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Achievement Days Get the Axe

Joanna from Bend, Oregon, writes:

I’ve been reading your column for a long time and followed you to Mormon Momma. Thanks for the great stuff. Today I have a question of my own.

Why did the church get rid of Achievement Days? When the girls finally had something that was like the Cub Scouts, it got dumped and now we’re back where we used to be. What is the process for these decisions?

Alison says:

We thank you for being a loyal reader!

As for your question, first I must correct you. “Like Cub Scouts”? Are you serious? OK, I do know what you mean, but I never thought the two were even in the same ball park. As a child I remember dying with envy over the uniforms and the badges and all the cool stuff my brothers got in Cub Scouts and Weblos. Let’s face it, the infrastructure provided by the Boys Scouts of America was/is impressive. Making the Kiddie Care Kit in Merrie Miss just didn’t quite measure up (and, hey, the guys still had Blazers as well!) and the girls had no comparable program. (Sometime in my early youth the church discouraged participation in Girl Scouts because of something related to their secular philosophy.)

When my eldest daughter turned eight, I found out for the first time that the older Primary girls now had a program. It only met bi-weekly and it wasn’t terribly structured, but it was something.

The most difficult part of the program for me and my daughters (the three oldest participated before it was discontinued) was the lack of continuity. If awards were given, it was up to the leader (and any applicable ward budget) to determine what they were and when they were given. So each child went through myriad different program introductions (from animal pins, to painted wooden stars, to bracelet charms, to certificates, etc.), only to have them change when the next leader was called. There was no feeling of completion, but rather a bunch of half-finished projects. (Hmmmm…reminds me of the overflowing box of half-completed Homemaking projects I finally threw away before moving…)

All three of my children who are old enough also completed the Gospel in Action Award, which was a separate program for both boys and girls, that focused on more spiritual goals.

To be honest, I was surprised that replacing the Gospel in Action program with the Faith in God for Girls and Faith in God for Boys programs would have anything at all to do with Achievement Days. I have no idea why the girls’ “fun” event was replaced with one that is meant only to work on the spiritual goal program. And I have less of an idea of why the boys’ “fun” activity (Scouts) is still part of the mix. Anyone have a friend on the General Primary Board?

Kathy says:

Hi Joanna. Thanks so much for sticking with the old circle. We have loved our global sisterhood and hope to continue to share valuable info and moral support. (Or in the dicey case of dressing down, “immoral support,” perhaps. The modesty issue was a heck of a romp for the mom of a young woman, wasn’t it?!)

It’s true that the kids’ programs morph through the years. I was a lark, bluebird, and seagull just before we became “Lihomas” (Little Home Makers.) I adored my bandalo. Wish I still had it. Reminds me of a talk Sue Easton Black gave during her brilliant career. She was invited to participate in a religious program of some kind, when she was just a kid in Long Beach, California. So, sweet little starry-eyed Primary girl that she was, she marched in with her bandalo on, and when confronted with some nonsense about non-denominational secularism, Susy squared her miniature shoulders and bore her testimony to the huge assembly. Maybe this was one of the predictors of her later renown as an Education Week and Know Your Religion speaker.

It seems to me that the church has always been very much on-the-ball regarding the sorts of things our girls need, to support their growth, given their immediate surroundings. It is to be expected that programs will evolve and be administered according to the inspiration of their own moms, leaders, and bishops. Part of the built-in flexibility is a careful eye toward girls who might not enjoy enough resources to maximize the “programs” that come out of Salt Lake. There will always be a prayerful attempt to balance extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and rewards.

I think we moms are always excited to see our kids involved in a pretty structured, well-managed program with peers and leaders they admire and enjoy. There’s no substitute for a great team with gifted coaches. How much accountability would most young men feel, to get good grades and follow a bone-crunching fitness regimen, if they were not going out for the school team and being lashed until they drop by a great coach who loves them and knows the game? It would be a rare guy indeed who would do it all on his own, for no reason other than personal growth and self-discipline. Obviously, most of us are the same. That’s why adults take institute classes and Jazzercise if they can possibly find the time. But it might work better in a city that had neither an institute nor a jazzercise program to have some other way of accomplishing similar goals. Our other writer for Circle of Sisters was invited to participate in a number of discussions regarding international curricula for the church programs, and the concern of the brethren, which precipitated that initiative, was exactly that. Some programs don’t play well out of town, and we need to make sure all our youth are learning how to stay close to the Lord and follow the prophet, avoid temptation, contribute toward the church’s mission, and grow into joyful adults regardless of their circumstances. Pretty tall order! I think that could be one reason our favorite programs sometimes get dumped.

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  • Reader Comment May 31, 2007, 12:37 am

    Grace from eastern West Virginia, writes:

    Would I get Arrow of Light awards shot at me if I registered my opposition to having any Boy Scout programs in the church? Given the current economic crunch being put on the national organization, and the Church’s new Duty to God program, I’m seeing what I consider to be a long-overdue swing away from “scouting” and a much more focused emphasis on spiritual growth, something that was originally in place in the Scout program, but pragmatically doesn’t get much “airtime” especially in all the LDS units in which we’ve been involved (except the current one, we have been quite blessed right now with our recent move). If the BSA “caves in” to the economic pressure over their sexual orientation policies, I’m hoping the Church will dump the BSA right then, and I’ll cheer when it happens.

    I really don’t like it when I’m called to work in the Cub Scout program. Oh, I do the job, and I don’t let the boys know my opposition. I have lots of fun with them, and connect rather well with them (OK, most of them very few of us would claim to reach every boy, and I don’t connect with “momma’s boys” whose mothers can’t allow their sons to get dirty or who support their sons’ manipulative, passive-aggressive behaviors). It’s just that I see so much of Satan’s counterfeits in action during pack meetings and at other times. I’m not around the Boy Scout activities, but what I have seen over the years as my boys were involved or when I had Cub Scout meetings the same nights as Mutual doesn’t impress me very much, either. Gone is the decorum. Gone is the training of what it means to be a real man. Too much emphasis on sports, on the more obvious achievements rather than on character development.

    For instance, the last time I worked in Cub Scouting, I was constantly pointing out that the “cheers” we did were actually “jeers” and often quite demeaning, of either the Cub Scout or his parents (or the parents as a whole group). Ever watch a preteen boy’s face when he’s been called up to receive the arrow points, patches or whatever he has worked hard to receive? He’s full of pride, full of excitement, and rightfully so. Then what do we do? Give him a “watermelon cheer”! His face falls. His shoulders begin to droop. Depending on the boy, you might also see some grit and determination to get paybacks, or you might see that we just reinforced his struggling poor self-image. Maybe this is a boy who has a great, supportive family. Chances are, though, the opposite is true, and we just cemented all the negative messages he’s been getting at home, in school, in the neighborhood. Is that what we want?

    So my druthers would be that we create a program for our preteens that focuses more on opportunities to feel the Spirit in action within us, to learn how to really live a Latter-day Saint lifestyle, and not some program that ends up being an entertainment or babysitter that drags them down. We’re sorely in need of such a program, and I’m confident the brethren are quite aware and have put things in motion to achieve this.

    In the meantime, we need to focus less on tangible awards that encourage competition between our children and more on the intangible awards. Having bandelos, vests, etc., on which to hang awards is fine. The pins and badges are fine. It’s the emphasis on individual achievement instead of group achievement that bothers me. In most of the cultures of the world, family and the group are more important than the individual. When you look at it closely, the same is true in the Church. Families being sealed forever, individuals needing to be sealed to ancestors and offspring. Lifting each other within a ward family, knowing that individuals will draw closer to our Father and move closer to a celestial reward if they reach out and lift others, putting others first in so many ways.

    Then we have Scouting.

    True, there is the troop, and the troop works together to win awards at scout camp, etc. But when it comes to day-to-day activities, to the making of the Eagle, it’s very much an individual thing, and the competitions that I have seen devised to “encourage” the young men to work on their rank advancements are ludicrous with inappropriate prizes: buck knives, rifles, etc. Let’s not forget that when there is a winner, there is always a loser (or losers). Such a message! Where is the emphasis on the character development that is supposed to be the hallmark of an Eagle, especially when everyone knows his mother pushed, nagged, and otherwise coerced him into finishing the job?

    I especially resent it when scout and priesthood leaders tell me that “statistics show that if a boy earns his Eagle, he’s going to go on a mission.” Oh, baloney! There isn’t a straight causation at play here; it’s at best a stupid correlation. None of our sons earned Eagle, and all have served missions (so far). What I fear is that this “Eagle-earning guarantees mission service” concept is actually due to obedience-to-satisfy-social-demands, the very worst reason for them to be going on missions.

    Can we develop, within individual units and stakes, more character and spiritual development emphasis? Sure! What it takes, though, is leaders who see the vision. For instance, one of my sons hated scouting until we moved into a particular ward in the west. There, the young men were vicious against him. He was different. He liked classical music, art, and science fiction. He didn’t like sports and wasn’t very coordinated. He was ostracized on every quadrant, except when he was near our landlord. This man was a true scouter, and highly respected for it. Dale was in his 70’s, with a bad hip but a big heart. He connected with my son like so few have ever done. To Dale, what mattered wasn’t the ranks and the badges, but the growth of a teen into a man. He was like a father and a brother, and gave my son respect, encouragement, and lots of good Christian love. As a result, my son would go anywhere, and do anything Dale asked, working harder than I had ever seen him do. My son began to work on his rank advancement in earnest, because Dale knew how to use the scouting program as a vehicle, as a means to the desired end. Unfortunately, I felt impressed that my family needed to move across the state, and the leaders in our new ward never reached out to my son. Dale was killed in his own home just three months later.

    To give another example one from the female side of this picture I had been a stake-level staffer at Young Women Camp a couple of times (sometimes directly responsible for judging and awarding “best campsite” or “neatest tent” type awards every day, and the camp historian both times) when I was called as Young Women secretary in my ward. I went to camp that next year, under new stake leadership. The old leadership had been focused on an almost militaristic structure, with strong emphasis on obedience to the leaders. The new leadership was focused on creating as spiritual an experience as was possible. Gone was the “best campsite” type awards, which of course had always meant that someone had to lose. Instead, we had “star” or “moon” and even “sun” award levels, so that every campsite, every tent, every ward could reach the highest awards. This was a much more gospel-aligned approach. That which qualified a ward for the highest (“sun”) award were things like “ward scripture reading” or “ward-family prayer morning and night” and “teamwork” (for maintaining the campsite, etc.). Thus, the judging that went on didn’t create or exacerbate a sense of competition between the wards. What we could have done was create a camp-wide “star, moon, and sun” award levels, to focus the Young Women and their leaders into that larger “stake family” mentality. However, the contrast was stark and almost shocking. Gone was the contention. Gone was the “Wednesday Hump Day” emotional breakdowns in girls and leaders. We saw so many spontaneous acts of service that it was hard to keep track of them all (such could lift a ward into the next award category). The Spirit was so strong there, that none of us really wanted to leave at the end of our five and a half days.

    Did we impact hearts and minds? Absolutely. Did we make a difference in the lives of those young women who were teetering on the edge? Undoubtedly. The effect lasted, at least in our ward, for weeks. (How sad that we couldn’t keep the emphasis on the spiritual things going well enough once we got home.)

    So, I’m hoping that in the future there will be a transformation for all of our children’s sake. Just like Lex de Azevedo wrote once, “Isn’t time we had our own kind of music, to celebrate life, not the sins of the world?” I’m saying, “Isn’t it time we had our own kind of youth incentive programs?”

  • Alison Moore Smith May 31, 2007, 12:38 am

    OK. Confession time. After my youthful envy of scouts, I became a heretic.

    During my first few years as a Young Woman, the Personal Progress program was instituted in a relatively close incarnation to what it is now (or at least what it was until last year). That’s when the “swirly girl” became part of the emblem and the goal-setting program seemed to settle down. But the areas in which the goals were set did not follow the current value system. We had things like Cultural Refinement and World of Nature to the best of my recollection. It was kind of a “choose goals in different areas and become a well-rounded person.” Some spiritual, some physical, some intellectual, etc. (Kind of like scouts.)

    Sometime between my graduation and being awarded my “swirly girl” statuette, and the time my eldest daughter entered the Young Women program, Personal Progress changed to being mainly a spiritually-focused program.

    Personally, I think that is entirely appropriate. The church is, after all, a spiritual institution. So having the Young Women concentrate on spirituality and applying the gospel only makes sense.

    What I couldn’t figure out is why the Young Men were still spending their time on shooting hoops, camping, shooting hoops, citizenship, shooting hoops, first aid, and personal fitness (a super-set of “shooting hoops”), etc. Not that these aren’t interesting, fun, and useful, but I’d sure rather marry a guy who can lead in righteousness and change a diaper than one who can lash a latrine in 2.47 minutes.

    It’s not that either approach is wrong, but I couldn’t and still can’t understand the entirely different emphasis.

    I need to insert here that I fully acknowledge that I am not called to make these decisions and have no expectation of revelation in general church matters. I just don’t get it (murmur…murmur…)

    Having four daughters and no sons probably exacerbated the discrepancy in my mind. And once I actually did have a boy (in 2000) I hoped beyond hope that scouting would be disassociated from the church before I had to endure Cub Scouts. With my second son due in four weeks, I think I still have time.

    I should add that my sister (who has six sons (and two daughters)) loves scouting and thinks I am insane and hopes I will mature before my son is damaged by my silliness. She’s probably right (and obviously has experience that I lack entirely), but, hey, I’m stubborn.

    Anyway, I do see the expanded Duty to God program as bringing the Young Men a spiritual program that is comparable to Personal Progress, and I like how the programs have been redesigned. Not that my opinion means anything in this realm, but it makes me feel better all the same.

  • Reader Comment May 31, 2007, 12:39 am

    Charlene Nelson from Casselton, North Dakota, writes:

    My, my, my, sounds like a lot of disgruntled women over a few badges (or lack thereof). I have three boys one just entering Boy Scouts, one just entering Cubs, and the third waiting in the sidelines. I love the scouting program and yes, I wish there were a similar program for girls

    One of our scout leaders just got some badges for the boys, “limited editions” that commemorate 90 yrs of church involvement in scouting. It says “Scouting with a Priesthood Purpose.” What a wonderful reminder of why we do scouting! There is more to becoming a worthy man, a tool for God’s kingdom, a good family man, than memorizing a few scriptures, attending some meetings, and doing some service projects. Don’t get me wrong I love the new Faith in God and Duty to God programs. But scouting rounds out the spiritual man with skills and knowledge that will take him through out his life. Long after the thrill of filling one’s shirt with badges and emblems wears off, he will still have those skills as well as the bonds of brotherhood. This is a wonderful mentoring program

    The fault doesn’t lie with scouts, it lies with Young Women. Unfortunately too many in our church cannot or will not do something that isn’t spelled out for them from A to Z in some manual. Our Young Women also need an intensive, systematic, involved mentoring program to bring them into the fellowship of the Relief Society. They need to see step-by-step the skills and knowledge needed to fulfill their callings as wives, mothers, and sister in the church. It needs to be as thorough and spelled out for them as the merit badges are for the boys. And it needs to start for them at age eight.

    I’ve seen Scout leaders who have some of the same attitudes as some of your sisters writing in it’s a drudgery, the badges and cheers are silly, meaningless, what really matters is “what’s in the heart”, blah, blah, blah. But we mold the heart by changing the whole person and I think that’s what scouting can do. I love it when my eight-year-old can explain every word/phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance, when he promises daily to “do my best,” when he builds birdhouses, and learns team sports. I love it when my 12-year-old camps out with older boys, hears stories of how the priesthood blesses them, is asked to lead a troop activity, learns about a career that I never would have been able to teach him about. They are learning skills, attitudes, and knowledge that will make them better men, better citizens, better husbands and fathers. I don’t know everything does any parent? I can never teach them everything they need so I am eternally grateful for the half dozen men in our ward who are so committed to these boys, so involved in their lives and are mentoring them in the ways of godly manhood.

  • klgreen1 May 31, 2007, 12:41 am

    Hi Charlene, and muchas gracias for your response.

    Let’s have a “round” of applause for your supportive feedback regarding the scouting program!!! Your response was an inspirational reminder that life is what we make it, and scouting can be a larger-than-life example.

  • Reader Comment May 31, 2007, 12:44 am

    Nora Hess from Orem, Utah, writes:

    I don’t usually contribute but I have to set the record straight on this one. Alison says I “love” scouting, as the mother of six boys. Well, actually, scouting has been a source of perpetual frustration for me ever since my oldest son turned 11. In fact, my first reaction to the news that my youngest was a boy was “Oh, no, not another scout!” Cub Scouts was at worst a waste of time, but Boy Scouts has been a struggle. Back in the days when scouting focused mainly on service and values, and was the single main extra-curricular opportunity for young teenaged boys, I believe it was a good program. But in these days of running from sports to music lessons, topped off with homework, practicing, family activities, and those always-important chores, scouting has become just one more task to accomplish. My sons, except for the first one, have all become disillusioned with the merit badge system and have absolutely refused to complete their eagles, even when they had only two or three merit badges and a project to go. I have tried every sort of bribery and encouragement to no avail.

    To make matters worse, scouting’s legal problems have made safe camping experiences difficult. Adult leaders are now forbidden to be in a tent with the boys at night. I have heard some horrific stories from my own sons about what goes on in tents full of unsupervised teenaged boys late at night.

    When the Duty to God program was introduced it was a godsend. Here, at last, was a program that encouraged spiritual and moral growth while retaining the best aspects of scouting! Unfortunately, my sons, disillusioned by years of busywork in scouting, regard the Duty to God program in much the same way. It does not help that their Young Men leaders are supposed to implement both programs, so that neither program is working well.

    It is my hope that soon the Church will end its mandatory association with the Boy Scouts and make Duty to God its only program for boys, with Faith in God for the younger boys. I know some young men and their fathers love the Boy Scouts, and some young men have their only experiences in nature this way. But such young men could still join the scouts, in optional community or school-based troups. The young men of the church would benefit greatly from a consistent focus on accomplishing their Duty to God requirements. It is also my opinion that the Boy Scouts of America would benefit greatly as only families who were truly interested in full participation in the scouting program became members. Troops would be more united, accomplish more, and probably regain much of their lost relevance. My youngest son is now 6. Any chance of my dreams coming true before he turns 8 and the struggle begins again?

  • Alison Moore Smith May 31, 2007, 12:46 am

    My sister has returned to the fold!!! I will now host a feast for the prodigal daughter! Grab some of that twine and lash up the fatted calf! Let’s do an Indain hoop dance! Wooo hoooo!

    OK, so my assertions about her fully embracing the BSA were based on a conversastion we had late one night (somewhere between 1992 and 1997) in the hallway of my home in Pine Springs while she was visiting me in Boca Raton, Florida. (You know, Nora, the same conversation where you called me to repentance after I spilled my guts about the “good Mormon boy” in our home ward who taunted me from kindergarten through eighth grade and you pointed out that I hadn’t yet forgiven him?) Apparently this occurred before she became fully entrenched in the scout shuffle.

    All I can say is that I’m happy to hear that she has seen the light in the intervening years. I’ve always said she was the smartest person I know.

    My Dad told me the other day that there was an article in last week’s Church News that said the church is not discontinuing its association with scouts. Hope I can get a copy. Readers? Anyway, I’ve got five years before I have to face scouts on a personal level. We need a plan.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 31, 2007, 12:49 am

    Well, whadda ya know? It turns out that I was the one who had a friend on the General Primary Board! Although she asked to remain nameless, she clarified that there would be a weekday program to replace Achievement Days. The program is called Primary Activity Days.

    The Faith in God Guidebooks Training Presentation says:

    “Activity days are usually held twice a month for children ages 8 through 11. They are held during the week and provide opportunities for children to learn to live the gospel with joy. Activity days are an opportunity to experiment upon the word and to practice gospel habits. As the children gather, they also have fun and build gospel-centered friendships.

    “Activity days are on of Primary’s most successful tools for conversion, activation, and retention. Neighborhood children and less-active children often come, feel the Spirit, and enjoy the frienship.

    “In addition, activity days provide experiences that help boys prepare for the Aaronic Priesthood and girls become righteous young women. This helps children make the transition into youth programs and their future roles.”

    Young Women General President Coleen K. Menlove clarified in her President’s Message, Honoring the Past, Fulfilling the Present, and Looking to the Future:

    Faith in God is flexible. Activity days are a time to work on Faith in God. As in the past, they are usually held twice each month. Surveys show that parents feel that this is about right. Where it is difficult to gather, the children may work on Faith in God individually or with their families. There are suggested activities, but children may also plan their own activities in the three areas that will help them learn and live the gospel, serve others, and develop talents.

    Faith in God harmonizes with Scouting. In the United States and Canada, boys who participate in Cub Scouts can earn the Scout Religious Square Knot patch by completing activities in the guidebook that are marked with the square knot symbol. These activities will meet Cub Scout or 11-year-old requirements, but most importantly, they help prepare boys to receive the Aaronic priesthood and assist in their preparation to serve a mission.”

    Although these statements confirm my concern (that girls now have activities that are focused on spiritual development only and the boys have both), in practice, I haven’t personally seen the program implemented this way.

    In my ward we still (nearly three years later) have “Achievement Day,” and the activities are pretty much as they were. Fun, entertaining, light-hearted (like watching Napolean Dynamite and making cookies). A couple of month’s ago a friend of mine who serves as an Activity Days leader (but calls herself an Achievement Days leader) asked, “I still don’t have a craft to do with my girls this month. Do you know a good craft?”

    OK, so not only did she reveal that she doesn’t know a wit about me to ask me if I have handy access to a craft, but apparently she believes Activity/Achievement Days is some age-challenged version of the old Homemaking/All-Craft night before the Relief Society had the good sense to focus on Godly pursuits instead of creating coffee-table grapes!

    On the other hand, does your (Home, Family, and Personal) Enrichment Night look markedly different from the old Homemaking? Old habits die hard. Anyone for scherenschnitte?

  • Alison Moore Smith May 31, 2007, 12:50 am

    Hey, everybody. Now that I’ve transferred this article to the blog, I need your help. I was guessing on the publication date as May 2003. It was before Tracy joined the Circle, I know, but just after the announcement was made to switch the programs. Anyone know if this date is close?

  • vinniecat May 31, 2007, 2:20 pm

    I have one boy halfway through the cub scout program and another soon to enter – I think it’s a great program if it fits into your schedule and your boy likes it. We have wonderful leaders and my son is learning about his country, his responsibilities to God, to the community and our environment, and has had a positive experience. My big frustration with the program is when people mistake it for the gospel. It’s another tool. It works for some, not for all. Growing up in the church I was also frustrated that my brother got to do so many cool things while we weren’t allowed the same privileges. I think our ward has equalized the programs to a large degree for the young men and young women – no more big boating trips, out of state trips, etc. I still feel frustrated that the cub scout funding is so much more than that for the girls. We spend at least 10 times more per each scout than per each 8-11 year old girl in our primary. All those awards and camps add up.

  • partone May 31, 2007, 4:40 pm

    Growing up in the church I was also frustrated that my brother got to do so many cool things while we weren’t allowed the same privileges.

    Me, too. It’s still that way with all the stuff the boys get. Why don’t the girls get the same?

  • Alison Moore Smith May 31, 2007, 12:43 am

    Thanks for your great comments and insights, Charlene.

    As for where “fault” lies, I’m not sure. The Personal Progress program is spelled out and the Young Women General Board has stressed (I attended the annual Young Women workshops on Temple Square in 2001 and 2002) that this is a personal/family program, not a program to be dictated by the Young Women leaders in each ward. In that context, I don’t believe it would be appropriate for the leaders to make more of it than what is “spelled out.”

    Even in our Relief Society inservice meeting last night (what do they call that teacher training stuff now?) it was reemphisized directly from Elder Holland and Elder Oaks (who headed up the recent curriculum/teaching revamp) that we are to use the provided resources and NOT to extend the programs/classes beyond the way they are designed and given to us. In other words the programs are divinely inspired, deciding that we “know better” is out of line.

    I, too, like the idea of a church-sponsored, all-inclusive mentoring program for the girls, as they are just as likely to require more to be “a worthy [woman], a tool for God’s kingdom, a good family [woman], than memorizing a few scriptures, attending some meetings, and doing some service projects.” I’m just not sure it’s the church’s responsibility to provide such a program. If we, as parents, aren’t providing the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical training our children need to be strong adults, we might as well send them to boarding school (or day care, or whatever).

    Honestly, though, either approach (all-inclusive or spiritual) would probably be a great program that would support the parents’ efforts in raising their children to the Lord and isn’t that what these auxiliaries are all about?

    My only concern is that the female youth have one approach and the male youth have both. I don’t think it matters which approach the church chooses to support, I just wish the same approach would be used for both groups.

    I’m not trying to express some kind of women’s liberation, bra-burning hysteria over exact equality. (My mother (born in 1925) always thought I was a little too concerned about it.) But I do know for a fact that lots of women (particularly in my generation and younger, who were raised in an “equal rights” culture) have felt that the girls programs were not on par with the boys. I’ve heard it in every corner of the country.

    And more to the point, the girls themselves often bring up such things. “How come the boys get campouts every single month and the bishop won’t approve a sleep-over for us?” “How come the boys ‘shoot hoops’ every week and we have to work on spiritual goals and have activities that tie in with the Sunday lessons?” “How come the boys get to make stuff every week and we don’t get to do fun activities anymore?”

    It’s not that they always want to replicate the boys activities, either, they just notice that they don’t seem to have the same range of opportunities to choose from.

    [I need to stress that, as a youth leader and a mother, I have not encouraged such sentiments. I know that it is too easy to mumble and grumble in ways that bring doubt to our children.]

    As I mentioned before, some of this “inequality” certainly comes from the fact that the Boy Scouts of America has a huge infrastructure, decades of experience, and great financial resources. These benefit the boys without requiring the church to provide or fund them. The church simply sponsors a troop and takes advantage of a great program that already exists

    Another factor, I believe, probably comes the fact that, in decades past, girls had less inclination (or at least less encouragement) to excel in academics, sports, and the like. (Hey, even my sister was discouraged from taking calculus by her high school teacher in 1978. Not because she wasn’t the brightest kid in school, but because it was a waste of his precious time since she was just going to “get married and have babies.”) Perhaps no one has noticed that girls are interested in all sorts of things now.

    I also know that this discrepancy simply isn’t an issue in many countries because scouting doesn’t exist. If we’re building a world-wide church that implements similar programs for all countries, I don’t really see how American scouting fits the big picture.

    When I first became aware of Achievement Days, it seemed that this was a goal-setting, activity program that gave the 8-11 year old girls some of the same training, fellowship, and fun that the boys got in the younger scouting programs. It wasn’t related to Gospel in Action in any way that I am aware of, just as Cub Scouts and Weblos were separate programs from Gospel in Action. I understand that the church revamps, renames, and reworks programs all the time. I just don’t understand how reworking the Gospel in Action program led to abolishing Achievement Days.

    P.S. I am the only person who didn’t hear eye-witness testimony of campfire stories relating the blessings of the priesthood at boy scout camp but, rather, heard about small animals having firecrackers attached to their tails and boys urinating out the tent window? Wahhh!

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