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Thoughts From An Old Scouter

May 10, 2018

I joined the Boy Scouts when I was eleven years old. That was also the time I joined the LDS Church. My association with the two organizations has been inseparable over the past four decades.

As you may have heard, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently announced its intention to disassociate with the Boy Scouts at the end of 2019. This announcement wasn’t a surprise. I’m not saying that I knew it would happen, but the fact that it has is not a surprise. The two organizations have been associated for 105 years.

Were it not for the LDS Church I can say with certainty that I never would have joined the Boy Scouts. In fact, at the beginning I only attended because it was what 11 year old boys did in this new church. That and stand in the back during the children’s music program and hope no one noticed that I knew absolutely none of the songs.

My first campout was memorable, and not necessarily in a good way. Our scoutmaster was a man named Liddell. I’m still friends with his son. Keone, recently reminded me of that first campout. I don’t think I even had a backpack. It wasn’t a big deal since we were car camping. What people remember 40 years later is the cast iron frying pan that I packed. It was like a shallow Dutch oven, without the legs and the lid. It was huge and weighed a ton.

I got better at scouting and camping. I went on to earn the Eagle Scout award with a couple of palms. I served as Junior Assistant Scoutmaster my last couple of years in scouts.

Like many young men, I served a mission for the LDS church. I served a Sign Language Mission in Chicago. The small deaf branch I served in sponsored a deaf Boy Scout troop. The missionaries were the scout leaders. It was a strange letter that I sent home asking my mother to send me my scout uniform.

As my senior missionary companion, who was scoutmaster, was transferred, it fell on me to take over the role of scoutmaster. The only problem was that I was only 20 years old at the time. Scoutmasters are supposed to be 21. I considered lying. But, a Mormon missionary filling out a Boy Scout application seemed like a really bad place to lie. Finally, the professional scouter suggested I put my true birthday and leave the AGE box blank. The paperwork went through and I became the world’s youngest scoutmaster.

My lovely wife understood from the time we were married how much scouting meant to me. When our first son was born, she presented me with a custom t-shirt that said “Big Scout.” She made a matching baby t-shirt that said “Little Scout.”

I’ve had the privilege of taking all 5 of my sons into the Utah wilderness. We’ve camped, and hiked, cooked and fished all over the great Mountain West. My oldest son followed in my footsteps and earned the Eagle Scout award. He asked me to be the one to present him with the award. “I figured it would mean more coming from you, Dad.”

Thanks, son.

I have two boys still in scouting. They are on track to earn the Eagle award before the Church and the Scouts separate in a little over 18 months.

I’m disappointed at the prospect that these two organizations that mean so much to me will no longer be associated with each other. I can’t say if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I understand the reasons that the two organizations are making the decisions they are. And I wish the very best for both organizations. Like the actors at the end of a play’s run, it’s time to separate and each pursue separate projects.

I know many are happy about the change, and I respect their opinions. For me, I will miss the association and will look back on my time as a scout and a scout leader with the fondest of memories.

Gone home.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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One Comment
  1. Kit Borden permalink

    Rodney, you have summed up my feelings about the split very well. I will also miss the association, while realizing the split may actually be the best option. My two oldest are going to try and get their Eagles before the split, my youngest wants to do as much as possible (not quite 11 yet) before and then join another troop to keep at it.

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