SCOUTING C0NTINUES IN THE LDS CHURCH 2015
By Kevin V. Hunt
The summer of 2015 and specifically July 28th, was a day that I will always remember. It literally rocked my world. At that moment I was serving as a Camp Director for the Jack Nicol Cub Scout resident camp located in northwestern Colorado. I was loving every minute of this great camp built just for Cub Scouts. I was truly living the dream. I had a fabulous staff and life was good in our Scouting world.
We didn’t have internet or e-mail capabilities at the camp and this was a major challenge. But, on that day, most of my staff members and I went about ten miles away to do internet and e-mailing at the small public library in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. I don’t remember who it was, but one of the staff guys found the news release put out the day before by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relative to Scouting and the church to which I belong. We were led also to the statement issued the same day by the Boy Scouts of America. Ironically, the news came the same week that I received a special metal plate –a very fancy gold card – from the Boy Scouts of America - recognizing me for fifty years of active service and participation in the programs of the Boy Scouts of America. (I couldn’t possibly be that old … but I got an early start.)
Anyway, the LDS Church officially responded to action taken earlier that day by the Boy Scouts of America. The BSA had just voted and had created a “membership resolution” which said that all boys – and leaders – regardless of sexual orientation – could participate in the programs of the Boy Scouts of America. My staff and I first read the Church statement which said,
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.
“As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.” (LDS CHURCH NEWS RELEASE ON-LINE AT LDS.ORG - JULY 27, 2015)
So, here were my two favorite organizations at odds with each other. And, I was caught in the middle between them.
I absolutely love Scouting. For most of my life, Scouting has been my life. I am proud to say that I am an Eagle Scout. My three sons are all Eagle Scouts and I have noted the effect of Scouting on their lives – then and now. And now I also have four sons-in-law who are also Eagle Scouts. I am grateful that Scouting prepared them to be good husbands for my daughters. For all of my fifty years in the programs of the Boy Scouts of America, I have participated in units sponsored by the LDS church. I have been in awe of, amazed by, and have rejoiced in the grand partnership between the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts of America. It has been a glorious relationship. In most of that time I have also participated in various roles within the BSA and outside of the Church. I have been a professional Scouter, I have been a camp director for many years (in seven camps in six states). I have organized Scouting units, have trained hundreds of leaders, have served on district advancement and training and administrative committees. I have seen hundreds or thousands of boys and leaders who have experienced the greatness of the Scouting programs as they have participated in the various BSA programs and internalized its values as found in the Scout Oath and Law. I have noted with joy the long-term and eternal effects of Scouting in the lives of these boys and their adult leaders.
My life has been greatly blessed because of my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in the Boy Scouts of America. And I am more blessed because of the wonderful partnership between the two organizations.
I participated and celebrated with all of Scouting in the 2010 celebration of a century of Scouting - the Boy Scouts of America. Then three years later, I was privileged to be in the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah and gloried in the grand production of “Century of Honor” staged in recognition of the 100 year partnership of Scouting and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was truly proud to be a part of both organizations and marveled that I had been a part of that partnership for fully half of the time that it has existed. Amazing!
I noted above my awe and wonder at the partnership of Scouting and the LDS Church. Scouting has the program, wonderful camps and facilities. And the Church (LDS and all other churches) has the boys and the adult leaders and the vision of Scouting for its youth and adult members. The LDS Church adopted Scouting as its youth program as the “activity arm” of the Aaronic Priesthood – with the aim of preparing great missionaries, husbands, fathers and “Priesthood men”.
With my long-time fascination of LDS/Scouting partnership and in my self-appointed role as a historian, I have for many years documented historical statements of Church authorities made in support of Scouting. I compiled many of these statements into a book entitled, “Scouting in the LDS Church” (and its predecessor “The Scouting Partnership” written 20 years previously). In a Foreword to the book, Elder Vaughn J Featherstone writes: “[This] is a treasury of the greatest Scouters, concepts, philosophies, principles and especially History of Boy Scouts of America and the Church. This book is a classic and should be on every Bishop and Stake President’s shelf.” (See www.scoutingtrails.com).
So, with that background, let me say that the July 27th LDS Church News release brought to me a lot of mixed emotions. And for the next month I strongly considered what an LDS departure from the BSA might mean to boys both in and out of the Church. As a 50 veteran, my mind was torn. I knew that I would face some personal trauma if Prophets, Apostles and Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opted to bow out of the program of the Boy Scouts of America. But, I also loved Scouting. “What would I do?” I asked myself. But, considering church leaders to be Prophets of God, I resigned myself to accept whatever they might decide.
Each day I wondered what might be the decision of LDS Church leaders. At the end of August I read from the national “Scouting” magazine – which is published for all adult leaders in Scouting:
“[The resolution preserves] the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to select adult leaders in line with their religion’s beliefs on sexual orientation. In other words, the longstanding ability of chartered organizations to select their adult leaders remains in place. Scouting families – both current and future- can select units charted to organizations that match their beliefs and that best meet the needs of their families.” (Scouting, Sept-Oct 20915, page 7)
As I read this article, I wondered again how the LDS Church would deal with the issue. Then just a few hours later, I heard the news. I welcomed the decision of Church leaders which came on August 26th. The news was good:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appreciates the positive contributions Scouting has made over the years to thousands of its young men and boys and to thousands of other youth. As leaders of the Church, we want the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to succeed in its historic mission to instill leadership skills and high moral standards in youth of all faiths and circumstances, thereby equipping them for greater success in life and valuable service to their country.
“In the resolution adopted on July 27, 2015, and in subsequent verbal assurances to us, BSA has reiterated that it expects those who sponsor Scouting units (such as the Church) to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values “in word and deed and who will best inculcate the organization’s values through the Scouting program.” At this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go forward as a chartering organization of BSA, and as in the past, will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify Church doctrine, values, and standards.
“With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs.”
So, there it was – or is … The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America are still valued partners in the building of boys … exciting news for everyone!
As I contemplate the subject, I believe that this decision by the LDS Church leaders was no small or insignificant decision for them. I am sure that it was one of the very major decisions that top Church leaders have had to deal with. Just think of the thousands and millions of boys and leaders who could be affected by the decision outcome. As reflected in the July 27th LDS Church statement, there was stern chastisement of the BSA membership resolution action. The LDS statement was bold in its declaration of pending serious consideration of the membership change and more than hinted that Scouting might disappear from the LDS Church. So, I think that a very serious meeting was held with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles relative to the decision at hand. I am sure that great thought was given both ways: Should the LDS Church pull out of Scouting and form their own organization – or should the LDS Church remain a chartered partner with the Boy Scouts of America. More than at any other time, this was indeed a time that the LDS/BSA partnership tie could be severed.
I know that the LDS Church has the capability and resources to create a program that could replace the BSA Scouting program. The LDS Church, with its inspired leadership and strong membership could develop an alternative program for its own boys. I am sure that these alternatives were shared and discussed. I believe also that a major focus that developed in the discussions was thought of what the Boy Scouts of America might be – or not be – without the membership, financial and leadership support of the LDS Church.
I am sure that LDS leaders recognized that the LDS Church truly is the “backbone of the Boy Scouts of America”. And if that backbone would collapse or be withdrawn, could the Boy Scouts of America stand and live? There is no question but that The LDS church leads the way in number of chartered units in the BSA and is in the top four of numbers of boys registered. The church is a major financial contributor everywhere they have chartered units. Volunteer LDS leaders throughout the country support and strengthen local councils and districts with their leadership, facilities, program support and constancy. I am sure that LDS Church leaders studied all of these things and they came front and center when faced with a decision of whether or not to have the Church remain tied to the BSA program. And then there was the century long tradition and heritage of Scouting in the Church – and the faithful support given by top LDS officials during that century.
There was, indeed, a great deal to consider in the decision. I think that Church leaders knew well that the whole BSA program could easily collapse without the ongoing strength and support from the LDS Church. This likely weighed very heavily upon them. I am sure that they talked of what other options all youth of America would have for moral, citizenship, character and leadership training if not through the Boy Scouts of America. There truly were few or no other alternatives. It was clear that the youth of America – and especially those not in the LDS Church – needed the strength of the Boy Scouts of America. So, the vision became clear. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must remain firmly grounded to the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America needed the full and continuing support of the LDS Church.
And so, a vote was taken – and maybe further discussion and even more votes. But, ultimately, The Council of the First Presidency and all members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church became unanimous in their decision. And this is very significant. The decision would stand! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would continue to be strongly aligned – as through the last century – with The Boy Scouts of America. And with that decision, the official news release – with news of the decision – was written and released to the world! A major decision and great news for all of the boys of the United States of America and beyond.
I would like to share some bold thoughts from various LDS Church leaders through the years and as reflected in the final chapter of “Scouting in the LDS Church”:
"Scouters, through the Scout program, can go out and reach boys that cannot be reached otherwise. The President of the Church recognizes that. That is one of the reasons the program was officially recognized and accepted as a part of the Church program. And when we realize that brethren, let us go out and save those boys. (President N. Eldon Tanner)"
“The Ideals of Scouting – to foster good citizenship, physical fitness, and moral integrity, all based upon a firm belief in God – are in harmony with the objectives of the Church.” (See First Presidency letter, 20 June 1975)
Scouting has indeed proven successful as it has provided the following benefits to the Church:
1. "It gives the Church a program that attracts boys and serves their needs.
2. "It helps to extend the service out-reach of the Church to the whole community.
3. "It provides contact with boys and families who may not belong to any church.
4. "It helps hold boys longer in, and closer to, the Church.
5. "It strengthens home ties and family relationships.
6. "It helps to develop leadership which may be used in all phases of the Church program.”
"Our commitment has not diminished to any extent at all."
Scouting in the Church will experience continued growth and progress as Scouting and Priesthood leaders everywhere realize its potential when used in tandem with the Aaronic Priesthood.
"Scouting is an integral part of the Church program for young men and [it] complements Aaronic Priesthood quorum work. Where programs for Scout troops are available, please understand it is not an optional program. (President Ezra Taft Benson)"
As Prophet of the Church, President Ezra Taft Benson also said: "Scouting is no longer on trial. It is past the experimental stage. It has ready acceptance. It is a definite part of American life, American lore, and American heritage. Scouts of today live the legendary lives of the great American pioneer scouts. The vision, perseverance, courage, determination, and self-reliance of the old Scouts are inevitably a part of Scouting today and so are a part of America today.
About that same time, Elder Jack H. Goaslind, then a newly sustained Young Men General President reaffirmed once again the Church's commitment to Scouting. He said, "We're hearing frequently that the Church is going to be discontinuing its partnership with Boy Scouts of America but it’s just NOT TRUE. [And it still isn’t true]
“ … The Scouting program used by the Church has not changed, and the standards for membership continue to be based on the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, which we sustain as a Church and which build character in our young men.
“Brethren, if ever there were a time when the principles of Scouting were vitally needed – that time is now. If ever there were a generation who would benefit by keeping physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight – that generation is the present generation.” (President Ezra Taft Benson)
“When properly implemented, Scouting and Duty to God strengthen faith in Jesus Christ, character, relationships, and skills. ... Scouting and Duty to God help prepare young men to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances and to bless others as full-time missionaries. (YM President David Beck).
Our current Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, and himself the longest-serving member of the National BSA Executive Board, has had much to say relative to the importance of Scouting in the LDS Church. On more than one occasion, he has said, “I am pleased to stand firm for an organization that teaches duty to God and country, that embraces the Scout Law. Yes, an organization whose motto is ‘Be Prepared’ and whose slogan is ‘do a good turn daily.’ The Aaronic Priesthood prepares boys for manhood and the weightier duties of the Priesthood. Scouting helps our boys to walk uprightly the priesthood path to exaltation.” (194)
President Monson continues: “Impossible to measure is the great good which has come from this organization during the past century. … I believe in Scouting. I believe in the goals of the organization. I believe in the power of Scouting to bless and enrich lives for good.” (212)
It could hardly be stated in stronger words! And now with the recent decision for the LDS Church to continue with the BSA, we each need to once again open our ears and hear the message of inspired Church leaders. We need to open our hearts to greater personal commitment to the boys who so desperately need our help in these troubled times. We need to stop looking for excuses and to look instead for avenues to DO all that has been given to us.
In immortal words, Apostle and Elder Mark E. Peterson spoke years ago, but his words are as applicable today as when he said them. "... I would like to say that Scouting is not an optional program in our Church. It has been adopted officially by direction of the First Presidency, and we are duty bound to promote it.” (36)
These inspired words can guide us into the next century of the partnership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America. We (LDS leaders and all others in BSA chartered churches and other organizations) just need to go out and do it! We need to fully implement Scouting within our organization and make it greater than ever before.
Through the years, many men and women from within the LDS Church have served on executive committees of the Boy Scouts of America. President Thomas S. Monson, Church Prophet and Leader, served some 60 years on the BSA Executive Board. Only recently he was replaced by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, also an Apostle.
“On May 20 , Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was elected as a member of the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board during the BSA’s National Annual Meeting [in Atlanta, Georgia]. Elder Holland attended the meetings during the week and also spoke at a closing reception.
His remarks given on that occasion give us direction and hope for Scouting – not only in the LDS Church, but for all Scouters – all of us – no matter where we live or participate in the program:
“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Elder Holland said. “We need to pray. We are at a difficult moment in the nation’s history where wonderful institutions like the BSA, and supporting organizations like the Church, will need to be brave, clean, and reverent. We’re going to need God’s help, but we’ll have it. The BSA will need God’s help, but they’re entitled to it. Church leaders need God’s help, and we’ll have it.
“I’m eternally optimistic. For me the glass isn’t just half full, it’s flowing over the top. A Scout is cheerful. These are sobering moments, but we’ll work our way through whatever difficulties come. Good will prevail; truth will triumph and bless the lives of young men in generations to come.” (“Elder Holland Accepts Key Scouting Assignment - Contributed By Nettie Francis, Church News contributor, June 2, 2015, Quoted from a “Church News” posting by the LDS Church – on www.lds.org.)
The youth of America need the Boy Scouts of America. And the Boy Scouts of America needs The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and all other church partners or sponsors of the program). And the LDS Church continues to need – and continues to support the Boy Scouts of America – even with its warts. And so the grand partnership continues. May God bless the Boy Scouts of America and all of the Scouts and leaders who continue to participate in this great program of building men of boys. That continues to be the mission for all of us!Well, I’ll have to admit also, that I too am pretty positive about the continuing partnership between Scouting and the LDS Church. And why am I positive? We are into the third generation of Scouts in our family. I have eighteen grandsons – all ages 11 and under (and that’s Scout’s honor). Five of them are already in Scouting and the rest will all soon be Scouts. And with the continuing relationship between Scouting and the Church, they will continue to have some great Scouting adventures. I have hopes that all eighteen (and any more that come along) will all be Eagle Scouts. That would be a grand legacy! Okay, boys, “Scouts Attention! Hand Salute …” Let’s keep going with the Scout Oath and Law … “On my honor I’ll do my duty to God and my country …” Boy Scouts all … what a great thought!
Written and submitted by: Kevin v. hunt