When I was a teenager, I once made a batch of cookies. Lacking experience I didn’t realize that there was a problem with the baking soda. It was very lumpy! I made the cookies as I always did, and they looked and smelled delicious. But when I bit into the first beautiful cookie, I discovered my mistake. Whenever I encountered a lump of baking soda the most dreadful taste would overwhelm the delicious cookie-ness and the whole batch was ruined!
The lesson I learned was obvious: Leaven doesn’t work when it all ends up in a lump. Rather, leaven works best when it is evenly distributed throughout the dough.
As followers of Jesus Christ we have a responsibility to be actively engaged in our communities. When we clump together—only associating with members of our own congregations, only participating in activities sponsored by our own church—we miss valuable opportunities to be the leaven that the world so desperately needs. Furthermore, we often sadly strengthen the stereotypes that Christians are judgmental and clannish.
Throughout my life I have come to feel that the real reason we tend to stick together as Church members is because it is easier. Too often we are timid or afraid to put ourselves in “out of church” situations for fear of uncomfortableness or ridicule.
It’s easy to make friends at church but (at least for me) much more difficult in other settings. I struggle to make conversation with strangers or move a relationship from “co-workers” to “friends.”
In December of this year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will end its partnership with the Boy Scouts of America. When I heard about this change I was shocked. Our family has been involved in our Latter-day Saint Scout troop since our oldest son was a toddler. My husband and I have served in a variety of callings in our ward including Scoutmaster, committee member, committee chair, den leader, and commissioner. For us, Scouting in the Church has been a wonderful and natural way to reach out into our community. Just by showing up to Roundtable and other meetings and training opportunities, I have built relationships with some amazing people—people who share many of the same values and goals that I do; people who are passionate about service and youth, and people who are not afraid to have fun.
After the Church announcement, we discussed the future of Scouting in our family and the impact of no longer having a Latter-day Saint unit to attend after this year. We also considered our desires for our children, and the natural outcomes of still being involved in Scouting.
Specifically, we discussed:
1) the current and future needs of our children
2) the current and future time commitment for our family
3) the current and future opportunity that Scouting still offers us to be involved in our community.
We concluded that in response to the needs of our children, we most certainly DO want what Scouting has to offer for both our girls and our boys. Mainly, character and leadership development as well as adventure and friendship—even after our Latter-day Saint troop has ended.
In response to the time commitment of Scouting involvement, we decided that we are already putting in that time in our currently Church-chartered troop and pack, so transferring those hours to a community pack and troop at the end of this year would be the same.
And finally, we desire to be leaven in our community. Our Church family is so wonderful and important to us, but we (our family and our Church) are part of a community. There are people all around us who need the love, service, friendship, and leadership that Scouting can help provide. By participating in the Boy Scouts of America we can bless the lives of so many people, young and old alike. We believe it is always in everyone’s best interest when more of the youth in our communities learn to make “moral and ethical choices throughout their lives.”
In conclusion, whether your family chooses to continue in Scouting after this year or searches out other community opportunities that better fit your interests and needs, I invite you to remember that the Lord has commanded us to be leaven; and, though we are few in number, we can have an uplifting influence on the world around us when we reach out and participate in our communities.
~Contributed by Bernice H. Oliver
Sister Oliver currently serves as a Wolf Den leader and an adult Sunday School teacher in the Wyoming Ward, Grand Rapids Michigan Stake