The 100+ Year “Inspired” Partnership
Before addressing the changes, let’s look at what this partnership is. The Church recognizes the good that has come from its 100+ year partnership with the BSA and Scouting. “The Scouting program has benefited hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saint boys and young men, . . .” “A Joint Statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Boy Scouts of America,” May 8, 2018.
Robert Baden-Powell’s vision of Scouting was a way to attract boys to a program that would fulfill their love of the outdoors, desire to be independent, and have fun with their friends. But, his genius was in connecting those desires to a religious purpose that no doubt attracted the attention and ultimately the endorsement of the Church. Baden-Powell did not hide his intentions. “There is no religious side to the movement,” he declared in 1920. “The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.” Robert Baden-Powell, as quoted in “A Century of Scouting in the Church,” October 2013. Prophets of God have applauded this organization founded by a non-member of the Church.
What Is Changing?
On January 1, 2020, LDS Scouting will be no more. Some Church members are happy; some are sad. But it is definitely a time for reflection and introspection. Some things are changing, but some things are not. The purpose of this blog post is to reflect on these changes and how we might want to react to them.
In about a year-and-a-half, there will be no more LDS troops, patrols, packs, or dens. No more LDS-sponsored troop meetings, Scout camps, merit badges, camporees, troop committee meetings, boards of review, courts of honor, Eagle courts of honor, friends of Scouting, rechartering, etc. On one or two nights a week in our church buildings we will no longer see young men flooding those buildings in their Cub Scout or Boy Scout uniforms.
No more annual group fundraisers; no more drives to get all adult leaders properly trained. No longer will parents be asked to purchase uniforms, handbooks, and binders with plastic pages to keep all of those merit badges organized. The Church will no longer pay to register hundreds of thousands of young men and thousands of adult leaders in the BSA.
For those of us who have been involved in Scouting in a big way for many years, these are huge changes. Some will continue on with Scouting outside of the Church in community troops or packs and some will continue with district, council, and national positions in the BSA. Others will move on, fondly remembering the life-changing experiences brought to them through their interaction with Scouting. Either way, there is a reason the announcement was made one-and-a-half years before the change actually takes place.
What Is Not?
In spite of all the changes, it would also be appropriate to recognize what is not changing. The vehicle of Scouting will no longer be used by the Church to achieve its mission of bringing souls unto Christ. However, one would be hard-pressed to say that the Church no longer supports the mission of the BSA, which is “to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” BSA Mission Statement, https://www.scouting.org/legal/mission/, accessed May 17, 2018.
Likewise, the Scout Oath and Law continue to reflect gospel principles and doctrines.
This blog has been dedicated for the last year-and-a-half to evangelizing the virtues of the “Scout-led troop,” a.k.a. the “patrol method.” In the Church’s online Aaronic Priesthood Leader Training, the Young Men general presidency lists the three principles that will help us achieve our goal of helping “all our young men become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings, including preparing to fulfill their divine roles.” Aaronic Priesthood Leader Training, accessed May 17, 2018. Those principles are “be with them, connect them with heaven, and let them lead.” The third of those principles, “let them lead,” is epitomized by the Scout-led troop. It is doubtful that this principle will be abandoned by the Brethren at any time soon.
Whether we choose to continue to be involved personally in the BSA after December 31, 2019, or not, we can all certainly sustain the Church in its commitment to “support the goals and values reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law and express(ing) its profound desire for Scouting’s continuing and growing success in the years ahead.” “A Joint Statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and The Boy Scouts of America,” May 8, 2018. And, in the next eighteen months, we should “remain a fully engaged partner in Scouting for boys and young men ages 8–13 and encourage all youth, families, and leaders to continue their active participation and financial support.” Ibid. Let’s wrap up this 100+ year partnership with a bang!
-Bill Chapman is an attorney and lives in San Clemente, California, loves to surf, trail run, backpack, camp, hike, and do anything in the outdoors. He has been a Scoutmaster three times, served in numerous unit, district, and Council positions in the BSA and served as a co-instructor at Philmont. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.