As I was preparing to write this first Commissioner’s Corner, a friend sent me this wonderful letter from Scouting’s founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell. What a fitting message from 111 years ago, as we move forward during these tumultuous times:
“[Scouting’s] general intention is to endeavor, without interfering with the spiritual training or form of religious observance already given to the boys by their parents or pastors, to make them good citizens and upright men, and to teach them to put their religion, of whatever form it may be, into practice in their everyday life.”
I have thought, even prior to the commencement of 2020, that there has never been a time in the history of this country when we have needed Scouting and its values more than we need it now. That feeling has increased as we have moved through the “challenges” of 2020 – a year that will down in infamy. I once attended a Scout-O-Rama where President Gordon B. Hinckley, the Grand Marshall of the opening Scout parade, stood at the pulpit, raised his arm to the square, gave the Scout Oath and then said something to this effect, “I believe that if all men and women lived the principles of the Scout Oath, we would be a happier people, a more productive people and would have less need for prisons and other correction facilities.” President Hinckley understood that “it’s not about the badge…” (never was, never will be). In fact, it isn’t really even about the Eagle Award, as prestigious as it is. It is what happens in the life of a young man or young woman as they participate in Scouting – as they develop their talents, leadership qualities, communications skills, life skills and mature in every way. THAT was BP’s vision – “…to make them good citizens and upright men, and to teach them to put their religion, of whatever form it may be, into practice in their everyday life.” Those who still believe it is all about the badge have missed the point completely.
And it is even truer today than it was then as we have experienced a worldwide pandemic, civil disturbances, uncivil political campaigning, international unrest, social distancing (which is waaay more than physical distancing of 6’ or more), economic challenges – and the list goes on and on. Now, more than ever, we need men and women who have not only memorized the Scout Oath and Law and earned a sash full of merit badges, we need men and women of stability and principle who LIVE the principles in the Scout Oath and Law, who have learned to do their duty to God and who are prepared to strengthen their communities, wherever they live.
As we look at working to resolve some or all of these challenges of 2020, Scouting has never pretended to be the end-all, be-all for the education and preparation of our young people for the challenges of life. Schools have their role, as teachers provide those educational experiences necessary to learning and progressing in life. Churches of various denominations have a profound impact in teaching faith in God, an understanding of what it means to be a son or daughter of God and how to keep God’s principles in everyday life. In fact, the most recent general conference was filled with inspired messages to help us cope with and overcome these challenges. In fact, one of those messages from President Ballard spoke about the importance of praying for the leaders of our country, the leaders of the Church, and others. I echo the importance during these critical times of praying for our leaders, for the Boy Scouts of America, for the Church as it implements its program for children and youth, for the youth and their leaders, for the downtrodden and many others.
And I can’t think of any better organization to work hand-in-glove with our Churches and schools to prepare our youth for life than Scouting – as it provides not only a moral standard, as set forth in the Scout Oath and Law, that is consistent with educational standards and religious tenets, but provides the laboratory experience to help our youth learn how to apply those vital character values and learn critical life skills necessary to meet the challenges of life.
A good friend of mine, in referring to our youth, used to sing a song that included the query: “How will they know unless we teach them so.” There are so many things that our youth need to know in order to be men and women of substance – who can participate in and provide positive direction to society, stand out in their professional endeavors, listen, communicate, change (repent), love and serve others around them and stand as men and women of principle who will, in the words of President Hinckley, be willing to “Stand for Something.”
Some of those critical life skills include:
- The ability to manage time and finances
- The ability to communicate (including developing listening skills)
- How to use a compass or other digital navigation methods
- Survival skills (including First Aid, basic cooking, fire-building, camping, swimming and lifesaving)
- Safe hiking skills
- How to display, raise, lower, fold and dispose of an American Flag
- How to care for the environment and live a sustainable lifestyle, including No Trace Camping and Hiking
- Perform Acts of Service and Citizenship
- Prepare a healthy menu and learn to cook healthy meals
- How to understand and be a part of the local, state, national and world communities
- Identifying poisonous plants – as well as edible ones
- Tying knots appropriate to their use: including a bowline, square knot, slip knot, two half hitches, sheep shank, and others used frequently in daily life
- How to do their Duty to God, applying principles learned in Church
- How to determine and meet the needs of others around them
- Leadership skills
- Safe handling of fresh meats, dairy products, eggs, vegetables and other perishable food products; and how to properly dispose of garbage, cans, plastic containers and other rubbish.
- Identify the most causes of heart attack and demonstrate the steps in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Water safety – as well as safe practices in other outdoor activities
- Goal setting and how to achieve goals effectively
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle
- How to care for, sharpen, maintain and safely use a knife, saw and ax
- Learning principles of safety
- Learning principles of Family Life
- Learning principles of Emergency Preparedness
- And the list goes on and on – and we are just to the First Class Requirements!
As I look at this list, I think “How will they know unless we teach them so.” And I can’t think of a better partnership with parents, educators and religious leaders than the Boy Scouts of America to help our young men and young women become prepared – for Life!
Thanks for all you do to strengthen the youth through your service to Scouting. This role became even more important since January 1, 2020, as, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are no longer leaders who serve because they are “called.” From now on, it will be much the same as in other places throughout the world. Scouting leaders of Latter-day Saint Scouts will now serve because they want to and because they want to make a difference in the lives of those they serve. In a National Key 3 meeting, then-Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh observed, “Charles, when the Church ceases its relationship as a charter partner, it will be for you like it was for me as a boy. We had our Church youth activities on Wednesday nights and then it was Scouts on Thursday or Saturdays.”
Tom Brokaw was once quoted as saying: “In this country, it’s easy to make a living; but it’s tough to make a difference.” Thanks for choosing to make a difference in the lives of the Rising Generation through your continued involvement in Scouting.
Religious Awards for Latter-day Saints in Scouting. In May during our Virtual Little Philmont, we introduced the Light and Truth Award (for latter-day Saint Cub Scouts) and the Vanguard Religious Award (for older youth and adults registered in Scouting). I hope that you have had a chance to review these beautiful awards and their requirements. If not, click here to do so. They are not designed to be accomplished over a weekend, or to simply “run through” the requirements without much effort. You will see that these are clearly awards with substance and are designed to help Latter-day Saint youth in Scouting to learn to do their Duty to God, to build personal Faith in Jesus Christ and to strengthen their commitment to and participation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As I have begun to work on my adult Vanguard award, I have set a series of personal goals that are consistent with the Vanguard Religious Award requirements and electives. I found it was helpful to have a personal Progress Worksheet. If you are interested in seeing the form I use, you can click [here]. This helps me to see all that I need to be doing BEFORE I begin. If you haven’t begun to work on your religious award, I invite you to begin now. We already have 7 young men in a Scout Troop who used their time during the self-sequestration to work on their Vanguard Awards. They have already earned the award, although their Court of Honor has been postponed due to the status of Covid-19 in their area. We will be reporting on their achievement as soon as they can safely schedule the Court of Honor. We also have 3 adult Vanguard Awards that have already been earned and are thrilled at how many are working on these challenging awards.
Vanguard Membership Progress Report. We are pleased to report that since its organization less than 12 months ago, Vanguard International Scouting Association has a total of 108 Charter members, 22 Lifetime members and 38 annual members – and growing each week. In May we held a Virtual Little Philmont due to the inability to hold our Vision 2020 Conference at Philmont Training Center – with 687 registered for the conference. It was a lot of fun and we look forward to other conferences and education sessions in the future. We have reviewed our website and added a couple of blogs, in addition to this Commissioner’s Corner; will be supplementing these blogs in November with the Vanguard Beacon, a monthly newsletter; and are in the process of recruiting a Council Vanguard Representative for each BSA council. We are in the process of working with Council Key 3s to have a Vanguard Council Representative designated in those councils with greater than 35% Latter-day Saint membership (pre-2020) by the end of the year. If you are interested in learning more about the role of a council Vanguard Representative, please contact Trevor Bender, our Association International Commissioner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All in all, we are excited about the progress being made, even during these unusual times, and express our appreciation for all you do to see and strengthen the Rising Generation, wherever they are. Bless you for your efforts!
Charles W. Dahlquist, II
Vanguard International Commissioner