History Highlights: Varsity Scouting 1975 – 2017

by | Feb 15, 2018

Varsity Scouting, an advanced Scouting program for boys ages 14-15, was officially adopted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1984 and officially discontinued in 2017. Following is an historical timeline of Varsity Scouting, 1975 – 2017.

1975 ~ Dr. J.D. Mortensen forms a task force to develop a Scouting Program for 14-15 year old young men that would help boys continue along the trail to Eagle but also encourage more challenging activities. The name is to be Varsity Scouting; a unit is a Team; the adult leader is a Coach; the youth leader is a Captain. The Varsity Scout Letter is the top award.

1977 ~ The LDS Church General Scouting Committee recommends the Varsity Scouting program. The first Varsity Scout Handbook and Leader Guidebook are released.

1978 ~ A Varsity pre-pilot program is conducted from January 1978 to January 1980 in Western Region Area 2. Seven councils participate. The uniform is a polo shirt with a brown collar. Studies and research indicate that Varsity Scouting is a success.

1980 ~ The National Council pilots Varsity Scouting in 28 councils for four years. The Varsity Scout Handbook and Varsity Scout Leader Guidebook are revised and second editions are released. The uniform changes to a single-color, all-tan shirt. The Varsity Scout Emblem is changed to a stitched logo in orange thread.

1983 ~ The LDS Church officially endorses Varsity program on Sept. 23, 1983. “All wards will be expected to sponsor a Varsity team for teacher-age young men unless they have a fully developed program that better meets the needs of their young men and is approved by the Stake Presidency.” (Ensign, January 1984)

1984 ~ Varsity Scouting is officially adopted by BSA. The Varsity Scout Handbook and Varsity Scout Leader Guidebook are revised and third editions are released. The colors are orange and brown.1989 ~ BSA National redefines Varsity Teams as patrols within a troop that emphasize athletic interests. Venture Crews emphasize high adventure activities.

1990 ~ The Varsity Scout Handbook is dropped from National BSA inventory. The Varsity letter changes to a V with pin bars added for additional achievement. New Oscar de la Renta uniforms give Varsity Scouts orange loops. Patches are more traditional BSA colors.

1997 ~ Venture groups can now participate in sports or high-adventure activities. Varsity Scout is no longer mentioned in National literature.

2000 ~ The Varsity Game Plan book and Activity Pin booklets are replaced with the Team Program Features supplements. LDS Scouting Handbook states: “A Varsity Scout Team should be chartered for 14-15 year olds. When priesthood leaders have determined to use the Explorer Program for 16-17 year olds, a Post should be chartered for that age-group.” (LDS Scouting Handbook 1997, p. 3)

2001 ~ Wood Badge for the 21st Century displaces Varsity Scouting’s unique version of Wood Badge training and does not mention the program. A new Varsity Scout Leader Guidebook is created. The requirements for the Varsity Letter are reduced, and the higher Denali Award is introduced.

2011 ~ The Varsity Vision training course is started in some Utah councils. After seeing effective results, it is adopted by BSA in 2015.

2015-16 ~ A training course designed specifically for LDS Varsity leaders is held at the Philmont Training Center in New Mexico. Read more here.

2017 ~ The LDS Church announces that it will end its participation in the Varsity Scouting program at the end of the year. “As part of the Church’s ongoing effort to evaluate and improve its service to families and young people worldwide, the Church will no longer charter Varsity or Venturing units with the Boy Scouts of America and Scouts Canada effective Jan. 1, 2018.” (Letter Office of First Presidency, May 11, 2017)

Reflections on Varsity Scouting ~

“I love Varsity Scouting!  In no other aspect of my Scouting experience have I seen the end of Scouting more fully realized…”character with a purpose”.  I have literally seen boys become young men, filled with light and honor, with their eyes lifted heavenward and full of the vision of a bright future.  I know that their service in leadership opportunities as Varsity Scouts has been an important part of that. Leadership by the boy with wise, inspired, loving mentorship.  And there is the often unseen benefit. I have worked, served and played alongside those young men.  I have come to love them, caught a vision of their purpose, wrestled to be inspired for them, and maybe picked up a piece of wisdom here and there…so that, with their character development, I have changed with them.” ~ James Hammer, Varsity Coach, Team 422, Great Southwest Council, New Mexico


~This historical timeline was compiled by Scouting historians Roma Bishop, Nettie Francis, and Kathi Robertson. We welcome corrections, additions, and feedback! Please send information to: ldsbsa@scouting.org