On February 8, 2016, the Boy Scouts of America will celebrate its 106th birthday. Founded in 1907 in England by Robert Baden-Powell, the Scouting movement was established on the belief that boys could be taught character through outdoor activities conducted under the guidance of a Scoutmaster.
American publisher William Boyce brought Scouting to the United States, and the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated in 1910 (adding “brave,” “clean,” and “reverent” to the British Scout Law).
Scouting was integrated as part of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association in 1911, and in 1913 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became the first official chartered organization of the BSA, adapting their own M.I.A. Scouts program to the national movement, and establishing a pattern whereby other organizations could also internalize Scouting. Since then, prophets and Church leaders have been active in promoting Scouting, and today approximately 20% of Scouts are registered in units sponsored by the Church.
But what does all of this Scouting hype mean to the average Latter-day Saint sister? How does an organization dedicated to the betterment of young men benefit women? Actually, whether or not we are active in the Scouting organization, the Boy Scouts of America has likely touched our lives in a positive way.
I am a daughter—and I’m grateful for Scouting. While I was growing up my Dad worked full time for the Boy Scouts of America, so I learned to tie my knots at a young age. I spent most summers of my life living in a cabin with my family at a Scout camp while my dad fulfilled his summertime duties.
I can pass a swim check. I can paddle a canoe and row a rowboat. I can cook eggs on top of a #10 can. I can identify constellations. I can shoot a bow and arrow, and I can recite the Scout Law. I also learned at a very young age the importance of being “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” These standards are important, even for a girl; and my childhood was richly filled with my dad’s Scouting activities.
I am a girl—and I’m grateful for Scouting. Most of the young men I dated were Scouts and went on to become Eagle Scouts. On a date, they knew how to open the door and show respect. They could carry on an intelligent conversation. They weren’t afraid to sing—a quality I appreciate. Their Scouting activities had taught them to work with their hands, follow through on an assignment, and make something of their lives. I had good dating experiences, thanks to good Boy Scouts.
I am a wife—and I’m grateful for Scouting. Aside from the fact that I met my husband while working at a Scout camp (I was the cook and he was the shooting sports director), I believe that his strengths as a spouse are a direct result of his Scouting experiences. Leadership responsibilities as a youth taught him to conduct a meeting, work well with people, and be polite. Because of his role as a young patrol leader, he developed skills that now help him lead and preside over our family.
Beyond his leadership skills, he can fix things around the house. He even mends his own clothes! His sewing skills were developed sewing on patches and beading Indian outfits, a hobby he picked up through Scouting. When we are stuck in the snow, or want to cook in a Dutch oven, or have a science project to complete, he has the knowledge and experience to help. And most importantly, in a world where morality is deteriorating, I am grateful for his lifelong commitment to live “on my honor.” My married life has benefited from Scouting.
I am a mother—and I’m grateful for Scouting. I worried when my oldest son went to his first weeklong Scout camp. He packed his own backpack. He set up his own tent. He built his own fire. He wrote his own skit. He made his own arrow. He crafted his own cardboard boat. He rowed himself across the lake . . . and sank. But he grabbed his paddle and swam to safety. He cried. He wanted to come home early. He stuck it out and came home a different boy. The following week he conducted a court of honor, attended the baptism of a fellow Boy Scout, organized a campout, and bore his testimony in sacrament meeting. I’m grateful for Scouting.
As the mother of several sons, I’ve observed that boys are rambunctious, noisy, and active, and are generally in need of greater physical and mental direction than girls. Thank goodness for Scouting activities which provide them with productive, moral ways to use their hands and minds.
Baden-Powell called Scouting a “game with a purpose.” Scouting’s purposes have always supported my purposes—as a daughter, woman, wife, and mother.
And so, even though I’m a girl, I am grateful for Boy Scouting. This inspired program has blessed my life and the lives of my family members.
I join my words with those of President George Albert Smith. “I feel grateful to the Lord that Sir Robert Baden-Powell was impressed—may I say, inspired—to give Scouting to the world” (Improvement Era, Sept. 1948, 558).
Next Time: How have Scouting activities specifically benefitted your family life? Reply below or email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may use your comments in a future Scouting Moms blog.
~Nettie H. Francis is the wife of LDS-BSA Relationships Director Mark Francis. She has been a Scouting spouse and Scouting mom for almost 20 years.