This summer I spent time at the 2017 National Scout Jamboree held at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia. The Jamboree was an incredible experience in many ways. Young men and women had exciting and challenging outdoor experiences. Adult leaders served in selfless and amazing ways. People from across our nation—and the world—came together in fellowship and friendship. A good spirit of Scouting was felt by visitors, staff, and participants alike.
However, one of the greatest outcomes of the Jamboree was the relationships that were strengthened. Over 100 dedicated adult leaders served on our LDS staff, teaching in our Duty to God and Country exhibit, helping with the Genealogy and Family Life merit badges, serving as Chaplains throughout the camp, and ministering, sharing, and exemplifying our beliefs. I observed good people from many different faiths reach out to each other, strengthen each other and seek to understand each other.
One memorable experience was the reading of a letter written by President George Washington in 1790 to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island. National Commissioner Charles Dahlquist was invited by Rabbi Joseph Prouser to read the letter at a formal gathering of over 200 Scouts and leaders. In the letter, President George Washington stated that the United States will assure freedom for all and that “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
On Saturday at the Jewish Shabbat Evening Service, Brother Douglas D. Holmes, 1st Counselor in the Young Men General Presidency was invited to read portions of the 1841 prayer offered by Elder Orson Hyde over Jerusalem. What a powerful experience that was to hear one of the general officers of our Church share that historic prayer!
Thousands of visitors came into the Church exhibit with questions about religion. The main focus of our exhibits was the Savior. The Scouts loved the spirit that was felt there. They enjoyed sitting and observing the mural of the Savior. They asked honest and deep questions about God and religion. And they left being touched by what they saw and felt.
A pivotal part of the LDS-BSA partnership is the relationships that are built. The Jamboree exemplifies these relationships. I am grateful for this inspired partnership.
I am frequently asked about the future of the LDS-BSA partnership and the reasons for the new activity program for Young Men ages 14 and older. I don’t know the future but I follow a living prophet, seer, and revelator, President Thomas S. Monson. I trust his guidance and direction. There are many benefits to the new program. We can and should implement it with our full hearts.
My family has had the opportunity to move to and live in many beautiful places including Santa Clara, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Casper, Wyoming. Each time we move we fix up the house we are in. We paint it, put new carpet in the bedrooms, plant fruit trees and flowers, and do all we can to make a haven where we live. We have a deep love for each house we have owned and each town we have called home.
In the same way, I had a deep love for the Varsity and Venturing programs. Many of us did all we could to implement those programs and many lives were blessed, including the lives of my own sons. However, now we have a new program. I will move forward with full purpose of heart, painting new rooms, planting fruit trees, and helping the adults and youth I serve with to thrive as we begin to implement this new program in 2018. I trust our prophet and I know many blessings will come from these changes.
Thank you to the many LDS-BSA Relationships committees across our nation who are building good relationships through our Scouting partnership. You are doing a good and necessary work and are making a difference in the lives of many people. I enjoy working with and serving you and observing the successful endeavors you are engaged in. Please let me know how I can continue to support and assist you.
Yours in Scouting,
Mark R. Francis
LDS-BSA Relationships Director