As I thought about the events of Scouting over the past 8 years, it dawned on me that through those events, while maintaining its core values as embodied in the Scout Oath and Law (and the Scout Motto and Scout Slogan), Scouting has become more family-centered than ever before. In fact, one of the driving factors of offering the program of the Boy Scouts of America to young women in 2018, while I was serving as BSA National Commissioner, was our desire to be responsive to requests from our own members who wanted to involve their daughters in Scouting along with their sons, so all the family would be engaged in this great character-building movement.
The other day I was in Yuma, Arizona, and took the time to visit a Scout troop meeting in the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church. I had called the Scoutmaster ahead of time and received an invitation to join them. When I arrived, I was informed that although Scouting units were sponsored by the Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church, many of their adult leaders and many of the youth Scouts were Latter-day Saints. I then went on a tour of the building to see Scouting in Yuma in action. In one room, we found the young Lion and Tiger Cubs at work on a Cub Scout project. In another room, the Cubs, led by a local Latter-day Saint adult, were learning about coins, coin collecting, and the role of coins and money in our economy. In the cultural hall, the Scouts were working on merit badges under some wonderful youth leadership. In a corner of that same hall, the troop committee was meeting to coordinate logistics for an upcoming camp-out – and central in the discussion was the Senior Patrol Leader – a very impressive young man of about 16 years of age.
I then moved to the outdoor area of the Church, where the girls were involved in their Scouting activities – about 30 of them of all ages. While this particular group of girls was using the program of the Girl Scouts of America, I was informed that the other major Scout organization in Yuma, which met on another day of the week, used the Scouts BSA program for their girls and their boys – with separate troops for the girls and the boys so each has equal opportunities for leadership. And as we moved back into the building, the brother who was guiding me said, “Many of the parents are involved in their children’s Scouting activities each week. And for those not involved, there is a Bible Study program in this corner. Yuma, Arizona – family-centered Scouting at its best.
For years I have had on my desk a picture of a Cub Scout, a mother, and an Eagle, with this caption: “This Cub Scout doesn’t have to look far to find a hero” – highlighting his mother’s involvement in his Scouting activities and advancement. Scouting, especially in the early years, thrives on family involvement in all aspects of the Scouting program. And Scouting at all levels would be ineffective without the support and active involvement of the families of the Scouts.
A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Dallas, Texas area for a Latter-day Saint Family Scouting Encampment. As I sat around the campfire on the first evening of the encampment and saw families enjoying Scout skits, Scout stories, Scout songs, and the joy of sitting around a campfire together, I once again realized that never before has Scouting been so family-centered as it is now. And what a blessing for those families – parents, young men and women, and children (nearly all involved in one form or another of the Scouting program) – to enjoy this wonderful life-changing program of Scouting – TOGETHER.
In October 2018 General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson announced:
As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of “church” as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens at home. We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for a home-centered Church-supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings…For many years, Church leaders have been working on an integrated curriculum to strengthen families and individuals through a home-centered and Church-supported plan to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.”
For those of us who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints AND involved in the program of The Boy Scouts of America – we are double blessed by two organizations that understand the blessing of being family-centered. If what President David O. McKay said in 1935 and again in 1964 is true (and I believe it with all my heart) that “The greatest work we will ever do will be within the walls of our home,” then the efforts of the Church and the Boy Scouts of America in strengthening families through their individual programs become even more important in a world that continues to erode basic values so important to strong families.
We have seen the importance of the prophetic vision of President Nelson in light of the pandemic years – following almost on the heels of his 2018 announcement of the change to a “family-centered, Church-supported program.” What a blessing to each of us during those trying pandemic years. And in a corresponding manner, I remain convinced that, when coupled with the vital involvement in one’s own program of religious training (whether Latter-day Saint, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or Muslim), there is no better partnership that helps our youth be prepared for the future than the family-centered program of the Boy Scouts of America. Thanks to each of you for your inspired efforts to strengthen the family and its individual members through Scouting.