The history and power of chartered organizations in shaping and developing the BSA offers a clear picture of our partnership with other institutions. While many world Scouting organizations do not charter their programs to partners, ever since May, 1913, this has been BSA’s business model; this after allowing the LDS Church’s M.I.A. Scouts to affiliate with the National Council as their first chartered organization.
As we look back to the early years of Scouting and even before Congress offered Boys Scouts of America its National Charter in 1916, leaders in the LDS Church were meeting with BSA’s officers and staff to gain their own chartered use of the program Church-wide.
As early as October 1910 the Waterloo Ward was operating a troop and a year later the M.I.A. Scouts were formed. By the end of 1912, the M.I.A. Scouts had 20,000 youth in 1,500 Wards participating in Scouting. “…the Church Scouting movement grew in both membership and enthusiasm. The benefits of teaching and training Latter-day Saint youth through outdoor skills and activities were established. The organization of the M.I.A. Scouts had laid the foundation for a national partnership to be formed.”1
In January 1913, LDS Church leaders met with National Field Scout Commissioner Samuel A. Moffat. “The mechanics of a possible partnership was discussed. The brethren (LDS Church youth leaders) wanted to know if the word ‘promise’ could be interchanged with ‘oath’ in the Boy Scout Oath. They also discussed the commission of a Church leader to manage Scout work in LDS troops.
“Commissioner Moffat emphasized national advancement standards. The Boy Scouts of America had not yet affiliated with any organization, and the provision for such an arrangement required forethought and discussion from both parties.”2 As Moffat left, he assured Church leaders that a probable partnership could be “effective and agreeable.”3
And from that agreement, it is easy to see the elements of today’s charter partner agreement.
Good to his word, Moffat and others, including Chief Scout Executive James E West, presented an LDS Church resolution to sponsor troops Church-wide in May 1913 to the National Executive Board, which approved the application. With that, The Church of Jesus of Jesus Christ became BSA’s first chartered organization. That year 13,000 new LDS Scouts were added to BSA’s total of 60,000 youth. This set the pattern for other organizations wanting to sponsor Scout groups, each adapting Scouting to meet their needs and standards.
During the early 1900’s in the USA there was “… considerable tension between Catholics and Protestants and not much in the way of ecumenical cooperation. The leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in America, for example, was wary of allowing its boys and young men to participate in Scouting because of the movement’s close identification with YMCA, then a staunchly Protestant Protestant organization. … then in 1917, the Church finally allowed Catholic boys to join the Scouts, but only on the condition that ‘there shall be distinctly Catholic troops under a Catholic Scoutmaster, and that there shall be a chaplain appointed by the proper ecclesiastical authority for each Catholic troop.'”4 This further established that any chartered church partner of BSA had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles consistent with their Church doctrines and beliefs.
Today more than 100,000 Scouting units are owned and operated by chartered organizations. Civic, faith-based, and educational organizations use Scouting to deliver the programs to their youth members, as well as the community at large, each adapting BSA programs to fit within their own organizational objectives. Of these organizations:
- 71.5 percent of all units are chartered to faith-based organizations.
- 21.3 percent of all units are chartered to civic organizations.
- 7.2 percent of all units are chartered to educational organizations.
The Power of Chartered Organizations
Chartered organizations have always selected their own leadership for their Scouting units. Scouting in turn offers training to help those leaders get on the right track.
Chartered organizations provide safe, adequate meeting facilities. BSA offers these Scout units camping facilities that are also adequate and certified annually for safety.
Finally, chartered organizations appoint a voting representative for the local council to provide governance oversight. This Chartered Organization representative coordinates all Scouting unit operations within the organization to insure their own organizational needs are met within Scouting programs.
How Community Organizations Use the Scouting Program
With the help of the BSA, community and religious organizations organize scout units for boys, young men and young women (in Venturing). They control programs and activities of their units to support the goals and objectives of their organization
Whenever a unit is organized, the head of the charter organization appoints a charter organization representative who provides leadership in the selection of a committee of adults. That committee provides overall supervision for the units program committee selects the adult unit leaders who will work with the youth.
This was well portrayed in Disney’s “Follow Me Boys” where Vida Downey presented plans to a Hickory civic group to keep the town’s boys off the streets. She had researched and eliminated two youth groups, leaving one choice, the Boy Scouts. However they still needed a leader.
When Lem Siddons stepped forward, the civic group approved him as Scoutmaster of their new troop. One of his first projects was to build a safe meeting place, a “Scout Cabin” (in the early days it was common for Scouts to build a “Scout House or Cabin,” in fact I found them still standing all over Southern Utah as I began working for the BSA 40 years ago. There is a newer one in Blanding, UT today).
Hickory got what it wanted and needed for its youth and that’s what every church, club, civic group and parents organization gets when they get a BSA Charter. They control the quality of their leadership and adapt the program to meet their own objectives.
For more on Chartered Organizations and the Boy Scouts of America read this document and if your organization is looking for a great youth program, contact us at 801.437.6222 or visit us at UtahScouts.org. You can read more about organizations that have partnered with our Council here.
1 Nettie Francis, Century of Honor—100 Years of Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Published by LDS-BSA Relationships Books. 2013) p. 29
2 Francis, Century of Honor, p. 29
3 Improvement Era, Sep 1913, p.1135
4 Chuck Wills, Boy Scouts of America: A Centennial History (Published by DK Publishing, 2009) pp. 44–45