OPINION – I feel that the LDS Church here in Southern Utah is negligent in their practice of “calling upon” individuals to act as Scout Leaders. According to the BSA requirements – a new Scout Leader must submit a BSA Adult Application. On the application it states (in bold print): “BY SUBMITTING THIS APPLICATION YOU ARE AUTHORIZING A CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECK OF YOURSELF” and:
Leadership Requirements are that the applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and abide by the Scout Oath or Promise, and the Scout Law.
After relocating (again) to Southern Utah in 2002, I remarried my children’s mother and began attending church with her. The bishop of the knew my father-in-law / mother-in-law, my wife and our three children (who were 12, 9 and 6), at the time. I didn’t know how well the bishop and other members of the ward actually knew the rest of my family, the only point I’m trying to make, is that they knew little-to-nothing, about “me.”
Shortly after attending church several times, I was “called upon” to be a den leader. To be quite honest, this was the last kind of thing I wished to do, but there’s always the odd fear of being labeled “anti-social” and I had already been told that receiving a calling, is somewhat of an honor. I begrudgingly accepted the calling.
“While responsibility for Scouting rests primarily at the ward level, stake presidencies encourage bishoprics to train ward Scout leaders, and they offer the support of stake leaders in training”.
Yet, with no training and no prior experience being a youth leader (other than my own children), I was given this task – And I hadn’t the slightest clue, as to what I was going to “teach” these young men, other than that I was given a Scouting Handbook and informed of the time / weekday, the meetings were to occur.
Parents of these young men never bothered to introduce themselves to me, either during sacrament meetings on Sunday – or even when they screeched into the parking lot, threw their kids out of the car and then laid down 5,000 miles of rubber off their tires, upon exiting the parking lot.
Most of these boys were distractive in the meetings, would not follow instructions and were generally ill-mannered. After several weeks, it seemed like all I was doing, was giving their parents a 60-90 minute “break” in the early evening. (But I politely bit my tongue, as it was not up to me, to lay judgement upon and consequently correct their obvious lack of discipline).
My biggest challenge however, was when it came time for the parents to pick their children up, from the meeting. More than half of them either returned 20 minutes to an hour late, or failed to show at all. The ones that were left without a ride were loaded into our van and driven home, following the child’s vague instructions on how to get to their house.
Imagine my surprise, when safely returning some of these kids to their homes and walking them to the door, that the parents were just kickin’ back and acting like it was somehow “expected” for me to drive their kid home? They were promptly told that it would be the first and the last time they did this. Worse than this were the parents who weren’t home at all.
So what are you supposed to do now, with a minor (who you don’t even know), who has been disruptive and hyper for the last 2-1/2 hours and no way to contact his parent(s)? Well, I guess you can either dump him at his home as easily as his parent dumped him in the parking lot – or, you take him home with you and try again, in another hour. I chose the latter and had to do so, on several occasions.
While expressing my dismay over these occurrences to different members of the ward during meetings, I was looked upon in the sense that I somehow quickly sprouted another two heads and was now speaking in Latin, backwards. Because the general mentality of most members of the church is one that refrains from saying anything at all, which could be deemed even remotely “sarcastic,” in its delivery. Even when attempting to sugarcoat my concerns, they were either quickly dismissed – or completely ignored, as everyone simply moved onto the next subject at hand.
I politely resigned out of this calling and years later my marriage ended (again) – Yet I was still subjected to times when my boys wanted to participate in group activities, with other untrained den leaders. I remember my youngest once telling me that a den leader who was in charge of the weekend activity was pulled over for speeding and was found to be operating his truck, with no insurance and expired registration.
On yet another outing, he and his friends wandered far away from their group and were lost for several hours as it was getting dark. And after finding out about this, I couldn’t necessarily forbid him from future outings, as I was longer “the man of the house.” Yet it never really DID matter that I was the “male elder” in our family as all major decisions were authorized by the in-laws, before and even after our marriage.
I cannot correctly express my disdain of the church and its corresponding members, on so many different levels. While very grateful on one hand for all the many ways that my children have benefited from attending church out here, I am also as much at a loss for a respectful and elegant conveyance of my thoughts into words for all the things that its members will blindly dismiss, as “trivial.”
I can, however, politely say this:
Just because someone is a member of the LDS Church, it does not (in any way, shape or form) mean that they are automatically “certified” to be trusted. Holding a priesthood does not mean that you are somehow given diplomatic immunity from the rest of society. And it certainly does not excuse you from the most polite, (yet forced), amount of sugarcoated constructive criticism, when dealing with situations that concern the safety and well-being of someone else’s children.
Yes, I am an outsider. I do not believe this church is true. But only to the extent that the statement (in which everyone makes during the Bearing of Their Testimony) implies that all other churches … are false? I think not. And I most certainly do not believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that our Heavenly Father spoke “through” him. My God is everywhere and his Son, Jesus Christ, is everywhere. But I have to pay tithes, accept callings, keep my mouth shut unless I’m bearing my positive and sugarcoated testimony of a specific church, its beliefs and all of its members – or I will be denied acceptance to the Celestial Kingdom?
Loving thy neighbor and forgiving him from his transgressions, does not mean that you are to keep eternally quiet about something that you find to be false, irresponsible, negligent or perhaps even unlawful. Yet there are SO many members that comment on St. George New website and the St. George News Facebook page, who are altogether too quick to invoke their powers of blame-shifting and/or quoting (yet misinterpreting) Matthew 7:1-3
I ask all of you, whether you agree or disagree with my opinions, to give some serious consideration in the matter of making it a mandatory requirement, that all den leaders be registered members of the BSA and also that they complete ALL of the required Joining Courses, before allowing them to “supervise” your children on any type of outing.
Submitted by David M. Rabbitt, Washington, Utah
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