It was with great reservation that I said yes to the calling of Cub Scout committee chair last November. My oldest son is six, not old enough to be a wolf, and my only experience with cub scouts was more than five years ago as a Bear Den assistant.
Although I think the scouting program has helped many boys for generations, I object to it being part of the LDS church. First, not all boys enjoy scouting. Second, girls don’t get to participate, and programs that are supposedly comparable, really aren’t. Perhaps these objections are mutually exclusive, nonetheless, they are two reasons why I didn’t want to accept the calling. Still, I’ve never turned a calling down and with my husband’s encouragement I accepted, hoping to do my best to help both the boys and girls ages 8-11 in my ward.
So, when a woman at Roundtable (the scouting training/ idea forum) suggested packs invite the Activity Days girls in the upcoming Pinewood Derby, I jumped at the chance to include the girls in this exciting racing event. My visiting teacher happens to be the leader of the Activity Days girls and also the wife of the first counselor in our new bishopric. When I told her about my plans to invite the girls to participate, she was excited and made plans to go buy the girls their own cars to make and race. Actually, I told a lot of women in the ward, including the bishop’s wife and they were all excited. The only woman who disliked the idea was one of my new den leaders, who is not a mother of a cub scout. While I listened to her concerns, I figured it was my decision to make, and the benefits (equality, learning, and mutual respect) far outweighed the costs (the boys may not like the girls there).
Apparently I was wrong. The first counselor in our bishopric approached me on Wednesday night during a youth activity at the church to discuss cub scouting details. We talked about callings that needed to be filled, the possibility of combining our packs with another ward, and the scheduling of the Pinewood Derby. I was confused about whether the stake was having a combined Derby, or if the wards were having their own. When I mentioned it, the counselor said off-hand. “Oh, we’re not doing that.” Still confused, I asked for clarification. “We’re not inviting the girls. It’s the Bishop’s call.” He quickly walked away.
I was very upset with the way he addressed the issue, by not explaining why the decision was not mine to make, or why it was reversed.
The more I thought about it, the more I saw the irony of the situation, and I felt both disappointed and angry.
The way I was treated was a symptom of the greater problem of the way women are viewed in the church. That’s the exact problem I was trying to address by inviting the girls to the Pinewood Derby in the first place.
Despite this situation, I really like our new Bishop. He’s been a good friend for the five years we’ve been in this ward. He’s one of the most humble and open-minded men I know. My admiration for him was one of the reasons I was most disappointed with this incident.
I hope to speak with him this week and discuss this situation. I’m prepared to explain what happened and justify my decision to invite the girls, not only based on the idea of equality, but based on the way Jesus treated women in his day, far better than the rest of society.
Currently, I’m struggling to address the situation in a way that is both humble, and assertive. Being inexperienced in Cub Scouts, I know I need to defer to those who know the ropes. However, I’m not compelled by an argument based on tradition.
In Strangers in Paradox, the Tuscano’s give this little gem regarding tradition, “An objection based on tradition in a church that accepts continuing revelation is hardly an objection at all.”
Regardless of how the conversation goes, I am looking forward to discussing the issues of gender equality in church with a friendly church leader.
I hope that he will be open to my experience and be able to see my perspective, while at the same time, I hope that I will be able to listen and understand his perspective as Bishop.