On October 11th history was made, girls were given the opportunity to be a part of Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting. Since then, I have received a flood of questions from my local council in Salt Lake City, UT, regarding BSA’s decision. Below I have included answers to questions that I have received over the last few weeks. 

From an e-mail:

“Guess you have to rewrite the scout oath now. You will have to remove the word God and the phrase morally straight.”

I am not sure what having girls programs has to do with God and Morally Straight, but we have no desire to change those core values.

Analyzing the Facts

I want to make sure you have all of the facts.

Girls attending the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.

 

  • The national executive board did not vote to simply add girls to the boys’ program. The BSA is creating the option of adding separate girl dens to Cub Scouting in 2018 and creating a new Scouting program for older (11-17) girls in 2019. This unique approach allows us to maintain the integrity of the single-gender model while also meeting the needs of today’s families.

 

  • It was not about politics. This change is the result of years of requests from families in and out of the BSA. The BSA thoughtfully evaluated how to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible and adapt to the changing needs of today’s busy families – all while remaining true to our mission and core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. This is a great opportunity for families to involve all their children in the BSA’s proven program, in one place.

 

  • Religious institutions can make their own decisions on which families of Scouting to use and how, just as they do now.

 

  • A member of the LDS General Young Men Presidency was on the task force which studied the question of the family program and recommended the immediate adoption by the National Executive Board. He said they and he agreed this was a positive thing for the BSA and for families. He said the LDS Church was not going to adopt the program for young women because they already have one. But he understood why others would want to. Charles Dahlquist was also on the task force.

 

  • The LDS Church recently affirmed its commitment to Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting programs, and our council’s FOS and new service center projects, with full knowledge of this potential change.

 

  • Scouts Canada has been co-ed since the early ’90s and the LDS Church is still using the program there.

 

  • The BSA has Included young women for decades, first with Explorers and Sea Scouts, then Learning for Life, then Venturing.
The 2017 Venturing officers.

 

  • Scouting is the number one youth development organization in the world, and the values of Scouting as found in the Scout Oath and Law are for every person regardless of gender.

 

  • Tufts University has affirmed the dramatic increase in values such as cheerfulness (positive disposition for the future), kindness, and other values among young people participating in the Scouting program versus those who do not. The leadership of the BSA believes both boys and girls need these values.

You can read more about the decision at www.scoutingnewsroom.org

Change is Hard 

One of our district chairs passed this on:

“from those who are actually doing the FOS campaign ‘Wow, bad bad bad timing… we had hoped to recover a little street credibility with the letters from the 70, but here now again the BSA goes and shoots themselves straight in the foot right in the time when we didn’t need them to be making more mistakes’”

Yes, the timing is problematic, but when has change ever been convenient? Some people won’t like any change we make no matter what we do, or when we do it.

Most of these changes occur in February, May, or October simply because it is when the National Executive Board meets. For us October is bad. For all but two other BSA councils February is FOS time, so that might be bad.

The perspective of the Church leaders I have talked to is this is just like Mutual Night. I have been told by them “we already have this type of program so we do not need to adopt Scouting for girls – but we understand other faiths and organizations need a similar program and this is a really good way to facilitate that for them.” The official response from the Church was “We recognize that the desire of BSA is to expand their programs to serve more young people in the United States.”

This is in many aspects Mutual Night for other faiths. Is Mutual Night “a mistake?”

“from LDS members at large who were approached for FOS donations ‘Are you kidding me?? The BSA used to stand for something, they used to have principles that were time-proven. Then the BSA bowed to outside pressure and caved to political correctness and allowed gay boys in the program. Then two years later they did the same thing and caved and diluted and eroded their principles even more by allowing gay leaders in. Then two years later they bow further to political correctness and allow girls in the program. This is caving into feminists whose intention is to demasculinize society and bring down the traditional family. Enough already, I don’t care what church leaders say, this is way too much for me, I will never ever again support Scouting. It has lost its core principles and they believe more in LGBT and worldly principles than in Godly principles. The focus on family and the Family Proclamation we just heard about in General Conference again are true values that I believe in.’”

Fitting in with the Family Proclamation

I think this latest change fits the Family Proclamation very well:

“All human beings-male and female-are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”

A Scouting family at Scout campsite in Utah.

The BSA conducted extensive research, including two Harris surveys, as well as four research efforts which included input from nationwide family listening sessions. The results were overwhelmingly positive and supported the decision to welcome girls into Cub Scouts and provide a path to earn the Eagle Scout rank.

The research found parents not involved with the BSA showed high interest in getting their daughters signed up for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts: 90 percent are likely to get their daughters involved in Cub Scouts and 87 percent are likely to get their daughters involved in Boy Scouts. The BSA also surveyed young girls and found 90 percent of girls age 11-18 are interested in joining BSA programs. Plus, more than 90 percent of Scouting families and leaders, on average, believe the BSA programs are relevant to boys and girls.

Most importantly, this change is intended so the entire family can participate together while still maintaining the integrity (and learning value) of the single-gender model.

“Many cannot believe that 4 General Authorities of the church voted for this change, and they are looking for an explanation from church leaders to put this into a religious perspective for them. Meanwhile, they do not trust the Boy Scouts of America and wonder what next principles will be abandoned in the public square to appease public political correctness. They also are sympathetic to the Girl Scouts of America who seem to be victims in this apparent attack on them.”

This change is 100% designed to strengthen families so all members of a family can do things together. It is not about politics, political correctness, numbers, nor an attack on the Girl Scouts. If this was the case we would just go full-on co-ed and not create parallel programs. And you can tell from the “feminists” who are vocally supporting the Girl Scouts and condemning the “bully” Boy Scouts this was not to please them either. The GSUSA was asked and chose not to participate.

Throughout my 39-year career, I have heard parents of Boy Scouts wishing their daughters could do the same type of things their sons were doing – for the last 30 years just like girls in the rest of the world. Girl Scouts have a very different Scouting model. It is not as outdoors-oriented, nor do they have the chartered organization concept and the sponsor selection of leaders the BSA has. These issues prevent some organizations from wanting to do GSUSA and some families from joining Girl Scouts. This move is not to take away their members, it is to serve others (96% of US girls are not Girl Scouts) who want to do things the way we do it – and along with their brothers and Scouting parents.

Leaders of the LDS Church were part of the discussion that led to this decision and I have talked to several of them personally. There are several LDS members on the National Board. Two Apostles, the General Young Men President, and the General Primary President are members of the National Executive Board. (These brethren and Sister Jones were not present for the vote but were included in the discussions leading up to the vote.) The National commissioner is LDS. The chair of the BSA’s Relationships committee is LDS. The chair of the BSA’s Religious Relationships Committee is LDS. The Chair of the audit committee is LDS. They were present and did vote in favor of the change. The two counselors of the Primary General Presidency and the Young Men Presidency are on the National Advisory Board. President Monson is the longest serving Executive Board member in BSA history (because of his Church responsibilities and health he is now on the Advisory Board.)

I might ask an LDS Church member who says they are against this or will not follow the direction of Church leaders: Why do you fight Scouting and this 100 year-plus partnership sustained by every Prophet since President Joseph F. Smith? Why do you fight things which do not impact the LDS Church at all because the BSA has given the church (and all others) the ability to modify the program as they feel best? Why do you fight things these brethren approve and ask us to do today?

Strengthening Families   

“With respect to the addition of girls dens (parallel to boys dens), I think that is an unrealistic expectation that will — in short order — result in merged dens, particularly in smaller programs.

A group of cub scouts hanging out together at a den meeting.

Perhaps, but the model and training will discourage that for all the reasons you state below. We have not had the problem, except in some small-unit cases, with resistance to separation of boys by grade. Most of our leaders will understand why separate dens are critical.

“And if ‘the integrity of the single-gender model” is of such utmost importance, why open to girls anyway?’”

Overwhelming desire and requests internally and externally. Outside the Muslim nations, we are the only association which does not include girls. Not a good reason alone, but the BSA conducted extensive research, including two Harris surveys, as well as four research efforts which included input from nationwide family listening sessions. The results were overwhelmingly positive and supported the decision to welcome girls into Cub Scouts and provide a path to earn the Eagle Scout rank.

BSA vs. GSUSA

“Does BSA feel the Girl Scouts is such a poorly run program that girls are better served by the Boy Scouts?”

Not at all!! Girl Scouts just have a very different Scouting model. These issues prevent some organizations from wanting to use the GSUSA, and some families from joining Girl Scouts. This move is not to take away their members, it is to serve others (96% of US girls are not Girl Scouts) who want to do things the way we do it – and with their brothers and Scouting parents.

Again, this change is 100% designed to strengthen families so all members of a family can do things together. It is not about politics, political correctness, numbers, nor an attack on the Girl Scouts.

How Will This Affect Girl Scouts?

By the way, when other nations’ boy Scouting program added girls it did not impact Girl Guide (what Girl Scouts are usually called in other nations) membership.

“’This change is the result of years of requests from families” I will admit I was not as involved as I could have been, but when was this issue presented to the parents involved with BSA to express their opinions? I truly have no recollection of anyone asking for my opinion or input.’”

Venturers representing Puerto Rico attend the National Scout Jamboree.

 

See above. I am not a researcher, so I do not know who and how they ask. I know they ask representative samples and not everyone. Harris is a reliable polling company.

“In response to the BSA announcement, as you’ve probably read, the Girl Scouts posted this: ‘We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides, which creates a free space for girls to learn and thrive’.”

I don’t disagree. I am a big advocate of single-gender programs in early to mid-childhood. We hope to have that too with our new programs, but using our model of Scouting. I believe if the GSUSA was providing what girls who want to join the BSA want, it would not be an issue.

Meeting Individual Needs

“It seems a shame that boys cannot have the same type of vocal support and this move feels like one more step in shaming boys…for being boys. Perhaps you don’t see this shaming trend in our society, but I do and I think, despite the goal, the move to no longer be a boy-focused environment feeds that even more. As if boys do not deserve that same kind of free space.”

I really do not think that will be the case. I have been vocally against co-ed Scouting because of the difference in maturation at younger ages, and the fact boys are getting left behind in places outside of Scouting. But that is not what this is. This was really thought out and the desire to keep a boy-focused environment is strong while adding a girl-focused environment. With attention to the entire family. The BSA model is unique and it works because it focuses on the needs of the individual, and everyone has a chance to be a leader, not just the popular few.

It has taken this long, relative to other nations who made the change decades ago because the BSA has been the leading advocate for boys. We care very deeply about doing things which will continue to be boy-focused.

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Mark Griffin

is the Scout Executive for Great Salt Lake Council. He has been involved with Scouting for over 38 years serving in numerous positions including, Team leader for learning delivery for the BSA, Director of the BSA’s National Training Center in New Mexico, and Area Director in the Central Region of the BSA.

7 comments

  1. Joyce Barnson says:

    Thank you for clearing up some misconceptions that came from the announcement. I feel good about the decision now.

  2. Jon Maeda says:

    Great article, Mark. It brought clarity & another perspective to this important, landmark decision! Thank you!

  3. George Weight says:

    Much of the brouhaha coming from LDS members criticizing the BSA comes from a lack of knowledge of how the Scout program operates within LDS Church-sponsored units. It is and always will be, as long as we participate, in support of the Aaronic Priesthood. The girls’ camping and service programs operate in a similar fashion to the BSA, without the advancement method.
    For this reason, Scouting in the LDS Church was never intended to be the same type of program as that functioning outside the Church.
    The core ideals of Scouting as expressed in the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan are parallel to the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and the Young Women’s Values. The latter are expressed in more specific gospel terms, but they are still the same core ideals as Scouting.
    If the world outside the Church, and even young women within the Church want the programming which instills these values synergistic to those taught within the Church, why not?
    If an LDS young women wants to join a female-specific community troop, why not? Many have already joined Venture Crews, Explorer Posts, the GSUSA, the 4H, the FFA, and similar groups that teach similar values.
    BTW: I don’t think there is anything prohibiting a girl being a member of the BSA and the GSUSA at the same time.

    1. Anne Kenny Chapman says:

      Well stated, George Weight. Also, Mark Griffen, thank you for your insight and responses to FAQ. Improved is my understanding of the potential structure of units with females (other than Venture Scouts). This piece is helpful for Commissioners working with units and addressing the questions about what ‘THEY’ have done to the BSA, as though this was a dictatorial decision.

  4. Dave Tr525 says:

    Thanks for making clear the extent that LDS has within the leadership of the Scouts.

    Given that the Harris poles and focus groups have been noted many times as the justification for the changes, can we please have access to the exact wording of the pole questions and the results. We need exact wording so we can assure others that there was no bias in the questions or misunderstanding of the questions by those who answered the poles.

  5. Jennifer Palmer says:

    I love this article! I am a new Webelos leader and my boy is actively involved in our ward scouting program. I have also been a leader in my girl’s Girl Scout program. I can tell you from leadership experience in both that they are very different programs and will appeal to very different personalities. The BSA is much more focused on the individual boy and growing his skills while the GS is more focused on what the individual girl can do for the community (much more service oriented). I’ve always remarked that I’d love to see a happy medium! That being said, as the mom of twin 10 year olds (a Girl Scout and a Webelo), I think this change is a great one and look forward to both my children continuing in their respective programs. My only disappointment is that Lion scouts didn’t exist when my 5 year boy had to sit on sidelines while his sister started Girl Scouts. I’m glad there is finally an option for kindergarteners!

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