History Highlights: Prophets and Scouting

by | Mar 15, 2018

When President Thomas S. Monson passed away in January 2018, we heard much from the media about his great love and support of the Scouting program. Yet, he was not alone among Latter-day prophets in his enthusiasm and espousal of the Boy Scouts of America. For over one hundred years, Scouting has been the program used by the Church to provide wholesome and exciting physical, educational, and spiritual activities for LDS boys ages eight to eighteen. Scouting has helped the youth gain strong values, learn citizenship, improve their leadership skills, and develop a love of the outdoors.

Following is a brief timeline of involvement in Scouting by presidents of the Church. We have arranged this in chronological order of dates we’ve found recorded for a leader’s strong involvement in Scouting. Therefore, you will not see them in the order in which they served as the prophet, seer, and revelator of the Church. For some the journey began as a young Boy Scout, others were young adult Scout leaders, while some did not become more fully involved until they had sons of their own in Scouting. Some of our prophets have received Scouting’s highest awards (indicated in their write-up), and we have included statements by most of them regarding their support of Scouting for LDS boys and young men.

Joseph F. Smith

1913: Church adopts BSA program

Prophet: 1901–1918

Joseph F. Smith, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the other members of the First Presidency agreed to adopt the National BSA program. An official resolution to affiliate with the BSA was presented to the YMMIA General Board by Bryant S. Hinckley, father of a future prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley. The YMMIA board accepted the proposal, presented it to the prophet, and on 15 March 1913, the Church and the BSA joined in a partnership that has spanned over a century.

“Joseph F. Smith became an ardent supporter of the program throughout his life. In 1913 the Church officially adopted Scouting and became a full partner. They were the first organization in the country to establish this chartered organization partnership with the Boy Scouts.” ~“100 years of Scouting,” Deseret News, July 12, 2010.

Heber J. Grant

1913: A member of the YMMIA General Board

Prophet: 1918–1945

Silver Buffalo Award

“I am happy to give the Boy Scout movement my full endorsement. I feel that thousands of our boys have been helped in becoming good men by living up to the principles of the Boy Scout Movement.” ~February 1935

Ezra Taft Benson

1918: Assistant Scoutmaster

1949: National Executive Board

Prophet: 1985–1994

Silver Antelope, Silver Buffalo, Silver Beaver, and Bronze Wolf Awards

“We have, through a combination of Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood work, the finest program for boyhood that this world knows anything about.  I am convinced of that…” ~September 1948

Gordon B. Hinckley

1922: Boy Scout

Prophet: 1995–2008

Silver Beaver and Silver Buffalo Awards

“I became a Scout in 1922…We met in our troop meeting on Tuesday evening. We were a noisy group as we assembled. Our Scoutmaster, Charlie Robinson, would blow his whistle, and we would all fall in line. We would raise our right arm to the square and repeat together the Scout oath. … It was something of a ritual each Tuesday. We did not think about it very deeply, but the words of that oath became fixed in our minds. They have remained with me through all of these years.” ~April 1989

Howard W. Hunter

1923: First future Church president to be an Eagle Scout

Prophet: 1994–1995

Distinguished Eagle Scout

“Only six more [merit badges] were required for the rank of Eagle Scout. The scouting magazine had carried stories of boys who had gained the rank of Eagle, but we were told there had not yet been one in Idaho. The race was on between Edwin Phipps of Troop 6 and me. By the next court of honor, we had both earned twenty-one merit badges, but I still needed the required merit badges of athletics, civics, and cooking. Edwin received his Eagle award in March 1923, and I earned mine in May. I became the second Eagle Scout in the state of Idaho.” ~Eleanor Knowles, Howard W. Hunter, 1994, 39-40.

George Albert Smith

1931: BSA National Executive Board

Prophet: 1945–1951

Silver Beaver and Silver Buffalo Awards

“We should appropriate every good thing that Scouting teaches us because it is a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I feel grateful to the Lord that Sir Robert Baden-Powell was impressed—may I say, inspired—to give Scouting to the world.” ~September 1948

David O. McKay

1951: Established LDS-BSA Committee (later called  LDS-BSA Relationships)

1952: Organized Cub Scouts as part of the Primary

Prophet: 1951–1970

Silver Buffalo and Silver Antelope Awards

“After many years of association with Scouting, I am convinced that participation in this splendid program for young men is one of the most helpful experiences they can have.” ~June 1959

“The Scout Law and Scout Oath are two cornerstones upon which any young man may profitably build his life.” ~April 1960


Joseph Fielding Smith

Prophet: 1970–1972

1970: The Presiding Bishopric was named as General Boy Scout Committee, with general YMMIA and Primary leaders serving on the board.

Part of being a Scout is being a friend to those you meet. Those who knew Joseph Fielding Smith spoke of the thoughtful, friendly things he did to show that he cared about those around him. ~”The Boy Scout”, December 2016

Harold B. Lee

1963: Awarded Silver Buffalo Award

Prophet: 1972–1973

“May I say to you:  Scouting will be successful in this Church only as it relates to and maintains a definite relationship with the Aaronic Priesthood.  May I put it in a negative way and say that when Scouting fails to be the activity program for the priesthood, it will cease to be a functioning part of the Church program…The more our Church relationships representatives understand that, from the head of this Aaronic Priesthood right down to the grassroots in the wards and the stakes and the branches, the more perfectly we will begin to define that relationship and the more successful and acceptable Scouting will be.” ~June 1968

Spencer W. Kimball

Silver World Award and Silver Buffalo Awards

Prophet: 1973­­–1985

“To commit a boy to do his best—to do his duty to God, to his country, to his fellowmen, to true principals, and to himself—is to open avenues of vision and direction for him which can be critically important in his life. A young man who understands and is fully committed to the great principals of the Scout Law has his feet firmly planted on a path that can lead to a happy and constructive life.” ~April 1977

Thomas S. Monson

1969: BSA National Board, replacing Ezra Taft Benson (later: life member)

Prophet: 2008–2018

Silver Beaver, Silver Buffalo, Bronze Wolf, and Silver Fox Awards

“Scouting brings out the best in each of us…. May you uphold Scouting’s tradition, for it can be as a lighthouse beacon in the world of stormy seas, it can be a motivation to prepare for your role in life, it can be a yardstick against which you measure your accomplishments.” ~2010 “President Monson Discusses Strengths of Scouting,” Watch it here.

The Sacred Fire ~ Painting by Jon McNaughton

~This post was compiled and submitted by Elder Mike and Sister Judy Kigin, full-time missionaries at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. Special thanks to Nettie Francis.