A Scout is Reverent: The Vanguard Religious Awards
Just a week ago I had the opportunity to attend and speak at a marvelous Court of Honor in Bountiful, Utah. It was just what you would expect from a great Scout Court of Honor. Marvelous outdoor setting. Seven or eight leaders in full Scout uniform. A lot of awards, from Tenderfoot and Second Class rank advancements to merit badges. And most importantly – the entire Court of Honor was YOUTH LED! The Senior Patrol Leader and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader were so well prepared and obviously had the respect of the other boys in the troop. In fact, near the end of the Court of Honor, the Senior Patrol Leader stood in front of the entire group – Scouts, leaders, and parents – and said something like this: “Scouts, tonight we have some new Scouts in our troop and also one more who is now 11 years old and will be coming in in the next couple of weeks. I want each of you to know what our expectations are with regard to wearing the uniform. Our standard in this troop is to wear the full Scout uniform, including Scout shirt with all the patches sewn on in the right place, with the shirt tucked in (I could hardly believe my ears)! We also expect each of you to have and wear a neckerchief and, if you can, Scout pants or Scout shorts.” It is no wonder that this Scout troop is growing and thriving – both in numbers and in quality AND in support by the Scouts’ parents and family members. And the Scouts are staying in the troop even after they achieve the Eagle Scout rank – to provide leadership training to the younger Scouts.
I did notice, however, that as I spoke to the Scouts near the end of the ceremonies, that no one knew anything about Vanguard or the Vanguard Scouting religious awards. However, we resolved that, and, leaving some materials with them, I received a commitment from the Scouts and their leaders that they would begin immediately to make working on the Vanguard Scouting Religious Award a part of their troop program plan.
As I thought about that experience, I thought about all we have done in the past 22 months since Vanguard International Scouting Association was formed to “get out the good word.” We have had unbelievable educational programs featuring Christine and Wayne Perry (former BSA National President) as well as Rex Tillerson, former BSA National President and former United States Secretary of State. We have held two very successful virtual “Little Philmont” training programs (in lieu of our COVID-cancelled week at Philmont Training Center) and have significantly improved and completely rebuilt our Vanguard website. And, yet, there are so few across the BSA who have actually heard of Vanguard Scouting and our religious awards. In pondering this, I have come to a few conclusions and suggestions that might be helpful for us all to “get out the good word” about Scouting and Vanguard International Scouting Association.
- Earn the Vanguard Religious Award Yourself. If you haven’t already begun, start today to work on earning the Vanguard Scouting Award (or if you are a Cub Scout, the Light and Truth Award) yourself. But don’t expect to begin today and get your award at the Court of Honor next week. As it says in the introduction to the award: “Do not be in too much of a hurry to earn or ‘run through’ the award. The award is designed to help strengthen your faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, and increase your understanding of the importance of doing your duty to God.”
- Be Creative. Have Fun as you work on your Award. These past weeks have been very significant for our family. Our grandson, Kaden, has been called to serve in the Texas Austin Mission and decided that, instead of completing his missionary training at home (where he has two very active little brothers), he would do it with Zella and me at our cabin – now named the Missionary Training Cabin (MTC).
Kaden is an Eagle Scout and loves Scouting. In fact, when he returns from his mission, we spoke about going to Wood Badge together – he as a participant and I again as a staffer. While he was here at the MTCabin, I was also working on my Vanguard Scouting Religious Award. It has been going a little slowly for me because I believe in doing hard things – for all of us – so my requirements have included memorizing the entire text of “The Living Christ,” memorizing the 6 Articles of Faith in a third language (since I already know them in English and German), and several other requirements that have taken some additional time. However, as I was working on the award requirements, the thought came to me, “While Kaden (“Elder White”) is here at the MTCabin, why not work on your missionary preparation requirements and have HIM pass you off?” So, as to Requirement No. 1 (Missionary Preparation), he and I passed each other off on memorization of D&C 4 – AND HE SIGNED MY APPLICATION. As to Requirement No. 2, I read the 5 points of the Doctrine of Christ from Preach My Gospel, wrote in my journal, and then reported to Kaden what I had learned and felt – AND HE PASSED ME OFF. As to Requirement No. 3, I already knew how to lead music, so I changed the goal a little to read: “Teach Kaden to lead music in 2/4. 3/4 and 4/4.” I did, he did and, in the end, he signed my application. It was a very fun three weeks working with Kaden during his free time – while we both became better prepared to serve missions – and he is now in Austin Texas in his first area, with his first companion doing very well.
- Invite Others to Earn the Award and To Be Involved in Scouting. Talk about your experiences in your troop, to other adults and Scouts (and potential Scouts and potential Scouting families) and encourage them to begin to earn the award. While social media provides a great way to communicate with various potential Scouts and Scouting families, word-of-mouth or friend-to-friend invitations seem to be the most effective way of recruiting new Scouts and Scouting families. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said of missionary work, “Therefore, invite others to come and see and come and help … and they will come and stay.”
- Set Goals in your Troop. If you are a BSA unit leader or on the Troop Committee, discuss with your troop leadership the importance of becoming involved in earning religious awards being a vital and ongoing part of your troop (or pack) program. If you have youth in your troop from other faiths, discuss with their parents and the Scout their desires as to which religious award their son or daughter would like to work on as others work on the Vanguard Scouting Religious Award (or Light and Truth Award).
- Emphasize the Award in Troop/Pack Meetings and at Courts of Honor. When one of your young men, young women, or leaders earns one of the Vanguard religious awards, make the award for that ceremony meaningful and impressive and encourage other Scouts and registered leaders in attendance to begin working on their Vanguard religious award if they have not begun already.
Lord Baden-Powell once said, “The Scout, in his promise, undertakes to do his duty to his king and country only in the second place; his first duty is to God…There is no religious “side” of the [Scouting] Movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God…Our objective in the Scouting movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth by including among youth the spirit and the daily practice in their lives of unselfish goodwill and cooperation.”
May we help our Scouts and registered leaders learn their duty to God and, more importantly, learn how to apply that which they learn in their lives as they live the Scout Oath and Scout Law. The Vanguard religious awards were specifically designed not to compete with but to complement the Children and Youth Program of the Church in every respect.
As our Latter-day Saint youth involved in Scouting begin working on their Vanguard religious award, they will find it much easier to actively participate in the Church programs for youth and to be productive and faithful members of their family, Church units, Young Women classes, and Aaronic Priesthood quorums.