By Lee Ferrin
Nov 15, 2015

Thoughts on the LDS-BSA Relationship – “Think in Terms of What You Have to Give”

There has been discussion for decades as to the benefits and costs of the LDS church maintaining their relationship and participation in the Scouting program. That discourse has increased its pitch in recent months in light of the amendment made to the Adult Leadership Policy. There has been a great deal of misunderstanding as to what the consequences of this change will be. And there is one pervading attitude which has contributed to misunderstandings and worries, that of “what good will this change do for us?”

Rockwell EverOnward cropMost concerns seem to be worried that LDS chartered groups will someday be forced to choose between allowing gay leaders to participate in their troops or face legal repercussions. According to the BSA, their decision should have no impact on the way that chartered organizations, including the LDS Church, always have and always will choose their leaders, as noted on page 3 of this memo written by the BSA’s legal counsel, Huges, Hubbard & Reed. Page 11 of the same memo outlines why any attempt to bring a case against a chartered organization for excluding a leader based on their sexual orientation or conduct is extremely likely to fail. Legal action due to the Church’s stand on homosexuality would be brought against the Church by other venues long before it would come from the Scouts.

But regardless of the legal concerns, there is an even greater concern with regards to this conversation: how does the LDS Church’s membership in Scouting contribute to the mission of the Church? I could expound for paragraphs how the Scouting program has blessed and changed my life, prepared me for my mission, taught me to share gospel principles in an easy and natural way at home or abroad, but those are all topics for another blog post. For in the end, it is far more important not what we take from Scouting, but what we give.

In the publication “Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society,” a story is told about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ membership in the National Council of Women:

daughters of my kingdomFollowing one year’s invitation to attend the council’s annual meeting, Sister Spafford (the General Relief Society President) and her counselors “decided to recommend to the President of the Church that the Relief Society terminate its membership in those councils. They prepared a statement of recommendation, listing all of the reasons for so doing. “Trembling and uncertain, Sister Spafford placed the paper on the desk of President George Albert Smith, saying, ‘The Relief Society Presidency wishes to recommend that the General Board terminate its membership in the National Council and in the International Council of Women, for the reasons listed on this paper.’ “President Smith carefully read the paper. Had they not held membership for well over half a century? he inquired. “Sister Spafford explained how costly it was to go to New York, the time it took, and described the humiliation they occasionally experienced. She recommended that they withdraw because ‘we don’t get a thing from these councils.’ “This wise, old prophet tipped back in his chair and looked at her with a disturbed expression. ‘You want to withdraw because you don’t get anything out of it?’ he questioned. “‘That is our feeling,’ she replied. “‘Tell me,’ he said, ‘what is it that you are putting into it? “‘Sister Spafford,’ he continued, ‘you surprise me. Do you always think in terms of what you get? Don’t you think also in terms of what you have to give?’ “He returned that paper to her and extended his hand. With considerable firmness he said, ‘You continue your membership in these councils and make your influence felt.’”

Any time I am asked my opinion on the future of the LDS Church in Scouting—which is often, being that I am both a member of the Church and a seasonal employee of the Boy Scouts—this story comes to mind. I both believe and hope that the LDS Church will maintain its membership in Scouting, not because our young men and adults need Scouting—though I maintain that they do—but rather because the BSA will always benefit from the influence of the LDS Church. If we are indeed to be a light to the nations, then let us stand in places where our light and example may be seen and felt, rather than retreating from places that appear inconvenient or uncomfortable. Let each one of us be the best embodiment of Scouting principles that we can be, and let us move forward as Boy Scouts, church members, and disciples of Christ, and let us see just how much we can give.


Author: Lee Ferrin | District Executive, Black Diamond District

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4 thoughts on “Thoughts on the LDS-BSA Relationship – “Think in Terms of What You Have to Give”

  1. AvatarRon Taylor

    Important message to all involved or who will yet become involved in Scouting. Thank you Sister Ferrin. Well said.

  2. AvatarScott Ferrin

    I love the thoughts associated with this. Our young men in America need more of what both organizations provide: a chance to serve, a vision of a duty to God and others, and the chance to do hard things and overcome, and learn to enjoy challenges and lift others. Great thoughts from a great example of what she preaches.


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