By Wayne and Roma Bishop—Chairmen, Vanguard Religious Awards Committee
Over the years, we have been involved in a myriad of Scouting activities on the local, regional, national and international levels. Some of our richest and most rewarding experiences have come as we have served in different capacities at many National and World Scout Jamborees. A most memorable occasion was working with other Scouters at the LDS Exhibit of the 2011 World Scout Jamboree held in Rinkaby, Sweden. Our Latter-day Saint exhibit tent was one of eleven located in the “Faith and Beliefs Area” of the Jamboree. In the ten-day period of that event, we had nearly 6000 youth and leaders from over 100 countries visit the tent which was filled with displays, videos, family history involvement, and a faculty who helped explain the tenets of our religion. Various other religions did the same in their surrounding tents, and we all came away with a much greater understanding and love of other faiths around the world. Scouting is truly a bridge that can connect us with other good people who believe in God, in country, and in family values. It promotes brotherhood, cooperation and better understanding.
So, why would we share with you this Jamboree experience in an article that is supposed to be about the new Vanguard Religious Awards? Good question! Let us explain… Other religions—in fact, all the major world religions—sponsor a Scouting religious award. Since doing our duty to God is an essential and vital part of the Scouting program, various religious emblem programs are used by BSA to encourage Scouts to learn about, and grow stronger in, their particular faith. When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adopted the new Children and Youth program, all the religious awards associated with Scouting for Young Men and Personal Progress for Young Women were discontinued. For Latter-day Saint youth and adults who still wanted to be actively engaged in Scouting, there would be no religious award available to earn that combined the values and goals of both their chosen faith and Scouting. It quickly became apparent that there was a need to fill this void so that the “duty to God” portion of Scouting was reinforced by the study, goal-setting and action provided through a religious award program.
A small committee was formed to brainstorm ideas and then develop a new religious award (or awards) for Latter-day Saints. An over-arching concern was that any new awards should complement, not compete with, the new Church program. Now those religious awards have come to fruition and are available to earn. Details on the awards are available on the Vanguard website at https://vanguardscouting.org/religious-emblems-program/
Both religious awards—the Light and Truth Award for Cub Scout-aged boys and girls registered in Scouting and the Vanguard Religious Award for Scouts ages 11-17 as well as adult leaders—achieve the goal of reinforcing the Church initiative. The requirements for each award can benefit youth as they fulfill both a Vanguard requirement and achieve personal goals they have set in the Church’s Children and Youth program. Each of the new religious awards is divided into six areas of personal development and goal setting: building faith and testimony, living the Gospel, family relationships, missionary preparation, Church history and Church organization, and service. Any youth or adult who achieves either the Light and Truth Award or the Vanguard Religious Award will have put in the time and commitment necessary to achieve a basic understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They will have been exposed to each of the books of scriptures, to general conference talks, to each of the Church Proclamations, to Come, Follow Me, and to Church publications such as True to the Faith, Preach My Gospel, For the Strength of Youth, The Articles of Faith, and the yearly Youth Theme. More importantly, they hopefully will have established a habit of continually reading and studying the scriptures, having regular prayers, paying tithing, loving their family members, sharing the Gospel and serving others.
Some Scouts and Scouters have already completed the requirements and received their awards. They report that the process was much more important than the end result— “even though the awards are awesome!” In the Doctrine and Covenants 93:36-37, 40 it says, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one. But I have commanded you to bring up your children in light and truth.” We hope the process involved in earning the Light and Truth and Vanguard Religious Awards will be a great blessing in your life. Be sure to let us know your experiences as you work on these awards!
Wayne & Roma Bishop
Chairmen, Vanguard Religious Awards Committee