A few months ago I opened an email from the Church carrying the subject line “New Initiative for Children and Youth Development.” I quickly discovered that the Church will discontinue sponsoring all Scouting units on December 31, 2019 in favor of a new global youth program.
The email included a link to this Church web page that introduces the new initiative. A statement from the First Presidency explains that the “new approach is intended to help all girls and boys, young women and young men discover their eternal identity, build character and resilience, develop life skills, and fulfill their divine roles as daughters and sons of God.”
What a thrilling time to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when the Lord through his servants is implementing a number of changes in the continuing restoration of all things! As we seek to sustain God’s prophets, it is important to pay attention to all of their counsel.
In 1831 shortly after the Lord revealed that Jackson County, Missouri, was to be a gathering place for the saints, he cautioned Church members against moving there in haste (D&C 58:56, 64:23, 101:15). He issued a similar warning regarding Clay County in 1833 (D&C 101:68,72). During the years of heavy migration to the Salt Lake Valley, Church leaders repeatedly counseled saints to properly prepare before migrating. Yet in each of these instances, some Church members caused themselves and others great hardship by eagerly journeying too early.
I am excited for the Church’s new youth program. But let’s avoid excessive eagerness in shifting away from Scouting. After explaining that the new youth program will begin in January 2020, the First Presidency counseled, “We encourage all youth, families, and leaders to continue their active participation and financial support of Scouting until that date.”
This means that Scouting is still the official activity program for boys in the Church ages 8-13. We are prophetically mandated to fully and enthusiastically carry out the Scouting program for the next 16 months.
The authors of this Church News article note that 19 months is enough time for important things to happen, including Columbus’ voyage to the New World eight times over and an entire mission for a sister missionary. They write, “History has proven much can happen in 19 months — and Church leaders hope the time leading up to the historic youth initiative will be, well, time well spent.”
As a Latter-day Saint Scout leader, what will you do to ensure that you follow the leadership of the prophets on this issue? How will you make sure that over the next 17 months the Scouting program is “time well spent” for the boys you serve?
One approach that can benefit your Scouts is to ensure that they have an opportunity to join the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s national honor society. As I explained in blog #27, the OA offers young men a culture that “enthrones hard work that benefits others as an indispensable feature of a meaningful life.” It promotes resilience over leisure. What Scoutmaster would not want this for his Scouts?
I suppose that many of the young men you serve will never again be members of the Boy Scouts of America after the end of 2019. But some of them might find fulfillment in continuing their relationship with the BSA. Humble Scoutmasters will recognize that they may not be able to tell which boys those will be.
The OA will continue its mission after the Church and the BSA part ways so it is well positioned to help Latter-day Saint boys who will continue to find fulfillment in Scouting. But only if YOU take action to bring OA elections to your troop. You can do this by contacting your local Scout service center or Order of the Arrow chapter.
Do it now. Time is short for the young men you serve.
Questions to Ponder
- How willing are you to follow the prophet?
- What will you do to ensure that the boys you serve will have a high quality Scouting program over the next 17 months?
- Will you enable your Scouts to become members of Scouting’s national honor society before it is too late for them?
-Scott Hinrichs has been actively Scouting since age eight. He has served in many youth and adult Scouting positions and has been a member of the Order of the Arrow for more than four decades. He and his wife are raising their family in North Ogden, Utah. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.