“All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children” (3 Nephi 22:13).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced a new initiative to replace all existing activity programs for girls and boys, young women and young men in 2020. This is exciting news and one I embrace with all my heart, energy, and mental capacity. Since 1975, I have served as an adult Scouter. I have grown to love the Scouting program for all that it is, and all that it can do. I will fondly miss the Scouting program, but it is time for a change.
As I pondered the announcement of the new initiative, it just made clear sense. For years I have taught that the Primary—and the YM organization—have a mission and a vision, just like the Boy Scouts of America has a mission and a vision. As an auxiliary of the priesthood, the Primary exists to help young people grow in their testimonies of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the restored Gospel (Chapter 11, Handbook 2). The purpose of the Primary is to help children: feel their Heavenly Father’s love for them, learn and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, feel and recognize the influence of the Holy Ghost, and prepare to make and keep sacred covenants. What became clear to me was that Scouting was a tool to achieve the theme and purpose of the Primary. Just like there are eight methods used in Scouting to achieve the aims, vision, and mission of Boy Scouting—the new initiative will have its own methods and program.
As a Primary leader, I have used Scouting activity programs to achieve the theme and purpose of the Primary providing EYO Scouts opportunities to be young people together in organized activities full of friendship and fellowship in a Gospel setting. These activities strengthened their moral decision making, taught them practical life skills, and re-enforced their commitment and abilities to choose the right.
Since 1953, the Primary has used Scouting as part of its activity program to achieve its purposes. Scouting was the flagship program of the 20th Century for youth training and development, and it was a wise decision at the time to adapt Scouting to the Primary. The program came fully developed with literature and training for adults and youth. But the adaption was also problematic in several areas and could be financially challenging. The way the Church was chartered to implement Scouting had differences with how the rest of Scouting implemented the program and put our program at odds with the rest of Scouting in areas such as the number of overnights.
We are now at a great juncture in the 21st century where we have the opportunity, the knowledge, the resources, the spiritual insight, and educated people who can design a youth program exactly right for the Primary. We will enjoy the fruits of our labors with a program designed exactly for us built upon all that we have learned to this juncture.
I want to share a comment given by Brother Trevor Rosenberg of the Cibolo Valley Stake YM that he wrote in an email:
“Brethren- I am excited for what the Lord has in store for His children. Faith is forward looking…
What I do know, something better is coming—in preparation for our Savior’s coming. Now, may we continue to use the tools and counsel given to us to help our youth become who the Lord needs them to be.
Until that time, let us put our shoulder to the wheel, and push along . . . with a heart full of song. (Hymn 252) Learn all you can from the Scouting program, in order to take all the good it has blessed millions of lives over the years.
Coming from a family and life rich in Scouting and having observed the benefits with three of our sons and one more excitedly wanting to follow in their footsteps, let me share two impressions.
When the Saints were called to “the Ohio” (Kirtland), the Lord prefaced that it would only be temporary. D&C 51:16-17 “And I consecrate unto them this land for a little season, until I, the Lord, shall provide for them otherwise . . . wherefore let them act upon this land as for years, and this shall turn unto them for their good.”
Nevertheless, they built a temple to their God there. Then they left. They did the same thing in Nauvoo, again knowing it would only be temporary.
Even after Joseph and Hyrum were martyred, and the Saints knew they would leave to go out west, they still toiled—for nearly a year and a half (sound familiar) to complete the house of the Lord.
The inequities between young men, from Cub Scouts up, and young women will now be eliminated.
I know the Lord has more in store for us, if we can simply keep on the covenant path, follow the prophet, and help these amazing youth see their divine worth, potential, and keep steadily moving towards it!
Encourage your unit leaders to stay committed, learn and grow with these youth, and prepare themselves “to be endowed from on high,” for the best is yet to come.”
I fondly will remember my days on the Scouting trail . . . but I more joyfully look to the future program built and designed for us at this time, at this juncture, with exactly what we will need to bring our young men to Christ and fulfill the theme and purposes of the Primary. For the next 18 months, we need to do what our leaders have asked and do our best to make these last months of Scouting in the Church some of the best to remember.
Stan Stolpe has served in multiple Scouting positions at the unit, district, council, regional, and national levels in the U.S. and overseas. He resides in Alexandria, Virginia, serving in the Mount Vernon Virginia Stake where he is an EYO Scout leader. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.