History Highlights #5: MIA SCOUTS 1911 ~ 1913

by | Dec 14, 2017

If the Boy Scout Organization can take the New York City lad out into the forests of New York State and . . . develop in him a wholesome sympathy for and appreciation of the work done by the early pathfinders of America, how much more so could such a movement here in the west among the “Mormons” bring the youth of Zion into close and lasting relationship with our fathers and forefathers. 

—Eugene L. Roberts, Director of Physical Training, Brigham Young University

Scouting continued to grow in Utah. On March 8, 1911, the Church’s YMMIA board organized a committee to study the movement and investigate the possibility of standardizing Boy Scout troops within the YMMIA by affiliating with the national organization. Committee members included Brigham H. Roberts (YMMIA 2nd counselor), George H. Brimhall (president of BYU), and Benjamin Goddard (YMMIA general board member). On Wednesday, March 22, 1911, they presented their report to the YMMIA general superin- tendent and general board.

“The spirit of the [Scouting] organization seems to be character-building by acquiring ability to do common things. . . . It encourages out-door life and has a dash in it of patriotism. Of the general excellence and practicability and desirability of the Boy Scout Movement . . . there can be no doubt.”   

—Report on Scouting to the YMMIA, Mar. 22, 1911

After giving a full report on the origin, organization, and purposes of the Boy Scouts, the committee concluded with the following, “Your committee, while recognizing the very great excellence of the Boy Scout Movement in and of itself, feel no necessity . . . for entering into confederation with such separate units and other organizations taking up scout work.”

The committee further recommended, “We have not given sufficient attention to outdoor life and activities for our junior members” and suggested that “the ‘Athletics and Field-sports’ have its duties enlarged so as to include outdoor activities that . . . will have for their purpose the promotion of ability in boys to do things that are useful to themselves and to others.”  The YMMIA general board unanimously adopted the report as presented.

Even though the committee did not recommend official affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America, they did recognize the value of a Scouting program, and action was taken to incorporate Scouting methods within the YMMIA. Several organizations across America were using Scouting concepts— teaching outdoor skills as a tool to instill values. It seemed logical that the Church could also create its own program, completely operated by priesthood leaders, with no concern of forfeiting leadership control or religious training to a public organization.

“The pale, city-bred boy, who has never camped on the deseret [sic], nor seen the wilds, who has never tramped over the hills, nor ‘roughed’ it, cannot truly sympathize with the struggles of his father.” —Eugene L. Roberts, Director of Physical Training at Brigham Young University, Improvement Era, Oct. 1911

MIA Scouts

Scouting was integrated as an official activity of the YMMIA in 1911 and an organization was formed to promote outdoor activity and skills. The Deseret News reported on September 2, 1911 that the purpose of Scouting within the Church was “to promote discipline and develop character, to instill honor and trustworthiness in the lives of young boys and to inspire them with a sense of duty to parents, country, and religious ideals.” This Church movement replaced official Boy Scout troops already established in many wards, and “all wards and stakes were urged to take up this new work.”

“The Boy Scout movement, which was commenced some years ago in England, met at once with such a general approval that it is scattering all over the civilized countries. It is now being taken up under the auspices of the M.I.A. and will be made an auxiliary of this prominent organization of the Church.” —Deseret News, Nov. 14, 1911

John H. Taylor, YMMIA Athletic Director, was given the responsibility to promote MIA Scout work in the stakes and wards. He was eventually commissioned in 1913 by the Boy Scouts of America to oversee Scouting in all Church units in the western United States.

“The boy scout of today must be chivalrous, manly, and gentlemanly. When he gets up in the morning he may tie a knot in his necktie, and leave the necktie outside his vest until he has done a good turn. . . . The scout also ought to know how to save life. . . . He must be systematically taking exercise, playing games, running, and walking. . . . The scout should be a lover of his country. He should know his country. In short, to be a good scout is to be a well-developed, well-informed boy.

“Another scout virtue is cheerfulness. As the scout law intimates, he must never go about with a sulky air. He must always be bright and smiling, and, as the humorist says, ‘Must always see the doughnut and not the hole.’

“Wherever there have been heroes there have been scouts; and to be a scout means to be prepared to do the right thing at the right moment, no matter what the consequences may be.

“The final and chief test of the scout is the doing of a good turn to somebody every day, quietly and without boasting.
This is the proof of the scout.” —1911 Handbook for Boys, as cited in Improvement Era, Mar. 1912, 358

MIA Scouts Organization

The purposes and plans of the MIA Scout movement were printed in the March 1912 Improvement Era. Scout meetings were held for thirty minutes immediately before or after regular MIA meetings on Tuesday nights. Subjects included woodcraft, organization, leadership, knot tying, bandaging, first aid, troop discipline and efficiency, the history of the flag, physical development, astronomy, orienteering, and other outdoor skills.

Any member of the YMMIA under the age of 18 years may become a member. . . . Any non-member of the church, between 12 and 18 years of age, may become an M.I.A. Scout on a majority vote of the local M.I.A. Scouts and by consent of his parents.

The time, thirty minutes, allotted to scout meetings, is so brief that not a minute should be lost.

1. Roll Call

2. Brief M.I.A. Scout drill, as follows:

Setting-up exercises; four weeks.

Drill formation in the closed order; four weeks.

Red Cross drill, and first aid; ten weeks.

Packing, tieing, etc.; two weeks.

Camp cooking and camp discipline; four weeks.

3. Instruction: Not to exceed ten minutes.

4. Miscellaneous: Announce next meeting’s exercises and act on current business.

5. Dismiss by number or song or scout yell.

—Excerpts from the Improvement Era, Mar. 1912

Possible names for the new Scouting organization were suggested, including the “Boy Pioneers of Utah,” the “MIA Craftsmen,” and the “MIA Rangers.” The name “MIA Scouts” was officially adopted on November 29, 1911. Membership included boys from twelve to eighteen years old. Soon several thousand boys were enrolled in the MIA Scouts.

MIA Scout troops were organized throughout Utah and other areas of the Church. From 1911 to 1913, 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 MIA Scouts had laid the foundation for a national partnership to be formed.

“The only equipment [the Boy Scout Movement] needs is the outdoors, a group of boys, and a leader.” —1911 Handbook for Boys as cited in Improvement Era, Apr. 1911

“The great underlying purpose in incorporating scoutcraft in the M.I.A. junior activities is the making in our boys a more rugged manhood and more self-reliant characters. We give to the organizers of the ‘Boy Scouts of America’ unstinted praise for the splendid ideas and movement they have inaugurated.” —Lyman R. Martineau, Improvement Era, Mar. 1912, 361

MIA Scout Ideals Improvement Era, 1912

A Scout must:
Be clean.
Stand erect.
Keep his self-respect.
Be manly.
Be courageous.
Be cheerful.
Be industrious. Maintain individuality. Believe in God and right living.

From July 21, 1912, to July 24, 1912, MIA Scouts marched and camped “over the pioneer trail” from Echo Canyon, Utah,
through Henefer, East Canyon, Mountain Dell, and over Little Mountain to Liberty Park in Salt Lake City. At Liberty Park, they formed into columns and marched in the Pioneer Day parade. The purpose of the event was to “obtain inspiration for the admirable work of the pioneers, to enjoy a pleasant outing, and to get some education in nature, discipline, and history.” —Improvement Era, Sep. 1912, 1038

~Excerpts taken from Century of Honor: 100 Years of Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  To order a copy click here.