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Wednesday, August 03, 2005 

Mormon Scouting & the Young Womanhood Way

My dad is currently at the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Virginia--he loves the Boy Scouts. He came to love the Boy Scouts when he was called to be a Scoutmaster in our ward.

For a while, before he had training, he just went along as best he could. After he got some training from the local Council, he began to see some flaws in the way things were being done in the Ward Troop. He started to change those things... being less lax about the wearing of uniforms, more strict on how merit badges were completed, less playing basketball and more working towards goals. He was met with resistance.

About this time, my brother was working through the program. He was 12 or 13. With my parents' guidance (and the guidance was considerable) he submitted his eagle project for review days before he turned 14. After this, his interest in scouting became nil. My dad was released from his calling as scoutmaster shortly thereafter.

My dad, however, didn't give it up. He began working within the "Order of the Arrow" organization and moved upwards in the scouting organization. He has received several area awards and 2 national awards in scouting.

This is really just my way of saying... I know what I'm talking about when it comes to the Boy Scouts in the LDS Church.

First... I have to say that it is different than it is outside of the church. Boys are "made" to go because that's their youth activity, whereas boys attending outside of the church are more likely to be attending by their own volition. It is also different because the adults in charge outside of the LDS church are usually better trained and stay in the job longer than those in the church because they volunteer.

Secondly... Because of these things, I think the commitment level of all involved is lower than outside of the church. Because of this, "Mormon Scouting" is often looked down on by those outside of the church. Case in point--Far far fewer scouters in the LDS church have their Eagles than those in troops that aren't LDS.

Third... Sometimes to rectify that situation, people are actually called to be Eagle Scout specialists to help get some kids to the Eagle Scout level. (Only saying it because it happened in my ward and the results--scouts having work done for them--made my dad pretty upset).

Because of this, I have to respect the Young Women's program in the church quite a bit. I received all of the awards possible and my Laurel projects were memorable and important to me (well... at least 3 of the 4 are... I cross-stitched the Young Women's theme, adopted a cemetery plot and worked at the bishop's storehouse-alongside JP and Sarah Marinara).

It took me 5.5 years to complete my Young Womanhood Recognition and my brother only took 2 years to get his Eagle? How can that be equal? We went to the same number of meetings and did a similar amount of work in the end... but mine took 3.5 years longer.

That just doesn't seem fair. I also completed 6 years of Girls' Camp requirements.

I think they should combine recognition and do a super-award for the girls who do 6 years of camp requirements AND get the Young Womanhood Recognition. Maybe then it would be fair?

Oh yeah... it still only takes the guys 2 years to do it. Never mind... it's never going to be fair.

"Far far fewer scouters in the LDS church have their Eagles than those in troops that aren't LDS."

Far far far fewer scouters become a Rover.

my brother works closely with your dad in OA...HE works hard...others? Not so much. It continues to bug me that many scouters in the ward troops "have their work done for them."

Until tomorrow...

I can see why the Church would use scouting for their young men's program...scouts is great. But I can see how when it becomes IN-voluntary how the experience can become diluted. I think back to when my dad was little, and my grandma couldn't get his scout uniform OFF him. Scouting just doesn't seem to be perceived to be as COOL as it once was. These don't seem to be the scouting glory days...did Vietnam ruin scouting?

I think scouting is a valuable program, and I plan to enroll my boys if they want to participate, but I also think it's weird that our church--yes, that's it, church--has adopted what is essentially a paramilitary organization as its only bit of programming for adolescent males. The Young Women's program makes a lot more sense to me, what with all that religious instruction...

I don't think that scouting (even throught the ward troops) is bad. I think we can all agree that there wouldn't be many active teenage males if they had a similar PP program as YW. I think scouting has its benefits and that there is much gained by those young men...I just don't think the "recognition" is fair.

I guess I also don't see scouting as "paramilitary"...the merit badges to focus on out doors kinda stuff, service, first aid, etc...but maybe that's just me.

Here are some interesting links about scouting and Order of the Arrow:

jp, this might shed some light on your dad's comment.

And yes, scouting is paramilitary.

No, scouting's not paramilitary. Some scoutmasters may make their troops a little paramilitary, but simply having uniforms and going camping does not make something paramilitary.

I have to agree with many of the problems associated with LDS scouting. I worked on BSA camp staff for 6 summers in HS and college, including as a program director/asst. camp director. I've seen very poorly run troops in the church, and a lot of leaders who approached troopleading as an unwanted calling (and treated everyone they encountered accordingly). And yes, very often the troops were poorly run. And this was very unfortunate for those in the troops.

But I also had some wonderful leaders--particularly those who were really 'parents' who'd been in scouting. As someone who grew up in a part-member family but Catholic (and who has since been baptized), participation in the ward troop gave me key experiences with the Church--I'll never forget the special sacrament meetings the stake presidency led in the woods for the stake's boy scoouts during scout camp week.

So, I guess my feeling has long been one of enthusiasm but also frustration: boy scouts (in a church troop and as a council camp staff member, and yes, as an OA member--it's a cool org.) was one of the great experiences of my teens, but so often I wish it could be done better in the church.

As to 14 year old Eagle Scouts, grrr! (I was 17.) Clearly these troops are doing something wrong here, are robbing the scouts in question of the real acheivement and experience by making things too easy. (Probably there's room for blaming overly achievement oriented parents here too.) We used to have a name for these people--Paper Eagle. But, that said, the BSA has made it easier to become an eagle over the decades--for the first 70+ years of the organization, 1% of those who started got eagle, starting in the '90's, the number rose to 2%.

The new Duty to God program runs much more parallel to the Young Women program (and integrates lots of scouty activities as well). I have three small boys I personally dread getting involved with scouts--I just can't take the ceremoniousness seriously (I reserve my respect towards ritual for other aspects of my spiritual life). But I an VERY enthusiastic about the new Duty to God program.

My son is about to receive the Eagle rank that he has earned. He is a few months shy of 15. He certainly earned it. More importantly, he is still working on his Duty to God which cannot be fully earned until he is nearly 18. My daughter earned her young woman in excellence medallion at 15 or just turned 16.

The age isn't important -- it is the effort. In our troop, we place great emphasis on earning the Eagle and doing it before 16 if possible. We have too many youngmen who get to Life, and then at 16, lose interest in scouting -- so if they haven't earned their eagle before that, the probably never will.

Scouting isn't the "only bit of programming" for the youngmen. Scouting is merely an activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. While the way scouting is implemented can certainly be improved in many wards, the Duty to God is a good (and more important) companion that brings the youngmen's program in to line with the more spiritual oriented personal progress of the youngwoment.

random john: what comment is that? I'm all sorts of confused...

Hmm -

I earned my Eagle at 14 and I worked da[ng] hard - no "paper Eagle" here (of course, I was the first to earn an Eagle in my troo for 8 years). I spent all my free time from the time I turned 11 to 14 on scouting. I got my "scout first class" rank right when I turned 12.

I think if I had waited, I would never have gotten my Eagle, as High School activities and sports ate up any time I may have had for scouting. It seems to me earning an Eagle early on is the smartest way to go, if you want to participate fully in High School.

I worked hard on my eagle as well. Got it right when I turned 14. I admit that my task was not monumental, but needed in the community and substantial. One problem I had was that so many of the young men in my stake did activities at the church ballfield. Some were more worthy than others (adding a picnic area, including patio cover, patio slab, pathways, water etc), some less worthy (ie 2)replacing the trashcans and 2) redoing the volleyball courts).

Also I am glad about the Duty To God program as well. This is more comparable to the YW program, and focuses more on spirtual values.

I do have to take issue with your presumption that "takes longer=harder,more work". This may be the case, but is not necessarily so.

A random john,
Define paramilitary?

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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