Scouting professionals and volunteers—from 12 councils and 7 states—gathered in Salt Lake City, Utah, September 28th through 30th 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. “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 M. Joseph Brough, second counselor in the Young Men General Presidency. His comments 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.
Participants gathered again early Friday morning and traveled to Provo, Utah. Guests who were members of the Church took a special tour of BYU while guests of other faiths were privileged to tour the Missionary Training Center.
President Gilbert of the MTC presidency first explained more about the specific training young missionaries receive before going out into the world. He answered questions about missionaries including where they live in the mission field, if they always travel in pairs, how they are selected to serve, and what their daily activities include. 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?” “Are you an Eagle Scout?” And many other questions were asked of the missionaries. Several attendees commented that their visit to the MTC was the highlight of their weekend.
Frank Solla from the Greater Wyoming Council shared, “We visited a classroom where the missionaries were learning Spanish. I asked if any of them were Eagle Scouts. Seven of the eight young men were Eagle Scouts. The one who wasn’t was a recent convert to the church and mentioned that he wished he’d had a chance to be a Scout. Of the young sister missionaries, all of them had a brother who was an Eagle, and one sister had five brothers who were all Eagle Scouts!”
Following the Provo events, the entire group returned to the Church’s Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City for a training session on LDS-BSA relationships with Brother Francis.
“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.”
Participants also had opportunities during the weekend to visit the Family History Library, Church History Museum, and additional venues on Temple Square.
That evening they heard from Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President. Sister Jones shared a touching story of a Scoutmaster who blessed the lives of two of her sons, consistently helping them to do “one more thing” or take “one more step” on their journey to Eagle. Sister Jones then asked the group to think of a mentor who had made a difference to them. Her final challenge was to go and “make a difference” for someone, even one person.
On Saturday the group attended the morning session of general conference in the Conference Center.
“Sometimes people ask me why attending general conference is so significant to our partnership,” commented Brother Francis during lunch. “But we think about the highest level Church experience we can offer our friends and it’s the chance to hear from our prophet and apostles. Wherever you live across the nation you can now go back and have a conversation with your LDS colleagues and share with them what you experienced here in Salt Lake. That builds relationships.”
Saturday meals included visits and remarks from Young Men general board member Steven Lund. Brother Lund shared several resources with the guests including the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet and the Articles of Faith. After reviewing the articles one by one with the group he concluded, “God is the father of us all. And it makes perfect sense to me that we should be sharing best practices of good will with men of many faiths as we do in Scouting. I’m grateful to be a Boy Scout. I’m grateful for what you do and am grateful to be in such a place with good people.”
First counselor Douglas D. Holmes attended the final Saturday meal and enjoyed visiting with each attendee and then spoke to the group as the meal ended.
“The hope of the rising generation is—I believe—what motivates many of us in Scouting. There is a need for greater civility in this world, and that’s one thing we love about Scouting. We love that community. We love to understand and help others understand us better. The world would be a better place if we all went forward with more understanding.”
“We know that in the Church we are not always the best Scouters,” he continued with a smile. “But we appreciate your patience with us. Hopefully what you have felt this weekend is that what we really strive to be is true followers of Jesus Christ. We’re grateful for the help that Scouting gives us in trying to do that. We appreciate all that you do for the youth of our church and the youth of the nation and the youth of the world.”