Biggest sponsor of troops tells why.

Question: what religious group is the largest sponsor of Boy Scout units in the United States?

Answer: the Mormon church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), with 2.7 million members in the United States, sponsors 17,000 Boy Scout emits. In terms of percentage, the Mormons greatly outnumber the other large religious sponsors of Scout troops. The Roman Catholic church, with 50 million members in the United States, has 11,000 units, and the 9.6-million-member United Methodist church has 10,600 units. (The Catholics and Methodists have more actual boys involved than do the Mormons because their units, while fewer, are larger.) Some 238,000 Mormon boys participate in Scouting, or nearly 1 in every 10 Mormons.

Why the heavy involvement? Robert Backman, president of Young Men for the Mormon Church, said, “the principles that Lord Baden-Powell (founder of Boy Scouts) espoused in the Scouting movement are exactly the principles we want to rear our young boys by. Scouting helps our young men set worthwhile goals and then achieve them. It gives them a sense of their own worth and their ability to do things. It also sets the tone for them to become real Christians when it says ‘do a good turn daily.’ Which is the basis of Christianity, really,” he added. “You know—do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Contrary to Back-man’s statement, the Mormon church is far removed from Christianity, and the Golden Rule is not the basis of Christian belief.)

Can Boy Scout troops become religious tools for proselytizing boys into Mormonism? “Oh, yes,” Backman said. “Definitely. The last statistic we had said 10 percent of our [Scouts] are not members of our church. And we naturally have a number of converts by virtue of that exposure.”

Backman said the Mormon church is unique in that it is “very centrally governed.” Because of that “we simply ask our congregations to use Scouting as an activity for our boys, and have almost a complete saturation of our congregations who are involved in Scouting.”

The LDS has been deeply involved with Boy Scouts almost from the time the program was introduced from England into the United States. “In 1910 Scouting came to America,” said Backman, “and in 1913 the Mormon church became one of the first principal partners of the Boy Scouts of America.” Backman himself is a member of the national executive board of the Boy Scouts.

Scouting coincides neatly with a Mormon boy’s progression through the stages of Mormon priesthood. Every boy is encouraged to become a Scout at age 12, the year he automatically enters the priesthood as “Deacon.” When he reaches age 14, he enters Varsity Scouting and acquires the title of “Teacher.” At age 16 he becomes an Explorer Scout and receives the full title of “Priest.” From there he voluntarily enters the LDS missionary force for two years.

Scouting also helps prepare Mormon boys for missionary work. “We have about 30,000 young people out on the mission field all the time,” said Backman, “and we have discovered that the vast majority of them have had Scouting in their background.” He said Scouting helps develop qualities such as self-management, self-confidence, selflessness, and serving others, which are helpful for mission work.

Joseph Kessler, director of religious relationships for the Boy Scouts of America, said the Mormon church was a large sponsor of Scouting because “it’s a good program which helps the LDS do what they wish to accomplish with their youth.” He said, “Scouting is accepted by Mormon church officials as an outstanding youth program they can interlace with their religious theme.”

He confessed a touch of uneasiness about the Mormon use of Scouting as a religious tool, though. He said, “You know, I guess any other church would say Scouting prepares young people for life or society in general today without coming right out and saying it helps make missionaries of them.”

Article continues below

Is it proper for Scout units to become religious tools for bringing boys into the Mormon faith?

“Any type of religious organization can charter a Boy Scout unit,” said Kessler. “But if a boy joins that unit from another church it should be made known that the unit is chartered by a particular religious denomination, and that some of the things they would be discussing would perhaps be apropos only to that particular denomination.”

He said, “If a boy is of one denomination, he stays with that denomination. You don’t earn a merit badge in someone else’s church tenets. You have to practice what you are. Scouts should help boys become better members of their own denominations.”

But then he added, “Of course, if the boy becomes a convert to the other church, that’s a different story.…”

World Scene

A grant of $920 made by the British Council of Churches to a black citizens rights group in racially tense Liverpool has led to civic and police charges of financing “urban terrorism.” A council spokesman responded that such gifts were an expression of Christian love.

Pastor Dmitri Vasilievich Minyakov was sentenced to five years in a strict regime labor camp and confiscation of all his personal property by a court in Tallin, Estonia. Further, the court placed Minyakov’s 15-year-old son in a special boarding school where he would be forbidden to pray and to have a Bible, would be educated along atheistic lines, and could even be deprived of any communication with his family. Western concern reportedly influenced court officials to drop charges of treason and to deal only with the religious activities of the pastor, who is a member of the Council of Evangelical Christian Baptist Churches in the USSR.

The Church of England is “not against” girls under the age of 16 going on the pill or being given contraceptive advice. So says a booklet published by the church’s Children’s Society. This, adds booklet author and society chaplain John Bradford, might even be without parental knowledge. Calling the booklet “shattering,” Exeter physician Adrian Rogers opposes the practice, commenting, “Where else does one turn in our society for firm moral principles, if not to the Church of England?”

Personalia

Charles L. Allen, pastor of the 11,000—member First Methodist Church of Houston, Texas, was named Clergyman of the Year by Religious Heritage of America. The United Methodist minister has been a radio broadcaster for 32 years and is author of more than 30 books.

“Lutheran Hour” program manager Elmer J. Knoernschild, 67, who has been in religious broadcasting 47 years, has announced his retirement. The “Lutheran Hour” is broadcast weekly over more than 1,200 radio stations in the United States and Canada. Knoernschild’s successor is Ken Roberts.

Waldron Scott, former general secretary of the World Evangelical Fellowship, is the new president of American Leprosy Mission. ALM is the oldest charitable agency in the U.S., serving leprosy patients worldwide. It aids hundreds of thousands of leprosy patients in hospital centers and clinics in 19 countries.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: