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“ No man is much good unless he believes in God and obeys his laws. So every Scout should have a religion.”


ROBERT BADEN - POWEL L , SCOUT I N G FOR BOY S , 1908


To celebrate the BSA’s 100-year-long partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we examine the fabric of relationships with religious faiths our movement has woven over the decades.


by chri s tucker A


SK R. CHIP TURNER, chairman of the BSA’s Religious Relationships Task Force, to talk about the importance of faith in Scouting, and he will point to both the past and the future. Looking to the past, Turner


notes that James E. West and other founders of the American Scouting movement added the word “Reverent” to the Scout Law, putting extra emphasis on Duty to God. (“A Scout is Reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.”) In addition, Turner points out that most of the earli-


est American Scouting units were chartered by faith-based organizations. “That shows the importance and centrality of faith,” Turner says. “There was a recognition from the very beginning that this spiritual part ought to be there.” As for the present, Turner, a former national president of the


Association of Baptists for Scouting, says that about 70 percent of BSA units are chartered by faith-based organizations. He adds that such units tend to last longer and their Scouts usually advance further. Put that together with Scouting’s Religious Emblems program—currently, more than 75 emblems representing more than 35 religious groups have been recog- nized—and it’s clear that faith is foundational to Scouting. “It’s a huge part of Scouting in America, and the new use


of the Scout Oath and Law in all the programs will make this faith element even clearer,” Turner says. “This will give us a more unified voice about the importance of Duty to God.” Still, it’s important to remember that the BSA, in its


charter and bylaws, is “absolutely nonsectarian”—in other words, there is no one official religion in Scouting. For more, visit bit.ly/charterandbylaws. This year, Scouting celebrates the 100th anniversary of its partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the BSA’s largest religious affiliation. A national celebration of the LDS-BSA relationship will be held on Oct. 29 in Salt Lake City. In light of this important milestone, we visited with representatives of some of the BSA’s religious partners to hear their testimonies about the powerful synergy between Scouting and religious faiths.


THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS (LDS) TOTAL UNITS IN 2012: 37,856 TOTAL YOUTH IN 2012: 430,557 LDSBSA.ORG


Larry Gibson, first counselor in the LDS’s Young Men General Presidency, likes to quote LDS President Thomas S. Monson: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not in Scouting for the church. The church is in Scouting for the boys—all boys.” And the LDS church was involved in scouting—small-S, literal scouting—well before partnering with the BSA in 1913. As LDS settlers moved west, they sent young men and their fathers ahead to scout and identify the best trails to follow to the Salt Lake City valley. “They felt that they were already good scouters, so to some degree that was the basis for starting a scouting movement,” Gibson says.


In 1911, the LDS church


formed its own scouting orga- nization within their Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association called the “M.I.A.


SEPTEMBER•OCTOBER 2013 ¿ S COUTING 41


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