My Scoutmaster’s name was Harry Phillips. He let us call him Harry, which, to a 12 year old kid in the early ’70’s, was pretty informal. The man had his house toilet papered at least a zillion times, but it was affectionate T.P.ing, not angry T.P.ing.
I remember when he leaned over the rail of a ski-boat at Flaming Gorge and we watched as the keys to his station wagon sank to the bottom of the lake. Six hours later, his sweet wife and kids showed up with a spare set.
Just last week I was telling someone stories about Harry. I can safely say that in my early teen years, he was one of the most important figures in my life. My Scoutmaster.
As you can see, the announcement that the Church is separating itself from Scouting has me waxing nostalgic. This has surprised me a little, because for about a decade I have been hoping for this day. Apparently I am not alone.
What I also din not anticipate is the level of vitriol and invective that so many seem to have about it. I know that everyone has their reasons for liking and not liking the program, but I feel a bit conflicted to be dancing on the casket with such glee. Especially when the casket is empty for another 18 months.
Personally, I loved what Scouting stood for (past tense). Less enthusiastic over what it has become. I loved the camping, the hiking the cooking, the unadulterated fun. “Capture the Flag” was a crucial rite of passage.
The parts I did not appreciate always seemed to be about the National Organization and money. Every time I spent hundreds of dollars on over-priced merit badges, or crazy expensive Scout clothing, or dropped $300+ per boy to go to an official Scout camp, I couldn’t help feeling that I was being scammed. There was a huge sucking sound of LDS money flowing to Scout Headquarters, yet it was a one-way flow. The CEO made a million or two, but other than travel insurance, I’m not sure if anyone at the local level would even notice if they shuttered the National Org.
But now, as the fate of the Church and Scouting has been defined, I am feeling a bit of melancholy. I raised four sons, all of them active participants. I served as both Scoutmaster and Scout Committee Chair. My EC served as Cub Chair and Den Mother. One of my favorite callings that I had: Cubmaster.
I lost count at how many Pinewood Derbies I helped create, how many merit badge classes and interviews I conducted. I had the opportunity to plan and execute several week-long Scout Camps. So. Much. Work. But so worth it. Scouting helped raise me, and has helped me raise my boys, and helped me raise other people’s boys.
I fear that the 100+ year legacy of Scouting is being tossed overboard a little too easily. After all, it is a the program that the Lord’s prophets have endorsed and supported up until now. Personally, I have felt that conflict as I have wondered why the break-up didn’t occur sooner. I have also learned that you can have questions and even doubts, yet still fulfill callings and give full support. Those who do not “like” Scouting are not apostate. We don’t have to like a job to do a good job.
My favorite part of the transition is that the Church is taking the activity arm of the Priesthood and bringing it back home. I don’t what it will look like, but I expect there to still be callings, activities and much the same as it is now. “Capture the Flag” is not owned by the BSA.
I also want to be careful about jumping to conclusions. I see wives of Scoutmasters rejoicing because the don’t want their husbands off camping every month. I HOPE the campouts continue! I HOPE the Church implements a new program that still contains outdoor experiences and the learning of new skills. Scouting has never been all “playtime,” as some make it sound. For every fun activity, there was drudgery in book learning about myriad topics. That was one of the beauties of the program: There was a tremendous balance and variety of things to do.
I will be glad that 80% of the YM budget will no longer be diverted to merit badges and awards. I will be happy to hear less arguments about how “imbalanced” the funding is between YM and YW, and how “unfair” the programs are. (Maybe now more people will realize that the reason YW don’t do the fun outdoor-type stuff is not because they are not in Scouting, but because their leaders or parents don’t organize it. You wanna go shoot stuff? Go shoot stuff. It has always been there, if we want to do it.)
But beyond the activities, one of the important components in Scouting is creating an interaction between men and boys that help those boys grow up to be good me.Some of the finest men I know are knee-deep in the Scouting world. They should be honored and respected for their commitment to raising our boys. I am sure many of them are feeling the loss, and it is not cool to rub salt in their wounds.
There will be a new program. Hopefully it will be demanding, as is Scouting. I don’t know what that program looks like, but it will take some years to establish itself. Transitions can be tough. Fortunately, the Church has been moving in that direction, and I’m sure whatever is released will be inspired and well thought-out. My guess is that it will be applied based on local resources and needs. “One size fits all”is not very practical in a world-wide church.
My nostalgia is running deep. I loved working in Scouts as an adult. I love the fact that one of my sons is currently serving as a Scoutmaster. I loved working with my wife in the Cub Scout program, and I cherish the bonds I forged with men in the Scouting program.
I could not even begin to list the things I learned through Scouting. Not only am I a heck of a camp cook, but I have a deeper appreciation for my Nation, the flag, and important character concepts because of Scouting.
A Scout is:
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Who doesn’t want that for their sons? (For the record, I typed the Scout Law without looking it up – it is that deeply ingrained in my being.)
As we bow out from the Scouting organization over the next 18 months, may we bow out gracefully. We owe much to Scouting. Personally, I believe that much of what I am today is because of Scouting, and I’m sure I am not alone in that sentiment..
I am glad to say goodbye, but I will remember it fondly.