Updated: 26 Aug 2014
Last week, a letter and attachment were dropped off at our home encouraging us to contribute financially to the Boy Scout program (I live in Utah County). I was disappointed with the attachment; it emphasizes the wrong things and minimizes the important one.
The attachment gives 6 reasons (called pillars), in order of importance, why scouting matters. First of 6 is “Be prepared by developing a testimony of Christ and of the gospel.” Then it has the following quote:
Bearing our testimonies around the campfire: If we take our young men to outdoor activities and forget to have them bear their testimonies around the fire, we’ve missed the purpose of scouting.
This is wrong for several reasons; I will mention two. Scouting should be about diversity. It should be about boys learning to live in a world that has a wonderful mix of cultures and religions. What about our Jewish, Muslims, and non-gospel neighbors? And either encouraging or forcing our scouts to bear their testimonies is not a healthy activity. They are still young and developing their belief set. There are so many other wonderful activities that can happen outdoors.
Third of 6 is “Prepare to go on a mission and teach others.” The LDS Church has so many other venues for mission preparation, that scouting doesn’t need to be overtly one of them. Scouting can provide wonderful experiences that may be useful on a LDS mission, but going on a mission shouldn’t be an area of emphasis. The LDS Church already has Primary, Sunday School, Seminary, Institute, Home Teachers, Family Home Evening, and nosy neighbors for mission indoctrination.
Scouting is not a particularly good way to indoctrinate prospective missionaries anyway. In the future, half the LDS missionaries will be women. Boy scouts only reaches half of the future missionary pool.
According to the Provo Daily Herald, the attachment is the work of Rushford Lee, owner of Research:Emotion:Design (RED) of Provo. He wanted to know:
How did Scouting relate to Church objectives for youth? Was there a spiritual side to Scouting? Is there really any link between the trail to Eagle and a mission?
Through focus groups with LDS leaders (but apparently not with parents), Lee or RED compiled the 6 pillars mentioned above, and I assume is responsible for the poorly thought-out attachment. He also got himself appointed Vice President of Marketing for the local council. So more offensive material to follow.
I think that scouting needs to separate itself from the LDS Church or vise versa. Scouting is about living in a diverse world, enjoying and respecting the outdoors, living a charitable life, and developing socialization skills. The LDS Church has lost Sir Baden-Powell’s vision.