There Are Good Reasons for Safety Rules in Scouting and Other Church-Sponsored Activities

The tragic electrocution of four Scout leaders and the heat-related illnesses of hundreds of Scouts at the National Boy Scout Jamboree remind us of the importance of safety rules in youth activities and other events. Sometimes bishops and other youth leaders take a lot of heat when they enforce rules and policies, or when they add some rules of their own aimed at promoting safety. Parents and youth used to doing things their own way might get annoyed, and may be right in saying that they’ve done things some other way dozens of times without trouble. But violating those principles greatly increases the risk – and when trouble does strike, as it did for the adults who were asked to help install a dining tent near power lines at the Jamboree, it’s too late to repent and start following the rules. When you push your luck too far, someone may be dead or blinded or paralyzed for life.

Bishops and other youth leaders have a grave responsibility to keep their people safe and alive. Parents and youth need to understand that and help ensure that safety comes first, and stop whining when a cherished activity is banned.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

12 thoughts on “There Are Good Reasons for Safety Rules in Scouting and Other Church-Sponsored Activities

  1. The Priesthood handbook expressly states that the Bishop is responsible for safety of the youth in the ward.

    I heard a parent mention recently how great a particular youth leader was because he got on the kids level. After a snowstorm the youth leader demonstrated spinning donuts in the church parking lot with his truck.

    Another youth leader led the young men in a snowball fight. After 30 years of being a teacher and school administrator I cannot tell you how many times we went to the emergency room with students needing stitches from snowballs. In one case we had a young lady lost sight in her right eye (permanant). And she was NOT participating in the snowball fight. She was walking by on her way to school.

    Of course I do not think that eating contests, water ballon fights are safe either from a psychological point of view.

  2. You raise some great points. Let me also mention my particular pet peeve of unsafe swimming. It’s so easy to just take a bunch of kids to a lake and let them swim around – but it’s also one of the most likely places for a fatality. Unless youth leaders are trained and committed to following the BSA swim safety program, they should keep kids out of the water. There have been LDS leaders who had kids die on Church events. Just an accident that couldn’t be avoided? Try telling that to the lawyers representing the grieving family.

  3. My husband and I have always been frustrated with church scouting for the very reason that leaders often called don’t want to be there. As a result I think the program suffers greatly. You end up with leaders really not taking the rules seriously and not paying much attention. We had a leader just recently that went 100 miles an hour with boys in the car, so he could show off his new mustang. Sure the boys thought it was great. But he never really thought that what he was doing was wrong. All too often it seems the lost boys you hear about are from church scout groups. We need to ask ourselves why and what can we do to prevent these problems.

  4. Jeff-
    Congratulations on being named the outstanding BYU Engineering Alumnus. I was surprised to see all the grey in your hair, but then again you have served as bishop.

    I am surprised at how little attention is paid in the Church to the Scouting safety rules related to the sexual safety of our youth. Too often it is assumed that the Scoutmaster is a good guy because he is a member who has a temple recommend. Or he could be a sociopath pedophile. The sociopaths are quite good at making us think that they are nice, trustworthy folks. How many children and youth have to be abused before we begin to take it seriously?

  5. PJ—-

    I am very upset at what you wrote. In my opinion the ScoutMaster (If he is LDS) should face IMMEDIATE release, and possible probation with the priesthood.

    Floyd—-in our city last year a Police School Liason officer was arrested for child molestation. He was abusing the very children he was sworn to protect. He went 10 years as a cop before he was caught. He had videotaped himself with boys.

    We must protect our youth. Men should NEVER be alone with a young man or young woman except in a priesthood interview situation. that is my opinion.

  6. Jeff—-

    There is NO excuse for ever having our youth in the water without following Boy Scout protocol. Movies show people crying for help when they drown. In truth most just slide under the water without a sound.
    It can happen so fast.

    We need much more training.

  7. Is there anyone out there besides me who thinks that Scouting is a poor substitute for what the Church could be teaching its young men? Something more like the Young Women’s program and its focus on faith, temple preparation, scriptures, and marriage.

    Scouting is a great program for young men who enjoy outdoor activities and sports, but it doesn’t effectively address the needs of young men who are more drawn to art, literature, and other “indoor” pursuits.

    Personally, I wish the Church would drop Scouting and develop its own program. (And I’m an Eagle Scout.)

    But I don’t think that’s likely to happen, especially with Thomas Monson — the presumed next President of the Church — being a recipient of the Silver Beaver, Silver Buffalo, and Bronze Wolf awards.

  8. Mike,

    Scouting blinds people somewhat because they see the good in organized activity and attribute it to the structure rather than the species.

    In an increasingly urbanized setting, the places you can just “run wild” with boys (which they need) are shrinking. So, instead of orienteering, you get someone cutting donuts in the church parking lot.


  9. Scouting can and should be a great activity arm for the Aaronic Priesthood, but is seldom implemented correctly. The purposes of Scouting and the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood fit together very well. Unfortunately, too few LDS Scoutmasters and YM leaders have the vision of Scouting (possibly even of the Aaronic Priesthood) and too little training.

    Our Troop only gets two weeks for Scouting, the other weeks are Quorum Activities (a lot of movie watching and dodge ball-ggrrrr) and YM/YW combined. One of our Scouting weeks is usually Stake Merit Badge Clinic. It is very hard to run an effective program with only one regular troop meeting a month. I feel that our YM leadership give only lip service to supporting the boys in Scouting.

    Although it is largely outdoor oriented, BSA is actually designed to be for boys of all interests. The problem is in leaders and parents who don’t understand that or plan a variety of activities.

    I think that church members are often far too casual about 2-deep leadership, which BSA insists on for boy and leader protection. There have been times when I have asked about 2 deep on an activity or some other rule, only to have them say, “this isn’t Scouts” or “oh this isn’t official. It’s just some friends getting together.” Playing with words to do what they want regardless of safety or policy.

    When I ask about safe swim defense when they go camping at the beach for instance, they just sort of chuckle, hem and haw. Frustrating!

    I believe that Scouting in the church can be a great thing, but we are failing in our stewardships.

  10. Scouting is great prep for a mission too. Working with others, problem solving, cooking, camping.

    Even though elders have apartments (or hovels) in 3rd world countries, it’s a lot like camping.

  11. Scouting is great prep for a mission. We learn to eat rotten food. How not to kill annoying associates. How to wear a uniform. How to walk alot.

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