(Note: The following essay was written by Scott Mitchell, a principal contributor to this website.)
The LDS Church announced on May 8, 2018 that it is ending its long affiliation with the Boy Scouts. The announcement was a big story, and was carried by most major news outlets. The story can be read here. Many Mormons expressed dismay, reciting all the essential contributions to the lives of Mormon boys that Scouting had long provided. Another group lamented the situation because they approved of recent changes in the Boy Scouts’ stated mission and philosophy. So far, however, I haven’t read anyone else express the views I express in this essay. I write what I write, not out of a desire to be different or controversial, or to lose every last friend, but because I sincerely believe the views expressed below need to be expressed.
Since the time when I was a fifteen-year-old Senior Patrol Leader, I have felt that the LDS Church’s affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America (hereafter “BSA”) was significantly less beneficial than the Church thought it to be. Because the many scout troops I’ve been affiliated with have been LDS Church-sponsored troops, I am only intimately familiar with how the Boy Scout program has been run within Mormonism; I can’t speak of non-LDS Church sponsored troops with the same level of experience. Therefore, it’s hard to say whether the problems I’ll identify in this essay are more the fault of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the Boy Scouts of America. But what I can say with confidence is that, whether Mormons acknowledge it or not, the LDS Church’s adoption of the Boy Scouts as its “activity arm” for young men has made it more difficult to teach with integrity the tenets of Christianity to its young men.
But I didn’t start out that way. I had begun at age eight as an eager Cub Scout, attracted by the future prospect of doing all that hiking, camping and fishing that I thought older Boy Scouts did, and most of all, wearing those ever-so-impressive uniforms. The uniforms back then were spectacular, especially those of the Explorer Scouts, effectively designed to make the wearers resemble high-ranking military officers whom all people would want to salute if they walked by. (The short pants version didn’t exist yet, thank goodness; it would have ruined the dignified effect.)
Seven years later, I’d been around for a while and become aware of trends that wouldn’t have concerned me previously. The fact that I became disenchanted with the Boy Scouts in my early teenage years was unrelated to the fact that the military itself, and the idea of wearing a uniform like that of a decorated soldier, had become less popular during that same time (the Vietnam War era). Nor was I particularly bothered by the fact most Boy Scouts didn’t do much, or any, rugged hiking or camping; my dad still took my brothers and me on such excursions, so I didn’t miss out. What bothered me about scouting was the overly heavy emphasis on rank advancement, and more so, the blatant, unapologetic cheating conducted in order to bring that about. (For those unfamiliar with Scouting, rank advancement is obtained by passing off skills requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class ranks, and thereafter, by earning merit badges, each of which requires the passing off of additional requirements.) As I will explain below, over the years as an adult I have concluded from personal experience that the cheating problem I witnessed as a youth was, and is, church-wide. Not only are boys taught to be dishonest, they’re also taught to not even recognize their dishonesty for what it is, or perceive the harm that comes from it.
In my California ward troop in the late 1960s, if we went to a pool to pass off the Lifesaving merit badge, but a boy couldn’t stay afloat while shedding his pants and converting them into a flotation device, that requirement was waived. At least he tried; some kids just don’t float very well, or they get too tired treading water. If he couldn’t really explain the difference between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government for the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge, that failure was ignored. He’ll probably learn it in school anyway, and besides, not everyone plans to become a senator. If he couldn’t recite, much less explain, the meaning of the Scout Oath, he’d be passed anyway. He said he’d go home and read up on it, so we’ll take his word for it. Adult scout leaders, anxious to show parents and church leaders the great job they were doing, habitually waived hard or inconvenient requirements in order to achieve impressive rank advancements for each boy. The goal, of course, was to become an Eagle Scout, the pinnacle of success within Scouting’s pantheon of honors. Naturally, the boys themselves were just as loathe to object to cutting corners on merit badges as they were to complain of not enough homework to their school teachers.
Adult leaders were motivated by another consideration apart from keeping the ward boys and their parents happy with the apparent progress. Competition with other Scout troops was a heavy motivator as well. At Monterey Bay Stake Courts of Honor, each ward’s tally of merit badges and rank advancements were compared against each other, and a crossbow was awarded to the victorious ward. Nothing was more tangible proof of a Scout leaders’ prowess in making men out of boys than bringing home that red-painted crossbow from these big events. Even today in 2018, this BSA motto is printed in boldface on every merit badge pamphlet: “Enhancing our youths’ competitive edge through merit badges.”
My first scoutmaster, a junior high school science teacher, had been a stickler for fulfilling all the requirements in the Boy Scout Handbook. Accordingly, rank advancement wasn’t rapid for anyone in our troop. When the first scoutmaster was replaced by a friendly, easygoing man who’d never been known as a stickler for anything, the practice of cheating one’s way to merit badges blossomed almost overnight.
I’d previously learned that skipping the required steps to earn merit badges was a concern in at least one other troop in our town when I attended scout camp at Pico Blanco scout camp north of Big Sur, California in about 1967. There I found out that in a troop that many of my non-Mormon schoolmates belonged to, merit badges were distributed as promiscuously as taffy kisses tossed out by a smiling parade clown. An obese friend of mine, whose dad was the scoutmaster of that troop, was being touted as the youngest Eagle Scout in town. One of his 30 or so merit badges was for athletics, the rigorous requirements for which made it challenging even for better-than-average athletes to earn. When I mentioned to another friend in that troop that there was no way my friend had honestly earned the Personal Fitness merit badge, much less the Athletics merit badge (he had both), my friends in the non-LDS troop assumed me to be jealous.
What went on later within our little corner of Mormondom was more troubling to me, however. The first time I grasped the extent of the problem under the new scoutmaster was when a ward member who owned a local restaurant showed up to Mutual one night and announced that all who wanted their cooking merit badge should follow him into the church kitchen, where they would earn the badge within an hour. The cooking merit badge was one of the hardest of all, as it required multiple trips into the wild where multi-course meals were to be prepared, some without pans or utensils and some with a mess kit, and eaten on the spot. No physical part of the merit badge could be passed inside a kitchen, and not without prior planning. Nevertheless, my objections were ignored that night. The restaurant owner was the cooking merit badge counselor, I was told, and it was his prerogative to decide what was required and what wasn’t. I refused to participate, as did my brother and one of our friends. But the seven boys who followed the restaurateur into the kitchen that night emerged with the cooking merit badge signed off. I had just starting working on mine, but in one night I had become one of the slackers holding the troop back from winning the crossbow.
A more shocking experience occurred shortly thereafter, when the scoutmaster asked me after church one Sunday what merit badges I had earned since the last court of honor. None, I told him; I was still working on my fishing and cooking badges, which would both require more trips to catch the multiple varieties of fish required, and to cook additional meals. Two nights later, at the stake court of honor, I was shocked to hear the scoutmaster announce to the stake, while reading our troop’s list of accomplishments, that I had earned my cooking and fishing merit badges. This wasn’t just cheating. It was conscienceless cheating. No explanation was given me as to why I was announced as having earned a merit badge I hadn’t actually earned. None was thought necessary. I was bothered by this. I had tried to take Boy Scouts seriously. Was this how we taught our “youth of the noble birthright” to carry on, carry on, carry on?
A third experience I had as a teenage Boy Scout was so shameful, it’s now affirmatively cathartic to write about it. Some readers who experienced the same ordeal (a word I use intentionally because of its special significance here) may be able to identify with what I’m about to express. When I was about fifteen, several area Boy Scouts units, including my own, gathered to a park one evening for some competitive activities and lectures. After dark, while seated in groups around a large campfire, suddenly a bunch of older youths from other troops, dressed like Indian warriors of yesteryear, came running up to us, yelling and screeching like the attacking braves in old TV westerns They grabbed me and my brother, who was a year younger than I, blindfolded us, and roughly hauled us off to some place away from the main group. I had recently been injured in a fall from a tree onto an adjacent tree stump, and being forced to run with the Indian braves away from the campfire was painful. We were then informed that we’d been tapped out as new inductees into Order of the Arrow. Unknown to us, we’d been secretly selected to receive this privilege by a vote of some person or persons connected to our troop. We were instructed not to speak to anyone for the next 24 hours, and told that in the future we would be contacted and further informed as to the “ordeal” we would undergo to complete our admission into this exclusive and secret order. My brother took it all seriously, and refused to utter a word for the next 24 hours. I ignored the instruction to keep silent as soon as the faux Indians left us, and when my dad arrived at the park to pick us up and drive us home, I actively tried to get my brother to speak. My brother treated my efforts as if I were urging him to worship idols, or deny God’s existence, and with a look of valiant integrity fixed on his face, he ignored me.
Weeks later, when the instructional packet from Order of the Arrow arrived, we were told to purchase, at our own expense, the materials to make loincloths. I had already decided a few seconds after being tapped out that I wasn’t going to participate in Order of the Arrow, but my brother did as he was instructed. On the appointed day, what he learned was that the “ordeal,” as it is called by the Boy Scouts, consisted of being driven to Pico Blanco after the close of the scout camp season. There he and all his fellow conscripts (I’m tempted to say “victims”) were told to shed their clothes and don only their loincloths and footwear. They were then separated. Each boy was assigned to work alone, cleaning up a separate area of the camp. They did this for many hours, were paid nothing and fed nothing, and weren’t allowed to communicate with anyone. At dinner time, they were rounded up by a taskmaster, allowed to reclothe themselves, and fed a dinner that consisted of nothing but a chicken breast. They were then sent home. They had been taught a few secret Indian words. And of course, they were given a patch to sew onto their Boy Scout shirts, which evidenced their membership in this supposedly hallowed order.
Even my brother, who had originally been enthralled by the mystery, exclusivity and honor of belonging to this secret band of Indian nobility, felt hoodwinked and used. He had been slave labor, if only for a day, but in some ways, it was worse than that. He had paid for his loincloth, and had been starved while doing maintenance work that the Boy Scouts were too cheap to pay others to do. Worse, the fact that he was about to be used in this manner was kept hidden from him until it was too late to make an informed decision about whether he should participate. Yes, he had rendered service, but he had never had the opportunity to knowingly choose to serve. Instead, he’d been tricked into serving, as if not trusted to embrace service voluntarily. It had been insulting and dishonest, from start to finish. From this point on, my brother lost interest in Scouting.
Eventually, in LDS Church seminary class we studied the Book of Mormon. When we read about the Gadianton robbers and all the other criminal groups and their use of secret oaths to accomplish their evil designs, I couldn’t help thinking about the Order of the Arrow (admittedly much less nefarious) and its reliance on secrecy to hide from victims what they were getting into. Moroni had placed special emphasis on avoiding “secret combinations” in his sermons to the latter-day reader (see Moroni 8:27, 40). Why didn’t the Order of the Arrow methods raise any questions among LDS youth leaders back then? Why don’t they now?
For that matter, why do LDS leaders largely keep secret, to this very day, exactly where the money is going that LDS congregations voluntarily raise for the Boy Scouts of America? Congregations are never told the full truth about this. If they were, they would be told that Friends of Scouting funds go to fund the salaries of Boy Scout executives, some of whom appear to be already overpaid. In 2007, when readers of the Deseret News were told that their donations were going to pay,the local Boy Scout executive presiding over the Great Salt Lake Council, among others, who was already making over $214,000 per year, they were shocked. The article can be read here. Neither the precise purposes of their donated money, nor the salaries of local leaders, had ever been divulged when their local bishoprics announced the latest fundraising drive for the Boy Scouts. They had always been told the money merely went to “support the Boy Scouts,” and that it was separate from the dues each ward unit had to pay just to belong to the organization, and separate from the costs of buying patches, handbooks, uniforms, equipment, etc. Adding to the disenchantment of many was the knowledge that virtually all of the actual get-your-hands-dirty work with the boys accomplished by the Boy Scouts is done by volunteer church members, who are given callings by ecclesiastical leaders to do just that. Almost no one in the entire LDS church had any idea then, or has any idea today, how many Boy Scout executive he or she is funding, or what their names are, or what they actually do to help individual boys or groups of boys. Predictably, the $214,000 Boy Scout executive, when asked for comment, cited his superior work ethic, stated he was sacrificing to make so little money, and that more lucrative BSA positions existed outside of Utah.
Ironically, there was one Boy Scout troop during my boyhood which was renowned for practicing scouting by the book. All requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life or Eagle, and for all merit badges, had to be strictly complied with or no recognition was allowed. The boys from that troop were considered the Green Berets of our age group, the ones that really knew their stuff. They were second generation Japanese boys sponsored by the local Buddhist church. They took “on my honor” very seriously, just as Sir Robert Baden-Powell, Scouting’s founder, intended.
The best LDS scout leader I ever knew didn’t actually hold a position in the Boy Scouts at the time I observed him. He was our ward bishop, and he considered Mormonism’s and Scouting’s emphasis on teaching moral rectitude to be equal imperatives, almost indistinguishable from each other. Activities in the wild, including several weeklong 50-mile hikes through the mountains which he spearheaded, were opportunities for spiritual instruction, and he provided it well. And if a boy wanted to receive a patch evidencing a 50-mile hike with a backpack, he had to hike 50 miles over mountains and through valleys carrying a loaded backpack to get it. But the bishop was the bishop, not the scoutmaster or scout committee member, and even he couldn’t control the process of rank advancement going on outside his purview.
Dishonesty in the Boy Scouts organization is worse than dishonesty in organizations which don’t advertise their own moral rectitude and character-building prowess so heavily. The Scout Law states: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.” The Scout Oath reads: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” These founding ideals undoubtedly influenced the LDS church in the early 20th century to formally affiliate with the Boy Scouts of America. And it’s because of those ideals that Scouting eventually became designed as part of the upbringing of every active Mormon boy in America. Sadly, however, my experience has been that these ideals are not what Scouting is about. The truth is, Mormons look to their own families and church meetings to teach religion and morality. They look to Scouting to provide outdoor activities and the honors associated with rank advancement. A boy is urged to memorize the Scout Law and Oath, but it’s because those are requirements for rank advancement anyway. Discussions about what it actually means to be a man of honor, or to help other people at all times, or to be courteous and kind, or morally straight, are left to churches. The Boy Scouts’ concern with morality is superficial. It helps attract sponsorship of local troops by church congregations. But it is NOT intended to ever get in the way of rank advancement and that supposed resume-builder called the Eagle Scout Award.
Readers may wonder what experiences my opinions are based on, besides those boyhood ones from long ago. I grew up in California, but have lived as an adult in Utah and Nevada for many years, and for brief stints in California, Idaho and Missouri. My Scouting-related callings in the church since I returned from my mission have included bishop, first or second counselor in a bishopric three times, Young Men’s President twice, Deacons’, Teachers’ or Priests’ Quorum advisor five times, Assistant Scoutmaster, Scouting Commissioner, and Webelos leader. My three sons were Boy Scouts as well. I have been a merit badge counselor in four different wards, and have participated in scores of campouts, hikes, and merit badge pow-wows. I have talked frankly with others closely involved with these same activities. Unless my acquaintances and I have been incredibly unlucky, and my experience in five states and dozens of church units has been, by coincidence, aberrational, I feel qualified to say that boys in our LDS ward scouting units are taught that they can–and consequently, they do–get away with cutting corners on the road toward advancement, honors and public recognition.
Boys are told in priesthood meetings, “We’re holding a merit badge pow-wow this coming Saturday at the stake center. This will be an opportunity for you Scouts to earn three, four, maybe even five merit badges in one day. So don’t miss this opportunity.” It is not actually possible to earn that many merit badges in one day, if you actually perform each of the requirements as they’re written in the Boy Scout manual. But their leaders probably don’t know their claims are false, because they have grown up in the same system of cheating themselves and don’t recognize cheating when they see it. Nor do they care enough when they do recognize it to forbid it. They think that if a boy sits through a lecture on the three branches of government, he has passed off the requirement that requires him to explain on his own what those branches are and what they do. They think that if a boy sat through a demonstration of different ways to dress a wound or make a splint, he has passed off the requirement that he personally demonstrate his own ability to perform these skills. They believe if the boy has stood up and welcomed class members to class and asked someone to give the opening prayer, that should be counted as a public speech for the public speaking merit badge. These leaders want to produce Eagles as much as the boys and their parents do. Insistence on the integrity of actually meriting honors has become less important to them than their boys being heralded as Eagle scouts, whether the awards were fraudulently obtained or not. But this attitude stunts spiritual growth. It is no different, conceptually speaking, from lying in a temple recommend interview in order to be seen attending ward temple night and be considered a good candidate for Elders Quorum President. It is dishonoring oneself to receive honors.
I have longed for the opportunity to review a Boy Scout’s meritorious work and heartily commend him for it. But hard as it may be to believe this, in all my experience as a merit badge counselor, I have never once had a boy come to me who had come anywhere near completing the written requirements for the merit badge he was working on. And I’ve never had a boy come back a second time to try again. Instead, they’ve either gone to a different counselor, or they’ve found some other way to obtain the badge without actually improving their performance.
I have sat through numerous courts of honor and watched as all current and former Eagle Scouts were asked to come to the front and sit in a section called the Eagle’s Nest reserved exclusively for them. Unabashedly, many boys who cheated their way to their badges have sat there and looked piously out over the attendees, basking in the admiration. Some have impregnated their girlfriends, some have falsely denied their sexual relations with girls, some have been arrested for disorderly conduct, or drunk driving, or shoplifting. Some have been caught cheating at school. Some are spoiled and disrespectful to adults. Some are bullies; some abuse drugs. Most are less responsible for their badges than their mothers, who throughout the process, have prodded their sons to meet with merit badge counselors, or have scheduled the appointments themselves. The problem with these boys is not they can’t be forgiven and prove themselves worthy of honor. The problem is that they haven’t been taught what true honor requires. Nor have they perceived any important connection between righteous living and receiving Scouting’s highest honor. After all, righteous living is church stuff, not Scout stuff.
And of course, there are some who are boys of integrity, who have taken the ideals of Scouting seriously, and who are compelled by their own conscience to meritoriously develop the skills the badges are supposed to represent. The parents of these boys care less about public recognition than inward character, and they have convinced their sons that personal integrity is the road less traveled, but still the right way. These boys don’t ascribe to the philosophy expressed in Billy Crystal’s well-known comedic impersonation of Fernando Lamas interacting with friends: ” You look mahvelous! It is better to look good than to feel good, dahling.” I wish these boys constituted the majority, but from what I’ve seen, they don’t.
One of my best friends is a former Eagle Scout, bishop, stake president and now serves as a mission president. He recounted to me once how he was physically unable to pass his swimming and lifesaving merit badge requirements on the night when the boys in his troop were tested in a community pool. He wasn’t a good enough swimmer. His Scout leaders passed him anyway. “I thought they knew what they were doing,” he explained, so despite a nagging conscience, he didn’t complain. He didn’t say whether corners were cut on any other of his merit badges, but he went on to receive his Eagle. He admitted, however, that cheating was pervasive in Scouting, and that he had observed it as a youth and as an adult. When a son of his was nearing the deadline for obtaining his Eagle award but had achieved only Life, my friend was far less concerned than his wife. Ward Young Men leader had offered to help his son reach the deadline, but my friend didn’t want their help. But he found it difficult to explain to her why the award really didn’t matter as much as she thought it did. He confided to me, “[My son] doesn’t have enough time to pass off the remaining requirements without compromising his own integrity. He’d have to cheat to get it. He doesn’t want to do that. Neither do I. He’s a really good kid. The Eagle is supposed to show you’re a really good kid. But he’s already proved that in the way he’s lived his life. God knows the truth about him.”
This point of what God knows and doesn’t know raises another issue of prime importance. How on earth did the church that claims to be God’s only true church ever condone the granting of a military-type Duty to God Award, consisting of colorful ribbons and engraved metal, to be worn conspicuously on the shirt of a Boy Scout? Did anyone ever wonder if the Lord wanted any teenager wearing a fancy medal proclaiming his chosenness before God? Was not this practice, which existed until 2002, an obvious result of the Boy Scouts’ influence on Mormons? Were the ribbons and metal evidence of God’s acceptance, or proof of spiritual maturity? Currently, the Church issues two such awards–the On My Honor award, which simultaneously awards religious and scouting prowess, and the Duty to God medal, which recognizes LDS church involvement, and implicitly, righteousness. If we’re oblivious enough of God’s teachings to award medals for outward completion of church checklists, might we not save money by conferring the title of “His Holiness” on each boy whose scout leader has signed his application card?
My friend recognized the danger that cheating on merit badges represents in the life of a boy. It not only creates a tolerance for dishonesty, but it impedes the very recognition of dishonesty. Indeed, many may not recognize dishonesty in themselves unless someone else pointedly draws attention to it. They’ve never thought of themselves as dishonest, because no one taught them to carefully scrutinize their own behavior. They might also fail to see why they should pay taxes on cash tips they’ve received as a waiter, since no record has been kept of what they’ve received. Maybe it’s okay to lie on a job application if it helps them obtain a higher-paying job, even if it means taking a job from an equally qualified person who responded truthfully. A strong conscience is almost never something we’re born with. It must be taught early in life, by precept and example, and by adult leaders.
The Boy Scouts’ practice of receiving and displaying merit badges, merely for gaining skills, expertise or knowledge, which are rightfully taught to be reward enough in and of themselves, will never enjoy a comfortable co-existence with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Or at least, it shouldn’t. Jesus taught that even when doing the most righteous of deeds, we should not draw attention to ourselves.
Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.
Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.
But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;
That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.
(See 3 Nephi 13:1-4 or Matthew 6:1-4.)
If we’re not supposed to tout our own goodness towards others, we may reasonably infer that we’re not supposed to brag of deeds we’ve done only for ourselves. The Lord would have us meek and humble. But Scouting teaches boys to expect recognition for even trivial accomplishments, things which are routinely learned in school, or part of everyday life, or are mere games or recreation which require very little discipline or skill from the participant. Merit badges are now awarded for such activities as playing chess, reading, collecting (toys, rocks, baseball cards, dolls or whatever else you want to collect all qualify; stamp and coin collecting are two separate merit badges), caring for goldfish or cats or any other non-canine pets (dog care has its own merit badge), game design (any kind of game qualifies), salesmanship (where activities such as selling tickets to a scouting event, or fundraiser candy bars for your Little League team qualify as the required sales experience), shotgun shooting, and probably the easiest of all, family life. There are 137 available merit badges today, and the list is always growing. But does the growing list mean Boy Scouts are becoming more and more meritorious?
To be clear, I fully agree with the practice of encouraging youth to obtain skills, even if some of those skills are only intended to create fun. But I do oppose being honored for simply improving your own prospects, and then displaying those honors to others lest they not appreciate how impressive you are. That, unfortunately, is what the Boy Scouts organization causes us to do. As the merit badge program motto quoted in this essay’s fourth paragraph states, it’s all about enhancing a youth’s competitive edge. As such, it stands in stark contrast with what Christ teaches: “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:10)
For these reasons, maybe, if we would follow Christ, no mourning over the loss of the Boy Scouts is necessary. Contrary to the current laments, losing scouting doesn’t mean we can’t still go hiking, camping, fishing, or learn outdoor skills. Nor does it mean we can’t teach our youth how to organize themselves, or accept responsibility, or be self-sufficient. Our youth can still learn knot tying, first aid, lifesaving and survival skills. We can still promote patriotism and virtuous citizenship. Believe it or not, we can still get together with youth from other faiths and build brotherhood through joint activities. We can even buy a Boy Scout handbook or any of the merit badge pamphlets, and avail ourselves of all the useful information there. We can do anything we want. The BSA has no monopoly on these practices and initiatives. That we need Boy Scouts to teach these things are all grand misconceptions. We should have been doing all these things anyway.
And while we do, we might also set an example for the Boy Scouts while we improve our own discipleship. We might promote a new morality that scrupulously insists that cheating is never tolerated as an acceptable way to obtain the awards we seek. We might also demonstrate that youth who value meekness and humility over self promotion and aggrandizement turn out to be more virtuous people, and better examples for the rising generation. In addition, we might usher in a new era of financial transparency both in our own church and in other organization, where we not only require our leaders to show us exactly where each dollar is spent, but require that same transparency of every group who claims their own cause deserves our donations.
The LDS Church has not said precisely why it’s severing its ties with Scouting. Most people suspect that recent inclusiveness initiatives within the Boy Scouts have made church leaders uncomfortable, convincing them that the two organizations’ goals and perspectives aren’t sufficiently compatible. Whatever the case, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should never have been joined at the hip with the Boy Scouts in the first place. The separation should have been for other, more fundamental reasons. It should have been obvious, long ago, that the Scouts’ headlong pursuit of self-exaltation was at cross purposes with Jesus’ philosophy of personal meekness and humility. When the young reformer from Nazareth criticized the Pharisees for flaunting only outwardly upright lives, without teaching inward righteousness, and of seeking the chief seats in the synagogue, he was talking to the Boy Scouts.