Guest Post: Pushing Back Against the Boy Scouts and Challenging Church Norms

by Jesse

Last fast Sunday, my ward’s Scout fundraising committee chair came to Relief Society to encourage support of the Scouts’ annual fundraiser.  In our ward, the Young Women meet with Relief Society for opening exercises on Fast Sunday.  As I am the Laurel adviser,  I was there to hear his announcement–and it made me cringe.  Not only did he request the women to volunteer their time at this fundraiser–he invited the young women to participate, as well.

After I cooled off a bit, I decided to write a letter to the member of my Stake Presidency who oversees scouting. My decision was prompted in part by Amelia’s recent post about The Washington Post’s piece on the role of women in various faiths–and the statements made by church representative Michael Otterson that women in the church are satisfied with the status quo.  I wanted to make sure my dissatisfaction was heard by my leaders.  I sent this letter today and copied my ward’s Primary President and Bishop.

 

Dear President X,

I am writing this letter both as the mother of two children (a daughter and a son) and as an advisor to the Young Women in the X ward.    My responsibilities in both capacities have led me to question the appropriateness of our church’s continued support of the scouting program as well as the way it is implemented in our stake.  While some boys and young men may benefit from this program, it is my firm conviction that the church’s support of this program is detrimental to the spiritual and emotional growth of our girls and our boys, our young women and our young men.

While Scouting may be good, and better than many other activities in which the boys could participate, President Oaks has encouraged us to set our sights higher.  During General Conference in October of 2007, he counseled, “just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”

As a former girl and as the mother of a six-year-old daughter, I can say that girls notice when the boys get uniforms, and get to go on fun adventures and have awards ceremonies and the girls don’t.   Last year, when my husband was a Cub Scout leader, my daughter began to ask if she could go, too.  Her question stumped me then and it still does now.

By age eight, our children, both boys and girls, begin to absorb two messages.  First, we teach them that girls are second class citizens of the church by diverting adult leadership, ward funds, and parent efforts into a program that excludes girls.   Second, we teach them that gospel instruction is for girls by giving the girls the gospel-based Activity Girls and Personal Progress programs while relegating the boys to the secular Scouting program.

This is doubly tragic as the church has developed programs for boys and young men that focus on gospel principles and mirror programs available for the girls.  Activity Boys, Faith in God and Duty to God focus the boys and young men on gospel principles and developing a testimony of Christ.  They mirror the Activity Girls, Faith in God and Personal Progress programs for girls and young women.

While I do not feel comfortable having my son participate in church sponsored Cub or Boy Scouting programs, I look forward to the day when each of my children will begin participating in the Faith in God Program.  I wish my son had the opportunity to participate in gospel-centered Activity Days just like my daughter will.

Although the Faith in God programs for the younger children focus our children on Christ, our ward’s emphasis on scouting diverts the time and energy of parents, leaders and children from this gospel-centered program.  There is only so much time in the day.  The more activities we add, the less time we have to devote to each one.  And in my experience, it is the gospel-centered programs that suffer when placed in competition with the demands of scouting.

For example, I know my brother has his Eagle Scout Award, but I don’t know if he earned his Duty to God Award.  The same is true in my current ward.  I know of boys who have achieved the rank of Eagle.  I am not sure which if any have completed their Duty to God.   This seems a bit backwards to me.

This concern has been weighing heavily on my mind for some time (since I was 12, in fact).  I have talked about it with our Ward Primary President.  I have also talked about it with my husband as well as other women in the church, many of whom also feel the scouting program detracts from efforts to teach children and youth true principles.  I don’t know how wards and stakes make decisions about scouting.  I’d like to think that my voice can be heard by someone who participates in these decisions.  If you are not that person, please pass my letter on up the chain.

Regards,

Jesse

Question: There have  been two thoughtful recent posts on scouting- here and here.  If you have more to say about the church’s embrace of scouting, I’d love to hear it.  I am also interested in how to effectively challenge cultural norms in a church that cultivates an attitude of conformity.  For example, I had a friend help me tear the more inflammatory language out of this letter so that it would have a chance at provoking discussion instead of either being dismissed out of hand or provoking an automatic defense of church policy.

Caroline

Caroline is a PhD student in Women’s Studies in Religion and mother of three.

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62 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    As you mention, Jesse, one of the things that bothers me most about the Church’s embrace of the scouting program is the inequality of funds for girls and boys. I understand that in my ward, there is quite a discrepancy between what is spent on the boys and the girls, and it’s because of boy scouts.

    My ward does boy scouts in combination with a couple of other wards, and because of this, even if our primary pres and bishop wanted to equalize funds between girls and boys, they pretty much can’t. If these other wards decide that the scouts will do X and X (which cost a lot of money), then our ward kind of just has to go along and fork over the funds.

    • Anonymous says:

      In my ward the boyscouts are required to fund-raise for boys’ camp whereas the YW are given the lion’s share of ward budget plus the excess of the boys’ fund-raising for their girls’ camp. The inequality in that grates me. Why not a boys’ and girls’ camp fund-raiser with equal shares of the ward budget?

      • SilverRain says:

        I have personally overheard our ward’s discussion which openly stated they were giving a certain fund raiser to the boys because it made more money, and another fund raiser to the girls because it was not as lucrative.

      • Amy says:

        Very interesting. In my experience, the lion’s share of any money always goes to the boys with the explanation of scouting.

  2. Macha says:

    What an excellent point; I had never thought about it that way before, that the girls are given Christ-centered activities while the boys are given secular ones.

  3. Jessawhy says:

    I could have written this post exactly (except I have 3 boys, one of whom is currently a cub scout). I really wanted to pull him from the program, but it’s free (mostly) and he doesn’t have many friends at school and really loves it.

    When I was cub scout committee chair (for about 5 min) I tried to include the girls in the pinewood derby, but was shut down by the Bishopric.
    http://www.the-exponent.com/2009/02/23/inviting-girls-to-pinewood-derby/

    Now that my oldest is in cub scouts I still feel the same way, but I have more sympathy for parents of kids in scouts. The boys really do love it.
    However, I do think we could do scouting separately from the church and I would be happier about that.

    Great post!

  4. Alisa says:

    I hadn’t thought of the difference between Scouting and Activity Days quite like this, but I think your perspective is a valuable one.

    Personally, I really like what scouting teaches. My husband and I have been leaders in Cub Scouts for 4.5 years. There is one boy in our ward who is on the autism spectrum and who has few male influences in his life. I just remember feeling how good Cub Scouts was for him as he looked up to my husband. I’ll never forget how proud this boy was when he got his rank advancement. It helped show me how scouting can be such a good thing. I even was a Girl Scout for 5 years, and I loved it. Ever since I was a Girl Scout, I wished that Boy and Girl Scouts could combine in some way, and up until now, that had been my wish for the Church: to pressure Boy Scouting into accepting girls into the program.

    But your point about “good” not being an adequate criterion is an important one. If the Church didn’t sponsor Boy Scouts, there are already secular troops to join (as I did with Girl Scouts). But faith-based activities that are uniquely Mormon and Christ-centered may be best organized and supported by the Church. It’s allowing the Church to do what it does best.

    And even though I personally love camping, hiking, and the practical skills and sound principles taught in both Boy and Girl Scouting programs, I know they’re not for everyone. I have a BiL who is a wonderful man but did not have a good scouting experience in his ward and did not receive his Eagle and has been feeling “spiritually lesser” because of his lack of success with this program.

  5. JrL says:

    Your post and letter seem to pose three questions:

    1. Should the Church use the BSA programs, and support BSA? To some extent, I simply rely on the inspiration that has led us to continue supporting BSA. A bit like the Word of Wisdom’s ban on drnking coffee, I won’t purport to know why we do it. I see some possible reasons, among the: it is a great program for boys/young men; it gives us the opportunity and encouragement to particiate in and help support a program that can have a very positive impact on boys outside the Church; it gives structure to an activity program that otherwise, given the proclivities of many men, might flounder even more than it does. On Elder Oaks’ “good, better best” scale, is using BSA the “best” choice for LDS young men to implement as their activity program in the US and Canada? I don’t know, but I see some evidence that it might be, and little evidence that it is not.

    2. Does “Duty to God” get enough attention/is it used anough in the YM program? The “Duty to God” is not an activity program; it does not substitute for nor replace Scouting outside the US nor in small branches that do not have BSA units. “Duty to God” is a tool to be used by quorum presidencies, bishopric, and parents to help young men develop spiritually. The young women, their adult leaders, bishoprics, and parents have parallel programs. But your criticism has some basis in my experience: it is more common for the YW to understand and use such spiritual development tools than it is for the the young men. Interestingly, I see that even in units that do not have Scouting. Scouting may sometimes become the focus of young men activities, rather than being used as the tool they are intended to be. And if that is universally true, then maybe the days of Scouting in the Church should be past. But I, for one, am not ready to give up yet.

    3. Do we treat the young men and young women unequally in terms of budget money and “fun” activities? Most — maybe all — wards and branches I’ve observed do precisely that. To the extent the difference is the cost of Scouting awards, the finance difference may be attributed to Scouting. To the extent the boys and young men have access to BSA events and girls and young women have no equivalent, that, too, is the result of the Scouting connection. (I don’t know of any oerganization like BSA that would allow LDS young women groups to have the kind of autonomy that BSA allows and still have full access to their events and facilities.) But otherwise, the differences are a matter of choice (by young women, by bishoprics, or too often by young women adult leaders). I still recall my daughter, as a Beehive, asking why the boys got to do lots of fun things and the girls sat around and did boring stuff. I didn’t have a good answer, because there was nothing in Church policy or programs that prevented the girls from doing the same activities the boys were doing. Nor, at that point, was there a budget inequity that caused it.

    • Jesse says:

      Your point three is one I’ve thought a lot about. As a beehive, I had the same questions as your daughter. And, indeed there is no policy or doctrine that prevents YW from doing activities similar to the YM. However, there are two factors at play that you didn’t mention. 1) The YM and Cub Scout leaders have the pre-packaged Boy and Cub scouting programs that lay out detailed plans for lots of these activities that sounded fun to both your daughter and me. The YW and Activity Girls leaders are neither given nor encouraged to used/develop/find such a resource. Even if they wanted to, the investment of time and resources to develop such activities would be significant–introducing yet another inequity. 2) Women and men who have been raised in the church have learned “the way things are done.” The way things are done does not include fun, active activities for the girls. In the absence of revelation from the top, these women will continue to as you said, “rely on the inspiration that has led us to continue supporting the BSA,” and not have fun things for the girls.

      I think this perpetuates a myth common in the church that revelation comes to prophets in a vacuum. Reading the D&C and reviewing what I know of church history makes it seem clear to me that many of our significant policy shifts (I’m thinking polygamy’s start and stops and the extension of priesthood to all worthy males) came not in a vacuum, but in response to repeated, sincere petitioning. I’m not claiming that our involvement with BSA is such a significant policy as those. However, I do believe that unless my leaders are aware that there is not universal support for BSA, that they will have no reason to seek further light and knowledge regarding our continued support of this program.

  6. Olive says:

    The boys do end up finishing most of their Faith in God stuff during Cub scouts, however, I don’t even think any of them realize it because it is during secular activities, and rarely, if ever, discussed as a Faith in God activity. (at least that is how it is in my ward, when I was a cub scout mom) We had multiple boys who were not LDS so any mention of religious matters (of which, there were only two during the whole year) had to be general.

    They also meet 4 times a month, have award recognition 1x a month that the ENTIRE family attends, have uniforms, multiple awards in the forms of belt loops, patches and beads, and they do tons of varied activities from sports to crafts to tools to field trips where they meet important city members like police, fire fighters, civic workers, etc. I will tell you this, besides earning their Religious Knot 1x and speaking about “faith” 2x all within 3 years of cub scouting, NOTHING else has to do with religion at all, let alone Mormonism.

    Compared to the Activity Days who meet 2x a month, have a recognition night maybe 1x a year where they don’t even get any awards (and ours is always Mom and Me based night, so no dads or siblings are present), and their activities are SOLELY based on Faith in God things. So limiting…they automatically label our daughters “spiritual wives and mothers in training” and never allow them to think they could be, or do, anything more.

    • Erin says:

      The disparities you mention kill me. When I was an Activity Day leader I had to beg and prod like crazy to get a primary presidency member or a bishopric member to come to the recognition night we had. We invited all the parents, but in most instances only one parent (if any) came. It hurt to see these same parents go out of their way to do things for their cub/boy scouts. I felt like no one knew or cared what we were doing with the girls. (The $8 per girl budget I had certainly didn’t alleviate such feelings.)

      When we had teacher trainings, they were all about helping the Cub Scout leaders, who already have a ton of materials, and never mentioned the girls at all. A bishopric member did seem to notice I was upset about the lack of help, but told me that the boys just really need it more. This particular ward had an entire age of YM not serve missions, so all their efforts were going to the YM. I understand then putting in more work with your YM, but do the YW have to suffer because of that?

      • Corktree says:

        Good point. Why can’t we just give good funding and activities to both?! Neither should suffer because of perceived deficits in how kids are turning out.

  7. Jessawhy says:

    Oh, I forgot to mention my latest gripe. Last year our ward had a “Friends of Scouting” drive mentioned from the podium during Sacrament meeting. Then, they handed out envelopes to all people in the congregation and collected them as people left. The doors were guarded, I kid you not. It was intense pressure.

    This year it was done during RS/PR hour, but we had a man from the Bishopric hand out the envelopes and wait through the lesson to collect them from everyone (I wonder if they were hoping to double dip from some couples who hadn’t communicated?). It is just nuts!

    • Dora says:

      I saw this the other week in a ward I visited. Not the whole pressure tactic of manning the doors. However, I was stunned that the whole premise of Friends of Scouting is that people are just expected to hand over the money. I remember doing all sorts of fundraising activities as a YW, for the girls’ camp outing. Washing cars. Pancake breakfasts. Chocolate parties. Even as an adult, I’ve attended service auctions that were for the YW. However, members are expected to just write out a check so the boys can learn to tie knots? I thought they were supposed to be learning service and civic responsibility… !

  8. Marie says:

    Thanks for this post! I really love your letter and think you make good points. Those are points my husband and I have discussed before as well. I think scouting is a great program, but not one that belongs in the church.
    I was called to be in the cub scouts before we had kids. I remember going to one of the round table meetings and being very impressed with the parental enthusiasm of the community run units. Those units seemed to be made up of involved parents who were using scouting as a time to be with their kids which is how it is supposed to be run. What seems to happen a lot at church (at least in the wards I’ve been in) is that many of the scout callings end up going to people who don’t have kids in the program. In our ward right now all of the callings for the scouts are filled by young dads. They end up leaving their young families one weekend a month to go camping with young men who are not their kids and none of the fathers usually go. It just doesn’t seem to be in line with the purpose of either organization at this point. I’m sure the boys have fun and the leaders do too, but it would be better if it was a conscientious effort by both parent and son to bond over something.

    • Jessawhy says:

      Marie,
      When I went to Roundtable I met a life-time scouting leader who was a woman. She and her husband were completely committed to scouting, all the gear, all the training, etc . And they only had daughters.

      It broke my heart.

  9. spunky says:

    I have way too many opinions on Boy Scouts- including this one. As a rule, I like scouting, but it is a combination of a nationalism program and a church and seems only included in American churches. So here is a list of my random thoughts because I don’t have time (and I suspect no one has interest) in pedantic detail:

    1. If the church is as international as it claims to be, then the Boy Scout program should end as it is run in the church. I think the individual wards should be allowed to host scout troops, but not have the scouts as a calling. In Australia, the church is not authorised to have troops anymore, so I would like to see the church outside the US be open to hosting troops. Ending it as a calling allows the church to not pander to its members for support in meetings (a la the “building fund” era), but still allows leadership to make choices in regard to donations to a good cause- AFTER church programs have been supported. I likewise think that it would be great to have it as an including scouting program—i.e. involve girls or have the church host a girl scout troop.

    2. In “Sports in Zion”, Richard Kimball presents the idea that scouting was introduced to the church as a means of creating empathy between young men of the early Progressive Era and Victorian-era pioneer men, i.e. it was a masculinity device for men who were no longer working on the land for income, therefore were becoming “soft”. In creating this as an empathy device, Mormon lads were taught that physical strength related to spiritual strength, and reading the wars of the Bible and Book of Mormon made lads think more in terms of soldiers and defenders of the church, hence as a tool to keep them from leaving the church. (a parallel could be made to modern trek experiences as a similar tool that involves YW as well – i.e. the Pioneers did all of this, so the church must be true!)

    3. I personally think that the purpose for the scout program is to teach males to assimilate to church structure. Scouts are based on the military, and the church is similar in military structure- i.e. tenderfoots = enlisted men = members. Captain = Elders’s Quorum Pres. Major = Bishop. Etc., etc., General = Prophet. Monarchy/president = Christ. Everyone follows the leadership of the prophet as it is handed down through priesthood channels as a means of progressing and protecting Christ and Christ’s church. (just like everyone follows the command of the General as assigned to local Captains, Lei tenants, etc. as a means of progressing nationalism and protecting the monarchy or president). There is no mistake that the Boy Scouts and the church are militarily-based in structure. The structure of scouts teaches men to assimilate to the military structure of the church, as in- a mission president in Guam has no “command” over a mission president in Russia, although they are still in the same “army”, so they fight together- but in different ways—similar to army vs. navy. The Boy Scouts and scout structure absolutely teaches and practices this line of authority and gives each boy a chance to practice as a scout leader, which “prepares” him for military- er, I mean, church leadership. It is a structure for preliminary priesthood practice, and is ideal because it finishes with an Eagle Scout title before a young man is encouraged to be a missionary, wherein he formally steps into the practice of militant priesthood leadership structure. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing- because it is an active way to practice for church leadership—BUT… it isn’t inclusive of women- hence the militant officer of Bishop assigns women as counsellors in Relief Society because it is his duty in the military structure modelled though Boy Scouts. So—in my mind—and without going into even more pedantic detail, women need to be offered the priesthood in order to be considered a part of this military Mormon structure—and until that happens, the military structure that is the church will never know what to do with women but to assign them relief work and child bearing. So I honestly think the answer in dealing with the disparity in the Boy Scout program and female church programs is based in offering women priesthood.

  10. spunky says:

    eek! sorry so long!

  11. Jenny says:

    “I wanted to make sure my dissatisfaction was heard by my leaders.”

    – this sums up feminism pretty well

    • Starfoxy says:

      What would you rather she do? Stew about it in silence? Then wouldn’t you say she has only herself to blame, because how can people fix problems they don’t know exist?

      Gripe about it to her friends? Then you’d probably say feminism is just an echo chamber of people griping without doing anything to fix it.

      I suspect your problem isn’t with the fact that she wrote a letter to her leaders about a problem she saw, but rather that she saw a problem at all.

      • Jenny says:

        bingo

      • Starfoxy says:

        Well, if your problem is that she had a problem at all then you should say so, and engage in some sort of discussion.
        If all you have to offer are one line complaints that there are people in the world who disagree with you then we don’t especially care to hear it.

    • Jesse says:

      Isn’t it wonderful that we have leaders who listen? The Sunday after I sent this letter, the member of my stake presidency to whom I had sent it stopped me in the hall and we had a great chat about the merits of scouting. He mentioned his concerns about the program, said that he had brought my letter up at a stake presidency meeting, and mentioned that this was a frequently addressed concern in our stake.

      In the absence of this chat, I would have never known that I was not an isolated renegade. As it is, my letter allowed us to have a discussion about a topic we both felt was important and clarified to me that my concerns are not out of line within my stake. And all of this was accomplished without creating an antagonistic situation (as would have happened if I had brought this up in say RS or SS) or taking more of this man’s time away from his family (as would have happened if I requested a meeting).

  12. EBrown says:

    Why don’t you sponsor Girl Scouts? It’s a amazing program that truly empowers girls to think for themselves and to reach as far as they can. Plus, Thin Mints!

  13. EBrown says:

    “AN” amazing program…

  14. Lacy says:

    Ugh. The other day, our bishop asked for BSA donations over the podium. It sparked a huge debate between my husband and I. He thinks we should donate b/c it was asked of us. I think that b/c I don’t support scouts (neither does he, admittedly) and the church doesn’t offer a similar fundraising effort (or program) for the girls, that we should not donate. I’d rather give my money to people who really need it. You know, the poor and the needy. Not the BSA.

    I’m not opposed, per se, to the church going w/ the BSA, but I think that they need to have a comparable (and practical/outdoorsy) program for girls and have thought so since I was a youth.

    My husband suggested I write a letter to upper management, as it were. But I told him I saw that as pointless. They have no say in whether the girls get an equal program. That’s got to come from the top. Whom I’m forbidden from writing, btw. But reading your letter here inspired me. There has to be proof of discontent that starts somewhere. Maybe I’ll write that letter after all…

    • Jesse says:

      I’d love to hear what comes of your letter. Perhaps if there are enough letters, they will actually make their way up the chain of command.

    • Jessawhy says:

      This is brilliant, “There has to be proof of discontent that starts somewhere.”

      That’s actually what I’m hoping to accomplish with WAVE, taking the issues out of our heads (and blog threads) and making them into tangible calls to action. Thanks for creating this lovely soundbite 🙂

  15. Maryly says:

    Baden-Powell started the Boy Scouts to counteract what he saw as an unfortunate softness in English boys; how would they fight the Empire’s wars? His organization was quasi-military and that has not changed. I do think we are even more overt about that in the 21st century. I serve the Prince of Peace; ergo, I cannot support the Boy Scouts. They are also divesting themselves of many camp properties, which they prefer to sell to developers even when groups like the Nature Conservancy offer them a better price. I do not agree with the BSA’s conservative leanings. I have 6 sons and 4 brothers. As a girl, I read my brothers’ Boy’s Life magazines and was quite cognizant of the military/hunting/survival articles and stories and the ads for rifles, knives, crossbows, and other weaponry. I cancelled my sons’ subscription in objection to an issue that was particularly anti-feminist and pro-war. I leave you to imagine the reaction of the YM leadership. I do not like the fundraising at all! I prefer to give to the poor, not the military. I do not like the sense of obligation conferred by Scout Sunday and the annual support drive. What has the BSA to do with the threefold mission of the church? If, as Hugh Nibley believed, the purpose of the wars in the Book of Mormon is to teach us to abhor war, why do we insist that all our boys should undergo BSA/military indoctrination? And – why can’t our girls have church sponsored and supported Girls Scouts of America? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way; I know they are far to liberal and feminist for the majority of the men in the church. Bummer.) This reads like a list: “Why I don’t like the BSA”. There it is.

  16. jks says:

    Excellent letter. Thank you for writing it and sharing it here.

  17. Thomas B says:

    Scout Sunday? Friends of Scouting push from the pulpit in Sacrament meeting? Huge no no’s. As I reflect to my tenure as a Bishop I consider one of my greatest achievements that of taking down the Scout Nazi’s in my ward. Those whose testimony centered around the scouting program were released from the program. Eagle was nice but Duty to God was the new emphasis. As a matter of fact when we were “Raising the Bar” for young men I refused to allow them to advance in the priesthood unless they completed 80% of their requirement from Duty to God. Can you imagine the uproar? Too bad so sad the Stake President supported me. They now are explicit that that cannot be a requirement for priesthood advancement. Seems curious to me.
    The scouting program has never been the same in our ward and I believe our boys are better off. They still do a major fund raiser annually and it is a cash cow. The Young Women were always scraping for camp so it was an easy decision to allow them to participate. Problem solved.

    I do not see how Scouts can last. It is a fractured program and is struggling to maintain membership. In many of our Hispanic communities scouting has been reduced to getting together to play soccer weekly. I believe the writing is on the wall.

    • Dora says:

      I find it fascinating that the YM aren’t required to fulfill the Duty to God steps to advance within the priesthood. Then again, aren’t most male converts to the church de facto given the melchizedek priesthood after confirmation?

      • Davis says:

        Most male converts are ordained priests within a few days or weeks of being baptized. Sometimes the same day.

        The Melchizedek Priesthood is not even available for at least one year.

    • Laura says:

      What a great Bishop…

  18. xenologue says:

    We had a letter read by our High Councilor over the pulpit last Sunday asking the members for contributions to the BSA. This is not a fundraiser, mind you — just asking the general membership of the stake, explicitly including those without children in Boy Scouts, to open their wallets. It just makes me wonder why my YW have to hold a fundraiser so they can go to camp this year. Maybe I’m not privy to all the right information, but it looks to me like the YM are getting a greater share of the resources of the stake without having to do a correspondingly greater share of work for them. So, speaking of challenging church norms, I’m still trying to figure out what to do about this and how to go about it effectively. I find your letter inspiring; thanks for sharing.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    As an Australian I am bewildered by the depth of the BSA infiltration into the Church.
    Here neither the boys or the girls run fund raising drives… I wonder what the handbook actually says about fund raising? I remember as a child still in Primary the Stake having a fund raising fair (I can’t remember what the funds were to be for), but was told the practice was discontinued as it had tax implications if the church grounds were income generating. Why would raising funds by passing out envelopes during meetings be any different to selling cakes in the car park?

    • spunky says:

      Elizabeth,
      In my branch in Queensland, we have fundraising drives for the youth to attend EFY. Perhaps the fundraising ban is by state?

      But I think that they pass out envelopes in a combination of collecting of fast offerings which they used to do door to door (and I think some places they still do) and also to keep the boy scouts “off the books”.

  20. Sara says:

    I am a cub scout master. It’s probably one of the best callings in the church (as far as fun and easy goes + I get to work with my husband), but I hate the scouting program. I have never liked it – I had similar feelings as the author of the letter when I was young. *I* wanted a uniform! *I* wanted all those cool awards! *I* wanted to be recognized for all the cool things I did. It wasn’t fair. My dumb brother and his friends who screwed around at day camp and pushed people over in port-a-potties got his Arrow of Light and a big fuss and I got nothing. I had slightly forgotten my dissatisfaction until my husband became the Scoutmaster in our ward and I saw all the things they did and the MONEY they had. Not only were they given the majority of the budget for the youth but they had massive fundraisers that they could use for anything. The YW could have a fundraiser, but it had to be ward based and couldn’t be announced to the community and they could only use it for girl’s camp.
    Then I got involved in cub scouts. As I was going through the materials I read in the church scouting handbook that scouting was important for boys, etc. etc. etc. and that primary was enough to meet the needs of the girls. I was extremely upset. Even more so when I started getting awards ready, made a bridge, did fantastic advancement ceremonies and my girls (8 & 12) asked me, “Why doesn’t the church think we are as important?” I have no answer.
    I am getting ready for our pinewood derby and my girls want to come. I know some wards can afford or plan for everyone to participate but we can’t. Our activity days budget is about 30cents per girl per activity so they definitely can’t either. We spend at least $50 a month on awards. We buy derby kits. Boys and leaders are required to have shirts and patches. We spend a ton on day camp (the girls in our stake go to the church and bake bread or learn to dance for day camp). I expressed my mind to my bishop and he said he feels a little bit the same – he doesn’t care for the program – but it’s a church wide program and what can he do?
    I will say that I agree a little bit with a previous commenter. The BSA program supporting youth can be a good program. It usually comes with community based groups and not church based groups. These leaders aren’t called so they WANT to be there. The boys aren’t going out of obligation so they WANT to be there and they work on their awards and advancements. However, I don’t think the church needs to be involved in this. It’s a huge time and money waster. The girls are all going without and we are chartering an organization ($$$$$ just to do that) and then paying for each boy’s membership – regardless of whether they are even in our ward.
    However – I don’t know what the BSA would do if the church pulled out. We make up a massive majority of units. I think it would make it very difficult for them. I also know Pres Monson HEARTS scouting.

  21. Corktree says:

    This clearly shows part of why I was nervous to have a son. I don’t think scouting is all that bad, but I agree with others that the discrepancies in spending and material covered between girls and boys from even younger than YW and YM makes my stomach turn a bit when I think of how I’ll deal with this as my children age. Keeping my son out of scouts seems like a way to send the message, but I also want my girls to be girl scouts, so that seems unfair. I hope things have changed by the time I have to deal with this directly – otherwise I’ll be making my own waves I guess.

    • Erin says:

      Couldn’t you put your son in a community troop rather than a church one? Of course, if you’re in Utah or somewhere around there maybe community troops are not an option, I dunno. But that seems more fair to me – both kids are in community troops and you aren’t directly supporting the discrepancy in funding.

      • Corktree says:

        I probably could. I’m in Boise, so I don’t know what the availability is, but it’s probably better than Utah. Good thing to consider, but then what does my son do when all the other YM are doing something different for mutual? It’s just frustrating.

      • Erin says:

        Oh. Yeah. I forgot that Scouting is the primary Mutual activity for YM. *sigh*

  22. JrL says:

    One commenter triedto clarify, but apparently not everyonecaught on: The request for scouting donations must be the BSA’s “Friends ofScouting” program. None of the money collected that way goes to the ward’s pack, troop, team, or crew, so comparing it to YWfunding makes no sense. To the extent the boys benefit from it, it is either the very indirect benefit of having full-time BSA employees who help run training and events, or by being ableto use BSA camps. But in most BSA councils, YW can also arrange to use a BSA camp. Our stake has done that for YW camp for many years now.

    As for fundraisers that benefit the ward scout units, the Church’s rules are precisely the same as they are for YW.

  23. Olive says:

    JrL..yes the Friedns of Scouting yearly fundraiser is not actually for YOUR troop, YOUR boys, or YOUR ward. It goes directly into the BSA’s pockets, and boy, are they deep! Of course, the ward leaders rarely divulge this information to the members or else they wouldn’t collect as much.

    However, your argument that “alls fair” is simply not true. Even without counting the Friends of Scouting fundraiser, the scouts STILL get WAY more funding than the girls do. They get approx 3/4 of the Primary budget. Its RIDICULOUS.

    Like someone posted above, our Activity Day girls get about .30 per activity. SERIOUSLY? Not fair at all.

  24. jks says:

    What I liked about the letter is that it wasn’t all about “No fair. Girls don’t get to do scouts.” It was about “No fair, boys don’t get to do Duty to God and Faith in God like the girls.”
    When it comes to gender stuff, it gets tiring if everyone is trying to be men or if the male way is considered the better way. By all means we should be figuring out how to give improve the imperfect scout program which requires fundraising.
    At least outside the US they have it. I wonder if the program works?

  25. Amy says:

    I thought your letter was well-put. That and many of your comments have echoed the thoughts and concerns that I have had since I was a Beehive president. I expressed my opinion at a meeting once, and I think I was never called to a youth leadership position again…
    Something I have noticed as a problem, in addtion to the money issue, is that in my experience there are less women who are able or willing to devote their time away from their families and jobs to give girls and Young Women these opportunities. I am concerned for equality reasons…and my father countered that by saying while we are equal, we are not the same. While that is true, I read a study (I think I found a link to it on this website awhile ago, and unfortunately, I don’t remember the specifics) that talked about how now that young women in the church are even more likely than the young men to have premarital sex or other sexual activity. So, I think that says that our girls and young women are needing our help even more. I don’t know what the right answer is yet, but I think that there needs to be some more effort spent on our female young people.

    • Jesse says:

      The entire different but equal argument is one of my flash points. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. I lived in the shadow of “separate but equal” as applied to education of different races. Yeah. It didn’t work there and I don’t buy the argument when applied to gender-based resource allocation either.

  26. Safad0 says:

    All of these comments focus on very-short term perceived injustices. I suspect that the BSA program has more to do with healthy long-term development of appropriate characteristics which are essential to preparing young men for missions and temple marriages. As an Eagle Scout myself I find that I continually draw upon the quiet character building moments from Scouting than from the exciting adventure ones.

    Is there a better alternative that would develop these attributes? Perhaps, but I’ll leave that decision to inspired priesthood holders.

    • spunky says:

      Thanks Safado, but the inspired priesthood leaders in Australia have nixed the program. So maybe the American leadership is not as inspired as you assume they are…I strongly suggest you read Richard Kimball’s book, “Sports in Zion” before you lable the Boy Scout program as “inspired” at all within the church.

    • Janell says:

      Then why is scouting not required (or even offered to) each and every member of the ward if it is the only and best means to building the strength of character necessary to prepare for service to the Lord and temple marriages? That is part of the related complaint – why are girls shortchanged?

      Conversely, if Activity Days and Personal Progress are essential to building strength and faith, then why are boys shortchanged?

  27. Amy says:

    Safado, I think that may be valid about the experiences for boys, but what comparable experiences are we giving our YW? A neighboring stake of ours has done a few high adventure activities with the girls and thought that it was a good thing. However, I think it is more difficult to staff a girls’ activity like that than a boys’ and that is part of our problem.

  28. JrL says:

    Spunky: “the inspired priesthood leaders in Australia have nixed the program.” There are significant differences between the boy scouting organizations in the US and Canada and those in other countries, just as there are significant differences between BSA and GSA in terms of their relationship to individual troops, the sponsors of those troops, and the ability of troops to operate largely as they wish. Some of those differences are because the LDS Church has for many years exerted considerable influence over BSA policies. (Though we do not have, as one comment suggested, even a majority much less of considerable majority, of either BSA units or BSA participants.) I wonder if GSA would be willing to accomodate the Church’s needs, were the Church to appraoch GSA about using Girl Scouts as the activitiy program for young women. From what I’ve read and observed about GSA, I am dubious. They have a great organization and program, but don’t operate as a sort of cooperative of major chartering organizations, like BSA often does. Outise of the US (and perhaps Canada), the Church couldn’t possibly have the kind of infuence over scouting organizations in other countries that it has with BSA. Bottom line: to me it seems quite possible that the inspiration to participate in BSA is entirely consistent with the inspiration not to affiliate with other scouting organizations.

    • spunky says:

      That is a nice opinion, but I disagree that the scouting program is an inspired program for the church. I think the church started scouting as a means of nationalism training that was popular and necessary in post-Utah statehood because not all Mormons (given the Mormon exodus) were comfortable with being “Americans”– it mirrored the popularity of the KKK in Utah in the early 20th centurey (no kidding– look it up. I think Hinton is an adequate resource for the KKK). I think Boy Scouts was also used to create a sense of empathy towards pioneers, thereby equating outdoorsmanship with masculine righteousness, which did not necessarily include scripture study (Kimball arges this very well).

      So- going back to the original post that are Scouts encourgae worldy, physical activities that overpower emphasis on spiritual development (Faith in God) program, that has ALWAYS been the PURPOSE of the scout program at church. Physical = masculine = authority vs. Spiritual = feminine = servitude. This is not inspired. It is militant and nationalistic.

  29. Terese says:

    I am dealing with this exact thing right now as my 7 year old son just entered scouts and my 5 year old daughter has been sadly watching from the sideline. She keeps asking me when will she get to do girl scouts. I’m worried my family won’t be able to afford girl scouts since it’s not part of the church and it will be far less convenient because of it not being held at our church building. I really want something to be done. Activity days is held every other week the same night as scouts so I’m kind of poking my daughter’s head in that room while my son is in scouts, but she’s too young and it’s just not as exciting as uniforms and all the scout hoopla.

  30. cchrissyy says:

    My 8yo boy just started (church) cub scouts. He’s happy about it, and as an autistic kiddo with huge social and behavioral problems at school, I am so glad to see him happily joining a group and I hope it goes well for him.

    Nonetheless, I am completely puzzled why scouting would be a church-led and church-sponsored program, or why the church doesn’t have its own program for all youth. What about the girls, what about the boys who don’t want to be scouts?

  31. FL Momof4 says:

    I have 2 younger brothers who floundered in scouting as well as 3 boys, 2 of which are now in scouts. I feel like I have a very different view and wanted to share. I feel very strongly about supporting our church leaders, however not to blindly follow. President is very well versed in what the scouting program has to offer and has chosen to continue the support the receive through the church. I feel very strongly that the inequities between scouts and the YW as well as general spiritual education is all human based error. There are multiple opportunities for scout leaders to incorporate the gospel as well as YW leaders to incorporate “fun” activities as well as life skills that don’t just include preparing for motherhood. Unfortunately there are many leaders who do not take those opportunities and make the most of them. Sometimes this stems from lack of training and sometimes from lack of interest or even faith in the programs the prophet God supports.

    I think the first step is to educate those who are called. Unfortunately the second step is for those who are called to feel a lack of responsibility and answer the call with all the time and talents they have to offer. Far too often I receive a phone call at the 11th hr by those in charge of my childrens activities letting me know that they are obviously not prepared.

    My personal choice for my children is to support the programs the prophet supports. Teach my children what a leader should know about responsibility, devotion, sacrifice, so that they will not grow up to also perpetuate the problem. Finally I pray for those who work with our children to feel the love of our Heavenly Father, and to know and understand the importance of the calling they have accepted. After this all I can do is fill the gaps that are left by human beings.

    • FL Momof4 says:

      Sorry, I didn’t take time to check for errors and there are many… But you can get the jest of my meaning.

  1. October 27, 2011

    […] by Yahoo! Answers Chris asks… Why the big focus on diversity? Wouldn't focusing on what we have in common make us s…rsity? Wouldn't focusing on what we have in common make us […]

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