A Minute with Mark: GAME ON!

by | Feb 5, 2018

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday—a day when the entire nation (and much of the world) had their eye on an historic game of football. Chips, parties, wagering, commercials, celebrating—many of us were caught up in the fun furor in some way or another.

On a smaller but perhaps more meaningful scale, yesterday was also Scout Sunday—a day when the Boy Scouts of America commemorated its commitment to Duty to God and kicked off a month of celebration. Many religious organizations spoke of Scouting during their weekend services or recognized historic Scouting devotion with awards or other accolades.

While the LDS Church does not have any official Scout Sunday involvement, many LDS Cub Scout packs do hold a Blue and Gold Banquet in February, marking the birthday month of the BSA. And many of us still took personal time on Scout Sunday to remember and recommit to reaching youth through the life-changing activities of an organization we love.

During the weekend I had the enjoyable opportunity of meeting with the three Scout Executives of the Utah councils and their wives: Allen and Beckki Endicott, Trapper Trails Council; Mark and Janet Griffin, Great Salt Lake Council; Dave and Sandy Pack, Utah National Parks Council. These three councils cover the entire state of Utah as well as parts of Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada; and they represent units deeply impacted by the LDS Church’s decision to withdraw from the Varsity and Venturing programs. Even though 2017 was a decisive year in the LDS-BSA partnership, our conversation together was light and positive, reflecting our moods and continued commitment to Scouting. These are good men adjusting to changes with innovation and positive attitudes.

I respect each of these Scout Executives. The decision to pursue a BSA career does not represent a personal quest of monetary wealth or prestige. Instead, I have found that BSA professionals choose this occupation because they carry a deep commitment to timeless ideals and a personal understanding of how Scouting can positively impact lives. Many of us are products of Scouting ourselves and we want to extend the benefits we enjoyed to other youth who are seeking their way in life. We work for the Boy Scouts of America because we believe in the organization.

As we visited that evening, the discussion turned to the longevity of our careers—a common topic of conversation when we visit with friends and family. Well-meaning people wonder aloud about our employment, or if there are more major changes coming in the LDS-BSA relationship. As we light-heartedly discussed the comments we’ve received, Dave Pack made an observation that struck at all of our heartstrings.

He mentioned words that Rondo Fehlberg—former BYU Athletic Director—offered, and I paraphrase:

What value is there of playing in a game when there is no real challenge? Or of simply sitting on the sidelines observing and already declaring the match a total loss?

 Instead, hasn’t each of us longed to be in a game when it really mattered? To be called into play in the 4th quarter when the stakes are high and real heroes are needed to keep the team focused and on track for the win? Well, this is it, and we are in.

We are in the middle of an historic scrimmage right now—a battle for youth—pursuing our way to the goal line, maintaining a vision of what can be, keeping good people focused and on track. That is the value of our involvement in Scouting today.

There are more games on the national scene than the Super Bowl. There are more heroic athletes than the famous quarterbacks and coaches. There are more than football hearts that need to be uplifted with a high-five and a good cheer. In the BSA we are playing for goals and souls. We are cheerfully involved with volunteers and professionals. We are dealing with hearts hungry for character, citizenship, and fitness. And most importantly, we are building youth who need outdoor activities, tangible challenges, and leadership opportunities more than ever.

As we begin this month of celebration, I applaud Scouters everywhere for your service and dedication. And I invite each of you to ponder your Duty to God and to recommit to Scouting. I am proud to be with so many good men and women in the midst of this important moment. Together, we declare with a smile, Game On!

~Mark R. Francis has served as LDS-BSA Relationships director since 2012.