I love Anne of Green Gables, the book by Canadian author Lucy M. Montgomery. One of my favorite quotes is from Matthew Cuthbert. Matthew and his sister, Marilla, a bachelor and spinster sibling pair with no children, are discussing whether or not it would be advisable to adopt orphaned Anne Shirley into their home. Naturally, taking in a rambunctious, bright little girl would change their mundane daily dynamic in a drastic way.
Marilla argues that adopting Anne wouldn’t benefit them at all. Marilla says, referring to Anne, “She’s no good to us.”
Then Matthew, quiet but full of wisdom, responds, “But we may be of some good to her.”
“We may be of some good.” What powerful words. It is easy and natural for each of us to consider what events, people, or circumstances might profit us personally in this world. However, perhaps more meaningful would be to contemplate what we might do to benefit others. Isn’t that the more selfless view of life? Not “What’s in it for me,” but, “What can I give to others?” Isn’t this, in fact, the Christian way of living?
I believe this selfless worldview is powerful when we consider our relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. Church members might initially ask themselves, “What’s in it for us?” In other words, “Why does the Church need the BSA?” We also might ask, “Why does my son, who honors his priesthood, comes from a strong family, and fulfills his duties in the Church, need Scouting?” Such a relationship—additional Scouting activities within our own Church programs—might even seem burdensome or bothersome to us.
But perhaps we could consider a different perspective. I suggest that we turn the question around. “How can we, as Church members, benefit and bless the BSA? What can we give to Scouting?”
In addition, “What can my son do through Scouting activities to reach out to boys who aren’t members of the Church, who don’t have priesthood blessings, or who need family support to strengthen them?” This is a much more powerful way to consider the LDS-BSA relationship.
I’ve been a tired, exhausted, frazzled and frustrated den leader and readily admit that at times it’s only natural to wonder, “Why am I still doing this? What’s the benefit of building birdhouses in my backyard with busy little Cub Scouts?”
Parents may sometimes wonder, “Why do I take my whole family to pack meeting to watch my son get awards?” In addition, “Why do we need to donate to the Friends of Scouting (FOS) campaign?”
Church leaders who serve in Scouting positions by virtue of their callings might sometimes feel frustrated at obligations to attend Roundtable or other trainings. Another layer of responsibilities—outside of initial Church duties—may be overwhelming.
However, let’s turn these situations around and look at them the other way. “What can our Cub Scout den do to support our community? What boys outside of our Church family could benefit from the activities of Scouting? What can I do to help out at the pack meeting? What good will my FOS contribution make? How can my involvement on a district level benefit others? What can I gain from my Scouting relationships with leaders who are not of our faith?” And, on a larger scale, “What can the Church do to strengthen the programs of Scouting in our nation so that more boys can become ‘physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight?’”
When considered from a selfless worldview, the LDS-BSA relationship is no longer a burden, but instead becomes an incredible opportunity to serve our fellowmen on both a small and a large scale.
Last week, I had the unexpected chance to visit briefly with Sister Dwan J. Young, Primary general president from 1980-1988. I mentioned that I was involved in Scouting. Her eyes lit up and she said (and I paraphrase), “I was lucky enough to attend a national jamboree, but never a world jamboree.” Then, thoughtfully she added, “Scouting is such a powerful tool. If only we used it as it was intended. If every pack functioned as it should and reached out to boys everywhere, imagine what would happen.”
What would happen if every pack, troop, team, and crew functioned with the purpose, support and structure they were intended to have?
I can only imagine the good that could be accomplished in this world if Church members everywhere fulfilled their Scouting responsibilities with selfless hearts and full purpose. We could help not just one orphan, as Matthew and Marilla did, but an entire nation full of young people needing solid values and guidance in this troubled world.
I challenge us to change our perspective on the BSA. Instead of concluding, like Marilla did of Anne, “The BSA’s no good to us.” Take Matthew’s view. “We may be of some good to the BSA.”
“We may be of some good.” Yes, as Church members and affiliates of the BSA we may be of some good—even great good—to boys across the nation.
*An afterthought from the author: At the end of Anne of Green Gables, Marilla understands that adopting Anne was the most wonderful, life-changing, positive choice she ever made. In fact, Anne changes Marilla’s entire life and fills it with tremendous joy and meaning. I believe that decisions to serve faithfully and whole-heartedly in our Scouting responsibilities can also bring more joy and meaning into our lives than we originally anticipate. Choosing to support the LDS-BSA relationship may be one of the most wonderful, life-changing, positive choices we ever make.
~Nettie H. Francis is the wife of LDS-BSA Relationships Director Mark Francis. She has served as a den leader, Cubmaster, Scout committee member, Eleven-year-old Scout leader, and Primary president.