Scouting professionals and volunteers—from 21 councils and 16 states—gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah, March 30th through April 1st for the LDS-BSA Relationships Seminar. Held each April and October, the three-day event coincides with the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The purpose of the seminar is to strengthen LDS-BSA relationships through a deeper understanding of the Church. Invitees include Council Key-3s, LDS-BSA Relationships committee chairmen, and Scouting professionals from many faiths. Participants tour key Church facilities, hear from Church and Scouting leaders, and attend two sessions of general conference.
“Throughout the seminar we strive to give Scouters a vision of why and how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses Scouting. We want Church members and those of other faiths alike to understand how Scouting strengthens young men,” explained Mark Francis, LDS-BSA Relationships Director. “This April we had the largest group we have ever hosted. There is a tremendous interest in successful LDS-BSA relationships committees and how Scouting functions to support the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood.”
The opening event was a Thursday evening training session at the Church Office Building with Brother Douglas D. Holmes, first counselor in the Young Men General Presidency. “We are interested in helping young men become true disciples of Jesus Christ. For over 100 years Scouting has been an unbelievable partner in helping to forge that discipleship,” taught Brother Holmes. “The scriptures teach, ‘Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it’ (See Matthew 16:25). That’s what happens to a young man on a mission. But young men have to be prepared to have that experience, and Scouting is a central part of that.”
His comments set the tone for the weekend and were a wonderful introduction to the position and structure of the Church. Watching a clip of The First Vision was a highlight of the evening. Brother Holmes also spent a significant amount of time answering questions participants had about the Church and Scouting. There was a warm, comfortable feeling in the room as different topics were discussed. “We are grateful for the good you do not only for our young men but for the nation as a whole. Thank you on behalf of the Church and the leaders of the Church.” Brother Holmes ended by sharing his personal witness of Jesus Christ.
Afterwards, Karen Meier, Scout Executive, Inland Northwest Council noted, “We heard the reasons why the Church uses the BSA program. Brother Holmes was authentic in his clear message of who has the ‘keys’ or line of decision-making.”
Participants gathered again early Friday morning at the Church Office Building for a session on LDS-BSA Relationships.
“The relationship between the Church and the BSA dates back over 100 years,” taught Brother Francis. “The Church partnership with the BSA was a blessing to the relatively new Scouting organization. In addition, the willingness of the BSA to accept the Church as a chartered partner during a time when there was not a favorable view of the Mormons was also an act of goodwill. Collectively, we have the capacity to solve the toughest problems and find solutions to benefit everyone.”
He asked participants to download the Gospel Library App so they would have easy access to the (green) Handbook on Scouting provided by the Church. “Having the app is one of the incredible tools which can help you forge relationships and connect with the LDS community,” commented Brother Francis.
Following the early morning training the group traveled to the Missionary Training Center in Provo. Attendees of non-LDS faiths met with MTC President David C. Martino and learned more about the specific training young missionaries receive before going out into the world. President Martino thanked the visitors for what they do in Scouting that specifically prepares young men to serve missions for the Church. Participants then visited classrooms with missionaries and observed the language training.
“Why did you decide to serve a mission?” “How will you pay for your mission?” “Do you think in Norwegian now?” And many other questions were asked of the missionaries. Several attendees commented that their visit to the MTC was the highlight of their weekend.
At Brigham Young University participants heard from Brad Harris, professor in the Department of Recreation Management, and met students who are interested in pursuing a profession with the BSA. Everyone then enjoyed lunch at the BYU Skyroom.
A tour of Welfare Square was another highlight of the day. “The Welfare Square tour was impactful because it showed the breadth and the width that the Church takes in caring for its members and others in the community,” commented Paul Penttila, Scout Executive, Nevada Area Council. “Telling local Scouting leaders that we’ve been to Welfare Square will help us strengthen our relationships with the leaders of the Church in our communities.”
Participants also had opportunities during the weekend to visit the Family History Library, Church History Museum, and additional venues on Temple Square.
“Friday was the most useful day,” commented Greg Harmon, Director Outdoor Adventure, Grand Canyon Council. “The time spent traveling in the vans and at dinner conversing with LDS members really answered a lot of my questions and dispelled some myths I had been taught.”
On Saturday the group attended the morning session of general conference in the Conference Center. While waiting for conference to begin, Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, graciously visited with participants.
“The conference messages were geared towards hope and service and I think that’s a great correlation to Scouting because we try to teach our Scouts about service to family, God, and others,” noted Paul Penttila.
Saturday meals included visits and remarks from Young Men General President Stephen W. Owen and second counselor M. Joseph Brough.
“Everything we are trying to do in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America is to build goodness,” taught Brother Owen. He then asked Young Men board member Brother Stephen Hess and an LDS participant to recite the Articles of Faith.
“It’s really good to memorize and know but it’s so much more important to feel. We need to help the rising generation feel the truth. They need to understand in their hearts. You have wonderful opportunities in Scouting to be with the youth and to help them learn to feel. I’m grateful to sit with you, walk with you, and work with you. We’re in this together as we instill faithfulness in the youth of the Church.”
During the Saturday evening meal Brother Brough taught, “We use Scouting to help our young men learn to be in the service of their God.”
“Being able to personally interact with Brother Owen and Brother Brough was one of those moments that one doesn’t forget because of their role in the Church and specifically because of their role in Scouting,” noted Paul Penttila. “It’s important for me to take those opportunities and listen as they speak from their hearts about why Scouting is important and how we can learn to serve Scouting better in the partnership.”
Garfield Murden, Senior Member Experience Specialist noted, “I understand now that the Church views Scouting as a tool to build young people. Scouting isn’t the end goal. We need to help people get that vision.”
“I now feel that I can at least have an intellectual conversation with my LDS leaders,” commented Kevin Fox, Camping Director, Denver Area Council.
And Dan Zedan, Council Commissioner, Three Fires Council concluded, “This seminar was well worth the time, I highly recommend attending.”