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