Around the time our pioneer ancestors were building the Salt Lake Temple in 1875, Robert S.S. Baden-Powell joined the British Army in England. Two beginnings that would eventually merge to help Mormon boys grow into LDS men.
This year, the United States celebrates 100 years of Boy Scouting — a program of traditions, uniforms, good turns and brotherhood. Scouting has been a part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 97 years. An organization that teaches duty to God and country has also proved a good teacher in helping young men prepare for missions, marriage and a lifetime of priesthood responsibilities.
Through his experiences in the army, Powell decided to write a military book on scouting techniques. In 1903, Powell returned from a transfer to South Africa to find that his book, “Aids for Scouting,” was being used by young people. He decided to revise the book to fit youth and titled it “Scouting for Boys.”
A couple of years later, a U.S. businessman named William Boyce was visiting London and got lost in the fog. Out of nowhere, it seemed, a young boy appeared and led him to his destination. Boyce wanted to pay the boy for his efforts, but the boy wouldn’t accept money “because he was a Scout and it was his duty.” Impressed, Boyce sought out the Boy Scouting organization.
On Feb. 8, 1910, Boyce organized the Boy Scouts of America.
Bryant F. Hinckley, father of former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, was the head of the Mutual Improvement Association at the time that Scouting became popular in the U.S. He made a recommendation to the prophet, Joseph F. Smith, that they adopt Scouting because of the strong emphasis the program put into service and good morals. President Smith reviewed the program with other church leadership and determined it should become an officially sponsored program in the church.
“Joseph F. Smith became an ardent supporter of the program throughout his life,” Kevin Hunt, author of the book “Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” said in an interview. “In 1913 the church officially adopted Scouting and became a full partner. They were the first organization in the country to establish this chartered organization partnership with the Boy Scouts.”
Every prophet since the time of Joseph F. Smith has been a full supporter of the program, and some of them have been quite involved as Scouts themselves.
President Thomas S. Monson has been on the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America for more than 40 years. He has also received the Silver Beaver Award (1971), the Silver Buffalo Award (1978) and the highest award in international scouting, the Bronze Wolf (1993). “Scouting teaches boys how to live, not merely how to make a living. How pleased I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1913 became the first partner to sponsor Scouting in the United States,” then-Elder Monson said in a talk, “Run, Boy, Run,” from the November 1982 Ensign.
President Howard W. Hunter was the second Scout to become an Eagle in Boise, Idaho. President Ezra Taft Benson was a Scoutmaster and often recounted many stories about how Scouting influenced the lives of the boys in his troop for good. “I shall always be grateful that the good bishop of our ward came to me and asked me to be Scoutmaster of twenty-four boys in the Whitney Ward,” President Benson said in the October 1984 general conference. “It is a builder of character, not only in the boys, but also in the men who provide the leadership.”
President George Albert Smith was an advocate for the Boy Scouts in the church. He was awarded the Silver Beaver award in 1931 and the Silver Buffalo, the highest award in American Scouting, in 1934. These awards and his Scout uniform can be seen at the Church History Museum. He was also a member of the National Executive Board of the Boys Scouts of America, Program Divisional Committee on Relationships and of its Region Twelve Executive Committee.
“One hundred years in the best of the Scouting traditions,” Hunt said. “What a legacy. What a heritage. What a great program — truly inspired of God. Now that’s something to celebrate!”
Author: Hikari Loftus | Deseret News
See Hikari Loftus, “100 Years of Scouting,” (July 12, 2010), Deseret News.