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Frats=Buying Friends? Boy Scouts=Buying Mormon Testimonies?

June 17, 2009

I once had a conversation with someone about college fraternities (well, actually, I’ve had many conversations with different people about them, but let’s just focus on one). I heard the many derogatory suggestions that frats were just “buying friends” and I thought these were just the butthurt musings of people who had bad experiences with frats. So, I talked with someone who would be friendly to frats to see what they would tell me.

So, the person I talked to described frats — and particularly the initiation process — as a generally rigorous process to create lasting bonds. The trials faced together with other pledging brothers  are once-in-a-lifetime kinds of experiences that you look back 5, 10, 30 years from now and say, “dang” together about.

I wondered…wouldn’t you get these experiences regardless?

Yes, but frats increase your chances of these kinds of bonding experiences with the ridiculousness of the scenarios you can be put into. Compress so many years worth of zany bonding experiences into one short initiation period.

…I suppose I should’ve talked to more people about it, because I got the idea that frats were essentially…playing God…with creating deep friendships (not to mention paying for the privilege, but that’s neither here nor there).

And then I read BYU NewsNet’s recent post on the Boy Scouts and Mormonism.

So I’m reading through…blah blah blah, Boy Scouts rock…you can apparently buy your way into BYU with Eagle scout…those Mormons love their Eagle scouts, etc., etc., etc.,

And then…novel idea…maybe the reason the church keeps boy scouting is to produce zany experiences for Mormons to live, discover, and build testimonies?

Bradley Harris, a professor of non-profit management at BYU, worked professionally with Boy Scouts of America for 22 years. He said the Scouting program provides experiences that help young men practice their faith.

“Scouting is the laboratory,” he said. “It’s practicing what you learn at church on Sunday. If we didn’t have scouting, we wouldn’t be able to practice what we learn.”

Harris recently released a book titled “Trails to Testimony,” which outlines the ways in which scouting can help build testimonies. He said he has had some of the most unique spiritual experiences of his life through scouting.

He remembers fondly a sacrament meeting he attended with LDS Scouts at the 2006 National Jamboree. The outdoor meeting, presided over by President Thomas S. Monson, continued through pouring rain.

“The rain was coming down and plunking in our sacrament cups,” he said. “That’s the type of experience that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”


I’m just wondering…really? Really? Is that all now? The primary purpose is to help get experiences that build testimonies?

Then an interesting discussion occurs that’s really different. The question arises: is scouting dated? Should it modernize to attract modern boys? I can see pros and cons to this, but one thing really scares me:

Ben Wagner, a junior from Fairfax, S.C., said many of the skills taught by the program are irrelevant in the modern world.

“Scouting doesn’t really apply too often anymore,” he said. “My iPhone has GPS. Please explain to me why I will ever need the orienteering merit badge.”

Now, I’m guilty of using my phone (not an iPhone though) for GPS, and I am just a bit embarrassed to say I couldn’t guess the phone numbers of 99% of my friends because they go straight to phone book in my phone…but I would think that this reasoning is exactly why we need an orienteering merit badge.

One time, I left my phone with a friend. It was terrible. I didn’t get lost or anything, but when I tried to call that friend (or anyone) with another phone…I realized I couldn’t. All of my phone numbers were in the phone. (Since then I have embraced the cloud and replicated my phone’s phonebook elsewhere on the internet).

It reminds me of a conversation my dad and I had. He asked me if I knew where some place was. I said I knew, because I had looked it up in Google Maps. He asked me if I knew how to get there, and I said yes, because I had the google maps directions too.

Back in his day, he mused, when people said they knew how to get places, that meant they personally knew how to get places. Not that they knew how to google for it.

…the google instructions got us into the middle of nowhere, by the way. It didn’t see our turn and wanted us to turn on a road that didn’t exist.

But also relevant, and touched upon in the article, is how the LDS church is possibly driving Scouting off a cliff. I won’t get into that for now, but I know many non-LDS scouts who are downright resentful for what the mere presence and influence of the church has done to the program.


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  1. Most interesting. I remember when my wife first got one of them fancy navigation features on her phone. I was hesitant and said that if we use it too much we’ll become complacent and end up getting lost when we don’t have it. Sure enough I can count more than several occasions where we don’t have the phone and we get lost cause we didn’t plan ahead and don’t know where the hell we are.

    Me being an Eagle scout with the orienteering merit badge doesn’t help much either 😉

  2. It’s so true about not learning phone numbers anymore! When I was a kid, it was normal to memorize the phone numbers of friends and other people you call often. Now the only phone number I know is my parents’ phone number, and the only reason I know that one is because it’s the same as it was when I was a kid.

    I was thinking about this recently because my husband has been out of town. I wondered “What if I lost all of the contents of my pockets somehow, so I couldn’t unlock the door to my house, and I couldn’t call my husband to help since — without my phone — I don’t know his number. Then I figured out that all I need is the Internet. If I can find someone who will let me log onto Gmail, I could at least email people to ask them to help me…

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