"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
September 11, 2014
Cub Scout Kerfuffle
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


Our ward is arguing about the way our Cub Scout program will run. The Primary president emailed the parents of Cub Scouts to ask their opinions, and many responded via Reply All. It seemed like most people wanted Option A. But when the Primary president announced the final decision, it was Option B.

Then, one parent hit Reply All to say why the Primary president’s decision was incorrect and to ask why she bothered to solicit our opinions if she wasn’t going to consider them.

More parents hit Reply All, and now heated emails are filling my inbox. I don’t really care what they do, but it’s stressful for me to have everybody arguing. Do you think it was wrong of the Primary president to ask the parents what they thought? It sure hasn’t worked out very well.


It was not wrong for the Primary president to consult the parents about a program intended for their children. In fact, it seems like a smart and considerate thing to do. Church activities should be reasonably convenient for families and should consider their particular needs and concerns. And the only way to know what is convenient or beneficial for families is to ask them.

The question should be sincere, of course. If the Primary president had had no intention whatsoever of adopting Option A, she should not have presented it to the parents as a choice, even if she did not expect anyone to choose it.

Nor would it have been advisable for her to solicit opinions until she had thoroughly explored the issue with her presidency and narrowed the possible solutions to ones that were both approved by the bishop (if necessary), and feasible.

But if she had an actual question for the parents, asking for their opinions in a carefully written email seems reasonable to me. Although I might have asked people to respond privately to me instead of hitting Reply All.

Therefore, it seems to me that your ward erupted into a fuss not because of the Primary president’s email or unpopular (to some) decision. Rather, the commotion was caused by the parents who didn’t get their way. Specifically, by the first person who hit Reply All and fired off the criticism of the Primary president and her decision. It hardly seems fair to blame the Primary president for this person’s inability to control himself.

Now, perhaps that person was having a bad day. Perhaps there is more to the story than you know. Perhaps that person was unable to communicate as diplomatically as he intended. Or perhaps the Reply All was an accident.

Regardless, this person forgot three essential points.

One, it is not true that people will agree with you if they listen carefully to what you have to say and then consider it fully. This is a common misconception. And it is false.

Two, the Primary president’s decision is not the end of the world. Church programs and activities are important. They teach, support and encourage. But it’s the aggregate effect of well-planned and well-run programs over a lifetime that makes them effective. Only rarely will a single amazing activity or one superior group experience lead a person to a lifetime of righteous happiness.

In fact, I think that how a person chooses to participate in programs and activities is more important than the programs themselves. In your case, for example, it seems unlikely that Option A instead of Option B would have created some awesome, life-changing condition in the lives of the Cub Scouts.

But willing, cheerful participation in the program is sure to have a lasting effect, even if the program is not as well run as it could be.

Three, it is unacceptable to openly or publicly criticize another ward member for the way he is doing his calling. Open criticism is unkind and serves no purpose but to denigrate and destroy another person. It breeds contention and sets a bad example for youth and children.

Ironically, phrases like, “It’s not fair to the kids,” and “The kids are what’s important here,” tend to crop up as justification for such criticism. But what’s really unfair to children are adults who freak out in front of them when there is a disagreement over a Church program.

All of this leads us to the question that most concerns you: What should you do in response to this kerfuffle? Assuming as I do that the Primary president acted reasonably and the other parents are being insane, I have three suggestions.

First, tell the Primary president that you are happy with her decision and look forward to a terrific year of Cub Scouts. In a sympathetic tone, tell her you are sorry about all the fuss. Then express your confidence that everything will turn out fine. Do this personally. Not in a Reply All. If you do this in a Reply All you will be participating in the conflict and feeding the contention.

When you talk to the president, do not name the people causing the fuss or criticize them. But perhaps, if you have actual insight into the main kerfuffler, and if you think it would help the president handle the problem, you might add something consoling like, “He is hard to please.” Or, “She gets her heart set on things.” Or even, “You’re not the only person this has happened to.”

But think carefully before you do this. Ask yourself whether it would be helpful, or whether it would encourage further contention.

Second, if upset parents approach you and want to talk about Option A versus Option B, do not nod and pretend that you agree with them just so they will go away. Listen respectfully to their position and reply, “I see what you’re saying.” Then, brighten, as if with a happier thought, and say confidently, “But I think it’s going to be fine.”

If they say unkind or unreasonable things about the Primary president, defend her. It is right to defend someone, even if it feels awkward or abruptly ends the conversation.

Third, participate happily in Cub Scouts. Support the program and speak well of it to others in the ward. Say kind things about the Primary organization and the president in particular.

Most of all, make sure your children see you supporting other ward members in their callings. Part of a happy life at church is playing along with the decisions and best efforts of other people, even when you can think of a better way to do things.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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