As a teenager, I didn’t like scouting because I didn’t like outdoor activities like camping, hiking, orienteering, and whatnot. So I did very little scouting related stuff, and that only after much arm-twisting by leaders and other boys (who, to their credit, were typically very nice about it). As I lived in Utah Valley, this made me borderline inactive.
This is why I object to scouting being used as a Church program. It elevates love of outdoorsy activities to the level of a moral good. I certainly don’t object to other people liking scouting. They can scout to their heart’s content and I won’t mind a bit. What I will mind is when they mix scouting up with the Church and try to tell teenage boys that they’re bad if they don’t like knot-tying, and when they get a special exemption to harass me at Church for money through “Friends of Scouting” when of course all other similar types of fundraising are strictly prohibited.
Contrast my scouting experience with my wife’s volleyball experience. She doesn’t like to play volleyball. She has told me that, before we got married, she always felt a little left out in her singles’ ward, where they played volleyball frequently. But at least there wasn’t anyone telling her that volleyball was the Church’s chosen activity for young single adults, and that she was bad for not playing.
Scouting and volleyball are both fine activities. But in the terms of Elder Oaks’s talk, they’re goods, not betters or bests. So I think it’s wrong to choose scouting arbitrarily–I assume because many influential GAs had positive experiences with it growing up–and elevate it to a best by making it the Church program for young men (at least in the US).
In a discussion of scouting at Millennial Star a couple of years ago, jimbob made a comment that summarized my concerns very well, but from a leader’s perspective. He said in part, “I have great concerns that our young men can’t see where scouting ends and church begins and so start thinking that they can’t be good Aaronic priesthood holders without also liking camping.”
On the bright side, if I understand right, scouting isn’t used as a Church program outside of the US. So as Church membership is increasingly concentrated outside the US, the Church’s ties to scouting should weaken. Plus we already have the Duty to God program ready to be used in place of scouting as soon as we’re done with it. But I also know that the Church is unlikely to cut ties with Scouting on President Monson’s watch, as he loves it.
- 11 February 2008