Out here in the Midwest our New Duty to God program has officially started.  We had the meeting last week for all the youth and their parents, and the feedback seemed to be generally positive.  Many people liked the new emphasis on personal development in the program, many liked how it simplified a lot , and most importantly, the boys didn’t look at Duty to God as something impossible to be attained.  If you have had the new Duty to God presentation in your ward or stake, let me know in the comments how it was received, and the general feedback of all that’s going on, as well as your additional thoughts and opinions on the new program and what it means long-term for your boys!

I’ve been much occupied lately, but I wanted to respond to a couple of the comments:

From gkearney:

For all its faults Scouting does provide a structure to get things done with young men. I have watch with growing alarm the young men in my ward here in Australia drift into inactivity when the Church here dropped scouting and had no effective replacement to offer in its place.

You’re exactly right.  I think Scouting is great, and probably the reason why it’s most effective in LDS church settings is because of the uniformity across wards/branches as well as  the opportunity for defined progression for young men.  One of the greatest things that I like is the young men starting in scouting (at age 12) can see what they can become at age 18 (when they are a *hopeful* Eagle Scout) and realize that it’s not impossible, and those 18-year olds were once in the same seat that the 12-year olds are now in.

The other great thing is the progression within the church.  You know exactly where you’re going to go, and somewhat know exactly what you’re going to do when you progress from Deacon to Teacher to Priest.  All the Aaronic Priesthood work in harmony: If the Teachers didn’t prepare the sacrament, the Priests wouldn’t be able to bless it, and if the Priest’s don’t bless it, the Deacons’ won’t pass it.  It really is the perfect brotherhood, and even more so when you deal with Teachers/Priests, many of whom attend high school at the same time.

From Kim:

It seems to me that in our ward (I am female but am called to be our Duty to God coordinator), it ended up boiling down to a checklist with young men saying “uh, yeah sure, I did that,” especially for the goals that were to be accomplished at home or on their own, which was pretty much most of them by the time you got to Priest.

This was my experience with it.  It’s not supposed to be a babysitting thing, but sometimes when I would ask for updates on Duty to God I would hear the boys say “Oh yeah, I did that like 3 months ago.”  When it comes to something like “Read the manual ‘For the Strength of Youth,’” I’d like to believe the boys, but then again you’re dealing with 12-year olds.  Many items in the church have the concept of “Return and Report” built into them, and for good reason.  It’s not that there isn’t trust, but it’s more a matter of accountability.  When you get a response like “Oh, uh, yeah, I read it,” what do you think?

Also from Kim:

It is just that those who participate now will BECOME more and have life long habits. Anytime you set your own goals you are more invested, more motivated, and have a higher likelihood of success.

Amen.  The old program seemed to have boys checking items off a list.  This program has boys developing lifelong habits that will take them through high school, to college/vocational school/career/military, on a mission, and beyond.  Knowing how to cook a meal, conduct a family home evening, perform service, and run a mile is great.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  And if I have a boy who wants to supplement what he’s doing with the new program with items from the old program, I commend him.  But these are much greater habits that the boys are learning.

From Denzil:

Does anyone know if there is a tracking system for the new DTG program?

As of right now, it looks like many of the old Duty to God sites are trying to  come up with something to track the new program.  eTrailToEagle.com is working on something, and it looks like the Church is trying to come up with a Duty to God/Personal Progress/Eagle Scout program to run off the Church system, but any sources for that have been from 2007.  I can continue to poke around to some other sites, but everyone is trying to scramble to come up with new software.

Mr. T brings up some very good points:

I am very concerned though about how open ended it is and worry that boys will quickly become dis-enchanted with the whole thing. The new program requires creativity and persistence. The boy has to figure out what he’s going to do and then stick to it…without the motivation of an award…just the motivation that comes from within. That is a foregin concept to most of our Young Men and (unfortunately) their parents/leaders.

I am very interested to see how this revised program plays out. It could help forge the most powerful generation of priesthood holders ever, or it could be replaced in six years because nobody is doing anything with it…

I think these are very good points.  First of all, I think that one of the most difficult things about the program is going to be the lack of dedicated time to the DTG program.  In an ideal world, you could split up the time between Scouts and DTG.  However, at least in our ward, Scouts dominated the boys in Deacons, and DTG/Other things occupied the boys while in Teachers/Priests.  I’m not worried about Teachers/Priests, but I am worried about Deacons.  The ward needs to have a strong emphasis on the boys in the DTG program, or you’re right, it’ll be replaced in 6 yrs with another program.

I think that if the parents catch the fire, this program will be effective.  The sticking point is going to be working with the Deacons to start the progress.  A lot of things with the program can be used concurrently with other church activities like Seminary, but Daecons don’t have that advantage.

Finally, from Father (but not my father):

I think the new program focuses to much on a perfect ward or family and to much on Utah. If all circumstances are perfect, the new program will work awesome maybe. …I also think that it will become much harder now to motivate the boys to plan senceful ativities because they (and their leaders) don’t have any orientation. I have the big concern that this program wil be used less than the old one because it’s to “open”.

I think we’re viewing things from different sides of the coin (or maybe different sides of the pond, seeing as you’re in Europe).  I felt that the old program was VERY Utah-centric.  For people in an inner-city like Chicago, Illinois, or in the backwoods like North Platte, Nebraska, (no offense to either), it might be difficult to find things that would fit the old program.  However, any boy with a set of scriptures, a willing mind, energetic leaders, and the desire to get the award can get the award.  In my mind, this new program puts less on the outward actions of the old programs and more on the inner actions and habits.

Also from Father:

Boys need to have outdoorthings, even to invite friends for Church activities. I’m affraid that leaders now have more excuses to to nothing like this in the future, that activities become boring or without sence because they are not fixed on a specific goal.

However, I’m glad to still have the old booklets and that it still can be used as a helpful manual for the progress of my own children in my own family.

By all means, PLEASE continue to use the old booklets!  There’s lot of good things in there that can be used for great activities!  Boys need to learn how to do many of those things, and I would hope those old books aren’t discarded as “yesterday’s news.”   There’s still many things that the boys should learn from those books, but I think the leadership looked at the big picture and asked “What is most important that our young men learn?” and this was their answer.

Thanks so much everyone for the varied responses, and thank you for continuing to comment and read the website (even though for the last 3 months I’ve been MIA).  Again, if you have any comments or insights from how the new Duty to God program was received, please leave a comment or drop me a line!

Also, if you have any “sticky situations” that need the advice of the collective mind, don’t be afraid to email me at YMCounselorAdvice [at] Gmail [dot] com!