Adventures in Running with Maurine

The LDS Church and the BSA

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This blogpost has nothing to do with running, but I need a place to vent and this seems like the logical place.

I was reading a Robert Kirby article this morning about the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and his perspective as a father of all daughters.  It brought back a lot of old hurt, so I figured I need to get it out so I can get it off my mind.

Lately the press has been talking about how the LDS Church might break off its connection with the BSA because they are allowing openly gay scout leaders (not that there haven’t been gay scout leaders out there for years). My thoughts are: Fine. Do it! And reevaluate what you are offering both young men and young women and offer them similar things.

This perspective comes from two stages in my life – when I was growing up and when my children were growing up.

Stone Age Stage

I was and still am a tomboy.  Which means wearing dresses and skirts and pantyhose don’t often make me happy. Most of the things that a lot of girls like are boring to me.

I remember “Mutual” nights growing up.  It seemed like at least 3 weeks out of the month we were stuck in a classroom having a lesson.  The boys were playing basketball or football.  They never had a lesson because they were doing scouting.  Which meant basketball or football.  I couldn’t wait for my class to end so I could go and play ball with the boys.  Ruined a lot of stupid pantyhose that way.

Then came summer camp.  The boys got to go off and sleep in tents, shoot guns and arrows, be outdoors constantly.  They even had campouts every month or two. And they had uniform shirts.  That was cool.

The girls – not so much.  We would go for 3-5 days to a camp once a summer.  That was it.  During the Yearling and Mountaineer years we slept in cabins.  During the Inspirator and Adventurer years we got to sleep in tents.  At least we learned how to build our own fires. But we didn’t earn merit badges.  Just a patch that each year we earned another letter for and then were done. Once you finished your YWMIA patch you didn’t go back to camp unless you went as a counselor.

It never seemed fair to me.  Although I will say that our women leaders at least seemed to do the jobs they were called for.  Most of the scout leaders just did their time (hence the basketball and football).

Mother of Children and Teenage Stage

I have a daughter and a son – so I was able to see the youth program in Utah when my children were growing up from both perspectives.  Still not fair and still not equal.

I did have some great friends that lived a block away that were heavily involved in the BSA program at all levels. They showed me what could be and what should be and helped to make life a little less unfair for my daughter and for me to have my son involved in a good scouting program.  Kudos to Jeanne and Clinton Tams.

Jeanne convinced me to start a Brownie and then Girl Scout troop for our daughters to help make up for the fact that the LDS Church basically didn’t have any program for growing girls.  We met for three years in my basement and tried to provide our daughters and other girls in the troop similar opportunities to what they would have had if they were in Cub Scouts.

After three years we ended that program and then Jeanne continued on for another couple of years doing Adventure Days for our daughters and a couple of other girls in the area.  Again – ways to have fun, do crafts and socialize that they weren’t getting from church.

The LDS Church finally did create Activity Days when Jennifer was about 10, so at that point in time Jeanne stopped doing Adventure Days.  Activity Days were ok – but they were not really the same as scouting and mainly consisted of playing games and baking cookies.

While Jenn was in Young Woman’s she got the Girls Camp each summer.  Depending on the leaders, these were fun, but they weren’t really teaching them skills of how to deal with nature and survival or anything good.  It was more girls having fun and spiritual experiences while hanging out in safe nature.  I think this was ok with Jenn (she never complained) because she is not the tomboy that I am.

My poor son got a double dose of scouting fun. Since we had lived in Utah we saw how many 13 and 14 year old boys were earning their Eagle Scout ranks and realized that these were happening because of merit badge mills and parents and leaders whipping them through the program.  This is not what we wanted our son to get out of the scouting program.  We wanted him to experience the real BSA – not the watered down version that the LDS Church offers in 95+% of the cases.

How did Kevin get a double dose?  Starting with Tiger Cubs (which the LDS Church doesn’t even offer) he was in Cub Scouts at a Catholic Church that his dad and I helped run as leaders.  This was in addition to the Cub Scout program in our LDS ward. Once he turned 11 and completed Cub Scouts we moved him to a BSA troop on Hill Air Force Base and then when he was 12 he was put in the BSA troop at our LDS ward.

With many years of seeing the difference in both – let me tell you, the LDS Church offers a very watered down version of true scouting and most people seem to be unaware and happy about that. Hey – buy your kid a shirt and don’t pay dues and for scout camp and push them up through the ranks.  There is no comparison to having a fully uniformed troop of boys where the boys are actually taught leadership and are required to complete every step of a merit badge and have to complete a difficult Eagle Scout project.  There is a difference. (Again – there may be a few outlying troops that follow the full program – but not many).

I was actually talking to my son about scouting a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned that as long as he lives in Utah he will never mention that he has earned his Eagle Scout rank.  He worked very hard for it (again with the double duty and hard effort) but with all the boys that get Eagle Scout for basically showing up out there he says that this rank has no value in Utah.  It does not make him proud because he figures everyone would think he got his Eagle through the scout mill.  Sad to say I believe him.

Conclusion

Looking at the difference in the boys and girls programs in the LDS Church both when I was growing up and when my children were growing up – I would be happy for the LDS Church to leave the BSA.  Revamp the entire youth program and offer similar things to both boys and girls and make it equal for them.

I have no desire for women to hold the priesthood.  This has nothing to do with that.  This has to do with offering a watered down version of the BSA to parents who never have to get involved (no dues, partial uniforms, no fees for scout camps) and don’t take into account boys who have no desire to do scouting and girls who want to do programs more like scouting.

I don’t have a good solution – but would love to see programs where both boys and girls are taught to sew, shoot, build fires, get dirty, learn to cook, etc. Get rid of the Eagle for pay program.  If parents really want their sons to earn an Eagle Scout – join an actual Boy Scout troop where they follow the BSA program and make the boys earn their rank.

Rant over.  As always – would love to hear peoples thoughts.

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