Vision 2020—a Philmont Training Course to assist in retention of Latter-day Saint families, leaders and youth desiring to continue their Scouting Adventure after December 31, 2019—was held in June at the Philmont Training Center near Cimarron, New Mexico. Over 40 participants and 130 family members attended the conference, which was sponsored during the religious week at Philmont.
“Our focus with Vision 2020 was to provide inspiration, training and information to those involved in helping retain youth, leaders and families who wish to continue in Scouting,” commented Mark Francis, Director of Latter-day Saint Scouting Relationships for the BSA. “It was exciting to watch these participants and the zeal they have for going back to their local councils and starting and supporting new units. We also focused on helping others in their local councils and districts learn how to start new units, recruit new charter partners, find locations to meet, retain youth and families currently in Latter-day Saint chartered units and recruit other Latter-day Saint families, youth and leaders.”
Participants attended from across the nation, including representatives from Anchorage, Alaska and Puerto Rico, and the course involved unit, district, and council leaders.
The week opened with a session on Latter-day Saint Scouting history and the 106-year partnership. “As Scouting for Church members moves from an institutional partnership to an individual choice, it’s valuable to understand the past and those who went before us,” taught Nettie Francis. “The past will never change, and as Latter-day Saints we enjoy a rich Scouting heritage. Let’s never forget that legacy.”
“Even though the Church partnership is ending, there will always be relationships between Latter-day Saints and the Scouting community,” shared Mark Francis. “We encourage BSA councils to continue to have Latter-day Saint Scouting committees and provide specific support and information as we move forward in 2020 and beyond.”
Charles Dahlquist, former BSA National Commissioner and former Young Men General President, directed the week.
“It’s important that we not let down our expectations for those still desiring to continue their Scouting Adventure—now, during the transition period, as well as after December 31, 2019,” shared Brother Dahlquist. “While many youth are working to earn their Eagle before 2020, Scouting is about the experience and the growth. We want these awards to mean something to them. There are many Star and Life Scouts in the nation. While they didn’t make it to Eagle, they still had their lives changed through Scouting.”
“As leaders of today’s Rising Generation, it is our obligation, opportunity and blessing to continue to provide a marvelous, fun and adventure-packed, character-building experience for ALL youth—those who are working to complete their Eagle before the end of the year and those who just want a fun, adventuresome program. That is the guidance all leaders have received from the Brethren, and we need to be aware of the need to continue to feed and strengthen the youth during this critical transition time. If we do not, we will be responsible for those youth who not only left the program, but who became inactive during our period of ‘waiting for further direction.’”
“We need to stay fully engaged during this transition period; and, in addition, BSA is committed to providing sufficient community units for those currently in Latter-day Saint units who desire to continue their Scouting experience after the end of 2019. ”
Families who attended enjoyed the PTC programs and other signature Philmont events during the week, including a Family Home Evening and Family Banner parade on Monday night and a Children’s Parade in conjunction with Western Night. They attended the seasonal Philmont Branch on Sunday and also had the opportunity to attend interreligious services with other faiths during the week.
“There were so many non-members at the Latter-day Saint religious service, and I had flashbacks to my mission,” shared Rachel Armstrong, attending with her family from St. George, Utah. “It’s important to be as inclusive as possible. I love learning about the other cultures and religious perspectives in Scouting because we’re all trying to do the same thing. It’s encouraging that families of many faiths can participate in Scouting and still accomplish their own religious traditions and customs.”
The course was held along with nine other trainings at Philmont and provided an inspiring opportunity for participants and families to mingle with religious people from many faiths. The United Methodist Church, the National Catholic Committee on Scouting and the National Jewish Committee on Scouting also held training courses during the week.
“In the past, Latter-day Saints attended Philmont during their own week of conferences. One of the powerful aspects of Vision 2020 was the interaction of Scouting leaders and families with the other participants,” said Mark Francis. “There is a synergy in gathering Scouting ideas from many religious, civic, and educational chartered organizations.”
Representatives from three religious groups spoke to the Vision 2020 participants during their course.
“Most Scouting units include youth and leaders from many religions,” explained Bruce Chudacoff, Chairman of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting. “What do we expect from these varied youth including Latter-day Saints who might join a Jewish troop? We would expect them to follow the Scout Oath and Law and be a Scout.”
A tremendous energy was felt among participants as they learned together and shared best practices for retaining youth after December 31, 2019. Classes included training on starting and governing Scouting units, recruiting families, involving parents, fundraising, and other traditional tools. Additionally, challenges and opportunities specific to Latter-day Saint Scouters were discussed.
“Those who act now in recruiting and starting new units will have the greatest influence in the lives of their local youth,” commented one participant.
Matt McIff, Scoutmaster from St. George, Utah shared, “This is an adventure first program, and it will be an adventure first program after 2019. When you put the emphasis on adventure and not on advancement, that’s when the youth will come and stay. In our troop, we focus first on adventure (and learning) and THEN on advancement.”
One morning of the course was dedicated entirely to the spiritual aspect of Scouting. Participants traveled to a beautiful outdoor location and heard from Charles Dahlquist, Mark Francis, and Chip Turner—former Religious Relationships Committee Chair. They also viewed a talk given by Elder S. Dilworth Young in General Conference in April 1975 entitled “Scouters: Lead them to a Mission.”
“Scouting isn’t about knot-tying,” shared Charles Dahlquist. “Baden-Powell knew that. And while skills are certainly critical in building youth, it’s the opportunities to bear testimony. The testimonies you bear in Scouting are through who you are and how you respond. This forthcoming change is an opportunity to strengthen youth like never before. We need leaders who are firmly grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
At the conclusion of the week the feelings of the participants were positive and energetic.
“I need all of my children to marry Eagle Scouts, so I hope we can stay strong and vigilant,” said Becky Nakagawa, from Colorado.
Her husband Robert, shared, “I want to be the catalyst back home. I want to take this message back and revolutionize Scouting. I know that the Duty to God aspect of Scouting is vital. I’m here because of the spiritual side of Scouting. Scouting brought me into the Church. We have a big job ahead of us, to share that vision with others.”
Andrew Monks from Oklahoma commented, “Everything good in my life I can trace back to my marriage, my mission, and being in Scouting. And I can trace my marriage and mission back to being an Eagle Scout. Sometimes it’s discouraging to hear the naysayers of Scouting, but it’s been great this week to see how many good Latter-day Saint Scouters there are in the Church.”
“I’ve seen the value of Scouting for many years,” said Art Slaughter from Texas. “I’m grateful to know there is still room for Scouting. Let’s go back and make it happen.”
“I wasn’t entirely sure what the future of Scouting would be after this year,” admitted James Hammer from Utah. “But this week gave me hope that it will still be a strong option for our children.”
His wife, Mamie, added, “Being here at Philmont has given me a clear vision of Scouting moving forward. My blurry vision of the future is gone, and I have been reminded of the goodness and power of Scouting in blessing the lives of our young people. I’m excited for my boys to continue their adventure in 2020.”
Mike Ball from Utah shared, “I’m so grateful that I came. I was feeling discouraged and distraught and wondered how to help Scouting moving forward. I’m rejuvenated and excited now.”
His wife, Robin, added, “I started this course as a naysayer, but I’ve seen a change in myself throughout the week. I’m now excited to go forth with an enthusiasm for Scouting and to help my boys and those in our area.”
“I’ve been to lots of trainings and learned the basics of Scouting so I came to Philmont feeling like it was going to be another Wood Badge,” shared Ellen Townsend from Utah. “But I didn’t realize that I would also gain the courage and the confidence that I can actually go home and make a difference as we transition to community units.”
“Just like the youth in the Philmont backcountry, we’ve been on a journey, on a trek for a long time,” shared Jim Huff from Texas. “But this chapter is coming to an end, and now we have the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to Scouting.”
“It’s important that we always remember the foundation of this organization,” concluded Mark Francis. “The strength of the BSA is doing our Duty to God. I believe that what we’re doing is in line with the Lord’s will. The world needs good organizations because young people connect in different ways. Scouting plays a critical role in the development of a young person and in the maturity of an adult.”
“My hat is off to all of you,” he continued. “I thank you for making the sacrifice of your time and money to come and be with us this week, and learn how we can provide a Scouting opportunity for all youth. Let’s go out and find lots of people to share this vision with.”
At the close of the course Charles Dahlquist shared, “Thanks to all of you for being here. It is an exciting time to be a Latter-day Saint!”
After relating a story about the impact a small bee can have on a cornfield, Brother Dahlquist counseled, “If one little bee can pollinate a field, imagine what our efforts can do! As we anticipate the introduction of this new worldwide Church initiative for children and youth, we fully support the Brethren and especially our beloved Prophet in this movement. Scouting teaches that a Scout should do his duty to God—and that means being active in his denomination’s youth program—whether that be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim or Latter-day Saint. And in the face of that new program, I feel certain that each of us and thousands of parents and Scouts will recognize that the Church initiative is not a program in competition with Scouting. There will be room for both for those who wish to continue their Scouting Adventure.”
Brother Dahlquist concluded with a three-part challenge. “It is our responsibility and blessing to ensure that current Scouts (and their families) understand their opportunity to continue their Scouting experience, that those youth AND THEIR SISTERS are invited to continue Scouting after 2019, and that there are sufficient units for those youth.”
“Our leaders have reassured us over the decades that Baden-Powell was inspired as he began the Scouting Movement—a fact that we know to be true,” he said. “That movement continues today to bless the lives of our youth across the world, including many Latter-day Saints who desire to continue Scouting after the end of the year. Never in the history of this country have we needed Scouting more than we need it now – to help our youth learn vital life skills, develop character values, learn to do hard things and, in a word, to be prepared – for Life! The work of strengthening the youth of the rising generation is ours – and my closing message is that we’re not alone.”
Paraphrasing the patriot Patrick Henry he shared, “There is a just God who presides over the destiny of nations who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.” As we move forward to ensure appropriate communication to Scouting families and the founding of new Scouting units, may the God of Heaven bless our efforts and may He bless the Rising Generation, their families and their noble and dedicated leaders.”