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Why do LDS Scouts get lost/killed more often?

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  • Why do LDS Scouts get lost/killed more often?

    I am an LDS Scout leader in Washington State. I was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout as a youth. I've been active as a Scouter now for about 20 years.

    Over the past few decades I've noticed that a large percentage of the deaths that occur on Scout outings are associated with LDS units. There have been 2 deaths in the past 2 days: 1 LDS Scout fell from a zip-line, 1 LDS Scout fell into the Yellowstone River. I know that LDS youth make up about 12% of all Scouts but it appears that we make up more like 70% of the accidents.

    Is this your impression as well? I believe this is a training issue on our part but want to make sure it's not just me that believes this.

  • #2
    That is a very interesting question. Could any of it have to do with where their outings take place? What I mean by that is that it seems to be really big wilderness at least down in Utah. I haven't the foggiest idea. But would be interested in hearing other opinions.



    • #3
      Dear Carol,

      That could definitely be a factor but I'm not sure it could explain everything. Literally dozens of LDS Scouts have been killed in UT, WY, and MT but the Scouts that die in CA, PA, TX, and other places seem to be predominantly LDS as well. It sure would be nice to have a complete survey of Scouting deaths to see if there was any commonality by region or other factor.




      • #4
        After several trips out west I'd say that most of the LDS units operate in high level god's country. I say that with the upmost respect. My son went on a people-to-people event to Zion. They went all the way up Angels Landing. Now that I'm trained and a bit wiser I'm thinking what in the world!!!. But its different in your neck of the woods.

        I'm thinking that the odds are just plain better for us flat landers and great lake and many river area units.


        • #5
          Just in case people haven't been following the news, I was able to find the following list in just a couple of hours on the Internet. There were several others but I wasn't able to verify absolutely that they were LDS units. If you know about any other LDS boys that have died while on Scouting trips, please forward them along.

          1. Luke Sanburg, 13, LDS. From Montana. Fell into Yellowstone River in June 2005 during troop outing while attempting to "push logs" into the river with the rest of the boys. Search is on-going at this time.

          2. Jeffrey Kenneth Lloyd, 17, LDS. From Idaho. Killed on Scout outing after falling from zip-line in June 2005. Lloyd does not appear to have been wearing a safety harness or helmet. Still researching this.

          3. Brennan Hawkins, 11, LDS. Lost in Uinta Mountains while participating with older Varsity scouts in a climbing outing. Hawkins was not supervised and had no buddy. He was found 4 days later after a massive search.

          4. Garrett Bardsley, 12, LDS. Lost in Uinta Mountains in mid-August 2004 after walking away from his Troop to get some dry shoes. Body never found. This boy was trained in Wilderness Survival but walked away from the area without a buddy, without any supplies, and wearing only cotton.

          5. William Dunn, 13, LDS Troop 195 from West Valley City, UT. Lost during troop hiking trip in Uinta mountains for 2-3 days in early August 2004. This boy survived despite attempting to move cross country to rejoin his unit.

          6. Cody Clawson, 13, LDS. Troop 241 from Huntsville, UT. Lost during troop camping trip in Wyoming in June 2002? Eventually found personally by Harrison Ford who joined the search crew with his helicopter.

          7. Jared Negrete, 13, LDS Troop 538 from El Monte, CA. Lost in CA San Gorgonio Wilderness in 1991 during a troop hike. This boy fell behind his group and was left by his Scout leader to pick up on the return trip. Body never found.

          8. Kristoffer Jones, 14, LDS Scout from Long Beach, CA but participating as a guest of an LDS troop from Provo, UT. Died in Zion National Park, UT in June 2004. Jones was unsupervised at the time and fell about 1,000 feet to his death.

          9. David Phillips, 15, LDS Scout from Bountiful, UT. Died in July 1996 from heat exhaustion and dehydration in Grand Canyon after his troop ran out of water while hiking the canyon. The remaining 7 members of his party also had to be evacuated by helicopter. They had walked right past the signs warning them about water precautions.

          10. David Fleischer and LeRoy Kim Ellis, Adult Explorer Leaders, LDS from Utah. Drowned in July 1993 after descending into a slot canyon in Kolob Canyon, UT on a post outing. The group should have canceled the trip after finding water levels much higher than normal but did not. Survivors sued the National Park Service and others for $24.5 million claiming that "they should have been warned."

          11. Jesse Rampenthal, 12, LDS Scout from Gridley, CA. Rampenthal died in 1998 after falling from a steep outcropping in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. This boy had a cast on 1 of his hands at the time yet was unsupervised and unsecured during the climb. His mother sued the LDS Church for failure to provide adequate supervision and settled for an amount described as "substantial, but less than 1 million dollars."


          • #6
            The thought had crossed my mind, but since I am not LDS, I felt it would be rather non-PC to say anything. Let me raise a couple of questions about how LDS units operate since I am totally ignorant about the differences. If I recall correctly, I believe that LDS Webelos is a two year program instead of one and a half years. Also, I believe that camping is discouraged for boys under the LDS Boy Scout age. That would mean that LDS boy scouts are starting with virtually no experience. I believe that they don't camp on Sundays and return home on Saturday evenings. Unless they can skip school on Fridays and the adults can get off work, that means they are only camping about half the time regular scouts do. The part of the country that many of the LDS units are in has some wonderful but dangerous wilderness. Could it be that the boys just don't have the experience needed to be doing the kind of camping and activities they are doing? Again, my "understanding" of LDS units is squat, so take my questions for what they are worth. Are they trying to do too much, too fast, too early?


            • #7
              You may have something here. Based on the list of events posted earlier, 7 of the 11 boys involved in incidents would be considered too young to go on high adventure outings.


              • #8
                I also keep seeing a pattern of high adventure activities for many boys under 14. Is it a matter of the territory? Or is it a matter of careless adults who've "always done it that way"?


                • #9
                  I'd be interested in ratios. Scouting is THE male youth program for the LDS church. They make up a much larger percentage of Scouts than their numbers in the US population. I'd like to see the percentage of Scouts who are LDS and the percentage of scouts who have passed away on outings.

                  I do believe the high concentration in Utah and surrounding community play a big part (i.e. mountains, high country, etc.).


                  • #10
                    I would be interested to know what type of training differences there are in the LDS troops. It seems that most of these are from poor judgment calls and out and out blatent mistakes on the part of adults.
                    1. Why were they pushing logs in the river? That would create a hazard further down the river and I wouldn't allow my boys to do it and the news said that adults were present.
                    2. No safety helment or harness? Shouldn't have happened.
                    3. Not supervised and no buddy.
                    4. No buddy system and adult sent him back to camp alone.
                    5 and 6 Buddy system not in place or well used
                    7 Leader left him behind to pick him up on return trip???!!! Shouldn't have happened
                    8 Lack of supervision
                    9 not equiped for the trip and passed a sign that warned them about needing water.
                    10 group should have canceled the trip after finding water levels much higher than normal but did not
                    11 This boy had a cast on 1 of his hands at the time yet was unsupervised and unsecured during the climb
                    This says to me that leaders are not doing their jobs and that there is a major failure somewhere on the part of adults.


                    • #11
                      In regards the LDS program (the question above from SR540Beaver), there are some big differences for LDS Scouts:

                      - LDS boys start Cubs on their 8th birthday as Wolves. They become Boy Scouts on their 11th birthday. That means they spend 1 year as a Wolf, 1 year as a Bear, and 1 year as a Webelos. At 11 they become what used to be called "Blazers" but is now known as "11 year old Scouts".

                      - LDS boys are usually broken into smaller groups that meet separately and have their own leadership structures. The 11YO, 12-13YO, 14-15YO, and 16-17YO Scouts are often different units (Scouts, Varsity, Explorers, etc.) within the same Ward. This makes the units very small. This is the reason that the LDS Church makes up like 30% of all Scouting units but only accounts for 12% of the boys.

                      - We do not camp on Sundays and, outside of Utah/Idaho, many LDS boys never attend summer camp.

                      In regards the question above from cajuncody, LDS leaders have the same training requirements as non-LDS leaders but sometimes don't have the same desire or backgrounds that the average non-LDS Scouter would have. These are good people who want the best for their Scouts but they don't necessarily come to the program because they have an interest in Scouting or the experience/desire to be a leader.

                      LDS Scout leaders are "called" by their bishop to serve in a leadership position instead of volunteering. Outside the church I see Scoutmasters that may average 5-7 years experience as Scout Leaders by the time their sons are 14 YO. Inside the church, it is much less. I'm old and have continued to volunteer because I want to.

                      One other factor here is that we need more leaders because of the way our boys are broken apart by age group. These age groupings are important to the church because they correspond to priesthood levels but I've never understood why this grouping was imposed on the Scouting units. The boys never get a chance to really become leaders because they don't have the same number of younger boys coming in.

                      I feel a bit like a traitor writing this stuff. We need to figure out a way to make this system work or change it. I love my church but children are dying here!



                      • #12
                        concerned's list of tragedies is sobering but still anecdotal - it does not include those similar events for non-LDS scouts (and we know there were some) during the same period. I'm saying we need to have comparable nationwide data before attempting to identify a statistical anomaly.

                        Nevertheless, assuming that concerned has indeed indentified a legitimate problem, I agree with Kristi - it might be useful to know to what degree LDS adult unit leaders are BSA "trained" compared to other units. Also, to what degree the professionals in LDS councils and districts are themselves LDS or not and to what degree they emphasize adult training.


                        • #13

                          Thanks for the insight! Don't feel like a traitor. In my mind, a traitor would be someone who recognizes a problem and turns a blind eye to it. The person who recognizes the problem and is willing to face it and deal with it is to be respected.

                          I can certainly attest to the fact that I put much more into something I personally volunteer for over something I'm volunteered by others to do.


                          • #14
                            I agree that we need more data about Scout deaths before we can infer that this is an LDS problem. I've been worrying about this situation now for a long time but just started researching it after the $14 million fire thing happened in 2002.

                            I guess having 2 LDS Scouts die in very different circumstances on the same weekend just sort of pushed me over the edge.

                            Does anybody know of any non-LDS Scouts that have died under preventable circumstances? I don't mean lightning strikes, tree falls, cannon explosions, etc. These were obviously accidents.


                            • #15
                              Just for clarification I believe you will find that the LDS church has the SECOND highest percentage of scoutin in the BSA. They have the highest percentage of Units, but the United Methodist Men's Club has the highest percentage of members in the BSA.

                              if the cause of the number of THE injuries was based on the percentage of scouts served, then certaily we would have seen more UMMC scouts involved.

                              My guess would be a combination of other factors. Including population in specific geographic areas, activity choices, qualifications of activity leaders, and proper preparation, as major factors.