I have been uplifted by the articles that appear in the Transcript Bulletin’s “Matters of Faith” column, including those penned by Charlie Roberts. I hope this paper continues the practice of allowing people of faith to write articles that provide “hope, courage and strength.” And I hope Mr. Roberts continues to write articles that contribute to my personal faith and understanding.
However, Mr. Roberts’ recent column concerning the LDS Church’s relationship with the Boy Scouts of America hit a nerve. Like Mr. Roberts, I was the beneficiary of a vibrant scout troop as a boy. I have witnessed the influence of trained scout leaders in my son’s life and the lives of my grandsons and nephews. I have seen firsthand how dedicated leaders in this program can have such a profound eternal effect on future husbands and fathers.
Why then do I find myself with a different view of scouting’s relevance in the 21st century and its relevance within the LDS church than Mr. Roberts’ view? Possibly because I have spent the past several years associating with the hundreds of dedicated men and women in Tooele County who contribute time, talent and means to keep the scout programs relevant in our local communities.
What do I say to my fellow scouters as we review Mr. Roberts’ views on scouting in our time and its relationship with its largest chartered partner? What can I say about the future of scouting to the boy who literally shines with pride as a parent pins on an Arrow of Light badge? What can I say to the parent who sees a boy turn into a man because someone challenged him to “do his best” at camp this summer? What can I say to the ward bishop who sees an active Varsity Scout program keep his 14- and 15-year-old young men from straying from the fold? What can I say to the mission president who says he can tell a difference when a new elder comes from a ward where leadership skills were taught (and practiced) in an active Venturing program?
First, I would say to my colleagues that Mr. Roberts’ views are not isolated. His views are pervasive among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as recent polls indicate. He simply had a forum where he could write about them. Second, we should acknowledge that we have been so engrossed in providing excellent programs for our boys and young men that we have not taken the time to explain scouting’s continued relevance to our constituency. Third, we should take heart that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, charged as “watchers on the tower” are not influenced by opinion polls or opinions written in the Transcript Bulletin. And finally, we need to acknowledge that we have not done a very good job of explaining scouting’s continued relevance in the LDS church and in society in general.
It seems to me that those who challenge scouting’s relevance make some of the following arguments:
• There are more exemplary options for today’s youth to keep them engaged, fit and challenged.
• Scouting is expensive.
• The typical ward scout night is a waste of everyone’s time and energy.
• Church youth programs should be about instilling spirituality and not about tying knots.
• Funds contributed during the annual “Friends of Scouting” campaign are funneled up to the national council, leaving local units destitute.
There may be others, but this list will suffice for now.
My fellow scouters, we need to be more vocal in the community in defending our program. While some of us must enjoy the luxury of dealing directly with our boys and young men on a weekly basis, others of us need to speak out as the occasion arises.
We need to explain that while the mission statements of sports programs are built around the worthy goals of instilling skills, teamwork and sportsmanship. That while the mission statement of educational institutions is to teach and instill a love for learning. The mission statement of the Boy Scouts of America is: “… 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.” Those values, as any scout can tell you, are: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent; to do one’s duty to God, to country and to others.
Scouting employs several methods in order to accomplish its mission, including: Adult Association, Advancement, Ideals, Leadership Development, Outdoor Activities, the Patrol Method and Personal Growth. Obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout is simply one of the methods — not the ultimate goal — as some would believe.
Scouting is expensive, but no more expensive for today’s family than for families 100 years ago (relatively speaking). Scouting’s costs would be considered a bargain compared to those costs associated with football uniforms and/or sports camps.
LDS ward scout nights might be considered a waste of time, but only for those wards whose leaders have not taken the time to understand the aims and methods of scouting. Right here in Tooele Valley, on any given scout night, thousands of boys (under the guidance of trained leaders) are engaged in activities that will help them make moral and ethical choices the rest of their lives and have incredible fun while doing so.
Scouting contributes to the spiritual growth of young men in countless ways, including performing service, sharing thoughts around a campfire as the embers begin to glow, and kneeling in prayer and listening as a scoutmaster prays to his God and mentions each boy by name, giving thanks for their friendship and association.
FOS funds do not go anywhere. They stay in our local council; for Tooele, this means the Great Salt Lake Council, encompassing parts of Davis County and all of Salt Lake, Tooele and Summit counties. Such funds have gone into our local scout camps, not only providing ongoing maintenance, but allowing improvements such as the new dining hall and activity center at The Bear Lake Aquatics Camp, a new water treatment plant at the Hinckley Scout Camp and beginning the construction of the Monson Training Lodge. New improvements are scheduled for the Cub Scout camps at Camp Tracy and major improvements are coming to Camp Steiner.
To my friend Charlie Roberts, let me simply say lunch is on me — but we’ll have to talk Scouting!
Poulson is a Stansbury Park resident and former chairman of the Deseret Peak District, Great Salt Lake Council, Boy Scouts of America.