs are better.

Our pack recently started making more use of the Den and Pack Meeting Resource Guide when we plan our Pack Meetings. Everyone is supposed to download whichever pack meeting plan we are using that month from the website and look it over. During our monthly planning meeting, we can then say, “We want to use everything except for this and this, and we want to add this in here.” Since we have started this, our pack meetings have really improved. They weren't bad before, but now they feel smoother, better planned and more interesting. They seem to flow better than before.

For those who aren't aware, the Den and Pack Resource Guide is available as both a book and online. It provides a year's worth of den meeting plans for each level of Cub Scouting, as well as a year's worth of pack meeting plans. One option your ward may consider is to purchase one or two copies of the book, then divide out the den meeting plans in between the different den leaders. You can either make copies of the pack portion for everyone, or have everyone download the appropriate plan online for any given month. The pack meeting portion of the Den and Pack Resource Guide was recently expanded online to have four years' worth of pack meeting plans so that you do not have to repeat the same pack meetings every year. Three of the pack meetings plans for each month have themes in addition to the Core Values to make things more fun and interesting, and the way the themes are used really ends up highlighting the core value well. We used the "Down on the Farm" meeting plan this last month, and it was a blast and also really focused well on Responsibility (we also threw in "Ghost Chickens in the Sky," which was a huge hit).

Another example is the book Ceremonies for Dens and Packs. We often get asked by den leaders about flag ceremonies. The rules of flag ceremony etiquette, as well as both opening and closing flag ceremony scripts can be found in the aforementioned book. It also has ideas for award ceremonies, ceremonies to present a bead in your den, and an all-purpose ceremony. We even found a really neat idea we are now using in our pack meetings of a rank advancement ladder. When the boys advance in rank, they get to move their names up the ladder.

I encourage you to look into what resources are available for your level of Scouting and try to make use of them. Of course, the very first resource to take advantage of is training, and in training you will probably learn about other resources. Yes, you could run the race in flip flops, but when you have the $200 running shoes right there, why not take advantage of them?

Friday, November 2, 2012

I'll go where you want me to go, Dear Lord (well, maybe not training; it long... and boring... and on a Saturday)

Over mountain or plain or sea.

I'll say what you want me to say, Dear Lord (but I can't ask people to attend an extra meeting every month)

I'll be what you want me to be (as long as it's not a Cub Scout den leader).

Monday, October 29, 2012

"You shouldn't even think..."

We have a copy of the "Trails to Testimony" CD for the sole purpose of loaning out to anyone in our ward or the other wards we help, that we can get to listen to it. Recently we got a new bishopric in our ward. We were talking to one of the counsilors one day, and he expressed a desire to know more about Scouting. He was never in scouts himself, so his knowledge of the program was limited to watching his two sons go through it. We told him as soon as our CD was available, he could be the next to have it.

He drives a lot for his job, so once he had the CD, it didn't take him long to listen to the to hour-long talk. Then he got a copy for himself.

He returned ours to me at church yesterday, and I could see the excitement in his eyes. He talked about how the CD would change perspectives and programs would be so much different if everyone would listen to this talk. He said, "You shouldn't even think the word Scouting - you or your kids - without listening to this first."

As LaVar Burton would say, you don't have to take my word for it. Here's another testimonial about Trails to Testimony and why you should get a copy or two to spread around your own ward.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Faith in God by Month - Complete File

I recently finished compiling my list of Faith in God activity ideas by month (core value). I put the entire year into one file for download. For each month I tried to include 2-4 suggestions for FiG requirements to work on, ideas for activities to go along with those requirements, and ways those requirements overlap or can overlap with Cub Scout requirements. I have uploaded the file in three different formats, so that you can download it in the format that works best for you:

Faith in God Ideas .pdf

Faith in God Ideas .doc

Faith in God Ideas .odt (Open Office)

[Legal note: Feel free to use in your ward and distribute to your friends, but please don't sell my file and remember to give credit where credit is due. If you are sharing online or via e-mail, I would appreciate it if you would provide a link to this post rather than to the file itself. Thanks.]

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hands-on Experience

For the last few months I have been enjoying a new Scouting position, different than anything I've done in Scouting before - being a scout parent. Now that our oldest is finally a Cub Scout (after attending various scout meetings and functions since before he was born) I have been getting a whole new perspective on the program.

I have to say that I love it. Yes, I do brag sometimes about my unfair advantage - having a working knowledge of the program from the get-go, where most parents come in confused and full of questions - but I am still learning things from this new perspective that hopefully will make me a better leader and trainer.

One thing I have gained a new appreciation for is the Cub Scout Academics and Sports program. I can see in my son how the immmediate recognition and the variety involved keep him more interested in the program than he would be just working on rank advancement. He was way more excited about receiving his first belt loops than he was about getting his Bobcat.

That said, and while I can see a lot of ways to work belt loops into den meetings, I think belt loops are something that parents should be encouraged to be working on with their boys. I know this is easier said than done. One suggestion I have is to start with whatever the boys are doing anyway. Get to know the boys, then give their parents information about relevant loops and pins. For example: got Cubs in soccer? Send them home with worksheets for the soccer belt loop. We have a family in our den that is into roller skating and roller derby. I told the mom about the roller skating belt loop. Instead of just working on it with her son, though, she offered to set up an activity at the local skating rink and work with the whole den on the belt loop (don't you love it when someone else volunteers to plan and run a meeting?). Once they get started and know a little about belt loops, I have found many parents are very interested in learning about all the belt loops so they can find more things to work with their sons on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Food for Thought

"Leadership callings are much like training wheels on a bicycle. The training wheels allow a child to learn how to balance and ride with confidence. A leadership calling puts people in a position to learn how to love, be patient, and persuade through pure knowledge and kindness. They may also learn that any attempt to compel behavior is accompanied by withdrawal of the Spirit and decreased effectiveness." (Read the rest of the article.)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Potential of LDS Scouting

In a recent Ensign article, David Beck said, "Young Men advisers in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should be the best implementers of Scouting in the world. Training is an important step toward that end." (If you haven't read the article yet, I highly recommend it.)

I think we really do have the potential for this. We often hear excuses about why LDS programs are seldom quality programs. However, I think the very things we often think of as road blocks could become strengths):

It's a calling. We often complain that Scouting in the Church is full of people who don't want to be there. They don't know anything about the program, and when they finally figure it out, they get released. Right?

Well, guess what. Scouting outside the Church is full of people who are only there because their sons are. Yes, they have a vested interest in the program, but they are often not in any position any longer than our "called" Scouters, because they move up with their sons. Many non-LDS leaders (at least in Cub Scouts) only spend a year in each position, just long enough to figure things out before moving on to the next level.

Our edge comes into play with tenure. For the first year, a leader is learning his/her job and getting things sorted out. If they are allowed to (and want to) continue in that calling, they have the potential to build a really great program. They can put together their own schedule of activities that they know work. Because it's a calling and not just following the boys, the opportunity is there for leaders to develop experience.

As I have said before, sometimes being a calling brings people in that would not be involved in Scouting otherwise, and they end up being great leaders and staying in the program.

We recently sat in a district meeting where the question was asked, "Who here is in Scouting because their boy is?" Most of the people in the room raised their hands. My husband and I just looked at each other. Our boy is in Scouting because we are, instead of the other way around. We are in Scouting because of past callings.

Boys advance on their birthdays instead of at the same time. This goes hand-in-hand with the above. It can be tricky for a den leader to plan around boys who are all coming in at different times of the year. However, with the new delivery method and some experience and planning, the program can be set up so that every boy ends up doing the same things, no matter when he starts with the den. (You can also use the LDS Delivery Method, set up by some very clever people to make the program even better suited for LDS packs.)

The edge, again, comes with tenure. It does take some experience to set this up, but once you have an established program and things are working for you, you have the advantage of the older boys setting an example for the newer boys (see this post). It can be a major advantage, discipline-wise, to have boys trickling in, rather than coming all at once.

Reliance on personal revelation. Of course, there's nothing wrong with relying on personal revelation in your calling. Unless you think it means you don't need training. Or you decide we have a different program, and you rely on what my friend calls "creative inspiration" to do things your own way.

David Beck specifically mentions training as an important step to becoming the "best implementers of Scouting in the world." Remember how the Lord rebuked Oliver Cowdry when he, "took no though, save it was to ask me." He was told instead to study things out. How can we expect to receive inspiration for a program we know nothing about?

I really feel LDS Scouting has great potential, as President Beck statement implies. I hope others can catch that vision as well.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

of God

"...every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." - Moroni 7:16

Many of you probably saw the mentions in Scouting magazine about the recent Baylor study that compared Eagle Scouts, former Scouts and non-Scouts as adults in various social, physical and spiritual aspects. You can read a more detailed accounting of the results here.

As Byron Johnson put it, "There is no shortage of examples or anecdotal accounts that suggest Scouting produces better citizens, but now there is scientific evidence to confirm the prosocial benefits of Scouting or earning the rank of Eagle Scout..." (source)

Scouting definitely invites men to do good. What about believing in Christ? According to Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone more than 90 percent of LDS Eagles serve full-time missions.* (source)

President Hinkley said, "The promise of the Scout Oath and the twelve points of the Scout Law point young men along the path of being prepared for the 21st century. They provide a solid and powerful magnetic force toward development of a well-rounded and noteworthy character that counts. If every boy [and girl] in America knew and observed the Scout Oath, we would do away with most of the jails and prisons in this country." (source)

And Baden-Powell said, "I have clearly stated that our objective in the Scouting movement is to give such help  as we can in bringing about God's Kingdom on earth." (source)

*It is important to note that the act of receiving an Eagle badge does not automatically make a boy a better person. It is the journey required to get there, and when we push a boy through or "pencil whip" his requirements, we are doing him a disservice. According to the same article sourced just above, only 6% of LDS Scouts earn the Eagle, and only 2% of non-LDS Scouts earn it. Just because a boy does not earn his Eagle does not mean he has not learned or grown as a Scout. President Monson said, "However, we should not put down the young man who does not achieve that high award, but give him credit for the effort he has made."The goal is not a badge; it is to persuade them to do good and help them develop their testimonies of Christ.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Every boy deserves...

After hearing so much about it, we decided to buy Follow Me, Boys (it's only $6 or $7 on Amazon, depending on your timing), and we watched it for the first time the other day. My reaction afterward was, "I hope our boys get a few Scoutmasters like that."

We often use the phrase, "Every boy deserves a trained leader." I think it takes on new meaning when you start thinking specifically about your own son(s).

What kind of people do you want to influence your boy(s)'s life? What kind of leaders do you hope he has? What types of examples and mentors? That is what every boy deserves to have.

That's what I hope every leader considers when deciding what kind of leader to be. What if it was someone else leading your son?

And for those who are not currently called as leaders, you still can have the opportunity to mentor boys as a merit badge counselor. Boy Scouting would not be the same without the opportunity for the boys to interact with many different positive role models.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Response to "Are People Afraid?"

This was sent in by a reader, who wishes to remain anonymous, after the post a few weeks ago called, "Are People Afraid?" It is definitely worth a read for everyone. Please remember to keep all your comments positive.

People are awesome. Here’s to you, my fellow Scout leaders. No matter where you fall on the time- and emotion-investment scale, you are wonderful for accepting your calling and helping the boys you have stewardship over. You are great for what you currently do. You are making my world a better place, and I personally thank you for it.

If you feel like you should do something different in your unit after reading this post, great. If not, okay: that's up to you. You make a difference for your boys, and that is wonderful.

I started three years ago in a very home-spun version of a den. We worked from the handbook and got the boys their ranks. But I’ve learned that there’s more to it than that. I’ve grown and learned about what the program can be, and my pack and den are evolving. 

But we're not perfect.

People are afraid, and it's partly the super-Scouter’s fault.

Three and a half years ago I received my first calling as a den leader, learning from square one and doing the minimum to make it work and help the boys progress. Then we had a super-Scouter pack trainer called, and she overwhelmed me. Once I got to know her, she exasperated me. Once I reluctantly started implementing her ideas, I saw the value in them, and some leaders started putting space between themselves and me. Not because I implemented her ideas, but because I started encouraging them to do the things she recommended. I had, unwittingly, 'joined her camp.'

People are afraid this will happen to them too. They might intentionally stave it off just to avoid the stigma that comes from raising a decisive voice in favor of the training, the way the national program runs, or any other super-Scouter 'agenda item.' I’m not saying the BSA is perfect. But the Church adopted their program, and when we use the program the way it is designed, it makes a difference.

But people are still afraid of us.

People are aloof or apathetic. Some leaders who have ‘been there, done that’ have no desire to change. The way they’ve run it in the past is good enough for them, and that’s what you’ll get. Instead of 'doing their best,' they get the job done. And it works, the job does get done – just not at the level it could be done.

As members of the LDS church, some of us think that we get to change the Scouting program to be what we want it to be. That’s not the plan. The BSA run organization is the foundation of what we do. We don’t change it – we add to it. We add the fact that these boys are a quorum. We add reproving with sharpness (clarity), then showing forth an increase of love. We add the priesthood. We add Christ. Yes, using the BSA program as a foundation, we take it far beyond it’s own power.

But it takes leaders with vision.

People can adapt. In came Sis. Jones. Oh my, this woman has a testimony of Scouting. Not super-knowledge or advice for everyone around her, but a testimony. She is a super-(Cub) Scouter from the opposite end of the spectrum, and her incredible dedication to her "future quorum" overwhelms me - but with humility. This woman has understanding. She has insight. She has vision. She sees power and potential in everyone and everything around her, but she encourages it by example. Our pack has been touched by her membership, from the newest Cub to the bishop. She's moving in a few weeks, and she has her transfer form filled out. Whatever callings she gets in her new location will be accepted and magnified, but she will also be a leader in their Scouting program.

Last Friday we had a pack meeting. The theme we chose was the Olympics. As leaders, we 'did our best' (not always the case with our pack, sorry to say), and it turned out amazing. The meeting culminated with three Arrows of Light and a crossing over. Every leader who was there now has a vision of what these ceremonies can be. Even better, so do the parents and boys. This was the second amazing pack meeting in three months, and it's going to have a positive effect on everything we do for the future priesthood holders we train and serve. Our pack leaders are slowly coming around.

And no one in my pack is afraid of Sis. Jones.

I love Cub Scouting. I love the impact I can have on the boy's lives. If I do the minimum, I still have an impact. But it can be so much more.

We need to ‘do our best’ to follow the BSA program and make it function as it should. To that, we add our love of the boys and our vision for their future as priesthood holders, missionaries, and fathers.

Who’s on the Lord’s Side? Who? I ask it fearlessly, and I pray that we each might do our part. We make a difference.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Young Adults, Not Teenagers

One of my favorite LDS Bloggers, Chocolate on My Cranium, wrote a post recently called Enjoying Young Adults in the House, Rather than "Teenagers." She talked about how they take an old fashioned view of the ages we think of as teenagers. She and her husband treat them like young adults (as in, adults who are younger), and as a result, they act like young adults.

They are a family of mostly girls, but it makes sense that the same principle would apply to boys. In fact, she links to a similar post on another blog by a family with boys. This second post focuses largely on teaching boys skills and giving them real work.

Scouting does that! Actually, the second post mentions Scouting and how it s a good way for young men to learn these skills.

Another favorite blog, Adventures and Accidents, often talks about expectations often held, or that should be held, of young men and scouts. Most recently, he wrote about: A boy doing a man's job.

Actually, this seems to be a common theme with other Boy Scouters I know (like this guy and this guy).

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's about learning for us too

"O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise..." - 2 Nephi 9:28

A few weeks ago I wrote about how Scouting is all about letting the boys learn through experience. I realized afterward that it is all about learning for the adults too.

The Training Times pointed out in its most recent newsletter that there is no such thing as "fully trained." When you have taken certain requisite courses for your current position, you are considered "trained" but you can never be fully trained, because there is always more to learn.

Just like the scouts, we should always be working to improve ourselves. After all, that is what life on earth is all about, isn't it? Our physical growth may stop when we reach adulthood, but we continue to grow in other ways for the rest of our lives.

Someone mentioned on another recent post that trainers should ask for and be willing to receive good, honest feedback. In Trainer's EDGE, they refer to this as, "Start, Stop, Continue" (for example: "Start making eye contact. Stop reading off the slides. Continue your great smile.) I think this advice applies to any position. One of the first things you are supposed to do in a committee meeting or leaders meeting is evaluate the previous month - discuss what worked and what did not. I think an important quality in a good Scouter is to take this evaluating process seriously and not feel bad when there is something you could do better, because there will always be something you can do better.

In an LDS-BSA newsletter a couple of years ago, the General Young Men Presidency said, "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."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

May Newsletter and New Green Book

The latest LDS-BSA newsletter is up! It focuses largely on safety and highlights the new Tour and Activity Plan. It also introduces the new LDS-BSA Relations Director and Associate Director. I found the Young Men Presidency message and the article about the stake that sponsored a Wood Badge course to be especially inspiring.

Also note that the Handbook has been updated (thanks to Eric the Half-bee for the heads up). Outside of a format change, the updates appear more minor this time (although I haven't gone through a point-by-point comparison yet.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Are people afraid?

When I attended my first Scout leader training, I remember looking at these "scout nerds" with a bazillion knots on their uniforms and an overt reverence for the program, and I thought, "These guys are nuts." I had no intention of ever becoming like that (or putting more than the minimum required into the calling, sorry to say).

Fast forward to only a few weeks ago. We had a day full of Scouting events, going from one to the next. I left the last one to attend a baby shower - it happened to be our committee chair/ward Primary presidency representative. I was so tired at that point, I didn't bother changing out of my uniform for the shower. Her comment was, "I wouldn't recognize you without it."

Ha ha. She sees me every Sunday in Primary, but I knew what she meant. I know I project that same "scout nerd" image to everyone I work with. I do it on purpose, because I want to set the bar as high as possible. That way when people only reach halfway, they are still reaching higher than they would otherwise.

I have found that in many cases, this works well. Often enthusiasm begets enthusiasm, and a few choice people end up reaching even higher than hoped. Some people, however, seem to dig their heels in and refuse to budge no matter what.

I have even seen/heard derogatory remarks referring to LDS Scouters that are "too into Scouting." Phrases like, "Irving Scouter," and, "church of Scouting," have been tossed around, in a not-so-admiring way. "I like Scouting, but not like that..."

It makes me wonder whether some people might be afraid that if they become too into Scouting, that will somehow degrade the rest of who they are. It almost seems as if becoming too involved in Scouting will make you less of a Church member or taking the training will have a negative effect on your testimony.

I am sure this is related to the idea that the Church is "out-sourcing" its activity program for young men and that Scouting is not really a Church program.

What do you think? Have you ever noticed this attitude? Is there any way to lovingly convince people that you can love Scouting and the gospel both (aside from pointing to President Monson), that the two go hand-in-hand, and that Scouting is all about building testimonies?

(I understand this may be a sore subject for some readers. I hope we can have an open and thoughtful discussion.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Faith in God by Month (Jun-Aug)

Here is another set of three months' worth of suggestions for working on Faith in God, relating to that month's character connection and/or theme. Most of these can easily be fit into various requirements the boys are working on anyway. Check their books to see how you can fit them in. You can find the first list of ideas (Mar-May) here.

Remember, many of the requirements will need to be completed at home, but you can use den meetings to discuss them with the boys and get them started working towards some things.

June: Perseverance, Head West Young Man

Prepare a pedigree chart with your name and your parents' and grandparents' names. Prepare a family group record for your family and share a family story. Discuss how performing temple work blesses families. (square knot requirement) 

The “Head West” theme invokes images of pioneers. While the boys work on their pedigree chart, you could discuss the meaning of the word “pioneer” and the many ways a person could be a pioneer. Ask the boys to find out interesting stories about “pioneers” in their families that they can share (don't forget to tell the parents yourself as well). Have an activity where you roast marshmallows around a campfire, and everyone takes turns telling family stories (Webelos Outdoorsman requirement 2; Bears requirement 9g). If it's not feasible to have a real fire, make a pretend one instead. (Bring marshmallows anyway.) Don't forget to work on the Heritages belt loop at the same time. This also fits with Bears achievement 8.

Read D&C 88:118. Discuss what it means to "seek learning, even by study and also by faith." Improve your personal study habits by doing such things as learning how to choose and read good books or being prepared for school each day.

Learning takes perseverance, and it is the one thing we take with us after we die. School is out for the summer, but you can help the boys think of some goals they can set for themselves for the next school year, or you can encourage them to participate in your local library's summer reading program.

Plan and complete your own activity that will help you develop your talents.

Developing talents definitely requires perseverance. Talk to the boys about what talents each of them is working on (learning to play the piano, participating in a sport?), and discuss what goals they have or help them set goals. You could also have someone come to your den meeting to teach the boys a new skill.

July: Courage, Cubs in Shining Armor

Give an opening and a closing prayer in family home evening or at Primary. Share your feelings about how prayer protects us and helps us stay close to Heavenly Father and the Savior. (square knot requirement) 

We can always pray when we need more courage. Sometimes it also takes courage to pray in front of others. Review the order of prayer with the boys.

Tell a story from the Book of Mormon that teaches about faith in Jesus Christ. Share your testimony of the Savior (square knot requirement) 

There are some fantastic stories about courage (not to mention fighting) in the Book of Mormon. Since the boys are studying the Book of Mormon this year, they may already have some favorite stories they want to share. You could also role play the story of Ammon (Alma 17-19), make war diagrams from some of the battles (some good ones include Alma 43:16-44:20 , Alma 55:5-23, and Alma 56:31-56), or have the boys make their own “titles of liberty” and relate the ideas from Captain Moroni's flag (Alma 46:12) to the Declaration of Independence for Independence Day.

August: Honesty, Kids Against Crime

Explain how taking the sacrament helps you renew your baptismal covenant. In a family home evening, teach others about the things we can do to remain faithful. 

The very first thing boys do when they enter Cub Scouts is learn the Cub Scout Promise and complete the Character Connection for Honesty. Have you ever noticed the similarities between the Cub Scout Promise and Baptismal covenants? See this post for some ideas on discussing similarities about what we promise as Cub Scouts and the promises we make when we are baptized. One of the main things we promise is to keep the commandments, which includes being honest. Brainstorm with the boys ways that we can keep our covenants as well as the Cub Scout Promise so that they can teach their families in Family Home Evening.

Write a poem, story or short play that teaches a principle of the gospel or is about Heavenly Father's creations.

Have the boys pair up and write short plays about honesty. Then they can take turns performing them.

This is also a great chance to work on the 13th Article of Faith with the boys. Here are a few ideas:

You could give them a gathering activity where they need to unscramble key words, like honest, true, chaste, benevolent. Discuss what each of the words mean. Why do you think “honest” and “true” are mentioned first? Why are they so important?

Have the boys assemble the appropriate puzzle from here:

Make cards with words or phrases from the Article of Faith. Distribute them, and have the boys assemble them in the right order. You can even make distributing the cards a game by hiding them around the room to find or handing them out to boys who answer a question correctly or recite the Cub Scout Promise.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Promises and Covenants

Our oldest is is working on his Bobcat badge. The first step on the Bobcat trail is to learn the Cub Scout Promise and complete the Character Connection for Honesty.

Wanting him to understand the promise he is making, I broke it down into parts, which we discussed.

First we discussed what a promise is and how it would be dishonest to say you promise to do something that you do not intend to do. This led naturally into a discussion about covenants, specifically baptismal covenants.

(The blocks in the above picture are something I had on hand anyway - something I made for primary a while back. Obviously you don't need something like that to discuss covenants with your son, but it is a visual representation of how covenants work.)

We talked about some of the things he will be promising when he is baptized. Interestingly, each one related to other things we have discussed relative to becoming a Cub Scout. We had talked about how when he is wearing the Cub Scout uniform he is representing the Cub Scouts and needs to act accordingly so that he represents them well. I told him it is the same when he is baptized and takes on himself the name of Christ; he is representing Christ and His church. Keeping the commandments is the same as doing his duty to God. We even covenant to help other people (give goodwill).

Talking about covenants led into a discussion about Christ and the Atonement. None of us is perfect, but Christ gave us a way to repent and try again. (With the block visual, breaking part of the covenant makes the building fall down, but we can rebuild it when we repent and take the sacrament each Sunday.)

This relates back to when a Cub Scout promises to do his best. He is not promising to be perfect, just to do the best he can. We have tried to ingrain in our son the idea that everyone makes mistakes, and that's okay; that's how we learn. We are here to learn. That's why we have repentance.

Doing your best also means doing your personal best, not trying to be like someone else. This is also something Christ has asked of us. He knows each one of us. He has given us each our own, unique talents. He does not want us to compare ourselves to others.

I love how this all fits together so well. None of this was planned, it all just came together naturally.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's About Learning

I was talking with our Cubmaster, evaluating our most recent Pack Meeting. She observed, "The flag ceremony every month seems like the first time we've ever done it."

I had to point out that for the boy leading the ceremony, chances are it is the first time he had done it. Of course, that does not make her observations or suggestions to help less valid, but it is important to remember that the point of the boys doing these things is for them to learn.

This is the reason we make the distinction between "advancement" as a method and "personal achievement" as a goal. We have had several well-meaning parents in our pack retro-actively decide their boys had earned awards. They went through the list of belt loops and pins or Webelos Activity Badges and checked things off for the last year, "Oh, he did this and this and this..." then turned it in all at once. Now those boys have some nice awards to wear (actually, many of them are graduating Webelos, so they are not even going to wear the things), but did they get anything else out of it? They advanced, but they did not achieve. They did not learn from the experience (and I hate to think how this is going to translate into expectations in Boy Scouts).

This is why our Advancement Chair has coined the phrase, "Awards are earned intentionally, not accidentally."

In a recent post, the Volun-told Scouter pointed out:

When done right, Scouting is disorganized, messy and inefficient, because it is the Boys’ program. Adults are the facilitators, not the planners; their place is in the background as guides rather than directing from the front. Many adults find this to be anathema to their disposition – adults want efficiency, high levels of organization, etcetera.  But their idea of success differs greatly from the boys'.

Again, the goal here is for the boys to learn, not to have perfect organization. In Boy Scouting, leaders and parents are there to keep things safe and make suggestions. When the adults do too much, it robs the boys of the opportunity to learn.

How much the boys do on their own may come in small steps with guidance, but I think that at every point in the trail, whether you are doing a craft with Wolves or pointing Varsity Scouts toward their Eagles, you need to carefully consider how much "help" to give. Remind yourself that the point is for them to learn, not to get it done or for it to be perfect. Ask yourself whether that goal will be best accomplished by you stepping in to steer a little or by you stepping back and letting them figure things out themselves.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tutorial: Book Cover

 Handbooks get rough treatment. Faith in God books get lost. Here is a fairly simple cover you can make for you son's handbook that includes a handy pocket for his Faith in God book. (I don't know the measurements for the Duty to God book, but I am sure a clever mama - or sewist dad - could accommodate it.)

You'll need:

26" x 8 3/4" piece outer fabric. I used an all-weather canvas, because I was lucky to find it in the remnant bin. A heavy-duty canvas is great for protecting books, but be warned it will require a heavy duty needle (14 or 16). A fabric that doesn't fray much is best for this project, because we are not going to bother hemming any edges.

14" x 8 3/4" piece of fabric for lining and 6" x 8 3/4" piece for pocket. You can use pretty much any scraps you have on hand here. I used a typical quilting cotton.

1 1/2 yards 1" grosgrain ribbon

4" strip velcro

Fold pocket piece in half, right sides together. Using a 1/2" seam allowance, sew along one side. Clip corner. Turn right-side-out and press.

Line unfinished edges of pocket with unfinished edges of canvas on right side of canvas. Baste 1/4" from edge. Sew finished edge as close to the edge as you can.

On the other end (still the right side) center the soft (loop) side of the velcro about 3 1/2" from the end and sew on.

Turn the canvas over to the wrong side. You will attach the lining to the end with the velcro. I used quilt basting spray to attach it temporarily. If you prefer pins, double-stick tape or basting with the machine, do that.

You're going to finish the short ends now with some ribbon. I have learned the best way to do this is with a zig-zag stitch so that you can be sure to catch both sides. Fold the ribbon in half over the end, like binding, and zig-zag on. Make sure to tie the ends of your zig-zag. Trim the ends of the ribbon and use Fray Check or other fray-preventing liquid.

Fold velcro end over, leaving about 1/4" between velcro and fold (velcro should still be on the outside, not folded under). Baste this new pocket down on both ends.

Fold the other end in so that the total width of the cover is now about 15". Baste this down as well.

Finish the top and bottom with ribbon in the same way as above.


Center the hook side of the velcro about 3/8" from the end on the side with the pocket and sew on.

You're all finished. Now you just need to add the books. This was sized for the Webelos book, so it will be a bit loose on the smaller books, but it will still work for them. Slip the front cover in first, then slide the back cover into the pocket on back.

(This project was inspired by a post I saw a while back about making a personal progress book holder with your girls.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Great Resource for Cub Scouters

"We'd like you to be the den leader for the Wolves and Bears. We can't get you two-deep leadership, but you can just meet in the same room as the Webelos. Sis. Smith will be over them, and they meet at the same time."

If you have ever had this conversation, you will probably be as excited as I was when I found this website:


Even if you haven't had that conversation, you should check it out. They have many great resources for LDS Cub Scouters, but I think the real goldmine is their "LDS Delivery Method." They have set up an entire year of den plans based on the above scenario, which can be typical in wards with small programs. They have taken all the overlaps from the different levels and set things up so that, if you want to, all three dens can start out the den meeting together, then the Webelos can break off and do their own thing in a different part of the room, and Bears and Wolves can continue to work together. They have also more evenly distributed achievements and electives throughout the year, so that no matter when a boy's birthday is, he will begin working on achievements right away. They even show how to work in Faith in God and the Articles of Faith. I wish I had had this when I was a den leader.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A little history

I knew some of this, but not all of it. I knew that the LDS Church was the BSA's first chartered organization, but I didn't know it was at the invitation of the BSA.
(This is from the brand new training aimed specifically at LDS Wolf and Bear Den Leaders):

In 1875, Brigham Young organized the Young Men Mutual Improvement Association (YMMIA or MIA) to provide leisure-time activities for the young men of the Church. Later, athletics became part of the program.

As news of the organization of the Boy Scouts of England in 1907 and the Boy Scouts of America in 1910 was received by the Church leaders, the Scouting idea was investigated by the Athletic Committee of the YMMIA. On November 29, 1911, the MIA Scouts were officially recognized by the General Board of the YMMIA. The MIA Scouts, upon invitation from the BSA National Council, became a part of the Boy Scouts of America on May 21, 1913. This is the BSA’s longest formal partnership with a national chartered organization.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Scout leader is...

I recently attended the BSA's Trainer's EDGE course. The whole course was very good, but the part that left the biggest impression on me was the very end. They presented ways to apply the Scout Law to being a trainer. Having never been a Boy Scout or a Boy Scout leader, I had never thought much about the Scout Law before. But really, the Scout Law is where we get the Ideals of the program, and I understand now how it is at the core of Scouting, and it applies to all Scouters, no matter what level of the program we are at.

A Scout trainer is helpful. A Scout trainer is friendly.

These were reminders that a trainer is not there for himself. He is there to serve the people he is training. He needs to consider their needs and how he can best help them. This idea applies whether you work with youth or adults. I have been pondering ever since the training ways that I, in my capacity as pack trainer, can better help leaders of our multi-pack fulfill their callings.

The fourth lesson in Teaching: No Greater Call is about “Seeking the Gift of Charity.” I think sometimes it is easy, no matter what capacity we serve in, to lose sight of this aspect. The lesson reminds us, “If you have Christ-like love, you will be better prepared to teach the gospel.”

The first step is to pray to be filled with love. I think for some of us, this step is a hard one – to have a desire and pray to love, truly love as Christ does, those boys (or adults) under our stewardship. “You may not feel the pure love of Christ immediately or all at once in answer to your prayers. But as you live righteously and continue to pray sincerely and humbly for this blessing, you will receive it.”

The next step is service: “When we set aside our own interests for the good of another in the pattern set by the Savior, we become more receptive to the Spirit.” For me, this makes a big difference. When I shift my focus from, “Why aren't they doing what I want?” to, “How can I better serve them?” and remind myself of the purposes we are trying to accomplish, I find I accomplish a lot more.

The final step is to look for the good in others. “As you discover the good qualities in others, you will grow in your understanding of them as children of God.” No matter who we are trying to teach, this is a vital part. It is also a vital part of our own growth as we try to become more like our Father in Heaven.

Strive to use these steps with your boys, the leaders you serve with, and your own children, and I know you will meet with success.

A Scout trainer is Trustworthy. A Scout trainer is Loyal.

These were reminders that we are representing the BSA and we should not deviate from the policies and guidelines they have given us. As a trainer, it is my duty to present the material I have been given and to teach the guidelines outlined by the BSA.

As LDS Scouters, we have two obligations. We not only represent the BSA, “In all our teachings, we represent the Lord and are appointed to teach His gospel.” (Bruce R. McConkie) Baden-Powell himself said, “I have clearly stated that our objective in the Scout movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God's Kingdom on earth.”

I realized recently that we often overlook the fourth of Elder Featherstone's Four T's: Testimony. Even in Scouting we should act as those who have taken on themselves the name of Christ. After all, Cub Scout leaders are training future priesthood holders. Boy Scout leaders are training future missionaries and priesthood leaders.

“Your commission, your authorization, the thing you have been ordained to do is teach my gospel, not any private views, not the philosophies of the world, but my everlasting gospel, and to do it by the power of my Spirit, all in harmony with the commandment I have heretofore given: 'If ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.'” (Teaching: No Greater Call, Chapter 3: The Teacher's Divine Commission)

Nephi told us that he “did like all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning.” As his family wandered in the wilderness and he put up with the constant murmuring, I imagine Nephi found great comfort in the stories of Moses' time in the wilderness dealing with the murmurings of the Israelites. I have a feeling there are Scout leaders who can also relate to stories of wilderness wanderings and murmurings.

I really like this post at Adventures and Accidents that is all about how and why we should be working on our own testimonies to benefit the boys.

I am going to tack one more onto the end here: A Scout trainer is Thrifty.

It was pointed out to us that “thrifty” can apply to time as well as money. Miriam-Webster defines thrifty as, "given to or marked by economy and good management." Those under our care are giving us their valuable time, and we need to make the most of that. We should always be asking ourselves, “What is the best way I can make use of the hour or two I have been given this week?” And teach the boys to ask themselves the same question. Being thrifty with time is something most of them don't fully grasp yet and will need to be trained in, but if you believe it and live it, they will be more likely to as well.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Religious Award Earned as a Youth

There was a discussion about this recently in the LDS-CSL Yahoo group. I was not aware of this, so I thought I would pass it along. In the most recent edition of Baloo's Bugle, it says:

NOTE: - Since the programs are similar or the same (as in the case of the PRAY Awards) for girls and boys in Boy Scouting, 4H, Girl Scouting, Campfire, etc., a female Venturer or Adult Leader who earned her religious award as a youth may wear the purple square knot on her uniform even though it was not earned as a member of the BSA. (My daughter Darby in New Mexico does this!!) Per Mike Walton of www.USScouts.org, this applies to BOTH MALES AND FEMALES, youth and adult. If you earned a youth religious emblem as a youth member, whether or not it was earned or received as a BSA member does not matter. The youth religious emblem square knot represents ANY AWARD which youth members earned or received -- period. So yes, a Girl Scout, 4Her, or Royal Ranger/Missionette who earned a youth religious emblem in those programs and then either becomes an adult or youth member of the BSA (to include Venturing/Sea Scouting) may wear that emblem formally with the BSA's field uniforms; and informally wear the square knot insignia on the uniform shirt. Mike says he has been told when the next edition of the Uniform Guide for 2012 is printed, there will be text explaining this on the page which shows all of the various youth religious emblems.

It sounds like if you earned your Personal Progress or Gospel in Action/Faith in God award as a youth, you can, if you would like, wear the square knot representing religious award earned as a youth on your uniform. That's the silver knot with a purple background.

Don't forget either about the religious knot you can earn as an adult leader. The requirements can be found here. If your bishop doesn't know about this award, make him aware. There are probably many deserving leaders in your ward.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Scouting Does That

I recently borrowed a book about nurturing boys. This is a topic that is always on my mind, between raising our own boys, teaching other people's boys in primary, and teaching other people who teach boys in Scout leader training. I think I have learned a lot about boys through experience, but the book has given me a few new insights and tips. As I read through it, though, and it talks about the needs boys have at different stages, I find myself thinking about how Scouting helps fill all of those needs, and it provides activities that naturally fit boys interests at different ages.

We homeschool our boys, and so I also read a lot of books about educational theory. The same thing often happens when I read something about the ideal educational system. I think, "Scouting does that," or, "That's just like the Scouting program."

In fact, I am constantly running into more proof that the Scouting program is one of the best systems out there for the nurturing, training and teaching of boys. Every stage is created to fit the needs, abilities and interests of that age almost perfectly.

It's also a great system for training and teaching parents and leaders. We were discussing in our meeting the other night how, when they let it, Cub Scouting offers the perfect opportunity for parents to connect with their boys. The handbooks are practically an outline for, "What to do to improve, enhance or supplement your relationship with your son while he is still young enough to want to do things with you."

This is definitely an inspired program. I really think it was set in motion 100 years ago to provide today's boys with what they need, the things the world (or I should say Satan through the world) is trying to take from them. I think boys need Scouting now more than ever, so that they can be boys and grow into men.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Winning the Pinewood Derby

by Randy Clawson
from the April 2000 Ensign

It was my first experience in participating in a pinewood derby with my son Jeffrey. We had spent a lot of time drawing the car’s design, going to the hobby shop to purchase special weights, shaping and assembling the car, then painting it the colors of our favorite sports team. I must admit I use the term we loosely. I am afraid that in my zeal to make our car competitive, I was the one who made sure everything was done just right. Many times my son was left standing off to the side watching. I was proud of the finished car.

That evening I joined the other fathers on “pit row.” We were all making last-minute adjustments to the wheel alignment, putting on a last squirt of graphite, and checking the weights. I didn’t realize until later that my son, along with some of the other Cub Scouts, were mostly standing back, watching their dads at work.

As the racing began, I changed from my role as engineer to that of cheerleader—and perhaps at times an obnoxious spectator. Our car was doing quite well in the heats, and from all appearances we were destined to go to the winners’ bracket. It was about then Jeffrey came to me.

“Dad, we need to do something to my car.”

In my enthusiasm for the moment I thought, Good, I’ll check the alignment one more time. But that was not what Jeffrey had in mind.

“Steve’s car hasn’t won a single race all evening,” said Jeffrey. I glanced over at Steve, a boy with disabilities, sitting quietly on the sidelines with his car cradled in his arms. From the appearance of his car, he must had done most of the work himself. His next race was against my son, who was looking up at me with great concern. “Can you do something to my car to make sure Steve wins?”

I stared at my eight-year-old son and felt as though a lightning bolt had hit me. Humbled, I picked up the car, studied it a moment, then gave a hard twist to the right front wheel, hopelessly ruining the alignment. I handed the car back to Jeffrey, and we headed over to the track.

The outcome was just as we hoped. Our pinewood creation wobbled down the elevated track, and Steve’s car won easily! As I looked to the finish line, however, I saw not just one winner but two happy boys.

That night changed forever my attitude about the real purpose of pinewood derbies. We have attended many other pinewood derbies since that night, and some might wonder why our cars don’t look as nice as the others or don’t go as fast or why I’m conspicuously absent from pit row. But one thing we know for sure: there is more than one way to win a race.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February Newsletter

If you haven't already seen it, check out the February LDS-BSA Newsletter. The message from the Young Men Presidency is about how Duty to God fits in with Scouting:

If we make a change in our focus, one can see how Duty to God and Scouting fit perfectly together and go hand in hand in building young men with character. When we focus on what young men learn by what they do and who they become by what they do, we find that Duty to God and Scouting come together seamlessly. Scouting and Duty to God form a strong partnership in the "becoming process."

I don't have any experience with Duty to God yet, but I know that since I really started looking at Cub Scouts as a means of preparing boys for the priesthood and for missions, it has become much easier to see how it fits together with Faith in God. I think this comes back to teaching with a purpose and fun with a purpose. I'd love to hear the thoughts of some of you Boy Scout and Aaronic Priesthood leaders on the article.

Speaking of what boys become, the newsletter also highlights one of the new printable graphics available on the Church website's Scouting section: From Cub Scout to Missionary. I love this one. What a great reminder for us all - from Scout leaders to parents to Primary presidents - of what it's all about.

The message from the General Primary Presidency includes a cute story about a 76-year-old grandma called to be a den leader. Her commitment to her boys is an example for her whole family. The scripture quoted at the end of the article perfectly describes Cub Scouts: "be not weary in well doing, for you are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great." (D&C 64:33)

The newsletter also includes articles on Philmont, the World Jamboree and an LDS Aaronic Priesthood Encampment in Georgia, as well as a highlight on the Guide to Safe Scouting. You can read current and past newsletters here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It doesn't hurt to ask

Our local University of Scouting was yesterday. It was a great day (firebirdluver and I taught five classes between the two of us, and I found out our next door neighbor is an assistant den leader in one the community packs). We had the "Scouting in the LDS Church" class offered for the first time ever. (In some year's past there has been a Duty to God class, but I'm not going to count that.) The class was taught by our new council exec, who is (obviously) LDS.

It was a great class, and he did a great job answering questions.

The Stake President for the other stake happened to be in our session, so finally I posed a question to him, "President, when is our area going to have a Little Philmont?"

He looked stunned momentarily, as if the thought had never occurred to him (he is pretty supportive of scouting). After a little hemming and this and that, he and the exec said, "Yes. We can do that. We'll put something together with all three of the nearby stakes."

Wahoo! It just goes to show you that sometimes it pays to speak up.

And it always pays to go to University of Scouting.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Faith in God by Month (Mar-May)

To help our leaders nourish their boys, I am working to expand my Faith in God ideas and fit them in with upcoming monthly themes. Here are some suggestions for Faith in God requirements that fit in with March, April and May's Cub Scout themes. Following each is an idea for an activity to help the boys fulfill the requirement. (Note: Many of the Faith in God suggestions are things the boys will need to finish on their own or with their family, but you can encourage them, get them started, and give them tools that will help them.) Remember to look for overlaps with requirements from their Cub Scout books.

March: Compassion, Planting Seeds of Kindness

Read and discuss the parable of the good Samaritan. Plan and complete a service project that helps a family member or neighbor. After completing the project, discuss how it helped your faith grow stronger.

“Do a Good Turn Daily.” Boys this age love role play. Why not role play the scripture story with your den, then give them suggestions for ways to serve their families and neighbors. A fun display for pack meeting could be a poster of all of the service your den did that month, maybe written on wolf-shaped paper cut-outs or something.

Learn about and practice good manners and courtesy.

This is a chance to be silly. Play a game that involves role-playing a bunch of bad manners in a given scenario, then have the boys turn it around and replace all the bad manners with good manners.

Write a letter to a teacher, your parents, or your grandparents telling them what you appreciate and respect about them. (square knot requirement)

This could be used this month or next month, and it should fulfill a writing requirement.

April: Faith, Cub Scouts Give Thanks

Give a Family Home Evening Lesson on Joseph Smith's First Vision. Discuss how Heavenly Father answers our sincere prayers. (square knot requirement)

One of our wolf leaders used to give the boys mini flannel figures they could use to teach their families. You can find the download and instructions here (she reduced them 50% to save resources; you could also use card stock instead of flannel and call them "puppets").

Read a recent conference address by the prophet. Decide what you can do to follow the prophet and do it.

We are thankful to have a living prophet and April is a great time to remember that. To help the boys find ways they can follow the prophet, print out recent statements by the prophet and cut them into strips. Fold the strips and put them in a can, jar, bag or box. Have the boys take turns pulling them out and reading them.

Learn to sing “Choose the Right.” 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.

Agency is definitely something to be thankful for. The primary theme this year is “Choose the Right” so chances are the boys are singing this in primary already, so a discussion on choices and agency should be all they need to pass this one off (if they haven't already).

May: Health and Fitness, Cub Cafe

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.

Here is an idea for a lesson on the Word of Wisdom that would be perfect to use with Cub Scouts. And here is a printout you could give the boys to use to teach their families about the Word of Wisdom in a Family Home Evening. It is based on the old “MyPyramid” printouts. The latest is “MyPlate” which would also fit well into a Word of Wisdom lesson.

Plan, prepare and serve a nutritious meal.

I believe each level of Cub Scouts has a requirement that fits with this. Obviously it's something the boys need to do at home, but you can help them plan a meal using “MyPlate” as a guide to show them how to balance things out. Have them fold a paper into quarters, then unfold it. Have them label the sections: Protein, Grain, Fruit, Vegetable. Have them think of at least one thing they can make/serve for each category and write or draw it in. If they want to add a dessert and/or dairy (they probably will) just have them add it on the back of the paper. Putting it on the back is a reminder that it's optional, while the other groups are essential.

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

How perfect is this? Come up with a plan together as a den and challenge everyone to follow it for the month of May. You may want to work on one of the sports belt loops together. (I am a fan of badminton myself.)

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

If you're spending the month working on health and nutrition, you've got the first half of this one covered already. Why not throw in a lesson about how the way we dress affects our actions? That is another way we treat our body as a temple. You might have one of the dads come as a guest speaker/teacher to talk a little about dressing appropriately to pass the sacrament or to teach the boys how to tie a tie.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


(This is a continuation of an earlier post on Lesson 2 in Teaching: No Greater Call)

"Teaching that stimulates the intellect without speaking to the spirit cannot nourish."

I believe this is not just a message for Sunday school teachers. I believe it is something we should be trying to apply in everything, including as parents and in working with the Scouts. I have come to see more and more that Scouting in the Church is meant to be about more than just camping and fun activities. Used well, it is an effective vessel for serving the gospel to boys and teaching them their priesthood responsibilities. Like the priesthood, the ideal Scouting program will merge temporal and spiritual in a seamless unit. (Notice I said "ideal." See former post about taking steps "line upon line.")
"Teaching that is nourishing to the soul uplifts others, builds their faith, and gives them confidence to meet life's challenges. It motivates them to forsake sin and to come to Christ, call on His name, obey His commandments, and abide in His love."

One of my training handouts I keep on hand is a checklist titled, "How do I rate as an effective leader?" While there is nothing wrong with the handout, I think this quote can give us a simpler and more useful yardstick to measure our effectiveness. Ask yourself, "Does my teaching accomplish these things? Am I building their faith, giving them the confidence to meet life's challenges and motivating them to forsake sin?" (Is is just me, or does that sound a lot like the Aims of Scouting with a gospel slant?)

However, in trying to accomplish this, especially with teenage boys, you might relate to this statement:
"Some people may not seem interested in hearing the principles of the gospel. You should prayerfully search for a way to teach them those principles anyway."

I think the key words here are "prayerfully search." Maybe sneaking some gospel teaching into a camp out or hike is one way to accomplish it. Remember, we can't always tell when they are listening or what they get out of something. I like the story from a mom about their family's struggle to have family scripture study:

"...we were often frustrated when one son complained and had to be coaxed out of bed. When he finally came, he would often put his head down on the table. Years later, while serving his mission, he wrote home in a letter: 'Thank you for teaching me the scriptures. I want you to know that all those times I acted like I was sleeping, I was really listening with my eyes closed.'"

Please remember to teach with a purpose, even if you need to let them "listen with their eyes closed" sometimes. Pray about your boys and let the Spirit guide you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Line Upon Line

I was reading in Teaching: No Greater Call this past week (oh, how I love the Gospel Library app), and Lesson 2: Nourishing the Soul really spoke to me. It was the stories, especially, that struck me, because they reminded me so much of our primary class and the things we have learned from teaching them. Here are quotes from two different stories:

"Admittedly, what happened was unusual. But it showed what really mattered to the nine-year-olds I was teaching. Without realizing what they were doing, they took over the class discussion on their own."

"Such a shift took time, but more important, it took trust that the students really needed and wanted the nourishment of the gospel and that the presentation of the food through the scriptures and the Spirit really was what would sustain them. Over the next few months a gradual change took place wherin the students began to bring their scriptures regularly, began to discuss the gospel more freely and willingly, and began to sense the wonder of the message."

People ask how I can "handle" 14 kids in one primary class with so few problems. We love our primary class and have had some great gospel discussions. We even have weeks where they want to stay in class instead of going to sharing time. However, it wasn't something that just happened because we are such great teachers. It took time to get to this point. We have an unusual advantage, in that this is the third year he have taught many of the children in our class (the Valiant 11's). The first year we taught them, they were eight years old. At the time the class consisted of eight boys and had a reputation for being a "difficult" class to teach. Some couldn't read very well, and most didn't bring their scriptures to church.

The second year we taught them was last year, when they were ten-year-olds, combined with the eleven-year-olds (that was the third year we taught that group, which had also become an all boy class). They had already improved a great deal. They knew to bring their scriptures, and they were used to reading aloud in class. We were able to do more straight from the scriptures than we could that first year. We noticed it made a big difference to both groups of boys to be together in a situation where the older boys set the example for the younger ones.

This year our "younger" boys are now the older ones, setting an example for the new children in the class. I have noticed that it didn't take long at all for the newer students to fall into place. One girl, who was so difficult the first week I didn't know what we were going to do with her, is now one of our most enthusiastic learners. She loves learning about the gospel.

This is an advantage I think you have built into priesthood quorums, especially where you have an established program and leaders and teachers with tenure. When things are running smoothly, the younger boys will fall into place, following the example of the older boys, and the older boys will benefit from being an example.

You can even get a little of this in the Cub Scout program, because of the way it is set up in the Church. I know we often complain about how the boys advance on their birthdays instead of at the same time, like in other packs, which can make keeping track of everything tricky. However, you can take advantage of the fact that you have older boys who can set the example as new boys enter your den, just like in the priesthood quorums. You can increase their opportunities to lead each other by making use of the denner program, and if you can arrange for a den chief, that will give them yet another boy to look up to.

What if you don't have an established program and/or your leaders are all new? It can be hard to start from scratch, especially when you see someone else's program that is running smoothly. Maybe you know of, or have been in before, a great boy-led troop, and you don't see how your ward can ever get to that point. Sometimes it is hard, when starting at the beginning, to have patience and take thing slowly (I am currently having this challenge with the adults in our packs - in some ways training adults takes even more patience than training kids).

I remember Charles Dahlquist's description of his early days as a Scoutmaster:

"I told them, 'Boys, I have a feeling we do not have long to accomplish all we must in this quorum. For the next couple of weeks, I will be doing some things that, after you have seen how it's done, you will be doing, so watch carefully!' Within several weeks they shouldered their proper share of the load, but only after they had seen it done and caught a vision of how things should go." (I don't know whether this talk is online anymore, but I quoted a lot of it here.)

Hopefully, after a lot of time, patience and training, things will smooth out. The other day I was taking to someone who has been involved with young men and scouting in our ward for a few years. He was telling me how much the program has improved over time. When he started, it wasn't much of a program at all. Then they had a couple of good leaders who really got things organized and going. Then they all took training and things really got better. It sounds like things are going pretty well now, and they have a new committee chair who I know will make things even better.

If you can get your own program to grow that way, then we just have to hope the bishopric will follow the wisdom from the new Handbook:

"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."

(Note: I found this lesson so inspiring, that it has given me way too much to talk about in one post. I would like to let you ponder on this for a while, and I will continue the discussion of the same lesson in another post.)