A Minute with Mark: Takeaways from Top Hands

Mark R. Francis

Last week I attended the annual Top Hands conference for professional BSA leaders from across the nation. We gathered in Dallas, Texas, for five days of learning and collaboration.

One of the significant things that Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, discussed with us was Youth Protection. Mike was passionate and adamant in his remarks. The BSA will continue to be the leading advocate of child protection in our country. We are leading the charge against child maltreatment.

I encourage all Scouting leaders to be vigilant in their responsibilities as they relate to youth protection. Be trained, follow BSA procedures, ensure that you are aware of any signs of child maltreatment, and promptly notify the proper authorities if necessary.

An adult can no longer register with the BSA without proof of completing the online Youth Protection training. In the past, a leader had 30 days to complete this process, but now it is required before registration. This issue is serious.

One highlight of my time at Top Hands was attending the retirement party for Bob Mersereau. Bob served as a BSA professional for over 40 years. In 2010, he served as the adviser to the 100th anniversary of the BSA. He supported Centennial Chairman Randall Stephenson, our current BSA National president. Bob did a phenomenal job with his centennial assignment and then became director of the Chief Scout Executive’s office. In this capacity he worked closely with the past three Chief Scout Executives, national commissioners, the National Executive Board, and national presidents.

When David Beck served as Young Men General President (2009 – 2015) he invited Bob and his wife, Carol, to the Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting at Philmont. They had a wonderful experience learning more about the Church and how we utilize Scouting to strengthen our boys and young men.

At Bob’s retirement reception it was touching to hear him comment about his 40-year career with the BSA. Bob shared with me earlier that his first introduction to the Church was when he was on summer camp staff. Clarke Farrer, current Scout executive of the Grand Teton Council, was also on staff that summer. Bob was impressed with Clarke and they became fast friends. Clarke shared with Bob a lot about our Church. Bob has been a friend to our Church ever since that experience. He has been a true advocate for who we are, what we believe, and how we implement Scouting.

Another highlight from Top Hands was visiting with Scout executives from across the country about their LDS-BSA relationships. We shared many good conversations about our historic partnership. However, there were also areas where Scout executives (who often serve as LDS-BSA Relationships advisers) wish that the relationship was stronger. I encourage those on LDS-BSA relationships committees to reach out to their local Scouting colleagues and do all they can to work together. Synergy will be created and good things will happen. A simple phone call can lead to strengthened ties.

I am grateful for the upstanding people who choose to devote their careers to Scouting and America’s youth. Thank you to BSA professionals everywhere for your service and dedication. Thank you for making a difference in our LDS-BSA Relationships and committees throughout the nation.

Yours in Scouting,
Mark R. Francis
LDS-BSA Relationships Director

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