Scouting professionals and volunteers—from the National Office and 15 councils stretching from Hawaii to Vermont—gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 29th through March 31st for the LDS-BSA Relationships Seminar. Held each April, the three-day event coincides with the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The purpose of the seminar is to strengthen LDS-BSA relationships through a deeper understanding of the Church. Invitees include Council Key-3s, LDS-BSA Relationships committee chairmen, and Scouting professionals from many faiths. Participants tour key Church facilities, hear from Church and Scouting leaders, and attend two sessions of general conference.
“We specifically invite council Scout executives and their LDS-BSA counterparts,” explained Mark Francis, LDS-BSA Relationships Director. The purpose of the seminar is to provide Scouters with a vision of why and how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses Scouting. There is a tremendous interest in understanding how Scouting functions to support the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood.”
The opening event was a Thursday evening training session at the Church Office Building with Brother Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President. “After I was called as Young Men General President in April 2015, I attended my first BSA National Annual Meeting,” he shared. “I immediately felt a tremendous love, concern, and unity for all of you. We feel that our belief in God allows us to truly look at each other as brothers and sisters.” Brother Owen then explained Church leadership hierarchy, the upcoming Solemn Assembly at general conference, and the Articles of Faith. “One thing we have in common within Scouting and the Church is that we all care deeply for our youth. Caring causes us to serve. We’ve had a partnership for over 100 years, and it’s blessed many, many lives.”
Sister Joy D. Jones and Sister Lisa Harkness of the Primary General Presidency were also in attendance. Sister Jones addressed the group during the evening, sharing a story about touring a mine in Wales during a recent visit there. Brother Owen’s and Sister Jones’ comments set the tone for the weekend.
The Thursday evening training was “especially helpful to the BSA professionals and volunteers that are not Mormon,” shared Brett Rustand, Catalina Council Board President. “The discussion was an ‘LDS 101’ type of training.”
Participants gathered again early Friday morning and traveled to the Missionary Training Center in Provo. Attendees of non-LDS faiths toured the MTC and learned more about the specific training young missionaries receive before going out into the world. President Rolf thanked the visitors for what they do in Scouting that specifically prepares young men to serve missions for the Church. “I have five Eagle Scouts,” he shared. “My wife and I love Scouting and appreciate what you’re doing.”
“Observe the missionaries you see today,” encouraged MTC Coordinator Spencer Christensen. “This is an intense experience, but observe how happy the missionaries are.”
Participants then visited classrooms with missionaries and observed the language training.
“The most beneficial experience of the weekend was visiting the Missionary Training Center and seeing the classrooms, meeting and talking with the students and teachers, as well as seeing how fluent some of the students are with the languages, specifically Thai and Japanese,” wrote Bernard Brault, Montana Council district executive.
LDS participants enjoyed a tour of Brigham Young University, including the famed Broadcasting Building. Then, both groups gathered at the Wilkinson Center for a refreshing taste of BYU Creamery ice cream while they enjoyed a session on LDS-BSA Relationships from Mark Francis.
“The relationship between the Church and the BSA dates back over 100 years,” taught Brother Francis. “The Church partnership with the BSA was a blessing to the relatively new Scouting organization. In addition, the willingness of the BSA to accept the Church as a chartered partner during a time when there was not a favorable view of Mormons was also an act of goodwill. Collectively, we have the capacity to solve the toughest problems and find solutions to benefit everyone.”
He asked participants to download the Gospel Library App to allow easy access to the (green) Handbook on Scouting provided by the Church. “Having the app is one of the incredible tools which can help you forge relationships and connect with the LDS community,” commented Brother Francis.
“The most beneficial experience I had during the weekend was Mark Francis’ presentation about how Scouting helps accomplish the aims of the priesthood and the LDS Church,” commented Elisa Corry, Denver Area Council district director. “Continued communication about changes on both sides and how to best distribute that information is always appreciated.”
Brad Harris, professor in the Department of Recreation Management, also spoke to the group and introduced students who are interested in pursuing a profession with the BSA.
Participants also had opportunities during the weekend to visit the Family History Library, Church History Museum, and additional venues on Temple Square.
Friday evening the group enjoyed dinner at the Lion House. Sister Joy Jones and Sister Bonnie Cordon of the Primary General Presidency joined them. Mark and Joann Pendleton and Robert Heyn from the Young Men General Board were also in attendance.
Sister Cordon spoke to the group and invited them to join her in reciting the Scout Oath and Scout Law. “It’s important to remember our intent as we interact with and build young people,” she taught.
After a group picture on the steps of the Church Administration Building, participants divided to enjoy various Temple Square venues for the rest of the evening.
Saturday meals included visits and remarks from Young Men General Presidency counselors Douglas D. Holmes and M. Joseph Brough.
During the Saturday afternoon meal Brother Brough shared, “There is a boy crisis in our nation. There is nothing like a 50 miler to prepare a young man for the MTC experience.” He continued, “My memories of Scouting are relationships. It’s not about the merit badges. It’s about the opportunity for good men and women to influence young men to be better than they think they can be.” He concluded by thanking those in attendance. “We love the BSA and our dear prophets do, too. We love you and we appreciate you.”
After attending the priesthood session of conference, the seminar concluded and participants traveled home.
“The most moving experience of the weekend for me was touring Welfare Square,” commented Jon Yates, Capitol Area Council Scout executive. “I also appreciated the one-on-one time with one of my council’s key LDS leaders.”
“This experience gives me a great opportunity to go back to my own council and share my experiences with my LDS volunteers,” concluded Ken Tucker, Catalina Council Scout Executive. “They will really appreciate that I took the time to learn more about the LDS faith.”
Contributed by Nettie H. Francis