Still Scouting: Thoughts from a Michigan Family

In Matthew 13:33, Jesus teaches that “the kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.”

When I was a teenager, I once made a batch of cookies.  Lacking experience I didn’t realize that there was a problem with the baking soda.  It was very lumpy!  I made the cookies as I always did, and they looked and smelled delicious.  But when I bit into the first beautiful cookie, I discovered my mistake.  Whenever I encountered a lump of baking soda the most dreadful taste would overwhelm the delicious cookie-ness and the whole batch was ruined!

The lesson I learned was obvious: Leaven doesn’t work when it all ends up in a lump.  Rather, leaven works best when it is evenly distributed throughout the dough. 

As followers of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to be actively engaged in our communities.  When we clump together—only associating with members of our own congregations, only participating in activities sponsored by our own church—we miss valuable opportunities to be the leaven that the world so desperately needs. Furthermore, we often sadly strengthen the stereotypes that Christians are judgmental and clannish.

Throughout my life I have come to feel that the real reason we tend to stick together as Church members is because it is easier.  Too often we are timid or afraid to put ourselves in “out of church” situations for fear of uncomfortableness or ridicule.

It’s easy to make friends at church but (at least for me) much more difficult in other settings. I struggle to make conversation with strangers or move a relationship from “co-workers” to “friends.”

In December of this year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will end its partnership with the Boy Scouts of America.  When I heard about this change I was shocked.  Our family has been involved in our Latter-day Saint Scout troop since our oldest son was a toddler.  My husband and I have served in a variety of callings in our ward including Scoutmaster, committee member, committee chair, den leader, and commissioner.  For us, Scouting in the Church has been a wonderful and natural way to reach out into our community.  Just by showing up to Roundtable and other meetings and training opportunities, I have built relationships with some amazing people—people who share many of the same values and goals that I do; people who are passionate about service and youth, and people who are not afraid to have fun.

After the Church announcement, we discussed the future of Scouting in our family and the impact of no longer having a Latter-day Saint unit to attend after this year. We also considered our desires for our children, and the natural outcomes of still being involved in Scouting.

Specifically, we discussed:

1) the current and future needs of our children

2) the current and future time commitment for our family

3) the current and future opportunity that Scouting still offers us to be involved in our community.

We concluded that in response to the needs of our children, we most certainly DO want what Scouting has to offer for both our girls and our boys. Mainly, character and leadership development as well as adventure and friendship—even after our Latter-day Saint troop has ended.

In response to the time commitment of Scouting involvement, we decided that we are already putting in that time in our currently Church-chartered troop and pack, so transferring those hours to a community pack and troop at the end of this year would be the same.

And finally, we desire to be leaven in our community.  Our Church family is so wonderful and important to us, but we (our family and our Church) are part of a community.  There are people all around us who need the love, service, friendship, and leadership that Scouting can help provide.  By participating in the Boy Scouts of America we can bless the lives of so many people, young and old alike.  We believe it is always in everyone’s best interest when more of the youth in our communities learn to make “moral and ethical choices throughout their lives.”

In conclusion, whether your family chooses to continue in Scouting after this year or searches out other community opportunities that better fit your interests and needs, I invite you to remember that the Lord has commanded us to be leaven; and, though we are few in number, we can have an uplifting influence on the world around us when we reach out and participate in our communities.

~Contributed by Bernice H. Oliver

Sister Oliver currently serves as a Wolf Den leader and an adult Sunday School teacher in the Wyoming Ward, Grand Rapids Michigan Stake

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  1. Jim VanderRoest says:

    Bernice–Well put, as I’d expect from a great Scout family like yours. Your WB Scoutmaster approves this message!

  2. Sheila Foraker says:

    Outstanding commentary! Thank you.

  3. Brett Bybee says:

    Very inspiring! Thank you.

  4. Mac McIntire says:

    Outstanding point. Spot on. Thank you so much for giving members of the Church a wonderful reason to stay involved in Scouting.

  5. Harvey Armbrust says:

    I completely agree with your thoughts on how involvement in Scouting help us to work with others outside the Church. I had great conversations with Scout Leaders who were not of our Church during Wood Badge Training. These are great people who want to help youth succeed. They sacrifice many hours of training and service.
    My question for you is (as I will face this issue real soon) how will you participate in other Troops that plan many activities on Sunday?

  6. Bernice Oliver says:

    Thanks for bringing that up Harvey. And my answer is that I don’t really know yet. Our family has had several conversations on the topic and here’s what we’ve decided so far: 1) it is ok for us to pack up and go home Saturday night even if everyone else is staying and 2) the more involved my husband and I are in the troop/pack/crew the more influence we can have over the decisions that are made.
    Maybe we will have to pass on some camp outs. I expect the Lord will show us the way forward as we step out into the unknown.

  7. Scott Weed says:

    Thanks for sharing such an important truth. I think in the past, one of the most commonly overlooked benefits of scouting in the Church was the opportunity it gave our leaders to rub shoulders with some of the best members of our communities; these other scouters are people committed to the ideals of scouting, *voluntarily* choosing to serve.
    Changing gears here: maybe I’m reading between the lines too much, but it has come up so often lately in articles and conversations that I get the sense people are forgetting that the Church will be rolling out a *replacement* program for everything scouting was for our 8-18 y.o. boys as well as for the young women. As parents of two girls and four boys, my wife and I are so excited and hopeful because we trust that, as great as scouting has been for our children, the new programs will be even better! So as Church members, we’re not losing a youth program–we’re gaining a new one that better meets their needs.

  8. George Weight says:

    Very good question, Harvey Armbrust. Part of the answer lies in returning to an “old fashioned” idea of tolerance. We can expect many who otherwise lead respectful, ethical lives but do not believe in or honor a sabbath day to plan Sunday activities. We can also expect those who view their Sabbath to fall on Friday Evening to Saturday or on Saturday itself (Jewish, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.) to not want to participate on those days. Others who consider themselves religious but don’t support organized denominations will have their reactions as well.
    It comes down to respecting others, making our own choices, and not expecting everyone to be supportive of every activity.
    Much will depend on how actively involved parents become at the unit committee level. Reasonable people in committee meetings can work through the diverse needs of their member families and youth.

  9. ona ottis mwakutuya says:

    Very inspiring indeed, thank you, i will share your story with all the members of our group.

  10. Greg Pedlow says:

    Speaking as a former Troop Committee Chairman of a BSA troop at SHAPE (NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) in Belgium and a non-LDS Scouter, I can assure you that non-church BSA units are quite prepared to be flexible in planning and conducting activities. We had several LDS families in our troop from a previous LDS BSA unit at SHAPE that had disbanded before I came into our troop, and we knew that these leaders and Scouts need to depart weekend campouts on Saturday evening, so we planned accordingly. I am sure your church will develop a great program for your youth, but I have to agree with Bernice’s views about the importance of interacting with individuals outside your church. I think you all already know that most of us non-LDS Scout leaders have very similar views to yours about about the importance of families, proper values for youth, good citizenship, and the benefits that Scouting brings to young people, even if we may not share the same religious beliefs, and I encourage LDS families to remain active in Scouting.

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