By Darryl Alder
Jun 07, 2015

Elder Holland Asked Us All to Pray for BSA

Holland and  Scouts

Elder Holland greeting members of a Scout Choir that sang during the LDS Open House Reception May 22, 2015

For me the National Meeting in Atlanta took a bit of a different twist. Having injured my foot just after landing, I had to carefully choose when and where I would be. But over and over, I kept crossing paths with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of BSA’s newest elected National Executive Board members (significant in that he is only the fourth member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to receive this appointment). It was as if we were meant to face one another.

What a relief it was Friday to finally be at a place where he would speak: the LDS Open House/Reception just prior to the Silver Buffalo Dinner Meeting.

Elder Holland shared the most captivating Scouter’s minute. In fact,  I have already used it in two settings at National Camp School.

The story began with a young man growing up a member of the LDS Church in Utah. But he was rebellious and anxious to escape the hold the faith had on him, so he joined the military and was sent as a soldier to Vietnam during the War there.

Eventually, this young man found himself fighting an intensely dangerous gun battle. Seeking cover, he jumped into a fox hole with another comrade. The other soldier was terrified and asked him—no, begged him—for some words of comfort. “He wanted to hear anything about the good life or about hope or about the future,” Elder Holland said.

But this young soldier could not think of anything he believed; not an article of faith, not a song, no not even a scripture. But finally something came to mind, the Scout Law. Slowly and quietly he whispered:

A Scout is trustworthy,
A Scout is loyal,
A Scout is helpful,
A Scout is friendly,
A Scout is courteous,
A Scout is kind,
A Scout is obedient,
A Scout is cheerful,
A Scout is thrifty,
A Scout is brave,
A Scout is clean,

Then more quietly,  Elder Holland recited: “and a Scout is reverent.”

The recitation worked and the terrified comrade felt the peace he sought. Elder Holland went on:

 “The Scout Law is a pretty impressive description of what a religious life ought to be. Somewhere, someone — a Scoutmaster or a parent or a Primary teacher or a bishop or someone — came through for that young man. …

Other comments from Elder Holland included :

“This whole conference represents among the very best people who give civic service in the nation. There’s something very special about the Latter-day Saints who serve in the Boy Scouts of America. I say ‘thank you’ and I mean it. You’re not taken for granted. Your service is recognized and appreciated. Take that message of gratitude back to the councils and wards and stakes and troops and units where you serve.”

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, … We need to pray. We are at a difficult moment in the nation’s history where wonderful institutions like the BSA, and supporting organizations like the Church, will need to be brave, clean and reverent. We’re going to need God’s help, but we’ll have it. The BSA will need God’s help, but they’re entitled to it. Church leaders need God’s help and we’ll have it.

“I’m eternally optimistic. For me the glass isn’t just half full, it’s flowing over the top. A Scout is cheerful. These are sobering moments but we’ll work our way through whatever difficulties come. Good will prevail; truth will triumph and bless the lives of young men in generations to come.”

I left the reception with a full cup and more.

Other Speakers at the Reception

wixom at national meeting

Sister Wixom, LDS General Primary President, serves on BSA’s National Executive Board

A choir of Aaronic Priesthood Scouts set a reverent tone for the reception. Then it began with remarks from Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President. She bore a brief testimony and commented about the important role of mothers in training in the home. She also told the singers, “I’d like to meet your mothers.”

Stephen W. Owen Young Men General President

President Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President, was elected along with Elder Holland to BSA’s National Executive Board

Following her comments, President Stephen W. Owen, new Young Men General President, shared his testimony and included a bit of genealogy from his past:  Thomas George Wood, the first Scoutmaster in the Salt Lake City Waterloo Ward Troop, was his great uncle.

Earlier in the week, President Owen joined Elder Holland as a new Executive Board member, along with Charles Dahlquist, former Young Men general president. Sister Wixom, Primary general president, and President Thomas S. Monson both currently serve on the board. President Monson is the longest standing member of the board and was recently given lifetime member status.

Michael Surbaugh

Incoming Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh

For me an interesting feature of the reception were remarks by incoming Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh. He recalled the first time he ever met a member of the LDS Church. It was while serving on a camp staff as a youth. He said, “I could tell there was something different about him.” He also commented on his visit to Salt Lake last fall for the LDS General Conference and explained that they had “toured the Missionary Training Center and saw young men who were learning Mandarin Chinese in a matter of weeks.” He also noted that his tours of Welfare Square, the LDS Humanitarian Center and the FamilySearch Center all helped deepen his understanding of the Church.

The reception is a regular feature of BSA’s National Annual Meeting held each May, along with delegate sessions, breakouts and a trade show. I must say the LDS reception is always one the highlights of the conference for me.


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11 thoughts on “Elder Holland Asked Us All to Pray for BSA

  1. AvatarRich Lewis

    Thanks for the great article. I appreciate your insight. It helps me feel connected and in touch with what is going on.

    1. AvatarDavid

      It is a good article. I have been a LDS scoutmaster for over 9 years now. I love scouting. There is nothing better than spending time with the boys around the campfire talking about the things they want and what they need to hear.

      However, over the years I have become more and more jaded with the BSA leadership. I have heard on more than one occasion in two different councils that LDS troops should not question but just be obedient.

      Of particular concern for me is the BSA abandonment of the Scout Oath, “…duty to God…morally straight”. An organization that cannot live by its own Oath has server issues. Also this change by the national board shifts the civil liability onto religious charter organizations and sets them up to be the targets of discrimination suits for following their religious doctrines and not allowing “gay” leadership. From a legal perspective the fact that the national organization of BSA authorizes “gay” leaders and a charter organization does not put the charter at increased legal risk. The BSA has lost my support because of the Oath and this cowardly shifting of responsibility.

  2. AvatarCherry Barrett

    We don’t need BSA – they need the lds boys. As I see it- the LDS church can do scouting and merit badges and the whole scouting program for a lot a lot cheaper!

    1. AvatarJack

      It’s attitude like this that is hurting scouting the most. As a scoutmaster, the spread of apathy towards scouting and the attitude that somehow the church can do it better are things that completely demoralize any leader trying to make a difference in the lives of these young men. The youth hear what their parents say when they speak this way about scouting.

      There’s a reason the LDS church is involved in scouting and has been involved in scouting for over a century. The current president and prophet, if you truly believe he is one, fully supports scouting for the young men where available. When will church members exercise a bit of faith and “follow the prophet” and start supporting scouting in how they act and how they talk about it? When will people start “volunteering” to be scout leaders, instead of accepting out of reluctance when their bishop calls them in for a new calling? When will current leaders step up and actually try and make a difference in these young men’s lives instead of acting like once-a-week baby-sitters for them during mutual night?

      1. AvatarAJ Creek

        Jack, I like parts of your comments – but I think you might be mixing messages here. I’m a scoutmaster too – and have been for a long time. My father as well, and his father too. I’m not trying to throw around a “who’s more qualified” stance here – just trying to let you know that i’m involved as well, and care about the boys we’re called to serve.

        1) The reason that the LDS – BSA relationship exists is because it (up until recently) has been the best option for a Young Men’s program in the USA. But if that no longer continues to be the case, and if the BSA fails to listen to it’s largest and most historically critical partner… the the LDS Church can (and will) substitute it with another program – much like in many other countries around the world where Scouting isn’t possible. I’m in full support of Cherry’s comment, because it’s true. The LDS Church doesn’t need the BSA – it’s helpful, and has in the past been an inspired program… but the Church can easily replace it with another style of program.

        2) Let’s not confuse “Supporting the Scouts” with “Supporting the Prophet.” This isn’t about the perceived lack of faith in a Prophet… it’s about a PROGRAM that is in danger of dismissing it’s core values in order to be more “PC”. Let’s face it, the BSA is a business. Plain and simple. Non-Profit status aside. The cost of running such a program isn’t sustainable without the LDS Church – and the LDS Church (as of yet) doesn’t have the resources to own and maintain the amount of land needed just for a youth program based around outdoor activities. That is why the BSA is so tied into the LDS Church, and vice versa. I agree, it’s the best program for the boys… so far. But this might not always be the case.

        3) But here’s the real part that I wanted to get to… and where I partially agree with you. The boys need good leaders. Not a program. Now, we’ve ALL seen LDS charters that place bad leaders in the YM, and we’ve seen some very dedicated leaders as well. But you should also notice – the program doesn’t fix the problem of bad leaders. But good leaders don’t necessarily need to use the program to help the youth grow into good men. And I think that is the real point of Cherry’s comment. If there are leaders who care – than the BSA is a great resource, but it’s not the ONLY way to raise/teach/mentor/lead good young men. And if the leader couldn’t care less – which is sadly all too common – than there’s no possible way the BSA program is doing any good at all.

        Call me jaded, call me faithless, call me a downer… whatever. I serve in this capacity as best I can – because I DO see the good in the program. But I’m also not going to ignore hard realities about the BSA, where it may be heading, the strengths, and also the weaknesses of it’s stances and future as a viable YM program for the LDS Church. I’m hopeful, but I’m not enrolling my kids until I can be sure it’s a good place for them to be.

    2. AvatarSteve Faber

      I’ve personally heard Dave Pack and members of the YM General Presidency of the LDS church quote President Monson about why the LDS church partners with the BSA, something to the effect that “we’re (the LDS church) in scouting for the boy, all boys”. When he says “all boys”, I take that to mean that he is the prophet for not just the USA, but the whole planet. And if it were appropriate and feasible, I think he would authorize a BSA type relationship in every country in the world that implements scouting, to benefit the BOY. To me this means that both the LDS church and the BSA have something to gain with their relationship. The LDS-BSA relationship is one of the best missionary tools we have, just go to a pinewood derby and see how many mom’s and dad’s come out that never go to sacrament meeting, let alone ever set foot in an LDS chapel. Because their BOY wants to be there.

      I have become a much better person because of my experiences in scouting. To Jack’s point below, I believe one reason why bishops call people to scouting is to help them become better people.

      I’m with Elder Holland. I’m hopeful and optimistic about scouting’s future, and the continued LDS-BSA relationship.

  3. AvatarJoe Kennefick

    Hopefully, God will give Elder Holland will get discernment regarding allow all God’s children to be allowed to serve as long as they meet the high standards of the BSA regardless gender, race or sexual orientation.

  4. AvatarKevin Golding

    I really think we need to hear this kind of information in the Districts and Local Units.
    The Volunteers need to know what the Church Leaders are feeling
    Thanks for sharing

  5. AvatarSkeet Hudgens

    I have been involved in Scouting for most of my life and have been a true supporter of Scouting and have met great men and women who will always be my friends. It pains me to see that in some places the program is being diluted , that people pick and choose as to what of the program they want and not give the boy every way to become a man, father and future leaders of our country. Leaders should take advantage of the training offered not fly by the seat of their pants. The scout oath and scout law are what we Fathers and Mothers wish for our sons, grandsons. So let us get out and and support our scout committee , our devoted leaders and most of all our boys. Most of all pray that those in power will make inspired decisions. Be involved.


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