Friday, May 31, 2013

The Man From the Crowd

Men seem as alike as the leaves on the trees,
As alike as the bees in a swarming of bees;
And we look at the millions that make up the state
All equally little and equally great,
And the pride of our courage is cowed.
Then Fate calls for a man who is larger than men --
There's a surge in the crowd -- there's a movement -- and then
There arises a man that is larger than men --
And the man comes up from the crowd.

The chasers of trifles run hither and yon,
And the little small days of small things go on,
And the world seems no better at sunset than dawn,
And the race still increases its plentiful spawn.
And the voice of our wailing is loud.
Then the Great Deed calls out for the Great Men to come,
And the Crowd, unbelieving, sits sullen and dumb --
But the Great Deed is done, for the Great Man is come --
Aye, the man comes up from the crowd.

There's a dead hum of voices, all say the same thing,
And our forefathers' songs are the songs that we sing,
And the deeds by our fathers and grandfathers done
Are done by the son of the son of the son,
And our heads in contrition are bowed.
Lo, a call for a man who shall make all things new
Goes down through the throng! See! he rises in view!
Make room for the men who shall make all things new! --
For the man who comes up from the crowd.

And where is the man who comes up from the throng
Who does the new deed and who sings the new song,
And makes the old world as a world that is new?
And who is the man? It is you! It is you!
And our praise is exultant and proud.
We are waiting for you there -- for you are the man!
Come up from the jostle as soon as you can;
Come up from the crowd there, for you are the man --
The man who comes up from the crowd.

--Sam Walter Foss--

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Presiding Bishop's comments to BSA National Annual Meeting

Here is a transcript of the keynote address delivered by Presiding Bishop Gary E. Stevenson at last week's BSA National Annual Meeting.  Regardless of our feelings (one way or the other) on the outcome of last week's membership policy vote, Bishop Stevenson's remarks on what "Duty to God" means in the context of Scouting bear thoughtful consideration.  Here is an excerpt:
"Some may not see the sacred gatekeeping role scouting plays. They may see only fundraising and not a foundation. Others may brand scouting activities as merely outdoor recreation, but it can and must be shown that BSA is not a camping club; it is a character university centered on duty to God. I quote again from Robert Baden-Powell: 'The whole of [scouting] is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.'" (emphasis added)
A strong Scouting program (from ages 8-18) will result in more missionaries who are physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight, in more ways than we can see from our current vantage point.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why does it have to take so much time?

Why do Scout activities have to take so long? Do you really need to take all day?

It's a question I hear over and over.  I finally have an answer: It takes that kind of time investment for situations to develop where real lessons can be extracted and learned.  If the boys' activities consist of simply "Show up at nine, we'll be home for lunch," most times all you really did was wander around the woods for a while before piling in the car to make someone else's deadline.

Last Saturday, I took my boys hiking up Antelope Island State Park in the Great Salt Lake.  It's a three-mile trail, with a 2,000' elevation gain on the most prominent island in the lake.  It's probably the only place in the state where you see bison, pronghorn, deer, and even bighorn sheep (5 rams!), and hear the coyotes sing to you, yet still see your local high school's letter on the hillside.  Near the summit, the trail sort of splits.  The trail proper continues along the west face of the mountain, while the left "fork" scrambles over boulders.

With four tired, inexperienced hikers, we opted for the first option to make the summit. It was a hard final push, but worth it when they made the summit and saw the USGS marker noting that they’d climbed two thousand feet, and could see more and farther than they ever had before, from their vantage point atop Frary Peak, 6,600’ above sea level.

The whole crew atop Antelope Island.
After lunch at the top, and a lucky spotting of the aforementioned sheep (so glad I packed the extra weight of my 70-210mm lens, but alas, improper focus), we started back down the trail. Since the boys were rested, we thought we’d take the ridge-line trail back down. It was easy to see where the trails re-joined, ½ mile away, so off we went. It didn’t take long to realize that the ridge-line “trail” was anything but, as it disappeared into the rocks, but only after we’d already gotten to a point where we were committed to the current path. My assistant and I both spent some time finding one game trail after another.  In one spot, I had to pull out my 550 cord, tie all the bags together and lower them down about 30’ while we assisted the boys to climb down the rocks.  (Does anyone really question the wisdom and necessity of 2-deep leadership anymore?)

That half-mile took the better part of an hour, but I saw boys working together, helping each other, encouraging each other and solving problems; they put the is in the Scout Law.

After seven hours, the boys were in high spirits and thought the whole adventure was great! When asked what the best part was, one (the newest 11YOScout) replied, “pushing myself harder than I thought I could go!”

And thus we see that by committing ourselves to finishing a real adventure, an opportunity develops in which to learn Important Things:

We knew where we wanted to go, and we knew that we were not where we needed to be. But by stopping to assess the situation, offer a little prayer and then make a little progress before stopping to reassess, little by little we moved forward until a familiar landmark appeared, and we could just walk to it and reacquire the true path.

"Now, boys, apply this situation to repentance, the Atonement, or your goals."  Given a bit of time to think about it, the poignancy of their answers will surprise you.

If we had limited ourselves to “We’ll go as far as we can for an hour, and then go home” (a constraint which many advocate, and even demand), that kind of discussion could never take place.

(Oh, and if anyone was paying attention, they could have easily identified ten wild animals and native plants that day, because, you know, requirements.)

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Scoutmaster Minute - Loyalty

Two famous generals of the Civil War were Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. Grant, though the younger of the two, and junior to him at West Point, was Sherman’s Commander. As general of the Union Army, Grant commanded several other generals, but he knew that he could trust Sherman with the most difficult tasks. While some Generals needed line-by-line instructions, Sherman only needed to know the objective. Grant could trust him with the details of getting the job done. Grant knew that the only thing to prevent Sherman’s completing the task was a musket ball with Sherman’s name on it.

That musket ball didn’t exist. Sherman finished his difficult and unpopular task, and Grant accepted Gen Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House in April of 1865, ending the Civil War. These two men remained loyal to each other throughout their lives:

Gen Ulysses S. Grant
“The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” – US Grant

Gen Wm. T. Sherman
“Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.” – Gen Wm Sherman

I am reminded of another general, in a land far from the battlefields of Tennessee, Virginia and South Carolina, from a time long before. His name was Moroni, and you are all familiar with his struggle against the armies of Lamanites and disloyal Nephites. Like General Grant nearly 2,000 year later, he said, “I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country.”

Loyalty is a noble characteristic. As you get older, you will confront some serious choices. When you are faced with a difficult choice, ask yourself, “How will this choice demonstrate my loyalty to my friends, my family, my nation, my Church and my God?” Let it be said of you that you chose to be loyal, like Generals Grant, Sherman and Moroni.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nephi’s Vision and a Vision of Scouting

Scouting is all about guided discovery, whether it be rank requirements, merit badges, or life experiences. As Scouters, we aim to help the young men we work with understand the meaning of the exercises they go through, and extract life lessons from them. The other day as I was reading in the Book of Mormon, I realized that this model is also a scriptural model. There’s a tidy parallel between Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life1, and Scouting. When Nephi determined to learn the meaning of his father’s vision, he decided to go and find out for himself. He was privileged with angelic instruction, but more than that, he was encouraged to solve the puzzle himself.

The angel asked him what he already understood, whereupon Nephi admitted his own ignorance - he was humble and ready to learn.  The angel then showed him various symbols and scenes, and Nephi himself largely deduced the meaning from that. Sometimes the angel told him directly, but more often than not, he guided Nephi to find the right answer for himself, or gave him an experiential frame of reference to understand a particular symbol. Thus, Nephi learned the meaning of the symbols, and the experience stuck with him. And we are the beneficiaries. But, like his brothers, we don’t get that same experience; we, like they, get it second-hand.

Nephi returned to camp only to find his brothers arguing over their father’s vision. He discovered that they had not deigned to find an “expert” to help them understand, they were simply trying, with their limited knowledge, to make sense of everything. Nephi told them the answers to their questions, but for some reason, just receiving the information wasn’t enough. They hadn’t had the experience of learning the meaning for themselves. In a way, it wasn’t much different from hearing the original, confusing account from Lehi.

Another scriptural example comes into play: that of the different soils in the Parable of the Sower2. In working with youth, we can only spread the seeds – we can’t control where it takes (and sometimes, that’s a big surprise). Generally speaking though, the difference lies in motivation and desire. Nephi wanted to understand, so he took steps to find out. His brothers’ interest was not as compelling as was his. (I’m ignoring his brother Sam, since Nephi never said much about him, anyway, other than he wasn’t antagonistic like L&L.) Likewise, our youth come in different shades of gray – some love Scouting, some can’t stand it. Most are somewhere in between. But by leading them to their own understanding, instead of either dragging them through the ranks or worse, handing them out (giving them the information secondhand, rather than learning it directly), we can play a part in helping each of them grow and realize his potential.

I hear, and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand.

Prepared. | For Life.™

1. 1 Nephi 11-16 
2. Mark 4: 3-20

Monday, May 6, 2013

Scout Challenge Coin

My previous life
The challenge coin is a military tradition. Some say it's derived from WWI pilots carrying around a lead slug - one that didn't kill you. The slug eventually evolved into a coin with your unit insignia emblazoned on it. Today, they're handed out as morale boosters, for recognition of achievement, or by visiting dignitaries.  Most military members have a collection of RMOs (Round Metal Objects, there's some kind of fighter pilot superstition about calling things by their rightful names) that reflects their careers.  As a civilian, I still keep my collection on my desk at work.

When bellying up to the bar at the O-club, if you presented your coin to the other officers, i.e., challenged them, they were then obliged to produce their own. If you get caught without your RMO, drinks were on you. I know a few Lt. Colonels who left the club with a much thinner wallet than when they walked in because of this tradition. We learned early to always, ALWAYS carry a RMO, (military, not US Mint!) even to Wal-mart.

Anyway, I've wanted to have some coins, er, RMOs, made up for my boys, but it's kind of cost-prohibitive to do a custom job like that. But behold! I was perusing an online military newspaper and saw this advertised in the lower margin. Still kind of expensive, but I think it's a great way to recognize excellent Scout-like behavior. There's got to be a Scout challenge that doesn't involve a huge bar tab, too.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Saturday, May 4, 2013

First Aid and CPR

There was a handout at this week's roundtable for CPR, First Aid and Wilderness First Aid certifications, from a certified EMT.

First Aid/CPR are required of at least one adult on BSA outings (highly recommended even for those "it's-just-a-church-activity" outings as well, especially considering the kind of personal liability you open yourself up to); Wilderness first aid is required for all back-country trips.  When filling out a tour plan, you'll need to verify that you have training appropriate to the activity.

If you're unfamiliar with the tour plan, go to and scroll down to the Safety section.  There  you'll find everything the Church expects us to know and do when facilitating the youth planning their activities, and mitigating risk. (Additionally still on the page, and under the Training heading, click the "BSA Training" link for access to Safe Swim, Safety afloat, hazardous weather, etc.)  You don't have to file a tour plan for every outing, but preparing one for each is a good way to CYA.

Tour Plan requisites, incomplete tour plan,

Friday, May 3, 2013

Merit Badge Counselors

Something to keep in mind with merit badge counselors - the good ones don't just rubber-stamp stuff, they put the Counsel in Counselor. They help a boy understand and do what the requirements state, and work out answers to the more difficult stuff. They also have conversations, and become mentors and even friends. In one sense, working with the Counselor is actually more important than the requirements themselves. It also gives each boy experience working with different people and personalities. This is why the recommended procedure is to first find, then visit with a counselor before beginning work (in most cases; some things just happen as a matter of course, like doing chores for Family Life).

When calling the counselor to set an appointment, take a buddy. This can be a friend, another Scout, a brother, parent - anyone so long as he doesn't go alone.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Roundtable discussion

I had a realization at Roundtable last night: A Scout is reverent, a Scout meeting is not.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Can Scouting cure this?

A story in the local news reported on a recent study1 which confirms what we already suspected: Kids whose parents pay for everything, and give them everything, learn to expect everything, but are reluctant to put forth the effort themselves.
"Well, my parents pay for everything, so that makes me not want to go look for jobs when I can get things handed to me."
I think Scouting, properly carried out - and especially properly understood by parents (more particularly the kind that hover) - can be a significant part of fixing this kind of entitled narcissism.

Prepared. | For Life.™

1More, more, more, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, May 2013

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Go outside!

Yosemite Valley,
Image courtesy of CNaene /
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like falling leaves."
- John Muir

Prepared. | For Life.™