WHY the LDS Church is in Scouting

I had a run in with a unit this week, that to tell you the truth, REALLY ticked me off. It all stemmed around this particular person’s opinion about the LDS Church and its relationship with Scouting. According to this person, things would only get better with Scouting and the LDS Church, once the Church decided to pull out of Scouting.

Now, I know this isn’t a onetime occurrence, and there are probably many who feel the same way this person does; but if I might be so bold. Those people who think that way haven’t got clue one, why the LDS Church is even in Scouting, in the first place.

That is the angry upset side of me speaking, the more logical side would argue 3 points to counter this well intended member’s opinion.

  1. Scouting exists to strengthen Aaronic Priesthood.
  2. Scouting and the Young Men program are 2 sides of the same coin.
  3. Boys DON’T WANT more church.

Let’s take these arguments on, one at a time. First, Scouting exists to strengthen Aaronic Priesthood. According to Mormon doctrine, there are only 4 people, in any given ward, that hold leadership keys.  In other words, the “Chain of Command” exists with only 4 people.  Of those 4 people, two of them are YOUTH! Not adults, not the young men’s president, not a councilor in the bishopric, and not some guy in the High Priest group.

The LDS church is in Scouting because the Young Men’s program doesn’t do a very good job of giving young people practical leadership skills.  We talk a big game, we BELIEVE that these young men hold priesthood keys, but rarely have I ever seen a ward where the youth truly lead their quorum.  Part of the reason, I believe, is because adults don’t fully understand the doctrine of the LDS church.  The believe that because they were put in charge of the Young Men program, that they are the ones in charge of making things work. This could not be further from the truth. As adult leaders in the Aaronic Priesthood, we hold NO KEYS! We are not in charge, we cannot make decisions, nor can we tell the young men what they can and cannot do.

The other reason the YM program doesn’t provide practical leadership skills, is because adults don not know how to let go. We hate to see failure. We are programmed to see failure as……well failure. We don’t know how to handle things, when things go wrong. So instead of using failure as a training and teaching opportunity, we figure it is just easier to take over and force that square peg in to the round hole.

Scouting allows a young man to practice leadership skills in a real practical way. It is the role of the leader to plan the meeting, conduct the meetings, plan the camp outs, execute the court of honor, and lead his troop/patrol to victory at Camp-O-Rees. At church the young man has……his quorum meeting, and half of the time, the adult is right there to take the lead.  Through Scouting, that young man learns practical lessons in both leadership and followship that you just cannot get in Quorum.

I have always said that Scouting is the vehicle which the lessons on Sunday or driven home.  Stated differently, Scouting is the practical application of the spiritual principles taught on Sunday. You can teach the concept of Charity to a young person, and think you have hit the proverbial nail on the head; but it is when you take that young man, and through Scouting, show him what Charity actually looks like through a service project, that the point finally starts to sink in. This then leads us to our second argument.

Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood are 2 sides of the same coin. If I were asked which is more important, Scouting or Priesthood, I would tell you it is priesthood.  It always been about Priesthood; BUT, here is the thing, Young Men are naturally dense human beings.  Call it the rage of the puberty hormones, but boys are sometimes dumber than a box of rocks. I am saying that, knowing that I was one of them not too long ago. I was clueless when I was younger. I just didn’t understand the magnitude of life.

That is the second reason the LDS church is involved in Scouting.  They know that Scouting, above just about anything else, has a way of breaking down that barrier and actually opening the spirit of a young person to receive truth.  It allows humility, so a young person can be taught. It challenges their understanding of who they are, and how they relate to others in the world. It asks them to do hard things that are age appropriate. It puts them outdoors, with nothing but their knowledge and wits and asks them to survive. How is this any different from asking them to take off to some foreign land, where they don’t know the language and ask them to share their deepest held beliefs using nothing but their knowledge and their wits.  It is 2 sides to the same coin, and that coin happens to be the whole of a young person.

You see, a young person NEEDS Scouting. He needs some place where he can be challenged, lead his peers, be asked to do hard things, fail miserably, and learn some of the great lessons that area easier learned in their youth.  Because guess what, those lessons SUCK when you have to learn them as an adult.  More is on the line then, and more people are relying on you.

To build further on this analogy, nothing ticks me off more than when people tell me that Scouting is “just” that “activity arm” of the Aaronic Priesthood.  Really people, that is what you want to build your argument off of?  Really? Okay, well let’s break that statement down.  Activity is defined as: something that is done as work of for a particular purpose. And, something that is done for pleasure and that usually involves a group of people. An arm is a human limb which serves the purpose to help the trunk of the body.  It helps us feed ourselves, protect ourselves from danger, it helps to catch us when we fall, and to show emotions through hugs and hand shakes.  So…..if we put these two words together, Scouting, as the “activity arm” of the Aaronic Priesthood is defined as the appendage we use to help a young person act or work for a particular purpose.  And what is the “Purpose,” to teach that young man HOW to act in his Priesthood responsibilities.

The main argument people use to disparage Scouting in the Church is the EXACT reason why Scouting is apart of the YM program. You see, the Church wants good strong priesthood holders; they have chosen Scouting as the appendage to help feed, defend, catch, and show emotion for the body of the Priesthood. Two sides to the EXACT same coin.

Finally, and I know this is long, boys do NOT want more church. They just don’t. To ask them to come to church in the middle of the week to receive more of what they get on Sunday and everyday in Seminary is INSANE!  Really, you are CRAZY if you think this is what boys want, long for, and desire. No, boys what fun and excitement. They want to temp death as safely as possible. They want adventure. They want to BE Indiana Jones. It is YOUR job as a leader to help make that happen. YOU were called to help them use the Scouting program to understand their priesthood responsibilities. They don’t want more church, they want YOU to get off your duff and help them be successful.  They want YOU to step up and set the example. They LONG for someone to follow, to look up to, and to emulate. Can you handle that type of pressure?  Boys don’t want more church, they want more adventure, more adult interaction.

And that is really the crux of this issue. The problem with Scouting in the LDS Church is NOT Scouting in the LDS Church.  The problem is with people. The problem resides with the members who are called to serve. You figure since no other calling in the church (outside of Bishop or Stake President) requires training or effort outside of Sunday morning or Saturday night, if you are really prepared, that the program is too hard and therefore isn’t worth your time and effort.  Well, shame on those who think and feel that way. Scouting is THE easiest way to break down the barriers down in a young person’s life. It helps us as adult leaders really get to know the young people we serve, to help them, mentor them, and coach them through life.

The church is “ALL IN” in Scouting, it is time that we all did the same.


Author: theprofessionalscouter

I am a professional Scouter, having worked for the BSA for 12 years. I started my career in 2006 as a District Executive with the Nevada Area Council headquartered in Reno, Nevada. In 2009, I moved to the Chief Seattle Council, in Seattle, Washington to serve as a Senior District Executive and then as a District Director. In January of 2016, I transferred to the Great Salt Lake Council to serve as a District Director.

3 thoughts on “WHY the LDS Church is in Scouting”

  1. Your article is flawed. Mormon Doctrine doesn’t establish that only those with “keys” can lead. The keys are part of how revelation is delegated and received in the Church. To establish that only those who hold keys is flawed and makes me wonder what your position is on Women if you think they should really have a voice.

    Leadership has many qualities and to suppose that Young Men’s organization, as revealed through our living prophet, is flawed and needs the Scouting program to run makes me wonder why the Young Women organization can run just fine on it’s own. We aren’t in a partnership with the Girl Scouts to improve the success of the Young Women’s organization. Also then what is the Young Men’s organization doing outside of the Untied States where there is no Boy Scouts of America.

    I have a hard time with Scouting. My support of is purely by faith because our Prophet has asked us to support him – I don’t believe that the Leadership skills that are needed to run and support any organization are not founded in the principles that God had dictated in the scriptures but are only given by the Boy Scouts of America. I think you and I would agree that our Heavenly Father has instructed us very well in the principles of Leadership, follow-up, and teaching that he has outlined in the scriptures.

    As I said, I believe your points are flawed – it doesn’t even matter. Because none that has anything to do with the reasons why I have a hard time supporting the scouting program. The reasons why I have such a difficult time is because hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of it my own money, going to support an organization that provides poor customer service (I can relate several personal experiences), doesn’t always have the resources my Troop needs, and finally pays 6 figure salaries to those that work within the organization. That money, I have to beg from members in my ward who are single mothers, out of work, have health bills piling up, and struggle to make ends meet.

    All this because you say that the Church, the Kingdom of God, is not sufficient to teach these young men? I think you need to rewrite your article.


    1. -Bishop-

      Thank for your comment. I know the tenor of the post may have seemed like a harsh critique on members of the LDS Church, but that was not its intent. It had more to do with the frustration I feel than anything else. However, looking at your comments, I would like to share a few things.

      1. You might want to go and double check your claim about priesthood. To quote True to the Faith, under the heading of Priesthood, subsection Priesthood Keys, quote, The exercise of priesthood authority in the Church is governed by those who hold priesthood keys (see D&C 65:2; 124:123). Those who hold priesthood keys have the right to preside over and direct the Church within a jurisdiction. Those who preside in auxiliaries do so only under the keys that are held by the presiding priesthood authority. The keys of the priesthood are what allows one to “govern” or “lead” a group of members. Just because someone doesn’t hold keys, doesn’t mean they are not operating under the authority of someone’s priesthood keys.

      Now, if you want to know my opinion on women in the church, just ask my wife. I say that snarkily; but it is faulty logic and a bit of a leading argument to assume that my feelings about one program would make me think or feel differently about another group of people.

      Truth be told, I have a daughter about to enter Young Women in a few years, and my issues with YW revolve around the disparity in funding between the two programs, and why the YW program doesn’t appear (in some/most wards, but by far not all) to get the same opportunities for fun and adventure that the boys do. But, that is a totally different discussion for a different day.

      One of the reasons I have heard as to why the church and Girls Scouts don’t partner up has to do with the way the GSUSA establishes units. That, and their discarding of Duty to God as a main principle, but who knows why. Not the major point here.

      Interesting fact: The church is currently working with the BSA to licence the BSA program and use it throughout the world as part of the YM program internationally. It wont say Boy Scouts of America, but it will look, smell, and possibly taste like Scouting here in the USA. Just thought you might find that interesting, I know I did. It appears as if the church has had the same concern about the world wide church for some time now, and will finally be able to do something about it. Pretty cool, I think.

      2. Your point on customer service is spot on. One of the issues I see in so many Scout Councils is the lack of customer service. I can tell you, here in the Great Salt Lake Council, you are about to see some BIG changes, as it pertains to customer service. Our new Scout Executive is a huge supporter of better customer service, and is already looking at how to improve the quality AND the quantity of excellent customer service. Those are just words at the moment, there is very little action to back up my statements; but you have to have a little faith that there are those within the profession that want to provide better customer service and who want to do better. I know that my personal goal is to give the best quality customer service to the volunteers and youth under my care. Ironically, something that I learned through my missionary service. My job is to try and make the job of my volunteers as easy as possible. If your current professional doesn’t do that, I am truly sorry. We are, after all, only human.

      3. As for compensation, I get it. People think we are getting rich off the backs of our volunteers. Well, I am not getting rich, nor do I make six figures. (Far from it, actually.) I believe it is all an issue of perspective. If we gave better customer service, and did a better job of supporting and assisting our volunteers, people’s view of compensation may be a little different. I personally think that it is just one of the easier targets to get upset with, when people have a bad experience. Kind of like when people get upset with the church as a whole, because they had a negative experience with one or two very specific, very human, church leaders. They pick the easiest target to harp on, instead of just saying that their feelings were hurt. Then trying to apply the principles of the atonement to forgive that person.

      Finally, no where did I blame THE church or claim that THE church wasn’t sufficient to teach young men. What I said was that we need both THE church AND Scouting to fully break down the natural, hormonal, pubescent walls that boys construct. The church’s YM program is Scouting and Scouting is the YM program of the church. They work, together, to make the young man whole. Scouting is a vehicle to drive a young man to his priesthood duties; or better stated, Scouting IS the method to the madness. What is flawed with the church is not its programs, but the adults that we put in charge. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that ALL adults are bad leaders, nor am I saying that the adults we put in charge are obtuse. What I am saying is the adults we place in-charge are flawed, they make mistakes, and often times we take the path of least resistance. Most often, that path of least resistance takes the appearance of Brother Spalding and Brother Wilson, in the gym. What we need are adults who accept their flawed nature and accept the challenge of providing quality Scouting program to the young men of the ward. We need those men who will demonstrate, through the vehicle of Scouting, how to be good priesthood leaders, good fathers, and good husbands. I am telling you, there is magic in them thar hills. We need men who will take them there.

      Look, we may never see eye-to-eye on the role of Scouting in the church; and that is okay. However, if you were to live in my district, I would bend over backwards to help you, support you, make all the resources of the council available to you, and do everything I could to make sure you, and your boys, enjoyed their time in Scouting.

      Again, thank you for the comment, and I hope you become a frequent visitor to my blog.


  2. I think you are spot on about why people dislike scouting in the church. I have a hard time watching the flawed manner in which it is implemented. I was scout master in my ward for many years and ran scouting as right as I could. I had half of my troop as either less actives or people of other faiths. Scouting is perfect for bringing boys to something good. It opens doors. They pulled me out of scout master to help revive a failing cub scout den. Cub scouting is fun as well, but I’m saddened by what has happened with the troop. The new leaders just don’t understand how to let the boys lead, and I’m not sure they want to.

    Please keep working to find a way to help people called as scout leaders to catch the vision. I’ve been trying and it seems like a lot of them just don’t care.

    I also agree with you about needing a program for the young women that is on par with scouting. They definitely need more opportunities to have adventures and fun.

    Thanks for your hard work

    Liked by 1 person

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