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Why do LDS Scouts get lost/killed more often?

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I posted on the other thread concerning the recent drowning death of a scout....


I thought for a minute that the scout had been trapped by an undercut, and if the current is powerful enough, it'll suck off the PFD...


Wasn't the case, the problem was a lowhead wall dam in which it dosen't matter one whit if you have a PFD on, or not...


My own read, and had I been guiding the trek, I would of flagged a manditory take out point a half mile before the dam, and used an assisted portage to get the crew below the dam....geezs, how sad

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I was following up another report of a Scouting related death in Grand Canyon on 7/2/2005 when I ran across the following article from the Salt Lake Tribune. It is referring to a boy that is already on the list of dead LDS Scouts but has far more information.


If you care about this topic you will want to read this.


The bet was worth $5.


To win, Kristoffer Jones needed to crawl onto a steep ledge - 800

feet from the base of Zion Canyon - and scratch his name onto the

side of a cliff.


The guest of a Provo Boy Scout troop hiking in Zion National Park

on June 25, the 14-year-old California boy was determined to win the

wager, bragging to a number of his new friends that he would do so.

Boy Scouts are taught to eschew risky behavior, but none of the

Scouts who knew of the bet tried to stop Kristoffer from collecting.

According to investigative reports, one Scout who watched Jones

crawl onto the ledge simply told the boy: "Don't die."

Moments later, Jones was lying dead on the canyon floor.

Kristoffer was not a Scout (with this unit), but had been invited to participate in the trip with a troop from Provo, where he often spent the summers visiting family.


A longtime Scouting advocate whose sons all participated in the

program, Rene Doria approved when asked to allow his nephew to

accompany about 40 Scouts on their trip to Zion. Now, Doria wonders

why there was not better supervision of the boys and why the other

Scouts - knowing of the bet - did not police themselves.

"If they knew about it, they should have addressed it," Doria

said. "Anything motivating dangerous and daring action should have

been addressed immediately."


The reports do not identify the Scouts who made the $5 dare. At

least one of the four boys who were near Kristoffer when he fell told investigators he knew of the bet but "can't remember" the names of the Scouts involved, according to the reports. Washington County sheriff's Chief Deputy Rob Tersigni said several Scouts had used rocks to write their names on the rugged landscape, but said he didn't know whether any other boys had tried to crawl onto the ledge before Kristoffer.


Tersigni said photographs taken by a witness shortly before the

accident show several boys standing on a ledge behind Kristoffer on

Angels Landing, a towering rock formation and landmark in Zion Canyon.

The witness told police he saw the Scouts "running around and

jumping between rocks." They did not have an adult supervisor and

he told them to be careful. He said his warnings were ignored.

Later, the witness saw three of the Scouts walking back down the

trail and overheard one of them say, "He's probably hurt or dead,"

according to reports from the Washington County Sheriff's Office and

the National Park Service.


The reports indicate Scout leader Michael Horito arrived at Angels

Landing several minutes after Kristoffer fell. Zion Chief Ranger

Cheto Olais confirmed that the boys were on the formation without



Three other photos, obtained by Jones' family and provided to The

Tribune, show the boy alone on the ledge with a water bottle in his



"It was so hard to see, as I opened the pictures in my e-mail,

because he is such a good looking boy," Doria said. "He was just so

peaceful-looking on that hill."

Park authorities said the boys were hundreds of feet off the

trail, near the summit, when Kristoffer fell. According to the

report, Kristoffer was about 6 feet from the nearest Scout and was

scooting along a steep slope when he lost

his footing.


Only one of the boys told police he saw Kristoffer fall, but

several heard him scream, the reports say.

Kristoffer's family members say they spoke to the father of one of

four Scouts who, following the fall, linked arms and leaned far over

the edge to see if they could spot Kristoffer.

"That could have been another tragedy because there was no one

there to supervise them. It makes me cringe to think about," Doria



Washington County District Attorney Brock Belnap said his office

would review the reports but did not expect to file any criminal


Executives for the Boy Scouts' Orem-based National Parks Council,

which facilitated the trip, said individual Scouts and their leaders

may be disciplined.

After reviewing the reports Friday night, unit-level Boy Scout

executive Gaylun Smith said he would make an effort "to find out who

did what."


"So far nobody seems to want to admit it on this end," he

said. "It's really sad for the boys who did this, because even if

no action is ever taken, they will have to live with this - and they

have a lot of life left to live."


Council spokesman John Gailey said Scouting rules clearly state

that supervisors should take extra precautions in dangerous areas

such as the Angels Landing trail, "and common sense tells me you

would want leaders close by at least in visible range," he said.

Smith said at least one of the leaders who accompanied the Scouts

to Zion has "changed callings" in the wake of the tragedy. Smith said

the change was not mandated by the Boy Scouts.


Gailey said the idea of Scouts daring another youth to perform a

dangerous stunt was discomfiting. "That is certainly not what we

would want our Scouters to be exercising," he said.

In light of the accident in Zion and a more recent incident in the

Uinta Mountains in which a 12-year-old Scout disappeared, Gailey said

the council was encouraging all of its units to review its safety

rules throughout the month of September.


Doria said Kristoffer's mother is considering taking legal

action against the Scout troop and its leaders for leaving the boys



"There was obvious neglect," he said. "We don't want any more boys

to die. We have this feeling of comfort when we bring these boys out

there. I would much rather they be more aware of the things, the

possibly dangerous things, these boys can do."



It just keeps getting worse and worse.





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Being informed, no matter how thorough, will assist the by-standers with explanations and judgments and it makes for good conversation around the campfire to think ahead about safety precautions but for the parents of the Scouts, it does little to repair their loss. As for the religion of the Scout units, it may or may not give anyone an indication as to what occurred or of the amount of preparation and/or training that went undone. Most churches are free to use Scouting as their youth program and should be encouraged to do so. I strongly doubt any of the deaths were intentional. Accidents will happen no matter how much care we take but hopefully lawsuits will follow in every instance. The settlements and/or the judgments could be enough to encourage the BSA and the CO's to look closely at what they are doing and who they are using to supervise the most precious resource we have, our youth.


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OK, somebody in the LDS Church is noticing that LDS Boy Scouts are dying at a phenomenal rate. This article was found on the BYU News site. They've come to the same basic conclusions that we have -- this is an LDS Leadership problem.


One statistic they report here, however, is that the average tenure for an LDS Scouter is 7-9 months whereas tenure for a non-LDS Scouter is 5-12 years. Mormons are meticulous record-keepers and they own BYU so I assume this is probably based on fact. Scary, that...



Scouting accidents rarer than they may seem

By Rachel Nelson Daily Universe Staff Reporter - 7 Jul 2005



Garrett Bardsley has been missing in the Uinta Mountains since August 2004. Brennan Hawkins was lost and found in the area mid-June this summer. Luke Sanburg fell into the Yellowstone River and has been missing since June 24.


All three names are familiar to national audiences, but are even more familiar to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The three boys, ages 11 to 13, all experienced something terrible on a scouting trip. And all were members of the church.


Now, another scout has been added to the list. Chase Hathenbruck, 15, drowned last week in the Animas River in New Mexico while rafting with his varsity scout team that was chartered to the church.


John Gailey of the Utah National Parks Council, which heads the Boy Scouts in Utah County, said that despite the few recent accidents, there are more than 500,000 scouts camping each year, and nearly all of them come home safely.


Safety is most important to us, Gailey said. Weve been asked if we should even take youth out. One core part of the program is to challenge scouts outdoors.


But those few incidents are still a major concern for those involved with the scouts. Of the eight scouting fatalities across the country during the last year, five have been church members.


Despite these accidents, church leaders will continue to run the chartered scouting programs as they always have, said Scott Trotter, church spokesman. He said that though the situation may need to be evaluated, they are relying on the Boy Scouts for any extra training that is needed.


Even when you follow the rules, mishaps occur, Trotter said. But were sticking with it.


The church is not the largest organization chartered by the Boy Scouts of America, Gailey said. Other organizations around the country, including other churches, parent-teacher associations and community organizations sponsor Boy Scout charters.


A condition of the charter is that the organizations obey the bylaws of the program and provide their own leaders and meeting places.


Leadership is the biggest problem with the churchs involvement in the scouting program, said Brad Harris, associate professor of recreational management and youth leadership.


Harris worked professionally with the Boy Scouts for 23 years before coming to BYU to teach scouting education classes.


Most of the problems were not scout problems, they were church problems, in my opinion, Harris said.


Often leaders fail to obey the rules set for scouting activities, Harris said. They take scouts four-wheeling and shooting paintball guns, though they are not activities promoted by the program or covered by its insurance.


The main difference I see is, outside of the church, people join scouting because they want to be in it, said Clint Lawton, a senior in the scouting education program. Inside the church, boys join because they are deacons. Whether thats good or bad, I will leave to someone else.


Lawton was at the camp in the Uintas when Bardsley went missing last year. The 12-year-old wasnt at an official scout camp when he was lost, Lawton said.


The boys are a lot safer when they are at official camps where rules are in place, Lawton said.


Tenure problems are also inherent with scouting leaders within the church, Harris said. The tenure of a church scout leader is, on average, seven to nine months. Outside of the church, leaders often volunteer for five to 12 years.


Church leaders are there primarily because it is their calling, while scout leaders outside the church are true volunteers, Harris said.


Harris said he has noticed a difference in how church leaders promote safety within the scouting program during the last two years.


Lately the church has focused more on safety, Harris said. The general Young Mens presidency has created a presentation and has visited places around the world promoting safe scouting.


Lawton said the rules and scout policies are all in place, but its how closely leaders and scouts follow those rules that matter.


The number of scouts that get hurt is so miniscule, Lawton said. I dont think they need any more rules, just more training.



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Average tenure for leaders is 7-9 MONTHS? Can this really be true? Is this true for Scoutmasters? Does this mean that new leaders are picking up the reins from a previous set of short-timers? It seems to me that this must create units without much in the way of institutional memory. It also means that even if the leaders have been trained, their training hasn't been reinforced by much experience, or more advanced training. Could it be that some of these leaders cycle through Scout units several times, so it's not as bad as it seems?

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This is a very sobering thread. As a H&S professional I can tell you that if a trend begins to emerge based on the number of fatalities there's a big problem.


Nationaly we all hear about the fatalities and lost scouts. How many more have been permanently disabled, how more have suffered serious injuries like broken bones. If the average tenure for LDS leaders is 7-9 months, chances are nearly every high adventure outing they go on is their 1st. That's the leaders not the scouts!


Taking scouts into the outdoors should mean adventure not taking risks. The best outdoor people I know do amazing things but are among the most risk averse people I know as well. They plan meticulously and train for their outings. This takes a combination of training and experience under the guidance of other experienced leaders. Outdoor adventure should not mean having to accept unreasonable risks.





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I'm totally impressed by not only your obvious concern, but your stick-to-it-ness in following through with this situation that seems to be a bit of a moral dilema within your church. Kudos to you!


I'm SHOCKED if the leaders truly have less that a year's experience (and that's the average?!). One step that could be taken right away, is for the elders to start a rotation where one Scouter has always been there longer and has 'trained' the newer adult ... in other words, stagger their terms of serving. Not the end-all, that's for sure, but a first step while research is being done.


I'm of the opinion that, other than leadership difficulties, the fact that the boys 'have' to be in Scouts (if I understood that correctly) is a really dangerous situation. My son's Cub Pack and now Scout Troop have lost Scouts every year that don't want to continue the more advanced the outdoor situations become with age and experience.


And lastly, I would concur that Utah and other mountainous areas are much more rugged and true wilderness situations ... it's kinda hard to fall off a prairie!


Best wishes!




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One step that could be taken right away, is for the elders to start a rotation where one Scouter has always been there longer and has 'trained' the newer adult ... in other words, stagger their terms of serving. Not the end-all, that's for sure, but a first step while research is being done. wadahoot



A good ideal...but, maybe LDS units should consider that when they lack the experience, or the expertise, that maybe they should tap into other resources outside of their Church to find the people with the skills they need...

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Boy Scout Injured While Sledding

Jul. 18, 2005


PROVO, Utah (AP) -- A 12-year-old Spanish Fork Boy Scout was injured while sledding down a snow field near Mount Nebo and was carried out by rescuers.


Utah County sheriff's officers says the youth had cuts on his head and face and some of his teeth were broken in the accident just before one p.m. Saturday.


The accident happened at ten-thousand, 700 feet in the Wolf Pass area.


After the boy was transported out by horseback, a Juab County ambulance took him to Mountain View Hospital in Payson.


Sheriff's Sergeant Tom Hodgson said the youth was tired and hot, but otherwise in good spirits and good condition.

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Sorry I've missed this for so long, but between summer camp, camp inspections, work, family vacation, etc I'm just getting back.


In the past I've taken the voice of an experienced LDS Scouter. I'm sadden by all the tragedies that we as a community have had this summer, one hurt boy is one too many. I don't even want to talk about boys that have lost their lives while Scouting. But let's look at a couple of statistics;


1 - If BYU news is reporting that the average term of scout leaders is 7 - 9 months, I'm accepting that at face value. However, this is in direct conflict with the guidelines that the General Church Leadership supplies in their Publication "Scouting" They suggest a minimum of two years, and encourage more seniority than that.


2 - I'm really not sure if there are more LDS boys in Utah than my home state of California, but what I do know is that there are more wards in California. More wards then leads us to more Scoutmasters. Each ward should have their own Pack/Troop/Team/Crew (based on the number of boys in their ward, again using "Scouting" manual from LDS church)


3 - I'm wondering if this has more to do with a particular council's problems, or a limited number of council's problem. I'm wondering if some how certain units are not taking advantage of council training, or really applying the G2SS. While my information is old, I still think there are only 3 or 4 councils in the state of Utah. I also know from first hand experience that there is only one council in Montana, and that many of the units there really run things on their own.

The young man that was lost, and then found was an invited guest of the son of a staff member, and so was there without his unit (just a little detail, that points the finger where it needs to be, this wasn't a loss due to a break down in troop policy, but rather a camp's policy)


I understand that all of this is second guessing, and hind-sight is always 20/20, but I'm just sure if you can lump all LDS scout behavior into a couple of council's statistics, that's what most of the articles show me.


A friend of mine was one of the leaders of the troop in Yellowstone. He called me to get some support for what had gone on. I asked him how he could have let boys wade in the water on the banks of a river. Didn't he understand that unless you have an authorized water front, everybody stays out of the water? He actually told me they hadn't considered it a water front, since no one was swimming. I asked when he had his water training, and he told me he wasn't sure when his council provided that. I explained to him about the basics of Safety Afloat (yes I know it's called something else, but you know what I mean), he was amazed that National had such a program.


This man travels 4 hours roundtrip to attend RT. There are problems when your district stuff is 2 hours away. His district is basically all LDS, only because the wards are the only COs willing to sponsor units. This makes those statistics tilted as well, doesn't it?


This has gone on long enough, but guys there are many things going on here. Let's hope for some healing, and let's see what we can do to make these next 12 months much more quiet as far as losing our youth!

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I've read through the posts, and feel the need to respond. First off, I am speaking my own opinion, and not speaking for the LDS Church. I am a member, and have been a leader in Cubs and Boy Scouts in and out of the Church for 20 years. I've held District and Council positions and have served on the District Training Committee for years. Currently I'm in the Stake Young Men's Presidency and serve as an Assistant District Commissioner. I'm not trying to toot my horn, just give an understanding of the experience from which I speak.

First, the number of deaths is very anecdotal, and without real numbers only leads to alse conclusions. I can add a number of fatal accidents from here in Arizona to add to the list, bith in and out of the DLS Church. The number can be skewed additionally as you could add a number of incidents that were outside scouting - ie. joint activities with the Young Women as well as activities which were the same group of boys as the unit, but not officially going as the unit (a suggestion by a local council leader for prohibited activities to gou out as a group of friends - I personally find the practice reprehensible).

Second, the statistics about the tenure for LDS leaders is anecdotal as well. The Church is good at record keeping, but does not keep records on tenure for the various "calls" people hold. In other words, while I agree that many times the tenure can be short, no one can give reliable statistics. My own experience is that the tenure is indeed too short too often, but in some cases, I know men who've had the calling of Scoutmaster for 20+ years. I myself have always had a scout calling (20 years), even if it is merely a committee member. By the way, non-LDS units suffer from this same dilemma. The specifics are a little different. Instead of callings, non-LDS units struggle to get parents to participate for the year, much less for multiple years. Many non-LDS units fluctuate activity levels annually due to the number of parents willing to support the units. As a unit commissioner for non-LDS units, all of the units I worked with had this challenge and units would disappear for a year or two, or only hold together by a couple of dedicated leaders. That still doesn't mean that tenure isn't a problem. Vaughn J Featherstone, one the the Church's General Authority back in the 50's commented on the importance of tenure and that we have challenges with it.

Third, LDS Scouting is Scouting. There is no real difference. Webelos used to be a one year program. You also used to fulfill all of tenderfoot requirements when you earned your Arrow of Light. When BSA changed the program to 2 years, the Church kept it at 1 year to coincide with the age-level programs we already had in place. By the way, there are some age differences due to the fact that the Church does transition by ages as opposed to school years (running an annual program instead of a school-based program). BTW, non-LDS units have the same option. The 11 year-old Scout program is identical to BSA's first year Scouter program. That first year in Scouting is designed to be dedicated to learning scout skills and build skill and confidence in outdoor skills. While LDS Webelos do not go camping, the non-LDS Webelos program isn't real camping either, so it's pretty difficult to consider that experience as a difference. The older boys are in a different registered unit, but that doesn't mean there should be no contact between the groups. They meet together for openings at each meeting, and there's no reason (I've done it many times) they can't work together on activities while segregating the level of activity - in a similar manner to the Fast Start Scout Training video. The primary difference between the Varsity, Venture groups and Scouting in the Church, is the program emphasis. It is different due to the different desires and abilities of the boys. BSA has recognized this for years suggesting differentiating patrols in this way (I know it was suggested in my Scoutmastership Fundamentals Course in New Mexico back in 1986).

Additionally, LDS Scouts outside of Utah and Idaho do go to Scout Camp. As a matter of fact, while stationed at Andrews AFB in DC, my local LDS troop was part of the National Capital Area Council, and we had two weeks dedicated just for LDS units at Goshen Scout Camp in WV (1 week for MD LDS Scouts and 1 week for VA LDS Scouts).

Also, to clarify, Wards and Stakes cannot "call" District or Council positions, as they have no authority to do so. They only have authority over their chartered units, just like non-LDS units. What may happen (as it has happened in our area) is that the District LDS Scouting Relationship Committee may work with the District Leaders to define what leaders the LDS Stake(s) are "assessed" to help. Then the Stake or Ward (or in some cases could be a regional) may call an adult to serve as a Scouting Specialist to serve in these positions. My current District wants a high Unit Commissioner ratio so asks each ward to provide a Unit Commissioner, as well as having Stake Leaders serve as UCs as well. One of the Stake YM Presidency members is asked to serve as an ADC. While serving in the Stake YM Presidency in DC, we did it differently. Our stake covered 3 districts. It so happened that we had a building, as well as a YM Presidency member in each District, so each of us served as a Unit Commissioner in coordination with the Districts.

But the point at hand is the safety of the boys. My own belief is that whether or not we have a higher percentage or not, there is no excuse for most of the accidents. I haven't attended Philmont, but according to our Stake Presidency member who did attend, they were taught specifically that we are to follow the same safety guidelines as BSA. Particularly if we run Stake Camps as we do every other year. That means we have to have qualified leadership to do climbing, swimming or boating. That's one reason why our last camp didn't include swimming activities.

My observation is a couple of reasons. One is the tenure and training of leaders. Part of it is because we often have leaders who are called, but not necessarily committed to the vision of Scouting. Some of that is the culture of not training people for positions, but relying on their personal inspiration. This is not consistent with the Church's policies. In some cases, the Priesthood leaders giving the calls, don't know themselves to encourage training. That's where Stake leaders have a responsibility. There is no reason why they can't be providing training (the current curriculum makes this particularly easy).

I can't agree with the non-Sunday camping leading to inexperience with the boys. The problem with non-Sunday camping is that it leads to exhausted leaders driving when they shouldn't be. I remember being very upset (and vocal) with a Stake activity where they took boys on a trip to Catalina Island, stopped at a SoCal amusement park and the same leaders drove boys home (6-8 hour drive) afterward. To make matters worse, the amusement park was a surprise for the boys and consequestly their parents were't told.

Another cause is the boys themselves (or at least their families). As Scouting is the activity for boys in the Church, many boys are disinterested and do not realize that Scouting is more than camping and hiking and cause problems as a form of rebellion. This can also be a leadership problem by not taking advantage of Jr Leadership to plan activities covering all of the boys interests. Sometimes it's a parent problem for allowing their children to be problems. Sometimes, it's just a boy problem.

These issues aren't any different than non-LDS groups, except possibly in scope. There are very few non-interested boys in the non-LDS troops so that part of the equation is missing.

Ultimately, I think none of us want to see boys harmed, either in or out of the LDS Church. Maybe we should be more supportive of those Scouting requirements like tour permits and other (liability-induced) paperwork and training requirements (I wish I had a penney for every time I heard about the hassle of all the paperwork you have to do).

Sorry this was so long, if you made it through, congratualtions on your endurance.

Rick C


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"There are very few non-interested boys in the non-LDS troops so that part of the equation is missing."


There are more of these than you might think, although they probably don't stick around for as long.

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