Our aim in the [Scouting] Movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth, by inculcating among youth the spirit and the daily practice in their lives of unselfish goodwill and co-operation. —Robert Baden-Powell
Concern for the moral upbringing of young people was not only felt by Church leaders, but also by youth leaders around the world.
The Boy Scout movement was founded in 1907 by Englishman Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell. Born February 22, 1857, in London, England, “Stephe” was the son of Reverend Baden Powell, an Oxford professor, and Henrietta Grace Smyth. He enjoyed a happy family life and often spent time outdoors with his brothers—boating, hiking, and tracking. After graduating from Charterhouse, a pres- tigious public school, he joined the British military in 1876 and traveled to India as a lieutenant. Baden-Powell served for the next thirty years in various military assignments in India and South Africa. In 1897, he became a colonel, and in May of 1900, at the age of forty-three, was promoted to major general, the youngest in the British army. He returned to England in 1903, and retired in 1910 as a lieutenant general.
Lord Baden-Powell gained fame throughout the British Empire during the Second Boer War. He became known as the “Hero of Mafeking” after his intelligent strategies led his soldiers and the local townspeople of Mafeking, South Africa, through a 216-day siege, October 13, 1899–May 17, 1900.
Aids to Scouting
During his military tours, Baden-Powell wrote a book, Aids to Scouting, designed to teach soldiers basic scouting and outdoor skills. After returning to England, Baden-Powell discovered that Aids to Scouting was not only read by soldiers but was also popular among young boys, teachers, and youth organizations. He revised his book to specifically train boys— rather than soldiers—in scouting skills, and envisioned a new program that would teach youth about outdoor life while simultaneously building character.
In August 1907, Baden-Powell organized an experimental “scouting” encampment at Brownsea Island. Twenty boys were organized into four patrols and spent several days camp- ing, working, hiking, and learning about nature. Principles such as honesty, cheerfulness, and service were integrated throughout the activities. Upon completion of the camp, Baden-Powell concluded that boys could learn valuable life lessons through participation in outdoor adventures. These ideas were incorporated into his revised book, Scouting for Boys, which was published in 1908.
Although he professed no intentions of starting an organization, Baden-Powell’s Scouting movement spread rapidly around the globe. Boys everywhere rallied around the promise of adventure through outdoor activities. The enthusiasm of both youth and adults carried the movement forward at an astonishing pace, and Scout troops were soon organized throughout the world.
During his lifetime, Baden-Powell saw his Scouting movement encompass over thirty-two countries with more than 3.3 million Scouts. In his farewell message he stated, “I believe that God put us in this jolly world to be happy and enjoy life. Happiness does not come from being rich, nor merely being successful in your career. . . . The real way to get happiness is by giving out happiness to other people. Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.”
The Boy Scouts of America
The transport of the Boy Scout movement across the Atlantic Ocean is credited to American publisher William D. Boyce. While en route to an African safari in 1909, he became lost while traveling through London, England. A young English boy—later known as the “Unknown Scout”—offered to help and led Mr. Boyce to his destination. Grateful for the boy’s service, Mr. Boyce tried to pay him. The helpful lad refused the tip, stating that he was a Boy Scout and didn’t take money for performing a good turn.
Mr. Boyce was impressed with the young man and inquired further about the Boy Scout movement. He later visited the Scouting headquarters in London and returned to America with information about the growing program. The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in the District of Columbia on February 8, 1910. Incorporation allowed the Boy Scouts of America to copyright their logo, program, and resources and helped streamline various Scouting groups into one organization.
William Boyce turned the leadership of his new program over to Edgar M. Robinson (international YMCA secretary), who assembled Daniel Carter Beard (founder of the Sons of Daniel Boone), Ernest Thompson Seton (founder of the Woodcraft Indians), and other American youth leaders to assist in organizing the Boy Scouts of America.
Publisher William D. Boyce employed up to 30,000 newsboys. He felt that Scouting would teach them valuable skills and self-sufficiency.
By November 1910, a volunteer National Council of thirty-five leading citizens had been formed, with U.S. President Howard W. Taft accepting the Honorary Presidency. James E. West, a young lawyer in Washington, D.C., was invited to be the executive secretary of the new organization. On January 2, 1911, Mr. West opened the headquarters in rented offices in New York City with seven employees. The following November he became the first Chief Scout Executive.
“Even now, 40 years and two world wars later, I remain at heart a Boy Scout, full of admiration for the qualities I have seen develop in boys and young men because of scouting.” —Thomas George Wood writings, 21
Scouting Comes to Utah
Scouting spread rapidly across America. Boys everywhere wanted to experience the adventure and fun of the new outdoor program.
Thomas George Wood, an English Latter-day Saint emigrant in Salt Lake City, Utah, learned about the Boy Scout movement from his uncle in England. In September 1910, after taking a hike and doing “lots of thinking,” he resolved to “do all in my power to start the Boy Scout Movement in the ward for the good of our boys.” After some additional research, Brother Wood shared his plans with the boys of the Salt Lake City Waterloo Ward, and received “lots of enthusiasm and encouragement.” He proposed the organization of a ward Scout troop to his bishop, Asael H. Woodruff, son of Church President Wilford Woodruff, who agreed to the idea.
The ward had more than fifty boys over the age of twelve, who were “noisy and not easy to manage.” Using the guidance of an English Scout manual, Brother Wood organized a troop on October 12, 1910. The first Scout meeting was held a week later.
Thomas George Wood was twenty-three years old when he received his commission as Scoutmaster. The first Scout meeting of the Waterloo Ward Scout Troop consisted of a flag ceremony, close-order drills, calisthenics, and games. Brother Wood was “much pleased in the spirit shown.” —Thomas George Wood Diary, vol. 13, Oct. 19, 1910
Other wards soon organized Scout troops within their YMMIA organizations. Even though the Church was not officially affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, some ward troops operated under the direction of the National Boy Scout Council. The inspired Scouting movement of Englishman Baden-Powell had reached across seas and plains to the youth of Zion.
1911 Boy Scout health standards were in harmony with the Word of Wisdom:
”The average boy ought to have and usually does have
an appetite like an ostrich.
”Don’t eat too much . . . don’t eat meat more than once a day. . . .
”Drink freely of clean water between meals.
”Growing boys especially should have nothing to do with tea, coffee, or any stimulant.
”Alcohol is not a stimulant, but is really a narcotic that is very depressing. . . . The same is true of nicotine in tobacco. “No growing boy should use either.”
—Handbook for Boys, 1911
“Every boy has in him a little savage and a potential good citizen. The question is which is to get the upper grip; upon that depends what kind of a man he is going to be. . . . Scouting [will not] make an angel of him at once . . . [but] it gives him the right start.”
—Jacob A. Riis, social reformer, 1910 BSA National Council Board member, Improvement Era, July 1914, 869
~Excerpts taken from Century of Honor: 100 Years of Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To order a copy click here.