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Friday, May 8, 2009

Why Scouting? ...an LDS perspective.

As a parent I want to teach my children to have a strong character and unyielding values. I want to believe that when my job is done I can send my children out into the world confident that they can and will survive, no, can and will thrive! With the Boy Scout program boys can learn basic survival skills and self reliance in a fun group setting while setting and achieving goals, reaping rewards for and understanding the value of hard work and learning independence.          

Our youth are interested in having fun. Scouting should be presented in a way that they feel excited about what they are learning. The activities and skills learned should be geared toward interests and goals of the boys. Some boys feel that they are not “cut out” for Scouting, which means they have a limited understanding of what Boy Scouts has to offer. Maybe they just see the work and not the rewards, maybe their parents are unsupportive of the program or maybe they just lack guidance.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has stated: "I love the Scouting movement. If every boy in America knew and observed the Scout Oath, we would do away with most of the jails and prisons in this country. This program builds boys, builds their futures, leads them on the right path so they can make something of their lives.  Every man or woman who helps a boy along the road of life not only does a great thing for him but does a great thing for society as a whole." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has embraced the Scouting program for the male youth in the church. Starting from age eight, boys are led in areas of personal growth, loyalty and basic skills. These activities should be reflective on every aspect of their lives. By living the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, each boy commits to being better at everything they attempt. With a pledge that includes “to do my duty” to traditional values, and constantly strive to do their best in worthy causes; a motto that encourages them to “Be Prepared” for whatever may come, and a slogan to “Do a good turn daily,” helps boys realize that they are part of a bigger whole.

In addition to basic survival skills, boys are taught how to be men of strong character. These young men are our future leaders, both political and religious. The Scout Law teaches the boys to be “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.” These are qualities of social and spiritual leadership. Imagine how society would be if everyone, not just the Boy Scouts strived to live these values daily. Our futures would be secure and we could insure peace around the globe!

Lord Baden Powell, the founding father of the Boy Scouts, was a British military leader. A hero from the British Boer War, he trained boys and men in the skills of scouting for military purposes. Over the years he received letters from former trainees regarding all they had learned under his tutelage that affected their post-military lives in positive ways. Eventually he pondered the idea of training boys as “peacetime” scouts, “ready at all times to help others.”

He believed, “The training would have to be attractive and interesting. Here his own boyhood gave him a clue. He remembered the fun of boating and tramping with his brothers…and the eagerness with which…he had slipped away into the copse to watch animals and make fires and cook rabbits. To all this he could now add his own experiences as a practical pioneer and scout in the army.” (E. Reynolds, Oxford University Press, First printed in 1943.) From these ideas and principals, he began the process of building a training program for boys. He ran a successful camp session at Brownsea in 1907 and the Boy Scouts were officially created in 1910. The Boy Scouts of America were also founded in 1910 by William Boyce who brought some business organization to Baden-Powell’s ideas. Over the years the program has been modified and enhanced to reflect Lord Baden-Powell’s original purposes.

During his military service, R.S.S. Baden-Powell observed the cadet corps and took note of their courage and valor. This group of young, under-age, servants to the military made a positive impression on Lord Baden-Powell and was the beginning of the seed for establishing the Scouting program among the youth. He wrote several books including Aids to Scouting, a military training manual, which became a best-seller. From that he based his program ideas and rewrote the book with an aim toward the youth. He then wrote Scouting for Boys after the Brownsea camp experience and the concepts were adopted worldwide.

The ideas behind the values and principals in Scouting are based on self-discipline and survival skills for the military. The original concepts were conceived to create helpful, strong, physically, mentally and spiritually grounded youth, prepared to be whatever they chose and do what needed to be done under any circumstance. This training would provide leadership for the future and self-reliance to the masses.

One of the biggest purposes of Scouting is to cultivate self-sufficiency, confidence and learning by doing. The motto “Be Prepared” and slogan, “Do a good turn daily,” emphasize this sharing of knowledge and skill. The attitude that Scouts are trained to be helpful, courteous and kind also underscores the need for worldwide acceptance and tolerance necessary for peace. Being loyal, thrifty and brave stresses the need for courage and valor in times of emergency. A man who is trustworthy, friendly and thrifty will be successful in business and make a good employee. To be clean and obedient leads to reverence and spiritual power that is worthy of missionary service and temple marriage.

Some parents and youth are overwhelmed by the amount of work required to fulfill all the requirements for the highest Boy Scout honor of Eagle Scout. It is imperative that this process be an experience of growth. We have been counseled to “raise the bar” and in order to this we need to push ourselves and our youth beyond our comfort zones. We need to help them understand the importance of working hard for those things that are worthwhile and bring success to the future.

Charles W. Dahlquist II, General Young Men President, said, “(There is) majesty that can be part of the activity program of the Aaronic Priesthood, if we apply the principles that caused the Brethren, in 1913, to enter into a partnership with the Boy Scouts of America for the strengthening of the Aaronic Priesthood.  There was inspiration in that decision, as there is inspiration in the decision to continue that decision today. And there must be inspiration in applying the principles of Scouting to strengthen and vitalize the quorums of the Aaronic Priesthood and each young priesthood bearer today.” He also stated, “It is very evident that in those stakes and wards where Scouting is used to strengthen the priesthood, the young men of the Aaronic Priesthood are much stronger and better prepared than they would otherwise have been.”

President Dahlquist has said, “Scouting (is an effective resource) to help support the teachers and priests quorums of the Church raise the bar for these great young men of the Aaronic Priesthood by teaching them timeless values, giving them opportunities to learn and apply leadership skills and develop spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially---all in a fun and enjoyable setting, planned by the young men themselves, with appropriate adult supervision.” The emphasis should be on “a fun and enjoyable setting.” Although earning an Eagle honor should be hard work it should also be fun along the way.

One of the fundamental purposes of the Scouting program is to cultivate a love and appreciation for the outdoors and outdoor activities. However, not all scout activities are required to be outdoors as some young men are not interested in those kinds of events. There are experiences in business, engineering, sciences and the arts that should be emphasized as well. Essentially there are focuses for every type of boy in any circumstance. Each boy should be encouraged to participate in those activities he is interested in as well as those he may not find as enjoyable as this helps cultivate tolerance and acceptance of differences.

Another skill that is important for the youth to learn and understand is the ability to work as a team. Throughout adulthood they will be required to work with others on a variety of projects under a multitude of circumstances. The ability to work well with others is paramount to their success in business, family and personal pursuits. The Boy Scouting program develops this skill through troop participation. They learn the process of delegation and what happens when they, or others, fail to follow through on a commitment. They also learn to forgive and be understanding and tolerant when someone does not fulfill their commitments.

President Dahlquist further said, “The Church continues to follow the programs of the Boy Scouts of America to help its young men 12 to 18 years of age as they magnify their callings in the priesthood. Scouting helps young men develop desirable character traits, citizenship, and physical and mental fitness. The Scouting program teaches young men how to rely on themselves, serve and lead others, prepare for emergencies, conserve natural resources, and become actively involved in community, school, and Church service projects.

The number of Eagle scouts among our nations’ leaders, both religious and political, is astounding. This list includes Gerald Ford, 38th President of the U.S., James Lovell – Astronaut, Steven Spielberg, Film Director/Producer, Walter Cronkite - Journalist, T.V. commentator, and many church leaders including Howard W. Hunter, 14th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President Thomas S. Monson has said, “It is the mission of the Boy Scouts of America to serve others by helping to instill values in young people and, in other ways, to prepare them to make ethical choices over their lifetime in achieving their full potential.”

Even if a boy does not reach Eagle status, they will reap magnificent rewards for having participated and made an effort to learn, do and be what the Scouting program encourages. A parent will not be remiss for supporting their sons in this program. It is preparation for life; preparation for the future.

2 comments:

  1. Nice post about the value of Scouting. I am not LDS but nonetheless appreciate the viewpoint you have taken here. Thanks for the nice blog entry.

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  2. I really like the idea of Scouting, but from what I've seen of it in practice I'm not sure about it in practicality. I don't know if I like the idea that a boy can go to a big Saturday activity and earn a bunch of badges in one day. To me, that seems like badge-earning manufacturing rather than actual skill learning.

    If I have sons they'll probably hate me, because if they do Scouts (it'll be their choice) I'm gonna make them "do it honest" (as I say) and it'll be much more work for them than all their peers! But hey, they'll actually KNOW and LIVE the stuff that supposed to be learned in Scouts. To me, that's what the original intention was anyway.

    So many times I've seen Scouts who don't remember anything they've learned because it was a cram-session just to earn the badge. And what good does that do?

    And then there's the Scouts in our ward that earn their Eagle just to be able to graduate to the "fun activities" that exclude the other non-Eagle Scouts. The Eagles walk around like the big bullies of the campus... as if their Eagle was a badge of entitlement and they treat the other boys rudely. Isn't part of being an Eagle Scout the obligation to help others, especially younger Scouts to learn and earn their Eagle also?

    Yeah, I really LOATHE the way our ward handles Scouting. Which makes me really sad.

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