Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Century of Honor

The takeaway from last night's Century of Honor celebration, at least for me, is that Scouting is the antidote to the deficiency of discussion of words like Duty and Honor. As Church programs go, it was on the level you'd expect from LDS pageantry: lots of singing and uplifting stuff, but counter to form, no dancing. And what an entrance for our nation's colors! Rappelled in from the ceiling!  I fully expect to see President Uchdorf rappel in for his next General Conference Priesthood address.  And Elder Beck to use that zip line!  I was especially gratified to see the invocation delivered by the Reverend R. Chip Turner, of the Baptist Scouting body (I forget the official title/office), a reminder that Scouting is universal.

I took my two boys with me. We stopped at the mall food court first (ran into my WB Troop Guide there), where M (newly-minted Bobcat) had a slice of pizza, and B (Star) had his first gyro, before making our way to the Conference Center, finding our seats and meeting up with the other three from our ward's contingent. It was an inspiration, although I did sense the irreverent side of me rising up a couple of times; I did my best to keep that in check.  Ordinarily, I don't go for this kind of pageantry, but this time it worked.  Mostly, because it was simply telling Scouting's story, and why it continues to be one of the best programs for teaching young men how and why to do their duty.

At the official website (link above) you can stream the entire program, and there's a counter that at last check topped 1,183,140+ who checked in by text message (I did so three times, to account for my two sons).  One of the highlights was the sing-along extolling moms: "Ma you earned your eagle, but they gave the badge to me!" (guilty, and thanks, Mom - at about minute 28 of the broadcast above).  Overall, I think it did a great job of telling Scouting's story, and getting down to brass tacks as to why Scouting matters, without going (too) over-the-top.

Waiting for the show to start with my sons B (Star) & M (Bobcat)

The Conference Center crowd

The evening's program. Download a pdf of it.

Me and my boys. Yes, he's 13. Yes, he's taller than I am.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, October 28, 2013

Three for the show

Taking my boys to the show tomorrow night:

It's in the nosebleed section, but we'll be there.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The difference between Girl and Boy Scouts

Tonight I went to my youngest son's first Pack meeting where he was awarded his Bobcat badge.  There was a special Arrow of Light ceremony, too, with a special presenter.  Before he began though, he did a little uniform lesson.  First, he told everyscout to touch the top button of their shirt, and make sure it was unbuttoned.  Then, he said that there are two differences between Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts, and asked if the Cubs knew what they were.  They got the first one right away: Girl Scouts sell cookies (he supplied the second part: Boy Scouts sell popcorn).  The second they needed a little help with: Girl Scouts wear their shirts untucked; Boy Scouts tuck their shirts in. So, if you want to be a Girl Scout, leave it out. If you want to be a Boy Scout, tuck it in.  Genius. Instead of telling everyone to tuck in their uniforms and getting the same, "awwwwdowehaffta?," they got to choose to do it right, and have a good laugh about doing what they always refuse to do.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Friday, October 18, 2013

Scout leaders could (will) face vandalism charges

Hoodoos in Utah's Goblin Valley State Park.
They don't need our help to erode.
©Eric Larson
Salt Lake Tribune, October 17, 2013 - Two men destroyed a formation at Goblin Valley State Park, in their capacity as YM/Scout leaders. They could face up to felony charges for destroying public property and protected resources. This incident could serve as a jumping-off point for a good Leave No Trace discussion when planning outdoor activities with your Scouts. It also underscores the need for continuity and consistency in expectations and leadership in Scouting (for youth and adults) as they age from group to group. For example, older Youth can teach younger, less experienced Youth the skills they've learned, to reinforce correct principles (i.e., 'to do my duty country/Obeying, Honoring, and Sustaining the Law), as they move from Troop to Team to Crew. In a way, it reminds me of a 1976 Conference talk by then-Elder Kimball:
"We hope we can help our young men and young women to realize, even sooner than they do now, that they need to make certain decisions [in this context, adhere to the Outdoor Code] only once. I have mentioned at this pulpit before some determinations made early in my life, which decisions were such a help to me because I did not have to remake those decisions perpetually. We can push some things away from us once and have done with them! We can make a single decision about certain things that we will incorporate in our lives and then make them ours—without having to brood and redecide a hundred times what it is we will do and what we will not do.

"Indecision and discouragement are climates in which the Adversary lives to function, for he can inflict so many casualties among mankind in those settings. My young brothers, if you have not done so yet, decide to decide!" (Spencer W. Kimball, Boys need Heroes Close By, Ensign, May 1976)*
It also reminds me of this essay on Hugh Nibley's environmental perspective (see principle #4). To read the local paper, you'd think that Scout Leaders in my area seem too often to be violating the ideals they're supposed to be teaching and instilling in their charges. Way to lead by example, guys. I'd like to ask them, "brethren, what part of Leave No Trace does this fall under? I wonder, how much of that behavior and rationalization can be attributed to a general lack of training because the Leaders don't want to be held to/hassled by the standards? And how much to just plain old, "hey, y'all, watch this!" (after-the-fact rationale notwithstanding)? Every time someone does something stupid, the Tribune, et. al. will make sure everyone knows about it. By small and simple things (done by a few)...are we given a collective black eye.

UPDATE, 10:20AM: It's on CNN.
"...and I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling internetses."

UPDATE, 2:00PM: Utah National Parks Council responds to this incident.
"We are shocked and disappointed by this reprehensible behavior...and will take appropriate action." They could refuse to recharter the Troop in question unless a personnel change is made, among other things.

UPDATE, 10/20: In an even-worse-than-the-infraction kind of twist, it is reported that the goblin-tippers are receiving death threats. C'mon, people, a little more Scout Spirit in dealing with the wrong-thing-right-reason poor decisions of others.  Also, glue guns at the ready, local Relief Societies are repairing the damage, and shoring up other potentially dangerous hoodoos.

UPDATE, 10/21: I posted the following to a photography group on Google+:
I just want to say, and I probably won't say it very well, that these individuals are in no way representative of what Scouting - they were Scout leaders on a Scout activity when they were so "helpful" - represents.  They caused damage to more than one irreplaceable hooodoo, they demonstrated to their Scouts that such behavior is acceptable, if the fun factor dictates it, and you can come up with a plausible rationale.  In just a few minutes, they undermined all of the ethics they were supposedly teaching their young charges.

I'm also [an Assistant] Scoutmaster (I use my Scouting as an excuse to get out my Pentax), and I go to great lengths to teach my boys that such is not the case: to leave the squirrels and rattlesnakes alone, not to mention millions-years-old formations; to "take only photographs, leave only footprints".  It is my sincere hope that whatever happens to these men, whatever charges leveled and punishments meted out, that the lessons of the consequences are not lost on the boys they were 'leading.'
UPDATE: Appropriate action taken: "After reviewing this matter with the local chartered organization, these men have been removed from their leadership positions and are no longer members of the BSA (see the UNPC link above for details)."

*Surprise! It wasn't "Don't Kill the Little Birds," but it could just as easily have been. 

It was my Deacons' Quorum Advisor/Scoutmaster, US Army Maj. Jimmy Jones, who taught me about Pres. Kimball's talk, given the very month I was born. Maj Jones also administered my Oath of Office when I received my commission as a new Second Lieutenant in the USAF. Goes to show how our leaders have a lasting, incalculable effect on us, for good or ill; we lead by example, whether we realize it or not.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A valid question

Someone on Google+ asked, "Why did you sign up and become an Adult Leader within the Boy Scouts?" Here some of the answers:
  • We went to a Cuboree and loved it. I knew I wanted to be part of it!
  • To pass on a legacy of service, adventure, learning, leadership, and stewardship to my sons.
  • Because I wanted to do it with my son, and there was also no other leaders to do it....
  • I signed up as a Tiger Den Leader so I could do something with my son. It turned into being a lot of fun. As I got deeper into Scouting and learning I realized that not only am I doing it for him, I am doing it for all the boys. Now, I am working to help Scouts learn life skills while having fun and become better people and to realize it's not all about them, but being a service for others.
  • My son's pack fell into my lap, no Cubmaster, no CC. I took CC my husband took Cubmaster. That was 7? Years ago. It is hard but it is well worth it.
  • My father was my Den Leader, Cubmaster and Troop Treasurer before he went on to District. It's kind of the family business.
  • My son wanted to join cubs, so I took him to the meeting. The next week my wife took him. I thought, "this won't be bad, us taking turns."
    She came home and said "They wanted a tiger leader for Zach's group so I signed you up."
    Best decision she ever made.
    I've never regretted it. 
  • I earned my Eagle and was active as youth right up to my 21st birthday.  After a few years away, I realized I missed the program and felt like I could give something back.  I joined up with a unit that some friend's from church were a part of.  That was 10 years ago, and I'm still going strong.

I thought of responding that, like most Mormon Scouters, I was pressed into service (nudge nudge, wink wink). However, in the years since that, I have volunteered to stay on because I enjoy the work, warts and all; I even volunteered to go to Wood Badge. I like working with the Youth and watching them learn and grow. In the short year I have with each of them, most grow up quite a bit, and have accomplished not a few big challenges. That makes it worthwhile.

Prepared. | For Life.™

On my honour...

- Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson's call to arms, prior to the Battle of Trafalgar

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Leadership training courses. You know, for kids.

Wouldn't it be awesome if BSA offered some kind of youth leadership course, kind of like Wood Badge training, but for kids? Just think of what they could learn, and how effective they could be in leading their troops, teams, crews and quorums! I wish someone would do something like that.

<sarcasm off> Here are a few of the [under-utilized] courses available to Youth leaders:

This is just a quick-and-dirty, not definitive, list, even for the options listed above.  Each council provides these and more opportunities, so go to roundtable, find out what's on offer, and get your youth leaders schooled in how to lead!

Here's a quick overview of the On Belay course:

Whole list of youth training options

Prepared. | For Life.™

Meeting follow-up.

Yesterday I posted about a training event taking place.  It was one of two GSLC LDS/BSA Relationships Conferences that took place this year.  I didn't hear about the first one.

It was a nice meeting.  There were plenty of bead-wearers in the audience, a lot of suits (I assume for those who don't have/do uniforms), and others were dressed come-as-you-are.  Speakers included the Council President and Key 3, Elder David L. Beck (YM General President), Sister Jean A. Stevens (General Primary 1C) and Elder Warren G. Tate (Area Auth 70 and Council Liaison, as I understood his role).  Elder Beck and Sister Stevens were leading by example, wearing the "dress" uniform. A local Troop's SPL led the Oath and Law.

It's late, and I really can't convey everything that was discussed and do it justice, but it really was a good conference, and each speaker did a fantastic job selling Scouting as a valuable tool in its own right. They may have even persuaded some in the audience who just don't "do" Scouting.  I hadn't been in that kind of spiritual Scouting setting since Wood Badge.  It was great.  Rather than try to summarize the meeting, though, I'm posting my transcribed notes and a handout.  I had thought I'd just scan my notes, but what's the point of that, if you can't read my chicken-scratch?

UPDATE (the following morning after thinking more clearly on the bus in to work): Afterward, I was discussing the meeting with my wife, and she rightly said that each program the Church provides has the potential to affect great change. The difference, I think, is that no other Church program can bring to bear the resources that BSA provides: youth leadership training curriculum, adult leadership training curriculum, advancement and outdoor programs that meet a boy on his own terms, facilities, events and opportunities, youth development experts, a cadre of experienced leaders and volunteers, spokesmen like Mike Rowe, and so much more - it all adds up to an unparalleled program that by design leads young men and women to do their duty to God.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Monday, October 14, 2013

Training opportunity

If you live near the Wasatch Front, tomorrow (Tuesday the 15) there is Scouter training being provided for Stake and ward leadership: Stake presidencies, bishoprics, stake and ward YM presidencies, Scouters, Cub Scouters (?), etc.  It will be held at the Bountiful Regional Center, but because the address is so screwy (857 Onion St., Woods Cross UT, 84054, or is it 835 N 400 E, North Salt Lake?), It's hard to find if you're not familiar with the area. Instead, here's the coordinates: 40.857618 N, 111.90323 W.  If you're coming from I-15, either north or southbound, take the 2600 South exit in Woods Cross/North Salt Lake, then go east to the light (500 South) and turn south/right. Take the next right at 1000 North, then left on 400 East, and you'll find it on the right about a couple hundred yard to the south. You can't miss it, it's the white-domed, red-brick building whose parking lot dwarfs the car dealership's next door.  Opening prayer is at 7:00pm.

I don't know if this will be broadcast, but I'll take good notes.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Silly Song - I Like Traffic Lights

When I was a kid, I loved to stay up late on a Sunday night listening to the Doctor Demento Show. Silly, stupid songs by the likes of Spike Jones, Alan Sherman,  Stan Freberg, Monty Python, Tom Lehrer, "Weird AL" Yancovic and more, twisted my mind into what it is today (though it was my mother's An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer record which put me on this path in the first place - think Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, and The Elements, for example). Well, here's one of the few songs by Monty Python which could be deemed appropriate for a patrol of rowdy Scouts:


Why, you may ask, did I bring this up? Well, I was looking for a song to go along with fire-building, but came across Benny Bell's Shaving Cream on Boy Scout Trail.

And here's another gem that I owe my knowledge of to Dr. Demento: Moose Turd Pie.

Prepared. | For Life.™

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


I took the Scouts to the Church History Museum's 100 Years of Scouting in the Church exhibits tonight. I enjoyed looking at how things were, yet how much has remained the same in that time. For example, though the uniform has changed, there has always been a uniform (and I'd love to find me one of those 'envelope-style' caps they used to wear, kind of like the one I wore in the Air Force). In fact, three former prophets' uniforms were on exhibit: George Albert Smith, Ezra Taft Benson, and Howard W. Hunter (well, a life-size photo of him as a youth in full uniform, anyway).

Another thing that has changed in form - but not in substance - is the ideals. In 1912, when the Church was looking into BSA Scouting as its program for young men, while simultaneously running its own form of Scouting, it had its own version of Scout Ideals:

A Scout must -

Be Clean;

Stand Erect;

Keep his self-respect;

Be manly;

Be courageous;

Be cheerful;

Be industrious;

Maintain individuality;

Believe in God and right living.

Compare those with Lord Baden-Powell's original 1908 Scout Law:

A Scout's honour is to be trusted.

A Scout is loyal to the King, and to his officers,
and to his country, and to his employers.

A Scout's duty is to be useful and to help others.

A scout is a friend to all, and a brother to every other Scout,
no matter to what social class the other belongs.

A Scout is courteous.

A Scout is a friend to animals

A Scout obeys orders of his patrol leader or Scout Master without question.

A Scout smiles and whistles under all circumstances.

A Scout is thrifty.

Which all evolved into:

On my honour,

I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country,
and to obey the Scout Law
(A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly,
Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful,
Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent);

To help other people at all times (Do a good turn daily);

To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake,
and morally straight (Be prepared).

Instilling these values in young men and women has always been the goal. As someone else has said, camping, badges, ranks and even uniforms are how we teach, not what we teach.

Prepared. | For Life.™