Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Boy Scouts of America

I am currently in the middle of taking a "Wood Badge" course (owl patrol) which is the Boy Scouts of America advanced adult leadership training.  The LDS Church loves scouting.  In fact, the LDS Church sponsors near 38% of total BSA units. (assuming 100,000 units).  Scouting is the youth program in the LDS Church.  Nearly every LDS congregation sponsors cub scout, boy scout, varsity team, and venture crew units.

"For All The Boys"
There has been some controversy in the media about BSA policy with regard to accepting boys who are homosexual. The BSA policy to continue to allow homosexual boys has caused some churches to abandon BSA.  When LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson was asked about the LDS view on this issue Pres. Monson responded emphatically, "scouting is for all the boys".  In reality, the BSA decision is not really a change.  Boys with same-gender attraction are expected to be "morally straight" along with all the rest of the boys and leaders.

Pres. Monson wrote about how scouting serves as a bridge.
Scouting is a bridge between the LDS faith and other religions.  Scouting is a bridge between the LDS Church and the community. For LDS members, scouting is a bridge to organization, membership, and fuller activity.  For the LDS boy scout, scouting is s bridge to adulthood, from the Aaronic to the Melchizedek priesthood, to serving a full-time mission, and to marrying in the temple.

I have both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Biochemistry.  In addition to the many lecture courses, I was also expected to take a number of laboratory classes.  Labs gave me a chance to put into practice many of the concepts that I was learning in lecture.  In a similar way, scouting gives young men the opportunity to apply and put into practice the moral values they learn on Sunday.  Scouting provides many opportunitues to practice Christ-like attributes though participating in community service or by sharing your water with a fellow scout on a hike.

Values and Discipline
Many people participate in competitive sports, martial arts, or even join the military in order to learn values, disciple, and develop leadership skills. Instead of learning discipline through competition or the art of war, how much better to learn values and discipline by participating in a service organization like BSA that practices the art of peace?

Wood Badge
Wood Badge is a 6-Day training experience divided up into 2, 3-day weekends.  I grew up in LDS scouting and participated in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Exolorer Scouts.  Having grown up in scouts, I know what scouts is supposed to look like.  I've attended blue-and-gold banquets, participated in pinewood derbies, and survived several 50-miler adventures.  However, for the newcomer to scouting, I'm sure it could be difficult to run a cub scout or boy scout unit if you had never seen it done before. That is what Wood Badge is all about. Wood Badge provides its participants with a full scouting experience compressed down into 6 eventful and exhausting days.

In addition to camping, cooking and other outdoor skills, Wood Badge participants receive valuable leadership training in the Partrol Method, Effective Listening, EDGE Method, and Group Dynamics.  Wood Badge patrols are given numerous team-building games and activities as well as learning about the history, vision, and purpose of scouting.  

Patrol Method 
When you get a big group together, you are likely to get the formation of cliques with some members feeling left out.  Patrols make sure every member of the troop belongs and is a productive part of a team.  Also, like hyperthreading in a computer CPU, having multiple partrols makes it possible for multiple tasks to be accomplished at the same time (in parallel). 

A big part of teaching begins with effective listening. Effective listening involves both listening for content but also reading body language.  Also, empathetic listening involves listening for understanding, emotional validation, and emotional availibility (sharing a feeling) while at the same time being able to provide correction or redirection.  Effective listening builds a relationship of trust and opens the door for teaching.

EDGE Method
"EDGE" stands for Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, and Enable.  Sometimes scout leaders can get into the bad habit of asking scouts to perform tasks that the scouts have not been adequately trained to do.  Inevitably, the result is that scout is unsuccessful and the scout leader has to swoop in and save the day.  This can create an unhealthy dependent relationship between the scouts and the leader. Instead of gaining confidence and indepentance, scouts with ineffective leadership can loose confidence.

Boy Led
Scouting is supposed to be boy led.  Ideally, scouts should be empowered to plan activities, plan meals, shop, pack, set up camp, cook and clean up afterwoods with appropriate instruction guidance and supervision.  Scout Leaders should not be doing all the work. In fact, this "boy led" principle is not just a scouting principle but an eternal principle.  In the LDS Church, young men at age 12 are given the Aaronic priesthood and the deacons quorum president is given priesthood keys and authority to make assignments and administer the Lords Supper each Sunday under the direction of the Bishop.

Group Dynamics
Whenever a new group gets together, enthusiasm is high and skills are low.  There may be strong personalities and even stronger opinions.  As group members get to know one another and gain trust, the group goes through a progression of stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing.  It is important to recognize these stages especially "storming" so you can effectively progress to the performing stage. Validating everyone in the group may require patience and flexibility to try things a new way.

Game With Purpose
Scouting has been described as a "game with a purpose".  However, if scouts is all just fun and games, then the boys are missing out on the purpose.  The purpose of scouting is to teach a boy His duty to God and his country. Scouting is meant to instill within him the 12 values of the scout law. The cheers, songs, skits, and games are the appetizer.  The faith, values and virtue are the main course

Return to Virtue
I work in a busy Emergency Room and I see the consequences of poverty every day.  Sexual immorality leading to illigitamacy and drug abuse leading to addiction are the leading causes of poverty in America.  Poor American's are increasingly becoming dependent on Government welfare which never addresess the virtue issues at the root of the problem.  Consequently over the last 100 years we have seen the steady demoralization of America into a voting block that is increasingly voting for those progressive/liberal politicians who support the steady errosion of our individual liberty and freedom.  We are seeing the slow death of our nation.

I have to admit being shocked when I brought up "chastity and sobriety" as an example of morals during a Wood Badge lecture when the instructor labeled these as "personal beliefs".  I was surprised that there were scout leaders for which the Scout Oath to "keep themselves mentally awake, and morally straight" took on a different meaning.  

Duty to God
The LDS "Duty to God" program works in concert with the Scouting program.  scouting teaches a boy that he must live up to and perform his duty to God.  However, scouting leaves it up to each individual family and church to tell a boy what that duty is. The LDS Church has the Duty to God program and "For the Strength of Youth" which defines exactly what that duty is.  The LDS Duty to God is not a laundry list of tasks to be performed and marked off once and never again. Instead, the program invites boys to make lifestyle commitments to pray, read scriptures, and give service that will become lifelong habits.

LDS Mission
Scouting is helping LDS youth resist temptation; keeping themselves morally clean and sober.  After completing scouting and after High School,  LDS young men together with young women are encouraged to serve LDS missions. LDS missionaries are sent around the world as social and spiritual therapists to encourage individuals and families to do their duty to God and Family by praying regularly, reading scripture and attending church. Socially LDS missionaries admonish others to live a life of integrity, chastity, fidelity, and sobriety by avoiding any addiction.  The LDS Mission is a life-changing experience but not if the missionary has not also lived what he or she is preaching.  Scouting helps boys live clean and virtous lives so they can become missionaries of the Lord with great moral and spiritual authority.

I have a soon-to-be 14-year-old son who is actively participating in scouting.  I am grateful for the many leaders who have devoted their time to mentoring him.  I have served off and on in various limited capacities in scouting mostly as a parent and merit badge counselor.  But I recognize the great value in scouting as a bridge, a laboratory, and as a game with the purpose of instilling in both youth and adults principles of faith, virtue and freedom.

[Who knows if the scout uniform may be the uniform that will be worn by the righteous who will be gathered and organized to peacefully defend freedom, America, and Constitutional Government in the Last Days]

Friday, September 05, 2014

Kolob and Laniakea: Church Order and Hierarchy

Many cosmologists ascribe to the theory of Homogeneity, which is that looking at any part of the Universe looks like any other part of the Universe. However, as we are able to peer out and see more of the visible Universe, we are seeing that the Universe is not Homogenous but instead a giant Cosmic Web with grand Filaments and Voids. 

 Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone in the Universe but part of a much larger cluster of galaxies call the "Local Group". The Local Group is part of a larger order called the "Virgo Cluster". The Virgo Cluster is part of thr "Virgo Supercluster".  And the Virgo Supercluster is part of a newly discovered larger megacluster called "Laniakea" which is a Hawaiian word meaning "immeasurable heaven". Scientists are calculating Laniakea to be about 500 million light-years across. Neighboring megaclusters to Laniakea have been named "Perseus-Pisces", "Coma", "Hercules"and "Shapely" (I am using the term megacluster for increased clarity)

Other large intergalactic structures are named "The Great Attractor," "The Sloan Great Wall" and another super massive structure called "The Large Quazar Group".  It was believed until recently that The Great Attractor, the point at which all the galaxies within Lineakea were approaching, was within the Shapley Supercluster. However, according to the most recent model by Dr. Brent Tully, Shapley has been made its own adjacent but separate megacluster to Liniakea. The center of Lineakea is now believed to be somewhere within the "Norma Cluster" which is part of the "Hydra-Centaurus Supercluster".

What does Homogeneity vs. the Cosmic Web have to do with religion? Well, it turns out how our view the Universe informs how we view God's Church and Kingdom on Earth. Why? Because the same God that created the Universe, created His Church. So, it follows that if you believe that the Universe is Homogenous, that you may be more apt to believe that God's Church is also homogenous and there doesn't need to be higher orders of structure or hierarchy.   

God is a God of Order who created the Universe and His Church with a Hierarchy is why I believe God taught Enoch and Abraham about the Universe and about Kolob. The doctrine of Kolob is not about focusing on what Kolob is or where it is or where God lives, but that God is a God of order and created and ordered Universe and Church. (Liniakea)
(How Far Away Is It)
(The Cosmic Web)
(The Great Attractor)