Three Reactions To The LDS Church Dropping Boy Scouts For Older Teens

This is a very good thing. Besides the great insights in today’s Deseret News article, I think the following:

1. Yes, Scouting has been ineffective for older boys. The last time I was a Scout leader, it was with Venturing, and the program could have been better. Boys that age are either Eagles (or close), or have checked out completely. I was taught at multiple trainings that unless a boy was almost done, to stop hounding him on it and move on to whatever their actual needs and interests were–I spent most of my time in that calling focusing on other things, personalized for the boys we had. This advice now seems to be spreading institutionally.

2. I’ve long been concerned that Scouting has become something of a cult in part of the Church–some people are so obsessed with it that the rituals, uniforms, emblems, etc. of Scouting have become a false priesthood. Really. That alienates a lot of boys, and distracts others. A focus on actual saving ordinances, growth, and service is good. The activities of Scouting–camping, fishing, hiking, etc.–are awesome and will stay, but the activity arm of the auxiliary needs to be in better perspective. I once served with a bishop who said that Duty to God was more important than Scouting, and he was widely ignored. He was ahead of his time.

3. Let’s be honest, a lot of this is Robert Conquest’s second law in action–“Any organization not explicitly right-wing, sooner or later becomes left-wing.” Scouting is trying to kill itself and our efforts to intervene have been unsuccessful. Today’s announcement is not the end of this for the Church or for Scouting. They will keep getting worse, and we will have to keep pulling further away.

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Transcendentalists = Jedi Hippie Boy Scouts

Hey there, would-be American Lit mongers!  Is “transcendentalists” too much of a mouthful?  Here’s what I tell people to help them picture who these mid 19th century whackadoos were.

Think of a Jedi: empowered by spiritual communion with a nebulous universal essence.  Then, think of a hippie: an iconoclastic rebel who wants only to be at peace with all.  Finally, add a Boy Scout: an innocent survivalist with unbounded reverence for nature.

That pretty much adds up to Emerson and Thoreau!

 

JHBS

 

Teach Me About Citizenship

I haven’t blogged about the Man Scout Project in forever, because it’s been so slow–last year, I only made time to work on it in the Spring and Summer.  Without going over all the activities I’ve done, right now I’ve done everything for tenderfoot and second class, and I’m finishing up first class. 

One of the requirements I still have for that is #5:

Visit and discuss with a selected individual approved by your leader (elected official, judge, attorney, civil servant, principal, teacher) your constitutional rights and obligations as a U.S. citizen.

So, I’m appealing to the online community for help with this one.  What are your thoughts about our rights and responsibilities as citizens?  I’m happy to hear all ideas here, including those that might be based on political values different from my own: I won’t be criticizing them here, just thanking you for your help.  If you think you have any special background or experience to support your comments, please explain. 

The forum is now open.

MSP: Second Class Requirements 7 a,b,c

Second Class Reqiurement 7:

  1. Tell what precautions must be taken for a safe swim.
  2. Demonstrate your ability to jump feet first into water over your head in depth, level off and swim 25 feet on the surface, stop, turn sharply, resume swimming, then return to your starting place.
  3. Demonstrate water rescue methods by reaching with your arm or leg, by reaching with a suitable object, and by throwing lines and objects. Explain why swimming rescues should not be attempted when a reaching or throwing rescue is possible, and explain why and how a rescue swimmer should avoid contact with the victim.

I wish I’d looked at this sooner.  Now I have to go swimming in October. 

This afternoon I called a family friend who has a pool.  When I asked if I could come over and jump in for a bit, she said it was fine, but asked if I was sure.  “It’s really cold!” she said.  Yes, even in Las Vegas, pools get cold in October.

I picked my son up from school this afternoon and told him that we were going to make a quick stop to work on one of my Scout activities.  His main reaction was that he wanted to dunk his head in the pool. 

First, I did requirements a and c, which did not make me get in the water.  Yet.  I summarized the handbook’s rules for safe swimming and demonstrated how to rescue a swimmer in trouble. 

Then it was show time.  I regret now just how long I stood at the edge of the pool and hesitated before jumping in.  I was pretty afraid of the cold. 

Finally I did.  The cold didn’t hit me until I broke back up to the surface.  I swam the length of the pool and back with a loud gasp from the chill every time I took a breath. 

I figure if I’m going to follow in the footsteps of Boy Scouts as much as possible, I should probably get used to occasionally getting into very cold water.  It actually felt a lot better as soon as I got out.  In fact, mostly to make up for my sad hesitating before jumping in, I jumped in again and did another lap.  I still hesitated, but not quite as long, which is something, at least.  My son almost missed that second try, as he was busy dunking his head. 

I found out soon after that the water was 62°.  This experience at least let me teach my son by example an important principle that he probably gets tired of hearing me preach: suffering builds character.

MSP: Tenderfoot Requirements 4b and 9

In our weekly family home evening yesterday, I did something that I think the family will have to get used to–I spent a few minutes demonstrating Scout stuff so I could check it off. 

First I explained why we use the buddy system (requirement #9), then I showed how to tie a double half hitch and a taut line hitch.  I used a cheap little nylon rope that came with some camping stuff and which I’d never used. 

As I tied my knots, I told the kids that when we went to Lake Powell with their grandparents last week, I tried to help anchor the boat by tying a couple of ropes together with a square knot.  I did this twice, and one of them came out as soon as it was pulled.  I thought I’d gotten it right, but maybe the ropes were just too big for that to work.  I was a little discouraged by that, but then on Saturday this knot practice really paid off.

We went out to eat with our kids and they were each offered a balloon.  They’re too small to handle balloons reliably on their own without losing them and crying as the colorful toys float away, so I usually just tie the string around their wrists loosely, but in a simple knot that can’t be undone.  This time, for the first time, I was able to do better.  I tied the strings with a taut line hitch, and slipped the loops over their wrists.  They could adjust them, and take them on and off when needed (like in the van), but they stayed on with no problem when we wanted them to. 

As I told my kids about the practical value of knot tying and showed the family what I’d learned, my wife smiled at me.  But then I had to untie my practice rope from the leg of her piano.

MSP: Tenderfoot Requirements 1, 2, 3, and 7

This weekend we went camping specifically to test the readiness of our family’s 72-hour emergency kits.  We spent 24 hours with little else at the gorgeous Old Mill campground in the Spring Mountains area.  I thought this would be my best opportunity to do the first three requirements for the rank I’m working on.

1.  Present yourself, properly dressed, before going on an overnight camping trip.  Show the gear you will use.  Show the right way to pack  and carry it.  I dressed for warm weather for obvious reasons, with a pair of old work boots I rarely wear, which I now realize are too small and need to be switched out for a real pair of hiking boots.  I’ll check at Deseret Industries for some.  As we packed our backpacks with the relatively sparse supplies that would constitute our emergency kits, we discussed what was essential, including our tent and sleeping bags, our food and water, and our tools.  The packing was difficult and taught us a lot about saving space and making priorities.  I tried to make my bag look like the picture in the handbook.  Good packing is a lot like playing Tetris. 

2.  Spend at least one night on a patrol or troop campout.  Sleep in a tent you have helped pitch.  It was a very enjoyable campout, though since we were trying to skimp on supplies, we didn’t have any padding for our bedding.  I was surprised to wake up not very sore at all.  I pitched the tent myself since my wife was busy preparing lunch and watching the baby.  Did you know that seven people can sleep almost comfortably in a 9’x7′ tent?  It helps when five of them are children, and nobody minds snuggling up.

Continue reading

MSP: Tenderfoot Requirement 10a

This one requires that I record things now and compare them with my progress a month later, hopefully with improvement.

I belong to a small neighborhood gym, which I go to sporadically, so I went this morning with this requirement in mind.

¼-mile walk/run.  I got on the treadmill and warmed up at a jog for a bit, then I cranked it up as fast as I felt I could go and started keeping track of how long it took me to run a quarter mile.  I did it in 2 min, 5 sec.  It occurs to me that a treadmill really isn’t the best way to do this–it sets up an artificial barrier.  Next time I’ll measure off a quarter mile and just run it, if I can.

Pull-ups.  I did 11, which is actually better than I thought I’d do.  I tried not to hold back on any of these–I want to give it my all now and see if I really get much better in a month, but I’m still pretty sure I could have done a few more of each of these if I’d really tried.  Maybe my improvement over the next 30 days will be more self discipline.

Push-ups.  I only did 15 in a set, but keep in mind that I’d just finished the run and the pull-ups.  No, never mind, that doesn’t make it any better at all.

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MSP: Meeting Boy Scout Joining Requirements

There are ten:

1.  Meet age requirements.  Wow.  The first thing to do on the first day of this project and I’m already defaulting.  *sigh* 

2.  Complete a Boy Scout application and health history signed by your parent or guardian.  I printed one out from the Scout Web site and filled it out.  Unit type?  One option was “lone Boy Scout.”  I guess that’s me.  After filling in a birthday from the 70’s, I wondered what to put for grade.  I have several courses done beyond a Master’s Degree.  I estimate I’m in grade 19, and put that down.  For school, I put the name of the school at which I work.  I do not check the box to subscribe to Boy’s Life: my Webelos-age son already gets it.  Each month when it comes in the mail, I read it before giving it to him.  Parent or guardian signature?  I go ahead and sign.  I have no health history form, but no health history problems, either.

3.  Find a Scout troop near your home.  I figure that when a requirement says “troop or patrol,” I’ll just substitute “family.”  Check. 

4.  Repeat the Pledge of Allegiance.  Continue reading

The Man Scout Project

The following post is the first in a new series dedicated to my efforts to do all of the work needed to become an Eagle Scout.  In fact, I’ve created a new blog to go along with this: The Man Scout Project.  Why a new blog when I have a well established habit of throwing together all of of my disparate interests here, in this lovingly disjointed junkyard that I call Gently Hew Stone?  Because this project is specific and special; and because if nothing else this might help motivate me.  But fear not, connoisseurs of GHS’s amalgamation of incongruous juxtapositions: I’ll cross-post everything here. 

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I am 31 years old, and I want to be a Boy Scout. 

I’ve been surrounded by Scouts all of my life, and they always seem to have the most exciting lives, full of fun, camaraderie, new experiences, and adventure.  The ones who’ve gone the furthest with it appear to have gotten the most out of it, and are often the most fulfilled people I know. 

Like a lot of people, I wasted my teenage years watching TV, playing video games, obsessing over trendy music, and feeling sorry for myself for no good reason.  I was never very happy, and as amazingly wonderful as my adult life is, I’ve always regretted those years of freedom, strength, and opportunity that I threw away on nonsense.  I admit it: I feel like I need to atone for that great blank canvas that life handed to me and which I only ruined with thoughtless scribbling.  It’s not that I did a lot of terrible things, it’s that I just didn’t do very much at all.  And I hope that I can make up for it a little now–and enjoy life to the fullest–by becoming an Eagle Scout. 

Of course, this isn’t official.  Boy Scouts ends at 18, and nobody older than that can become an Eagle Scout.  I have no illusions about joining a troop of teenagers, or having a Court of Honor, or anything like that.  I simply intend to go through the Boy Scout Handbook and do all of the activities on my own.  I want to have the skills and experiences that an Eagle Scout would have had. 

I’m beginning with the following expectations: Continue reading

An Idea For A Remake of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

The classic Mr. Smith Goes To Washington was released in 1939.  I’d like to suggest an idea for a 75th anniversary remake, which could be ready in time for a 2014 release. 

The idea of remaking Mr. Smith was lampooned on The Simpsons once, where it was a stand-in for the current rash of updated old movies and TV shows, the majority of which are terrible.  In The Simpsons’ spoof, Mel Gibson stars in the remake and the climactic scene doesn’t have Senator Paine confessing and Smith emerging vindicated, but Smith whipping out a tommy gun and running amok as he slaughters Congressmen left and right.

So the concept of making a new Mr. Smith is touchy, but I think it’s something our country needs, and something that would be important and do well.  My updated story looks like this:

It starts off basically the same, with Smith appointed junior Senator to replace the deceased Senator Foley.  However, in the original, Smith was a leader of the “Boy Rangers,” because the Boy Scouts of America wouldn’t give permission for their name to be used.  I think now, with membership and revenues dropping, they might be more open to cooperating.  They could use the good press.  So in my version, Smith is a Scoutmatser. 

Also in the original, Smith is automatically ridiculed by the elite media for being a simple guy from outside the big city.  They mock his naive optimism and reverence for the nation’s heritage.  In the 21st century, that would pretty much play out the same way.  Think Sarah Palin.

One of the two biggest areas of updating, though, would be the nature of Smith’s bill and subsequent scandal.  Continue reading