A CELEBRATION AT PHILMONT SCOUT RANCH
“Happy Birthday dear Scouting,” sang over 300 participants at Philmont Scout Ranch, in Cimarron, New Mexico, on July 3, 2013, before blowing out candles on two large birthday cakes. Sister Rosemary Wixom, Primary general president, and Brother David L. Beck, Young Men general president, cut the cakes when the singing was finished, and Primary children eagerly blew bubbles to help celebrate the birthday. The event was the culmination of several anniversaries commemorated during two week-long Priesthood Leadership Conferences held at the ranch under the direction of the Young Men and Primary general presidencies.
“This year at Philmont we celebrated several milestones,” explained Mark R. Francis, LDS-BSA Relationships Director. “The centennial of Scouting in the Church (1913-2013), the 75th anniversary of Philmont Scout Ranch (1938-2013), the 50th anniversary of the Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting (1963-2013), and the 60th anniversary of Cub Scouting in the Church (1953-2013).” Priesthood Conference participants were reminded of the anniversaries throughout the week with banners, a brochure, and historical tidbits shared at daily flag ceremonies.
In 1963, a Priesthood Leadership Conference (then titled Mormon Leaders Conference) was initiated by general Church leaders in an effort to help stake leaders fully understand the coordination of Scouting and priesthood functions. Fifty stake presidents and their families attended the first conference at Philmont Scout Ranch, which had visits from Elder Delbert R. Stapley and YMMIA Superintendent Carlos G. Smith. During subsequent years Young Men and Primary general presidency members and board members have served on faculty. The conference has had several names including, “Mormon Leaders Training Conference,” “Mormon Scouting Workshop Conference,” “Seminar on Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting,” and the current title, “Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting.”
Stake presidents, their counselors, and stake young men presidents are invited to attend the course with their families. Spouses and children participate in daily activities, sleep in “tent city,” eat together in the cafeteria, and enjoy family time. This year 313 priesthood leaders from 173 stakes across the U.S. attended during the two weeks, with their combined family members totally over 700 participants.
“The purpose of these conferences is to train stake leaders in the functions of Scouting within the Aaronic Priesthood,” commented Larry M. Gibson, first counselor in the Young Men general presidency. “Both week-long conferences this summer were a culmination of several significant events in the history of Scouting in the Church, and we enjoyed an extra abundance of the spirit.”
Young Men general president David L. Beck presided. Classes were taught emphasizing the relationship between Scouting and its purpose in strengthening the Aaronic Priesthood. “The genius of Scouting is that most of the learning occurs through experience,” said Brother Beck, who also taught that the partnership between the Church and the BSA has never been stronger.
With the increase in missionaries and the renewed emphasis on missionary work, Brother Beck commented, “We have right before us in the Scouting program an opportunity to reach those who are so much like us. How can we shine more?”
The 75th anniversary of Philmont Scout Ranch was also commemorated during the week. In 1938, philanthropists Waite and Genevieve Phillips (brother to the Phillips 66 founders) donated a gift of land to the BSA. The Phillips believed that “the only things in life we truly keep are those we give away.” Today, Philmont Scout Ranch encompasses 214 square miles of wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico. Approximately 30,000 participants attend Philmont each year to enjoy backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades, and training and service programs for both Scouts and leaders. This summer, the millionth Scout will participate at the ranch.
One of the common topics of the week was the centennial of Scouting in the Church. In 1913, the Church affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America, incorporating Scouting into the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, and becoming the first chartered partner of the BSA. An historical skit was presented at the Saturday evening opening program to commemorate the centennial of Scouting in the Church. Key Church and Scouting leaders involved in the 1913 affiliation of Scouting and the BSA were portrayed, with images of the historical figures shared on a screen. A new book, Century of honor: 100 Years of Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, produced under the direction of the Young Men general presidency, was also introduced.
“The combined celebrations of these historic events contributed to a special feeling at Philmont,” remarked Brother Francis. “It gave us a chance to reflect on the past and the leaders who went before us, and recommit ourselves to the relationship between Scouting and the Church, and the increased opportunity to reach and teach the young men of today.”