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Why do LDS Scouts get lost/killed more often?

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I'd have to agree with your statement. The biggest difference may be that the disinterested LDS boys will come for 4-5 years.

The shame is that there's no reason for a boy to be disinterested. With ~130 merit badges, there's got to be some for everyone.

I one time had a scout who seemed to hate scouting. After months of this, I had a chat with him one day about this. He was in a leadership position, and I was able to get him to see that it was his program, and he could help drive the program. While miracles didn't happen, he did catch the idea and participated much more in planning activities. He eventually became an eagle, and today is doing quite well.

Rick C

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Interesting discussion. Has any analysis been done? What sort of numbers are available for analysis? I did a simple 2x2 table using the above-cited 5 LDS scouts among the 8 deaths in BSA. This means that the odds ratio death of LDS scouts is 14.36(!). With more data, obviously, a more detailed analysis could be done, such an analysis would be able to factor in geography and other variables.

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I had no idea that LDS troop conscripted their leadership. That to me would be the most likely culprit if a problems does indeed exist. In most troops, leadership is voluntary and long term. I just finished my SM training and its taken the better part of a year to get it fit into my schedule. But I did it because I want to enjoy scouting with my son. I've been in the troop for 18 months and just now feel comfortable leading the boys properly and safely. I plan on being active and a leader in the troop until my boy turns 18, in about 6 years. We have leaders with 10 years adult leadership experience. I've had the pleasure of attending several outings with our much more experienced scouters. I'm in awe watching the techniques and attention to safety they demonstrate from years of experience. This is not something you pick up in a few weekends of training.


Our troop just returned from a long weekend of caving, rafting, hiking, bicycling and swimming in the Rocky Mountains. Very adventurous and fun time. But safely ran, the BSA way. Our "old goat" patrol made it that way.


If in LDS troops they don't volunteer but are "called" to temporary duty, how do they expect to obtain that level of experience and skill? Are leaders who wish to continue leading the LDS troops allowed to continue, or are they called to another task?

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LDS Units do not "conscript" their leadership. They are asked to serve in a position, and they may very well turn it down. It is not substantially differant than the process shown in the BSA literature/videos on selecting leadership - remember the old Committee BBQ video?

"In most troops, leadership is voluntary and long term." I have to disagree with this one. I've lived and served in 4 Councils and Districts (New Mexico, Texas, Maryland and Arizona), and my experience has been that long-term scout leaders is the minority in the units. Those troops that do have a history of long-term leaders tend to have a better chance of running a great program, but it is not a given. I've noticed a lot of troops get organized, and a group of parents will serve while their children are involved. Sometimes that may be 7 to 10 years (especially if they have more than 1 son), but then there is a mass exodus of leadership and the troops die out (with the exception of a real dedicated leader who may stay on). Many times new parents come with those great experienced leaders and don't feel the need to get deeply involved. When those experienced leaders finally leave, sometimes nobody steps up to the plate.

While in National Capital Area Council, we had a troop in my district that had been in continuous operation for 50-70 years, with a boy count of 40-50. That was pretty unique.

I would suggest that the safety you saw demonstrated had something to do with experience, but moreso the personality of the leaders. I know some "grizzled veterans" who were great with the boys, but there is no way I'd leave my son in their charge, as they were so lax with safety.

When LDS Scouters are called, the presumption is that it isn't done willy nilly with no thought to the unit (sometimes it may happen, but I don't think it outpaces the non-LDS units). Many times gentleman are called because of personal attributes, skills or career background. Keep in mind, since the LDS Church uses Scouting for its program, most adult men who gre up in the Church have some experience and background in Scouting. From there, it is up to the men to fulfill their calling. When they are not effective, they hopefully will not serve very long. Again, in non-LDS units, the quality of leaders who volunteer is pretty diverse as well.

In the LDS Church, there is a statement, "Once a Scout, always a Scout." Particularly if they get to be known as a Scouter. Even though an effective LDS Scouter may get released from their Scouting calling, they may still participate in various ways. It is totally up to them. Committees, Merit Badge Counsellors, program specialists are all ways to continue helping. Since my first Scouting position in 1984, I've served in various Scouting positions as callings, as well as in a number without callings. So no one is going around telling LDS members that they are no longer allowed to serve.


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I used the term "conscripted" deliberately to differentiate my impression on the motivation of the individual leader. Someone like me who willfully seeks a leadership role in scouting vs. someone who is assigned the task by the Bishop of his church have different objectives and motivations.


One is true volunteerism, the other is not.


My motivation is wholeheartedly the advancement of the program and the safety of the Scouts. I beleive in the program and I as an individual chose to support it.


Someone who is forced by their church to do the same, may not put the same priority on those values. Its not their individual choice to support the program, but the church's.


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Again, no one is being "forced." While I do realize the difference in motivation, I do not agree that motivation makes for a quality Scouter. That is only one of the attributes of a good leader. But, just because someone wants to be a leader, doesn't mean their motivation is right on target. People want to be leaders for a lot of reasons. While the majority may be along the aims of BSA, many times there are personal motivations involved.

Then, there are those who may be motivated, but just don't have the skills or other personal attributes. Sometimes training won't fix that. There are leaders who just don't have the temperment.

Also, how many fathers are "conscripted" by their units so their boy can participate. I have seen a large number of units thet require fathers to participate before their boys are allowed.

My point is, that while LDS Scouters may be called to a position and serve willingly (maybe not "voluntarily") it is still up to them what kind of leader to be. Case in pont, about 6 years ago, a widowed grandmother in my ward was called to serve as a Webelos leader. She didn't want the job, but she accepted the responsibility. She was one of the best Webelos leaders I've ever seen (I've seen quite a few). She took it upon herself to get trained, understand the program, then deliver the program.

OTOH, I can tell you about a non-LDS Webelos leader that I work with. He sought out the position, but browbeats and harrasses his boys. They go on real high-adventure treks (10 miles is a minimum hike and they look for rough terrain). He calls the boys names if they are unable to attend (by schedule or physical capability).

While these anecdotes don't prove anything, it illustrates my point that seeking out a leadership position does not make one qualified or able to fulfill that position.

It may appear that LDS units suffer from poor leadership more, but the difference is that our units stay units more consistently. A ward will continuously maintain its units even during poor leadership, while most non-LDS units will choke off during that time.


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It may appear that LDS units suffer from poor leadership more, but the difference is that our units stay units more consistently. A ward will continuously maintain its units even during poor leadership, while most non-LDS units will choke off during that time


You make my point better than I can.


Because of the rotation of leadership and I assume lack of consistancy of that leadership, LDS troops may suffer because of a lack of experienced/seasoned leaders. Sure there are bad leaders in non-LDS troops and those that don't "fix" the problem, naturally go away. Bad troops will fade, strong troops will flourish.


But in the LDS framework, leadership is rotated irregardless of the performance of the leaders. The boys are compelled to remain in the troop despite leadership. Leaders are compelled to lead despite their desire. From what I gather, you may be mile wide in leadership but only a few inches deep.



Tying this back to the thread, it would not surprise me to link the lack of depth in BSA leadership skills to an increase in safety violations and situations.

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I just finished a week of day camp for cub scouts as the Director also in Washington State. I had a few problems with the LDS leadership (my only problems). The leaders seemed to think that they and their scouts didn't have to follow my "Stupid Rules" two deep leadership(National Standards). The "Buddy System" did not apply to them. And they could yell out "Commence Firing" whenever they felt like it on the Shooting ranges. After talking with these leaders about their behavior and the saftey issues I was informed that I "Knew Nothing". One "Gentleman" actually stated that I should go home and be a "Good Wife" not interfere in a "Mans World". I was lucky, I had a MALE LDS District Executive there to talk to him. He was also told to not come back to camp. This type of attitude is why there are accidents and deaths. By the way I know the "LDS Gentleman" is a trained leader so he should have known better on all accounts.

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I think you're painting with a pretty broad brush. Obviously, as you were comfortable working with your MALE LDS District Executive, it was pretty obviously an individual(s) problem. Which, BTW, are common to people in general, not just LDS Scouters. I just finished as the Program Director of an all LDS Scout Camp, and sure enough, I had a troop with some leadership issues. OTOH, the other troops were generally good to work with. Not much different than when I've done non-LDS camps.

My point is, that I believe there is a mischaracterization going on. One, I don't believe there is a higher percentage of accidents going on in LDS units. Stressbaby's statistics were fine, but on an isolated, anecdotal sample. Secondly, I don't agree with the suggestion that the LDS method of selecting leadership is a cause of the perceived safety issues.

There is a perception that the motivation to become a leader determines the quality of the leader. I can't agree. I believe it is only a contributing factor. Other attributes, like personal skill, integrity, and just "catching the vision" are much bigger factors in my opinion.

Just because a leader comes out of the woodwork and wants to be a leader, doesn't mean he (or she - assume that in my statements) will be a good leader. As a matter of fact, it may make one somewhat suspect nowadays.

People come into Scouting for a number of motivations. They may have a son they want to be in Scouting. Their sons may want to be a scout and drag them along (see Peter Applebone's book). Some have sons who join troops that require parents to be involved more than a drop off/pick up basis. Some are connected with a school and start a program that way. They may have been a Scout and want to share that with others. My particular case is that I didn't have an opportunity to be a Scout, but I realize what a valuable program it is, and so I want to contribute to make it available. Some are asked by others to serve because of their experience or character (see the BSA videos for committee training and selecting leadership). IOW, there are a lot of motivations to get invoved, and none of these are primary contributors to effectiveness as a leader.

Like my previous story of the reluctant grandmother, her personal integrity and understanding of the need for boys to have Scouting, she did the job. Quite often she was in areas where she had little experience and she would find that experience.

There are also a number of leaders who are former Eagle Scouts (for the sake of discussion, the one's I'm talking about really fulfilled their Eagle and it wasn't a paperwork exercise), with all of the experience that entails, but were unmotivated and ineffective as leaders.

The discussions about the lack of tenure for LDS leaders ignores the fact that many of these leaders have served in Scouting for years in many positions. I have to admit that I've rarely served more than 4-5 years in one position, but I've held multiple positions around scouting in different age groups. I was a Scoutmaster for 4 years, then became a Cubmaster for 2.5 to build up a non-effective unit. In that time we were able to build a funtioning committee with some den leaders who were getting the job done. Bringing in a new Cubmaster at that point wasn't a big deal. There will more than likely come a time when the unit will break down due to ineffective/unmotivated leaders. No doubt we'll have to rebuild it again. But you have to give people the opportunity to develop into their positions. In every LDS ward (or at elast Stake) there almost always a few people that are experienced and are available as consultants to build leadership when it fails. My 22 year-old daughter recently married and the ward they moved into were having a period of low leadership. She and her husband were called to take the few boys and develop the organization (poor girl, her new ward had leadership that knew my wife and I were long-time Scouters - I guess they figured that she would have gotten it through osmosis). We helped with training and materials, and there turned out to be a few others that pitched in and their Pack is getting fairly well organized.

Compare that to the pack at my local school. They were down to one leader and his wife trying to keep the pack functioning. They were hitting up everyone they could find in school and out to get some leaders to help. They have been struggling for 3 years under similar circumstances. Given the choice, I like the LDS method better, even with its challenges.


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I was a scout over 25 years ago and quit because they wanted me to join the LDS church and all our scout meetings were at the church and we said Mormon opening and closing prayers. I found this offensive and insulting as a 10 year old. I think the scouts do awesome things and are often great for some young men.


Im saddened by the number of deaths scouts have in Nature. I've worked in the outdoor industry for almost ten years. I've led outdoor trips in New Hampshire, Maine, Utah, Colorado, California, and Mexico (the country) for 5 different companies. By far, the number one abuser group of any backcountry etiquette is the scouts. I have picked up more trash left by scouts than i know what to do with. I have personally intervened in over 5 incidents where I was worried about the safety of the scout group or scout master. I have stopped one scout group from trundling boulders in a into a pristine, alpine mountain lake and was promptly ignored by the two scout leaders when I approached them to have a conversation about backcountry etiquette.


I was appalled to learn that only in 2002 did the scout officially adopt the Leave No Trace ethic. I was disturbed to learn that scouts don't need special use permits to travel on National Forest Service land. They by-pass this because scout masters are volunteers, often good hearted dads who want to support kids getting into the out-of-doors or just want to show young kids how to camp.


The bulk of scout groups I have come across (maybe a total of twenty, 20 out of 20 have been unprepared by NOLS/Outward Bound and Wilderness Medicine standards. One example I often see in the Uintah Mountains in Utah (see news reports from this summer and last) is a scout group hiking in the rain split up over a half mile to a mile, with one group leader often no where to be seen. The kids are all wearing cotton in the form of jeans, t-shirts and cotton socks. Many have no ankle support and are wearing tennis shoes or sneakers. Most kids have an external frame backpack with the sleeping bag (also often made of cotton) rolled up on the outside of the pack with no protection from the rain. If lightning happens to be present, the scouts keep walking, whereas other educated groups go into what is called "lightning drill."


In my opinion the scout masters, although very well intentioned, are indeed at fault. But the larger culprit is the leadership of the scouting organization. Still a larger entity that is at fault is the National Forest Service. I searched your website for any safety protocol for backpacking and found none. I found no minimum qualifications a helpful dad scout master must have before leading a group of scouts into the backcountry. Most organized groups from Outward Bound, to high school and college groups, and commercial guiding companies have very strict guidelines for their trip leaders. Its time for the Scouts to adopt some stringent guidelines for their trip leaders. Am I missing something?






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I'm not sure why you're spending time reading and posting on a Scouting forum if you dislike Scouting so much.

Some notes so you have a little more info.

1 - Leave No Trace has been around a lot longer than 2002. As a matter of fact, the principles (I can't say they were called Leave No Trace) were taught when I attended the Scoutmaster Fundamentals course in 1984. I remember being shown the soft paths video while I still lived in New Mexico (I was stationed out of Newm Mexico in 1991).

2 - Many Scouting units of any any religion (or non-religious based units) offer opening and closing prayers. It's a pretty common practice. BTW, how would you distinguish a Mormon prayer from anyone else's. Also, why would someone praying offend and insult you?

3 - You mention that the number one abuser of backcountry etiquette and that you've had to pick up after them. I can't say that Scouts are better or worse than anyone else, but my experience has shown them to be generally better than the general population. Not to mention the large number of Eagle projects that are done in service to our forests.

4 - You mention Outward Bound as a comparison. Outward Bound does have an impressive safety record. My understanding is that there have been less than 20 deaths since the early 60s. Outward Bound also has a different mission that Boy Scouting and is only available to serve a small fraction of the number of Boy Scouts. Outward Bound has had only 2 million participants since its inception.In the year 2004 alone, there were over 3 million boys in Scouting. I don't have the rates of deaths in Scouting, but I don't believe you'll find it much higher.

5 - I'm not sure why you feel like Scouts need a special use permit to travel on National Forest Service land. The general public can cross it all the time.

6 - When you talk about the bulk of troops you've come across (20), that's not much of a bulk. There are 20 troops within 10 miles of my house right now. That's a pretty small number to paint a picture of the whole Scouting organization.

7 - "I searched your website for any safety protocol for backpacking and found none." There is such a small amount of Scout resources on the web. There are a number of resources, the Scout Handbook, the Fieldbook, Merit Badge pamphlets, as well as a number of other manuals and instructions cover safe hiking and camping quite well. BSA also has a number of training requirements for leaders for higher adventure activities. Safe Swim, Safety Afloat, Climb On Safely, and Trek Safely (for hiking per your question) are required training for certain types of activities. In addition, there are training requirements for leaders for firearms and archery, climbing and canoeing (beyond flatwater paddling). In addition, BSA's "Guide to Safe Scouting" identifies the safety requirements for these types of activities. Going on to OB as you've brought up, their website has no discussion of their safety methods or principles.

8 - In addition to OB, you mention other groups like High School and College Groups and Commercial Guiding companies. I don't know that you have the info to say "most," or even many. We have some HS groups here that go and the only requirement is being a teacher, and they have less training than the average "volunteer dad" in Scouting. I don't think there are too many Commercial guiding companies that would do trips like the most common Scouting trips. A very low percentage of outings are the kind of serious backcountry hiking that you're talking about.

It sounds like you have an axe to grind with Scouting, and only part of it has to do with outdoor safety.

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RickChappell~ I don't beleive I was "Painting with a broad brush". I was relating an experience and since I used one example from the many conversations I had with the different LDS leaders you seemed to take that one as the only happening. I have no problem with LDS troops or their leaders. I do have problems with Leaders that put others in danger. You said nothing about the behavior of the leaders but said plenty of what you construed as my problem. Obviously you have not payed attention to what was said either. I wrote that this was my experience this time around and you generalized that I was putting down LDS scouters and people in general. I will make the statement once again that these leaders showed poor judgement and very unsafe attitudes during this particular camp. If they continue to do this they will further endanger others. These leaders have been trained. They know better!

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After writting a nice thesis on this thread, I realized that I was rambling and not to the point. Let me say this:


On behalf of LDS Scouting, I'd like to apologize to all that have been effected by poor choices of our various leaders. Heck on behalf of Boy Scouts of America I'd like to apologize for the poor choices of our leaders.


I don't know why such folks are attracted to Scouting, I've just seen it happen. Yes I've seen LDS leaders back off of claims they made at Scout Camp about them being above the rules right after I pulled out my copy of the LDS Scouting handbook. These folks hide behind what they preceive to be a cloak. I would look any of you in th eye, and tell you that was wrong, and not what the Church had intended.


It's easy to try and tell others that you have something special, and maybe even think you do... The reality is that if you think you have a special dictum to deviate from your local Council/District, you are wrong. Speaking as a Council volunteer (I'm a member of my Council's Executive Board, and have spent many years serving in my District volunteer staff) I have seen various LDS leaders try to do this, and be quite surprised to see I'm not going to chnage, since I know the program.


An earlier post refers to a study from BYU that shows tenure of scoutleaders. I mentioned that IF BYU had actually published that report I wouldn't doubt it, but now I've learned that none of the four stakes in my council were used, and so now I'm wondering how valid that claim is.


I do think that there are more LDS SMs than any ohter CO, and that can lead to more untrained SMs than any other CO. But I'm not willing to paint all with the brush that ALL LDS Scouters are bad (why would I paint myself with that brush?)...


I think it's tragic that we have had such problems this year. I think the conversation should change to "How to we keep from making Scouting a death sport?" Any ideas?

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'I think the conversation should change to "How to we keep from making Scouting a death sport?" Any ideas?'


Thanks to LPC_Thumper for getting us back on track. I've been on Jamboree staff for the past few weeks and just got back last night. I'll leave the bad press coming out of Jamboree for somebody else but I must say that the sound of ambulance sirens wailing all night long after the arena show fiasco was pretty haunting.


In response to Thumper's question, I think that one way we can prevent Scouting from being such a risky proposition is to first rigorously enforce the safety standards that we already have. Enforcing these is not an LDS thing at all -- it doesn't matter which CO the troops are from. If the LDS troops are disproportionately affected then so be it.


The bottom line is that all Scout Leaders must be adequately trained and have the necessary experience and mindset. If we find that our BSA outing safety standards are inadequate, they must be made more strenuous. Units who don't have properly trained leaders should not go on outings. Units that wantonly ignore these standards should have their their charters revoked.


Still Concerned.



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Interesting discussion.




I've done 3500 miles or so of backpacking, climbing, snowshoeing, crosscounry skiing and such in my lifetime. These have been mostly on independent trips, the Mountaineers, and Scouts.


No volunteer led groups have the standards of leadership of professional guide services. That's an unreasonable standard to suggest, in my view. If you want the standards of a professional guide, hire one.


I have seen volunteer leaders who do trips that are too ambitious for their own skills and the skills of party members ---probably the biggest mistake of volunteer leaders.


I quit a Scout unit a year ago because I wasn't satisfied with the safety precautions on outings, having failed to get unit leaders to take such things more seriously.


In my view, the Scouts do a good job of training leaders in the risks they need to deal with on outings. But that doesn't mean they do the job of thoroughly training people in outdoor skills. People are warned of the hazards and instructed in certain rules designed to limit certain hazards (such as the safe swim defense). More rules and guidelines are listed in the Guide to Safe Scouting. But whether Scout leaders follow those rules, and whether they limit trips to those they have the competence and experience to do so in good style is something adult leaders and the troop committee (and parents) need to monitor.


The one outing I went on with that Troop FRIGHTENED me. The potential for disaster was real. In addition, it was just a lousy outing with no Scout program or purpose to speak of. I reported these problems to the Troop Committee, who I found were generally aware of what was going on, but unwilling to do anything about it. When I saw that, I began the process of leaving.


My guess is that parents can decide such issues based on their contact with a Troop. Reckless behavior usually isn't hidden, it's right there if people can recognize it.




Seattle Pioneer



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