scouts-l Mail Archive for May of 2000: Re: LDS & Scouts
Branden Morris (bcmorris@MEDIAONE.NET
Wed May 10 2000 - 13:46:42 CDT
> Date: Sun, 2 May 1993 19:35:32 -0500
> From: "(MAJ) Mike Walton" <blkeagle@USSCOUTS.ORG>
> Subject: Re: LDS & Scouts
> Darryl Hammill wrote and asked:
> >I remain a little confused about the relationship between BSA and the
> >LDS denomination. Is there some special agreement that I would be
> >unaware of allowing LDS to be treated in what I perceive as a "hands
> >off" situation?
> >If someone could enlighten me I would be most appreciative.
Sorry for the delay in this response -- I was travelling last week...
I keep meaning to write something like a BSA / LDS Scouting FAQ, but never
get around to it. This might be more than you ever wanted to know about the
LDS church, but since it's been a topic that pops up occassionally, I
figure it's best to get it all out now. I apologize for this massive brain
dump of LDS and LDS Scouting info.
The first thing I want to mention is that we're not "hands-off." We have
the same charter that any other troop has, and should be running the exact
same program that any other troop does -- same policies, same advancement,
etc. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, just as there are non-LDS
units that don't follow the BSA program as closely as they could. For some
reason, we just seem to stick out more when we don't. However, each LDS
unit should be following the exact same program that the BSA provides for
any other unit.
> I can provide some background from the NON-LDS standpoint;
> and I'm sure that one of our great LDS Scouters will respond
> here with how the Church *really does see Scouting*.
So far, so good, Mike. I'll expand on a couple of points, but you got it
basically correct, from a 10,000 foot view of the bigger picture.
> The Church (I'll refer to the "Church of Jesus Christ, Latter-Day Saints"
> as "the Church")
Except here ;-)
The full name of the Church (the one founded by Joseph Smith in Palmyra,
New York, and which followed Brigham Young to Salt Lake City, Utah, where
headquartered today) is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
Not intending to proselyte, but if you want to read more about us, you can
go to http://www.lds.org. Note the capitalization and punctuation; they are
key, because there are other branches of the church, or offshoots, that
differ in their capitalization and punctuation.
You can also refer to us casually as "Mormons" (not "Mormans"), although
we've been donwplaying that nickname recently, because it could give
someone the impression that we worship or follow "Mormon" instead of Jesus
Christ. Using the full name of the Church, or even the shortened version
Latter-day Saint or LDS, helps us remember (and others remember, hopefully)
that we're "saints" in Paul's terminology, or followers of Christ.
> early on, took the BSA's programs and fully incorporated it
> into their youth ministry program. As a result, some of the
> BSA's programs over the years evolved from The Church's application and
> experimentation of adapting Scouting to meet the needs of their Church
> membership and youth outside the faith.
I believe that one of the main ones is the Varsity program; and there's a
good reason for this. Let me give some background; hold on, this is a bit
The LDS Church has a lay priesthood, not a professional priesthood. With
the exception of the Church's general authorities who run the worldwide
church, local officers are "called" to do church work in addition to their
vocations. For example, the 'bishop' (analogus to a priest in Catholicism
or a reverend / pastor in Protestantism) of a 'ward' (the local
congregation) does the church work in addition to his vocation. I've had
bishops who are lawyers, plumbers, OB-GYNs, and cartoonists. Most every LDS
has one (or, like in Scouting, more ;-)) "callings" -- a calling is an
assignment, usually for 3-5 years, in some form of Church service. A
calling comes from the church officer above you (most local ward callings
come from the bishop; bishops are called by stake presidents (a stake is a
collection of wards, kind of like a dioscese), and so on). The typical ward
has 150-200 callings that need to be filled; everything from the bishop and
his counselors to the nursery supervisor to a service projects chairperson
to newsletter / website editor to Scouting leader.
Some of the callings are priesthood callings. They church has two
priesthoods, a lesser one, called the Aaronic Priesthood, and a higher one,
called the Melchezidek Priesthood. Young men (and recent adult converts)
can be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood, which is sometimes called the
'temporal' priesthood. It's focus is on the physical, material blessings of
the Gospel -- things like officiating at our communion / Eucharist service,
what we call "the sacrament." This priesthood is divided into three groups,
or quorums -- Deacons, Teachers, and Priests. They're usually separated by
age; Deacons are 12-13, Teachers are 14-15, and Priests are 16-18. The
Melchezidek Priesthood is focused on the spiritual blessings of the Gospel,
and is reserved for adult men. It too has different quorums, but they're
not so much defined on age, but more on role or position. Most adults males
in the Church are "Elders" of the Melchizdek Priesthood.
So for the youth in the LDS Church, there are two programs. The young men
have the (appropriately named) Young Men's program; the young women have
(surprise surprise) the Young Women's program. They used to be called
"Mutual Improvement Societies," because they focus on the spiritual,
emotional, and physical development of our youth. Programs include a
religious education program called Seminary, religious instruction on
Sundays, and educational, service, and social activities, combined with all
youth and separated by gender. For the service and activity part of the
Young Men's program, the LDS Church has adopted the Boy Scouts of America.
We've been chartered with the BSA since 1913, and were, I believe, the
first group to endorse Scouting wholesale. Institutionally, we encourage
all of our youth to be Scouts, and even pay the registration fees of all
youth (LDS and non-LDS) in our units. Unfortunately, we also get our share
of youth who are inactive or less active in Scouting. Our relationship with
the BSA is in many ways the "ideal" chartered partner relationship. We are
a community that wants to serve youth; the BSA has a program for serving
youth. It's a natural partnership.
In the ideal, textbook LDS ward (I've been told a couple do exist ;-)), you
would have a Cub Scout pack for that age group, as well as three Boy Scout
units -- a Boy Scout Troop, Varsity Scout Team, and Venturing Crew
(formerly Exploring Post). Each of these three units would be associated
with, respectively, the Aaronic Priesthood quorums of Deacon, Teacher, and
Priest. As a young man grew up and matured, and was ordained to the next
priesthood quorum, he would also advance in Scouting, and move to the
appropriate unit with his peers. This has pros and cons, but seems to work
for us and how our youth programs are structured.
While this structure does maintain quorum unity, it can be
people-intensive, both youth and adults. So in areas of lower LDS
populations, you may only see one unit or two units, not all three. This is
also the reason why the LDS church ranks first in terms of number of units,
but not in number of youth; we have lots of units, but they're mostly
smaller than the average non-LDS unit.
> As explained by another Scouter here, Scouters appointed as
> Scoutmasters are "called to serve" as Scoutmasters (or as Commissioners).
> This puts a special "spin" onto an otherwise "your turn" event.
Local bishops will "call" (the reference is to when Christ 'called' his
apostles; the idea of an assignment with religious implications) people to
serve as Scouting leaders. Hopefully they do the right thing and call
people who are interested / committed / capable; sometimes they can't --
they just need to have someone run the youth program. I'm sure we can all
relate to unit leaders that aren't as committed as we'd like them to be.
It's not a uniquely LDS problem.
What can be a unique problem is that if the bishop calls someone to be
Scoutmaster, and he does a good job, someone else is going to want him :-).
A church authority who has a lot of experience in Scouting (Vaughn
Featherstone) has counseled Bishops to let the best man in the ward be
Scoutmaster, and leave him there for a while. Oh, if only more bishops
followed Elder Featherstone's counsel ;-) So some LDS units might have
turnover in leadership that is more rapid than what most units experience.
Again, this has pros and cons as well.
> I hope that Branden or someone else will explain the
> relationship in closer detail.
Probably more detail than you wanted. I would hope that if anyone has any
questions, that they can contact me off-list, or ask a question on the
list. There are a number of known personalities here who are Scouters and
who are LDS. Up until recently, we had a listserv similar to Scouts-L
called Scouts-LDS that had a fair amount of daily traffic, but like Bro.
Bob Taylor, I've been missing my Scouts-LDS fix for a while now. I would
also hope that any of my brethern would correct me (gently ;-)) if I've
misspoken or been unclear or unintentionally misleading. I've tried to
provide just enough info so that it all makes sense without getting bogged
down in church administrivia.
Yours in Scouting,
Troop Committee member, Lodge Adviser, LDS Elder