I do not DISLIKE the Boy Scouts of America. Sure, there are a lot of the procedures that make me crazy, namely the emphasis of the program as it correlates to the LDS church, and the price of any item in a Boy Scout store, or the background check necessary to even say the words Scouting Program. Oh and this one that I'll interrupt myself here with: I wish I had a photo of me last week at Luke's pack meeting when he was presented with his Webelos award. I was wearing all of the "Mothers' Pins" I have "earned" thus far in the BSA program. Luke presented me with my 4th one that night. I might add, that I'm fairly certain I was the only mother wearing any previous Mothers' Pins. (I wear them to each pack meeting I attend and every once in while to be funny, sarcastic or overly sentimental. Okay not ever for that last reason.) Really, what do those pins mean anyway? That I helped out? That I'm thrifty, cheerful, kind, trustworthy, courteous, etc? Or that somehow all my nagging, all my patience, and all the biting of my tongue somehow qualifies me for a tiny piece of metal that should be worn on a shirt not stored in a jewelry box?!
I digress. Here's what I really struggle with...
Last Sunday, Luke was working on finishing up his last few requirements to receive his Arrow of Light award. (The passageway from the Cub Scout program to the Boy Scout program.) One of the requirements was to memorize the Boy Scout oath and law.
The oath being:
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.
The law being:
A Scout is:
Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful,
Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty,
Brave, Clean, Reverent
As Luke was attempting to get all those positive character traits recited in the correct order, it hit me what my big pet peeve with the BSA/Mormon connection is:
It seems so much emphasis is placed on getting the awards, achievements and advancements and very little is ever said about what really matters. Learning to swim, or to communicate via email, or read a map, or to start a campfire, or do a 50-mile bike ride are great things, but what about the other stuff?
As Luke continued to recite the law (all jumbled up I might add), I interrupted him, and with a surprise lump in my throat said to him that if he lived a life true to all those declarations he was making while reciting the law and oath, he would be an outstanding boy and man. Having an Arrow of Light patch sewn on a shirt, or an Eagle Scout certificate gathering dust in a closet mean little when it comes to real life. Living a life true to the Boy Scout oath and law will mean a lot more than any over-priced patch.
I can't help but think of the big chart in the foyer of our church building that shows publicly the progression of each of the Boy Scouts in our congregation. I wonder how cheerful it makes the boy and his parents feel for everyone to publicly see how far behind he is from his peers. I wonder how kind the other boys are about the supposed encouragement they are supposed to be offering each other. I wonder how helpful the chart really is in helping those Boy Scouts internalize the oath and law.
I know plenty of Eagle Scouts that don't fit the bill of the BSA oath or law.
I know plenty of good boys and men who are not Eagle Scouts, that exemplify many, if not all of those traits mentioned in the oath and law.
I finished my impromptu speech to Luke by telling him that awards, certifications and advancements are great. But in our family, being a Boy Scout will mean trying one's hardest to live the Boy Scout oath and law. Any other achievements within the program will be a great accomplishment, and certainly a worthy goal. But those will come secondary to living the oath and law first.
I then allowed him to continue reciting all the qualities I hope he embeds deep into that little heart and brain of his.
I'm not a BSA naysayer. I'm really not. In fact, I would be one of their biggest fans IF it became less about earning awards and more about making good quality boys into good quality men.
Luke at Webelos Wilderness, June 2012