By LDS-BSA Relationships
Jul 26, 2015

LDS Leaders Attend Philmont Scout Ranch

Each year in late June and early July, the Philmont Training Center (PTC) hosts a singular event for LDS Church leaders and their families, the Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting, and for most families it is the highlight of the year;  2015 was no exception.

Young Men general president Stephen W. Owen greets youth leaders David Jones and Doneal White during the 2015 LDS Priesthood Leadership Conference at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.  Photo by Nettie Francis.

Young Men general president Stephen W. Owen greets youth leaders David Jones and Doneal White during the 2015 LDS Priesthood Leadership Conference at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Photo by Nettie Francis.

Many families arrive on Saturday, but most check in on Sunday. Since there is an operating LDS branch, Church Services are held from 9:00am – 12:00pm just like back home. While hiking clothes are acceptable for services in the backcountry, Sunday dress is the rule at the Training Center, which always brings a smile or two from Philmont’s ruggedly dressed camp staff.

Also for families with teens heading out for  Mountain Men and Mountain Women programs, there are church services that day. In either case these meetings are conducted by general officers of the Church that are teaching that week. After services family time is scheduled for Sunday afternoon and evening.

PTC closing campfire program

PTC campfire program

As night falls, and each night at Philmont, the nearby amphitheater resonates with: “Silver on the sage, starlit skies above, aspen-covered hills, country that I love.” The Philmont Hymn, which is new to many of the parents and children snuggling on benches under the dark and starry skies they are singing about. “I’m convinced that Philmont is a gathering place for some of the best people in the world,” said Mark Francis, LDS-BSA Relationships director. “When families come here they truly feel like they are in ‘God’s country,’ as the Philmont hymn suggests.”

The conference takes place each summer under the direction of the Young Men and Primary general presidencies, with assistance from the LDS-BSA Relationships Office. This was the first summer for the recently called Young Men general president, Stephen W. Owen. In an interview for Church News he said: “When I first arrived at Philmont I immediately felt years of foundational preparation for making this not only a learning experience for stake leaders, but a catalyst for revelation… experiences at Philmont bless the priesthood leader”

The first full day of the conference is Monday and it’s usually quite busy. First thing is breakfast, often a buffet that both kids and adults enjoy. Followed by a flag ceremony at 8:15am.  At 8:30am, your children will meet their Group Leaders on the Greensward (the grassy area southeast of the Villa Philmonte).  Finally, (did I say it was a busy morning) at 8:45am, wives learn about their activities and conference participants head to conference rooms for course work.


The craft center is a great family evening activity, but keeps kids busy all day long

Nettie Francis, explained it this way:  “Brethren attend classes during the day while spouses and children participate in a variety of age-group activities. Crafts, hiking, tours, archery, horseback riding, and even whitewater rafting are a few of the options. During free time, families play and lounge on the lush green lawn of the Villa Philmonte.” I’ve been there before and it sounds just as good as it is. I promise.

Youngsters don homemade costumes and march in the traditional children's parade at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Photo by Nettie Francis.

Youngsters don homemade costumes and march in the traditional children’s parade at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. Photo by Nettie Francis.

After lunch each day, it’s back to classes and activities. But Monday afternoon is the family banner parade and family home evening are held on Monday evening. Families bring banners from home to display at their tens and during the parade. Family home evening is then presented by some of the talented families.

Tuesday after flag ceremony and children are with their Group Leaders, Conference participants head back to their classrooms for another great day of learning and discussing. Spouses have their own activities until lunch, then the conference shuts down so families could enjoy time together, or visit one of Philmont’s museums or  Cimmaron’s art galleries.

Tuesday evening, familes arae treated to homemade cobbler in both Tent cities and there is a performance by the PTC band. “The priesthood leaders, the parents, and even the children enjoy the unity of being together,” commented Sister Cheryl Esplin, first counselor in the Primary general presidency.


Buffalo is served at the Western Barbecue every Wednesday

Wednesday everyone returns to conference and group activities, but that evening is Western Night with everyone sporting western wear and feasting on buffalo barbecue. They play Western games and enjoy a family ho-down of line dancing. During the evening staff members brand belts, boots, or other items that participants wanted marked with the two Philmont brands (the horse brand and the cattle brand). I have belts and boots to prove it.

Thursday is the last day for conferences and family program. But in the evening during the Closing Program, all family groups perform in skits. Mountain Trek participants return to base camp after dinner and spend the night with their families. Finally, the day ends with the the Philmont Hymn, and saying goodbye to newfound friends.  Teens had one more moment of fun with a youth dance in the Assembly Hall.

Friday was check out day—everyone just packed up and left after breakfast!


The Priesthood Leadership Conference convenes under the direction of the Young Men general presidency and the General Scouting Committee of the Church. The faculty, selected are from the Young Men and Primary General Boards and presidencies. These church leaders provide training in the program and administration of Scouting in the unique environment the Philmont Scout Ranch offers.

Stephen W. Owen, Young Men General President stated,”A pattern we have here at Philmont is to share. We learn and share and study together and then we act. The act is going to happen after Philmont. Write in your journals, make a decision, make a plan of what you’ll do in changing things that can benefit others—even in your own family. He further explained: “Philmont is a setting where we can have a revelatory experience away from distraction.  All are edified by all.”

Two week-long courses are held, and stake leaders from across the United States and Canada, along with their families, are invited to come and learn about Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood. This summer marked the 52nd year the Church has provided the training course at Philmont, and over 316 Church leaders (with their family members totaling more than 1,100 people) attended. To plan your own family adventure, check this out:


Families arrive at the Philmont Training Center on Sunday and depart the following Friday. Meals are served in dining halls; housing is in large, two-person wall tents on platforms, located near showers and restrooms, medical facilities, and recreation areas.

Conferences feature the latest LDS BSA resources, audiovisuals, and teaching techniques, and are led by a faculty of experienced Church Scouters.

Fees include meals, lodging, and conference and family program materials.

Participants are Stake Presidents invited by the LDS BSA Relationships Office. More information is also available at

LDS-BSAAuthors: This article is a compilation of the LDS BSA Relationships Office website, Nettie Francis, contributor for The Church News,  and personal experiences of Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA. He has been a Cubmaster twice and hopes everyone can have so much fun!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.