Monday, March 14, 2011

A Scout Is...

On Saturday Alex Holland was building benches for his Eagle Scout project at Oak Meadow Park. I volunteered but didn't contribute much since there were power tools involved and scouting men can get possessive about drills and saws. Hey, I tried!

There I go...dissing scouting men already! I should be posting about how great it is that Alex is getting his Eagle Scout and what wonderful young men the Boy Scouts of America produces. But that would be disingenuous.

I applaud Alex and I'm proud of him for "hanging in there.” I think he'll be glad he finished although right now Alex doesn’t seem to care much.

But in all honesty, I don't think Alex is a great young man because of, or due to, the BSA. While many of their activities are character building I've never quite understood why our church is so wedded to their program. There is nothing inherently wrong with the scouting program but the convergence with church is a little confusing. Almost to the degree that I feel like I'm a bad church member if (or when) I don't wholeheartedly endorse the scout program.

If the Young Women's Personal Progress program and Girl Scouts were both facilitated through church it would feel cumbersome. However, if certain young women choose to do girl scouting, like other young women choose marching bands or club sports teams, well, girl scouts is a worthy activity and their experiences will probably bless their lives. Not to mention earn them value projects for YW!

I just prefer to see our church youth programs have a primary focus that embodies gospel principles. The Boy Scout traits (trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and obedient) are clearly inspiring. But so are the attributes that give the priesthood it's power (long suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, love unfeigned, etc).

I've heard the argument that while the church doesn't really need the scouting program, the BSA needs the church. But, as a global church that feels a little antiquated. I'm not sure that model still fits. Losing the church support could be a devastating blow to the boy scout program but they'd figure it out. After all, the BSA is one of the wealthiest non-profit organizations in the country. Besides, many LDS young men in the US would probably continue to do both but it wouldn't be so tied into our church structurally.

Stephen Covey wrote the bestseller "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" book that spawned an entire 7 habits industry. Sometimes people say Covey took gospel princiles and repackaged them for any audience. As a church maybe we could try the reverse. We could take the best and most wonderful things about the scouting program and repackage them into a Young Men's program that stands on it's own merits and doesn't require the BSA interface.

My lackluster thoughts about scouting don't consume me. I’ll still pitch in and support the boys with their spaghetti dinners or eagle projects. It’s just my pet peeve that because we invoke the scouting program alongside young men's programs, the overall experience is not as spiritually focused or doctrinally rich as the YW program for girls. So, for what it's worth (which isn't much), when I hear the church tout "simplification," I think scouting could be a good place to start.