By Community Submission
Feb 24, 2015

Religion in Scouting

More than two years ago  Mat Greenfield wrote The REAL Problem with Scouting in the LDS Church” on his own blog, Scouting Liahona. With permission we reposted this last Sunday, with quite a response: more than 60,000 views and 4300 shares. Of course as an editor, I most interested in the 200 comments on our own blog. 

One really caught my eye where the author wrote:

“,,, I believe that the church needs to DROP BSA completely. The problem we have is that a religious organization is trying to fit with a secular organization each of which have their own agendas…”

This made me think about something I had read last fall from David Wilson, LDS Chaplain at Philmont Scout Ranch. Here are his thoughts on the not so secular nature of Scouting:

Doing one’s Duty to God has been a key tenet of the Boy Scouting program from Day 1. And it doesn’t look to go away any time in the near future. It’s is part of the foundation of Scouting. But what does it really mean for youth and adults to do just that – Do Your Duty to God? Let’s ponder together a few things:

The Scoutmaster teaches boys to play the game by doing so himself. --Robert Baden-Powell

Lord Robert Baden-Powell

First of all, let’s set the stage and look at a few quotes attributed to the founder of the Scouting movement – Lord Baden-Powell himself:

“There is no religious side to the Movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.”  November 1920     In the Footsteps of the Founder

“I have been asked to describe more fully what was in my mind as regards religion when I instituted Scouting and Guiding. I was asked, ‘Where does religion come in?’ Well my reply is: ‘It does not come in at all. It is already there. It is the fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding.’”  B-P 2 July 1926

“Religion seems a very simple thing –
First: Love and serve God,

Second: Love and serve your neighbour”  B-P in his handbook “Scouting for Boys”

Now let’s look at the BSA National Office for some additional clarification on this subject:

Duty to GodBSA’s Declaration of Religious Principle: “The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. … The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.”

So what does this mean for us a members in the Boy Scouts of America, and especially the Utah National parks Council? To me that’s pretty simple, Scouting teaches boys (and adults for that matter) to do their Duty to God through program delivery, special observances, and partnerships with various faith-based organizations, because the Boy Scouts of America believes in an obligation to God, and Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, believed that religion is a key component of the movement.

Doing one’s Duty to God (no matter whatever your faith) can be stated very simply in three words. Walk the Talk. We are to not only say we are following the tenets of our specific faith belief, but we act it too. We “Go & Do, and not “Stay & Say” when it comes to doing our Duty to God within Scouting. We are constantly reminded about this through regular repetition of the Scout Oath & Law. The Boy Scout Oath and Law are two methods of program delivery that emphasize a Scout’s duty to God. Think of them as bookends. We state in the Scout Oath first (and foremost) that on our honor we will do our duty to God, and then we end with the 12th point of the Scout Law with, A Scout is Reverent. Scouting doesn’t tell you how to do it, it is expected of all. The how of this comes to each of us through our adherence to our particular faith teachings and obligations. One way to think of this is to look at our lives and understand that under the tutelage of our various church leaders we are taught religious principles. Then through our activities and actions as scouts we are taught how to put these principles into our regular daily lives. This is called demonstrating Scout Spirit in one’s daily life.

It’s not rocket science. Too often we make it oh so very difficult for everyone. It’s not difficult to do one’s Duty to God no matter the differences between the various faith beliefs of the individuals involved in Scouting. Finally, the Boy Scouts of America succinctly states, “Central to the Scout Oath (or Promise) is the pledge to ‘do my duty to God.’ The 12th point of the Scout Law states, ‘A Scout is reverent.’ These commitments to the prominence of God in one’s life form a cornerstone of the Scouting program. When properly interpreted by an adult Scouter of strong faith to young people, even the unchurched begin to understand their need for God.” [i] Boy Scouts of America, A Scout is Reverent, Brochure No. 522-181 (2012).

David Wilson
Author:  David A. Wilson | Philmont Scout Ranch Chaplain Coordinator


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2 thoughts on “Religion in Scouting

  1. AvatarJeremiah Burton

    “Our objective in the Scouting movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth by including among youth the spirit and the daily practice in their lives of unselfish goodwill and cooperation.” – Baden-Powell

  2. AvatarSteve Faber

    Elder Wilson,

    Thank you for your special perspective as a Chaplain and as a friend in teaching/helping/reminding members of the LDS church how important it is to learn about and love others of different faiths, because it’s all about our Duty to God.


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