In its May 11, 2017 letter announcing the discontinuation of the Varsity and Venture programs in the Church, effective January 1, 2018, the First Presidency stated, “young men over the age of 14 who desire to continue to work toward the rank of Eagle Scout . . . should be encouraged and supported in their efforts and should be properly registered as Scouts.”
One of the requirements for advancement to each of the ranks of Star, Life and Eagle Scout include a requirement that a Scout serve actively in his troop for either four months (for Star) or six months (for Life or Eagle) in one or more of the designated “positions of responsibility.”
The positions of responsibility which meet the requirement for Star and Life rank are as follows:
“patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, senior patrol leader, troop guide, Order of the Arrow troop representative, den chief, scribe, librarian, historian, quartermaster, bugler, junior assistant Scoutmaster, chaplain aide, instructor, webmaster, or outdoor ethics guide…or a Scout may carry out a Scoutmaster-approved leadership project to help the troop.” 2017 Boy Scout Rank Requirements – Boy Scouts of America.
The positions of responsibility which meet the requirement for Eagle rank are the same as those for Star and Life ranks, except that “bugler” does not meet the requirement for the Eagle rank and “a Scoutmaster-approved leadership project cannot be used in lieu of serving in a position of responsibility.” Ibid.
Until December 31, 2017, a Varsity or Venture Scout can fulfill the above requirement by serving actively in one of the designated positions of responsibility in the Varsity Scout team or Venturing crew. Ibid. However, as of January 1, 2018, the Church will no longer charter Varsity or Venturing units, so the only way to fulfill this requirement is through a position of responsibility within a patrol.
In its guidelines for “Implementing the New Teacher and Priest Activities,” the Church has stated that “[w]hen a young man is still involved in Scouting after age 14, leaders should ensure that leadership opportunities are provided within a patrol in the registered Scout troop.” (Emphasis added.) How this is accomplished and what the expectations are for each position of responsibility is left up to the chartered organization.
There are three steps to meeting this requirement. First, the unit (the ward) must establish expectations; second, the Scout must be taught what is expected of him regarding his responsibilities; and, third, “something related to the desired results must happen.” If these things happen, the Scout has met the requirement. Guide to Advancement 2017, 18.104.22.168.3. (Emphasis in original).
However, sometimes in our zest to help a worthy young man zoom towards the rank of Eagle, adults will be casual in signing off on this requirement. This attitude is not consistent with the Aims of Scouting or purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. “It is a disservice to the Scout and to the unit to reward work that has not been done. Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable. Some degree of responsibility must be produced, taken, or accepted.” Ibid.
The Young Men general presidency has observed that “Joseph Smith, when asked how he successfully governed so many people, said, ‘I teach the people correct principles and they govern themselves’ (Journal of Discourses 10:57-58). The Brethren have taught us the correct principles for a Young Men’s activity program so Young Men leaders can govern in their local areas. “Young Men general presidency offers suggestions to implement new activity program to replace Scouting for teachers and priests,” by Young Men general presidency and board, Published: July 20, 2017.
Each ward and stake will have to seek inspiration and revelation from the Lord for their particular stewardships to answer the details of implementing these changes. D&C 8:2-3. However, a review of the reasons why we are involved in Scouting may be helpful for those making such decisions.
The requirement that a Scout be trained in, accept, and fulfill a position of responsibility is a wonderful way to prepare young man to “fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices.” Handbook 2: Administering the Church , § 8.1.3. We have all heard it said at trainings: “every Scout deserves a trained leader.” A Scoutmaster friend of mine recently shared with me a variation on this theme: “every Scout deserves to be trained.”
The Lord has declared: “[w]herefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen.” D&C 107:99-100. If we are going to prepare Scouts to learn their duty in the priesthood, should we not train them now in their duties in Scouting?
-Bill Chapman lives in San Clemente, California, loves to surf, trail run, backpack, camp, do anything in the outdoors, and watch young men achieve the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood through the Scouting program. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.