Welcome to the LDS Scouter Blog. We hope to provide you with valuable information, share useful resources and maybe even improve some attitudes and Ward Scouting programs. The recommended way to use this blog is to start with the post, "Why I started this blog." Then browse through the post titles in the archive (found in the sidebar) for topics of interest.

Tuesday, 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.)