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Why do LDS Scouts get lost/killed more often?

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FrankJ is right, this topic has been worked over pretty well. It's time to take action and fix somethin'.


It may be hard to accept but I think, as an aggregate, we LDS leaders are the reason that our boys are dying at a greater rate. It could be luck or terrain but I can't find a single case of a lost/dead non-LDS Scout in the Rocky Mountain states while we lose them left and right. Now I just have to prove this to BSA and the church by clear and convincing evidence -- and not get myself excommunicated in the process.


I'll start with National for a list of names/dates/units/CO's and then work out from there. If National turns me down I'll hit all 300+ Councils. Photocopies, envelopes, and stamps are cheap, right?


Much thanks to all who have participated in this thread.



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Lynda J wrote, Currently our District Advancement is LDS. He has no kids and knows he will serve in this position for 2 years. He is a nice guy but isn't doing a great job. For one he doesn't really understand the program. And there isn't that connection with scouting that makes it a part of your heart and soul. This is just another assigned job.


I know this is off topic but it's my understanding that LDS scouters are only assigned positions by their bishop for serving their ward's units. District or council positions would be on that person's own volition. This tends to make sense since district or council positions fall outside of the ward's jurisdiction. But then, what do I know?




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I believe the Stake may issue callings too. Our district has an ADC that is LDS and works with LDS troops. He has some calling in the young mens organization and his predecessor also had the same position in the Church. Recruitment of LDS unit commissioners is difficult. I tried to recruit some when our district had an open house to recruit unit commissioners and had no luck. One wood badge trained adult told me he would do it if called to. He subsequently was called to a unit leadership position. Over the years I've worked with a number of LDS and Non-LDS leaders and troops. There are clearly some differences but more similarities. Leaders in LDS troops tend to have less tenure and training but not always. Scouts tend to have less camping experiences in LDS troops. Eagles tend to be fairly young in LDS troops because the Church pushes youth to become Eagles and they graduate to Varsity and Venturing with other emphasis at 14 and 16, I think. Also, youth and adult leadership positions are called position and sometimes result in poor leaders that are not interested in scouting or have poor attendance. I've also seen LDS troops get around BSA guidlines for safe scouting by calling the activity a young man's activity and not a scouting activity. Could this contribute to the problem?

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Our Round Table Commissiner is LDS, Advancement LDS, District Commissioner Non LDS, Training Commissiner Non LDS, Camp Commissioner LDS. Our districe is probably 70% LDS units.

To me if I am given a job to do and it is a job that I don't have a lot interest or an emotional committement in, I won't do as good a job.

There has to be a committement of emotions and love to do a really good job.

If I am told by someone to feed a dog, and I am not a big fan of dogs, I will feed the dog, but will I love it and nuture it. Probably not. You have to have a love for something to enjoy it and do a great job. Without that love it is simply a job.

I love Scouting. Have loved scouting for over 50 years. Will love scouting until the day I cross over and become one of those Scouters in the Sky.


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Been reflecting a bit on this thread...


Consider that when I was about 10, my parents had no problem with my solo wanderings in the Arizona backcountry (Mt. Baldy, Salt River Canyon area) for days at a time with a few provisions, and a 22, and by age 12 the 22 was replaced with a 30/30 carbine ...today, that would just not happen....which leaves me wondering what it is in our society that has changed that makes the outdoors more perilous not only for LDS youth, but all of our youths?






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le Voyageur,


I believe the answer to your question is that you evidently were raised in the backcountry and the vast majority of scouts are not. If a kid's dad is a pilot, chances are the kid knows quite a bit about flying by the time he is 10. I would come closer to being comfortable with him taking the controls of his dad's plane than I would a kid who has only seen planes flying over head. Long term exposure to an environment and experience are the difference. While you wandered the backcountry with a rifle at 10, would you take any 10 year old off the street and send him off into the woods?

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Yesterday, I received a personal email regarding this thread from johndaigler -- someone who sees things more clearly than I do and to whom I am indebted. He's agreed to let me share this part with everyone.



> I think you might be leaving the thread too early. The crowd

> has tried to help you think your way through the "identifying

> the problem" stage. Mostly guesswork, educated,

> but guesswork. Now, you are going to move on to the "do

> something about it" stage. This is where the campfire crowd

> really might be helpful. There are good ways to approach this

> next step and there are bad ways. Amongst the crowd, they've

> already tried most of them. Don't go off on your own just when

> their experiences might actually be practical and useful.


> Fighting City Hall is best done by a city - not one person.



I knew my chances of getting BSA and the LDS Church to even look to see if there was a problem were pretty low by myself but I foolishly marched off into that wilderness without my fellow Scouters (my buddies) anyway. Thanks John. I'm glad you were there to get me back on the trail and pointed in the right direction.


So, assuming that you, the reader, are interested in helping to solve this problem, let's see if we can agree on an initial problem statement. Once we flesh that out, we can work on good methods to solve these problems.


Please keep in mind that I am LDS here so I may not hit as hard as might be appropriate. It's a fine line I walk...




1. Several recent high-profile preventable Scouting related deaths have brought unwanted national scrutiny upon BSA. This has raised safety concern levels among Scouters and parents alike.


2. An unofficial survey, using available news sources, seems to indicate that the proportion of preventable Scouting deaths in the LDS Scout population is much higher than in the non-LDS Scout population. This unofficial survey also seems to indicate that this is not a recent phenomenon.


3. Scouters have theorized about potential causes but are unable to confirm whether LDS Scouts actually run a higher risk of death than non-LDS Scouts.




OK, fellow Scouters, does this adequately describe the problem? If not, how can it be improved?


Please don't jump to solutions and approaches quite yet. We'll get there...



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The three part problem statement is on the right track in my opinion. In fact, it reads like the introduction part to a grant proposal, written by an individual seeking funding. (That is a compliment!) Someone with credentials in sociology might be able to assist further with the problem statement, although in my opinion you have nailed it. A researcher-type would be of great assistance in devising a study plan.


There is whole area of academic endeavor out there that blends sociology with outdoor recreation. People were getting Masters degrees and PhD's in this area at the Univ of Washington College of Forestry when I was there in the mid 70's. There was a program at Univ of Michigan (or whichever college is at or near East Lansing). Univ Wisconsin too, a prof I knew from UW ended up there for the last few years of his career.


The point is, help is available for what sort of investigation or study it would take to demonstrate a link. If you are able to establish a dialogue with someone who is familiar with the data collection needed for this type of thing it would be productive. I'm sure there is a college prof out there somewhere, who will be teaching a course on study design and might be willing to throw this out to students as a assignment or term paper or discussion topic.


It wouldn't have to be a direct comparison between LDS and other troops either. A first step might simply be the relationship between accidents and the training level of leaders present. You would be taking the focus off a particular group and by doing so you might attract the cooperation and even some $$ from BSA.

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It may help to identify who you are going to approach with this concern. Is it LDS or BSA or both and at what level - Council or higher? It might be good to do some research to see if someone within BSA is looking into this issue and hook on to that persons train.


I think your problem statement is looking very good. For number three it might be good to list some of the theories discussed - lack of training, location, age segregation in LDS units ect.


I also think it should be a two pronged approach working from the top as well as the bottom. At the unit level the leaders should be doing self evaluations and making adjustments to their programs that will prevent a reoccurance.

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Hate to add onto the list.....at least the boy had a PFD but I don't see how it came off. This is the type of thing that gives leaders ulcers. I've been WWrafting enough and it should be TIGHT - done right, lifejackets shouldn't come off no matter how fast or rough the water. Even if you're knocked out it's designed to right you and hold your head out. We check and double check. You should be able to lift someone by their lifejacket without it coming loose.


My oldest went over out West in a rocky Class 3 stretch about this time a year ago despite having a secure position and feet wedged in as he should. He did as instructed - on back, feet up and pointing downriver...a good adrenaline rush but we got him back in safe and sound even though part of the raft went over him.


But then a Navy Seal died back here (I think in West Va) because he didn't keep his feet up and got a foot caught in rocks and was swept under.....


frankly, I wouldn't even do this with kids I did not know well and trust and without experienced adults along. Our Troop does a stretch here annually but it's relatively tame and we all know the run. Any new locale that has some risk, I'd want experienced guides along - one per raft that know the river at hand.


And - to balance out things - a few months back a boy died off Cape May in NJ while whale watching - NOT wearing a PFD (in violation of safety afloat rules).



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OK...a bit more info. Four to one ratio of adults to boys is good and older boys. But the total was only 10. How many rafts - two? But this story notes that TWO boys went in the water. That sounds like really rough water or people not prepared. If two went over from one raft, you've got problems. Only three are left in the raft right there to deal with it and if the two are going in different directions.....


Or was everyone focused on one when the second went in? Frankly it's not easy to haul even a 13 year old back in a raft - older boys are bigger.


Were people here in over their heads? Simply taking a water safety course does NOT prepare you for white water rafting. Even class 3's can be a handful for the relatively inexperienced.


Again, this is the type of activity that can give even the most competent leader ulcers. Not to say that you don't do it but you HAVE to be prepared and as noted previously, you want people who KNOW the river you're on along with you if you don't.


And - when our Troop does it - the White Water rafting is NOT considered part of the associated Scout trip and a wavier specifically noting so has to be signed by parents to that effect.



FARMINGTON, N.M. -- A Scout expedition on the Animas River, west of Farmington, has ended with the death of one of the teenaged Scouts.

A 15-year-old apparently drowned after falling out of the raft. Another scout who fell into the swift-moving water was pulled to safety.


The victim was found five miles down river.


There were a total of eight Scouts and two adult Scout Masters on the rafting trip.




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Sitting "on the edge" of the raft rather than "in" the raft seems like an accident waiting to happen. But given that I've never rafted in white water, I'll defer to more experienced Scouters to comment on that detail.


I do note that for whitewater activity, the G2SS requires special instruction:


For unit activity on white water, all participants must complete special training by a BSA Aquatics Instructor or qualified whitewater specialist.




One wonders whether the Varsity Team (boys & leaders) in fact completed such training before the event?

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Deseret News published the following summary of Scouting accidents in Utah a couple of years ago:


Lost Scouts, rescues pop up often in news

W.V. Scout is found in the Uintas" Aug. 1, 2004.

"Four Scouts are found happy and prepared" July 18, 2003.

"Missing Boy Scouts did the right thing, rescuer says" June 30, 2003.

"Angel on lost Scout's shoulder? 'Indiana Jones' found Scout, flew him out of the woods" July 15, 2001.

"Rescue teams locate 4 lost, unharmed Scouts" May 9, 2001.

"Rescuers find 2 Scouts after 12-hour search" June 29, 2000.

"Orem troop heeded Scout motto in crisis" Aug. 16, 1998.

"Lightning near King's Peak kills Scoutmaster, injures 2" July 19, 1997.

"Provo Scout injured in fall on mountain" June 23, 1995.

"Chopper rescues Scout lost in wilds area" July 16, 1994.

"Missing Boy Scouts found safe in canyon" Nov. 22, 1992.

"Heroic teamwork saves life of Boy Scout taken ill in Uintas" Aug. 4, 1992.

"Layton Scout loses footing, falls to death in canyon" June 21, 1992.

"2 Utah Boy Scouts killed by lightning" Aug. 3, 1991.

"3 Boy Scouts killed, 14 hurt as van rolls down hillside near Cedar City" July 14, 1991.

"2 lost Boy Scouts found after search in the Uintas" July 2, 1991.


I don't know that these are actually LDS units and I'm planning to review the microfilm in a couple of months when I travel to Utah to see some family. Statistically, however, I have little doubt that most are LDS.


Unfortunately, I've also received information about a few more LDS Scout deaths/injuries/rescues that Deseret News missed. Here's one:


Boy Scout dies after jumping off pickup

SANDY A Boy Scout collecting flags at the end of the Memorial Day weekend died Monday night after jumping off the back of a pickup and hitting his head on the pavement.

Pat Walters, 14, was riding in the back of the truck with his 11-year-old brother, rounding up the flags about 8:30 p.m. His troop had put the flags on lawns earlier in the day. One of the troop leaders was driving, Sandy Police Lt. Kevin Thacker said.

Near 8600 South and 600 East, the brother jumped off the back of the truck, which was moving no more than 10 mph, to collect a flag, Thacker said. The boy stumbled and hit the ground.

Walters thought his brother was injured and jumped off the truck to help. He temporarily landed on his feet, then fell backwards and hit his head on the road, Thacker said.

Walters was flown to a local hospital, but he died while en route, Thacker said. The brother was taken by ambulance to a hospital for observation. He suffered only minor injuries.



The carnage just keeps coming...





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Todays news just broke my heart - another Scouting fatality. Fred's info that the boy was LDS, coupled with the loose lifejacket report convinces me that you have indeed identified an important problem with adult training. As with all whistleblowers, you will be vilified from within your church if you decide to pursue this; you'll need some strong allies from within in order to prevail. I hope you stay the course, this is important.


IMHO, the stream of injuries and deaths may be symptoms of a larger issue - the subtle but critical differences in the ways the Scouting program is offered between LDS and non-LDS units. The posts above have touched on many possible contributing factors.


Good luck.

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