Two weeks ago, the UPS man brought a package to my door. I made it a point to be home when it arrived.
Of the hundreds of packages I get each year, the thing that made this one so special is that carefully wrapped inside was a felt campaign hat — over 100 years old — with a uniquely hand-tooled leather band. It was the very hat Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, the founder of the Scouting movement, wore in the earliest days of the movement. It was a reverent moment for me.
Since the LDS Church’s announcement that local church units in the U.S. and Canada will no longer charter Varsity teams and Venture crews, two programs of the Boy Scouts of America that focus on boys in their mid- to late teen-age years, I questioned the investment I made in acquiring BP’s iconic hat and wondered if I would regret it. The past few days several thoughts have come to mind.
The first thought is I fully respect the decision of The First Presidency to no longer charter Varsity teams and Venture crews within the LDS Church. I know that in making this inspired decision, church leaders had the well-being of the youth in mind. The youth’s welfare was the core foundation of this decision, despite what the negative minority are saying in social media.
I have seen many local church units struggle to put together a successful Varsity or Venture program. These programs work best with large groups, which is difficult to garner since teen-aged youth have more activity options as they start to attend high school. It simply isn’t fun for youth to participate in an activity program when their peers and friends don’t attend and when they may even be outnumbered by adult leaders of the program.
I have also seen that many adults, who truly have a desire to serve the youth of the church and community, become frustrated and lose motivation as they strived to deliver a program that wasn’t being accepted by many of the youth they had hoped to serve. Often, these adults served without complete support of parents. I commend those leaders who did their best. I am sure that, to the degree their efforts were sincere, an equal or greater benefit was recognized by the youth they led.
The second thought is that the Boy Scouts of America will be just fine. The negative minority would like to believe the loss of annual registration fees will be so detrimental the BSA will close its doors. Fortunately, with the large number of philanthropists in this country, who still support Scouting, many of whom are members of the LDS Church, a single contribution from any one of them can make up for this particular loss of revenue. There are too many people with financial resources that want to see Scouting succeed.
This summer, up to 40,000 Scouts and Scouters will convene in Glen Jean, West Virginia for the National Jamboree. It truly is a showcase event for Scouting and will be the 19th time that Scouts from across the country will gather there for this unique and amazing event. Combined, the three BSA Councils that service Utah will send just about 1,000 youth to the Jamboree, or just over 2 percent of the total number of participants. Typically, the number of LDS Scouts who attend the National Jamboree from across the country totals less than 3,000 — or less than 10 percent of the total number of participants. Granted, in general terms, any organization that loses 10 percent of its membership will have to endure some hardships, but should be able to survive.
The future level of success of Scouting in Utah is uncertain. Much of it, though, will be decided by the large number of Scouters who have an affinity relationship with Scouting and will take it upon themselves to charter either Varsity teams, or most likely, Venture crews within their own communities. This factor, along with the LDS Church’s reaffirmed commitment to the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs, should bode well for the future involvement of Scouting within our communities.
I am certain that as LDS leaders and members make a concerted effort in implementing the new youth activity program, and as Scouters expand their efforts throughout their entire community, only good will come. Our youth will become well rounded and better equipped and suited to become adults and take their positions in civic and church leadership.
Children and young people are the life blood of our society. All should be involved in programs and activities that help them to become strong and healthy — physically, mentally and emotionally. I am so grateful that for over 100 years, LDS youth have been able to take an oath to be honorable in doing their best and doing their duty to God and their country, while learning to help other people at all times.
I am grateful that future generations of LDS youth will continue to take this oath as the Boy Scouts of America works cohesively with all their charter partners “… to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”
For me, the investment in Scouting, as a youth and now as an adult, comes with no regrets.
Dan Egelund is a resident of Tooele City.