The Purpose of Young Men Church Activities

One month ago, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded to the Boy Scouts of America change in the membership standards for adult leaders. I wrote a blog entry on that topic, which you can read here.

Today, the Church updated its response with an announcement from the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles that it is continuing its support of the Scouting program in the Church. Part of the statement says:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appreciates the positive contributions Scouting has made over the years to thousands of its young men and boys and to thousands of other youth. As leaders of the Church, we want the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to succeed in its historic mission to instill leadership skills and high moral standards in youth of all faiths and circumstances, thereby equipping them for greater success in life and valuable service to their country.
This is a strong endorsement of the purposes of the Scouting movement. This endorsement is not new. I especially like this video, which is prominently profiled in the Church's website for Scouting for the Aaronic Priesthood.

Much of the strength of the relationship between the LDS church and the Boy Scouts of America is founded on the model of chartering organizations used in the BSA. The BSA grants charters to churches and other youth-serving community organizations to use the Scouting programs to further the organization's mission with respect to the youth served. Consequently, the Church can actually use the Scouting program as a church program. We are not just doing Scouting, we are using Scouting to further the purposes of the Church.

Just last week, the Salt Lake Tribune published the results of a survey in Utah with a headline, "Most Utah Mormons want their church out of Boy Scouts." I guess the 63% of "very-active" Mormons in the state who thought the Church should leave were pretty surprised today when the Church leadership unanimously said it was staying in Scouting. On Facebook, when the announcement was posted, the earliest comments were all fairly negative. I felt some obligation to post a positive comment and it did get some positive feedback, with a personal record of 137 likes so far.

I wrote:
Maybe Scout leaders and parents should start looking at why the Prophet and Apostles are so supportive of Scouting and figure out how to use the tools that it provides to strengthen the young men. It isn't about the advancement program, but about the growth of character that the boys can gain. If it isn't happening in your ward unit, start a conversation on how to make it happen.
Unfortunately, it's not clear to many. And even when it is clear theoretically, the reality of the situation for many makes us feel like alluding to Paul as we say, "We see through a glass darkly."

Perhaps the methods of Scouting itself create some of the confusion. The emphasis on outdoor experiences might make us think that Scouting is about going camping. Why would we need to do that? Except for survivalists, most families don't view basic camping skills as essential life skills. The pursuit for advancement, with all of the badges and awards, also might block our understanding. After all, some boys don't want to pursue rank advancement and so say, "I'm not interested in Scouting." I've heard parents wonder what their son is supposed to do once he earns the Eagle rank.

I suggest that we should redouble our efforts to understand the purpose of our activities for the young men in the Church. There are two key purposes to Scouting that today's Church statement emphasizes: leadership development and high moral standards. Are our activities working to fulfill these goals? Is this how we are viewing our activity in Scouting? Or are we being distracted from these purposes and getting caught up in the details of advancement or adventure?

If you want to see more of my thinking, I suggest reading the following previous blog posts:

Comments

  1. From what I've observed is that many LDS scout leaders are not trained and don't follow the Scouting program the way its suppose to be run. Scouting is about learning by doing, and too often the leaders and parents are doing most of the doing.

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