LDS Boy Scouting

Training for LDS Boy Scout Leaders



History of Scouting

This chapter is divided into three parts. The first part of this chapter deals with the life and times of Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, Baron of Gilwell. Lord Baden-Powel was the founder of the Boy Scouts. The second part of this chapter deals with the establishment of the Boy Scouts of America. Finally, the third part deals with the Church’s affiliation with the Scouting movement.

Lord Baden-Powell

The story of Lord Baden Powell is important for two reasons. First, he developed a method for training boys that has survived intact, despite the changes in the world, for the last one hundred years. Second, Lord Baden-Powell’s development from a boy to a man is inspiring and should give every adult youth leader inspiration to do everything possible to support the young man. Before studying Lord Baden-Powell, you should read Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the “Talents”.

Lord Baden Powell or Stephie as his family called him, was born in 1857 and was the seventh child of Professor and Henrietta Baden Powell. In 1860 Professor Powell died, leaving Henrietta to raise the family. In 1870 Stephie enrolled in the Charterhouse, one of London’s most prestigious public (private) schools. Stephie, however, was a boy of limited talents. He did poorly in Latin, mathematics, the language arts and the social sciences. It seemed his only redeeming talent was in art and drama. In addition, Stephie was the boy to whom all his peers looked when it came time to organize games. When Stephie turned 19 he applied to Oxford where his father had taught; he was turned down. Ultimately Stephie applied for a commission in the British Army and finished second in the Calvary exam. Stephie journeyed to India and started his duties. It was there that his superiors discovered Stephie’s many untapped talents. First, Lieutenant Baden-Powell had a knack for training young recruits- not with repetitious drills, but with military orientated games that were fun. Second, duty on the Indian frontier was a dreary place. Lieutenant Baden-Powell was excellent in organizing musicals. He was so successful, that commanders would bid to have Baden-Powell assigned to their posts; he was good for morale. During this same time Baden-Powell developed the skills of scouting or tactical military intelligence. His command of sketching made him particularly effective.

For the next 25 years Baden-Powell would serve in India, Africa and the Mediterranean. In on mission, he was sent to spy on the Austrian Hungarian positions in Bosnia. He disguised himself as a butterfly collector. He persuaded the Austrian Hungarian Army that he was harmless. During the next month, he sketched all of their positions in the form of butterflies. During this time, Baden-Powell also wrote a training manual titled “Guide to Scouting” in which he introduced concepts of both tactical military intelligence and training

Baden-Powell’s moment in the sun, however, came in South Africa in 1899 on the eve of the Boer War. Baden-Powell, now a Colonel, was put in charge of two regiments of young inexperienced recruits whose responsibilities were to hold the rail road line between Rhodesia and Cape Town. At the outbreak of hostilities, Baden-Powell consolidated his forces at the rail road town of Mafeking. On October 13, 1899, the Boers surrounded Mafeking with a force many times greater than Baden-Powell’s lightly equipped Calvary. The Boer commander demanded Baden-Powell’s immediate surrender, which was met by a bold attack by the British forces. Baden-Powell had constructed sixty forts. He did not have the men to man them, but persuaded the Boers that he had ten times the troops he actually had by moving his men around the perimeter in a theatrical, but misleading display of numbers. At the same time, Baden-Powel recruited younger boys to act as support and messengers so that all fighting men could be at their posts.

In the meantime, the Boer war had gone very poorly for the British as town after town fell to the wily Boers. In the meantime, the British press reported that Mafeking Baden-Powell held out, day after day, week and week, month after month. This siege was the British equivalent of the siege of Khe Sanh in Vietnam War. Finally, in May 1900, the British Army fought its way up the Kimberly Rail Road and relieved the siege. Baden-Powell was an over night hero of the English empire.

After the war, he was asked to organize a constabulary to defend the new South Africa. He did so, calling his troops scouts and uniforming them as American cavalrymen with the now all too familiar campaign hats.

Finally, Baden-Powell returned to England as a hero. He was promoted to Major General and made Inspector General of English Calvary.

In the first decade of the 20th Century, Baden-Powell’s England had changed. Queen Victoria had died in 1902 and the new king was Edward VII. Edwardian England was a wild place for England found itself an urban society with all of the social ills that befell a post industrial revolution society. During these turbulent times, Baden-Powell would inspect youth organizations. He was despondent at what he saw-painful repetitions, rote exercises and dry lectures that would make a Stake High Councilman’s sacrament talk appear to be breathtaking. With the declining morals of England’s youth and the failure of religious, civic, educational and military organizations to do anything about it, Baden-Powell knew he could make a difference.

In 1907, he recruited a group of 21 boys from all walks of English life for a bold new experiment. This was very important because England was very class stratified society. On August 1, 1907 he began a seven day course of instruction. The hallmark of this instruction was that he took boys out of their urban environment to the isolation of Brownsea Island, he taught the boys not through lectures and repetitive drills, but by allowing them to perform and learn from their performance. He taught leadership by letting the boys lead. Finally, he used the fun games to teach the boys life lasting lessons.

The experiment at Brownsea Island was an unqualified success. Based on upon his experiences, Baden-Powell wrote his finest work, “Scouting for Boys.” The purpose of Scouting for Boys was to help Church, Civic, Educational and Military youth organizations to use his method to train their young people using his system. The last thing on Baden-Powell’s mind was forming a new organization. “Scouting for Boys” was an overnight success not only in England, but in Europe, North American and the Pacific Rim. It was also well received in Salt Lake City, Utah. Soon, his friends organized the Boy Scouts, headquartered in London and asked Baden-Powell to be the Chief Scout. Baden Powell resigned his commission in the Army and took on a far greater mission for his country, saving its youth from moral decay. There is no doubt that had Baden-Powell remained in the Army he would have been a Field Marshall during the First World War. For his work in Scouting, King George V knighted him and made him the Baron of Gilwell.

And so Scouting was born and Baden-Powell would be part of it for the next thirty years. However, there are more lessons to be learned. You, as a youth leader, will have many boys with different talents or even very little talent at all. Some will be scholars, other’s athletes, some musicians and others computer whizzes. Others may have few discernable talents at all. All boys are different. Perhaps you will have a red haired, freckled boy whose only talent is in theatrics and drawing. The story of Baden-Powell shows that it is not necessary what talents you have or how much they are; the real issue is what you do with the talents you have. According to conventional wisdom, Baden-Powell was a very unlikely teenager to grow into much of anything, but he did. You as an adult youth leader have potential Baden-Powells in your troops, teams and crews. Your job is to mine those talents so that when they report to the master as the servants did in Matthew 25: 14-30, they can say that they invested them wisely and earned a dividend. They will not say that some adult leader helped them bury their talents from view because conventional wisdom said they were unlikely to succeed.

The American Movement

“Scouting For Boys” was a sensation in America and its publication did not go unnoticed by publisher William D. Boyce of Chicago. According to legend, it is Boyce who is lost in a London fog in October of 1909 and aided by a British Scout. Boyce became Scouting’s earliest backer and incorporated the Boy Scouts of America as a business in the District of Columbia on February 8, 1910. He became one of its major early financial supporters. However, Boyce did not have the time to organize the movement. Scouting was sort of a hit-or-miss organization. Many boys heard about the movement and were eager to join, but they did not know how to go about it. Some of them wrote to their YMCA’s for help. One of the YMCA officials was a man named Edgar Robinson. He began to get letters from boys all over the country. In response, Robinson approached Boyce and urged him to establish a centralized leadership and to attract existing organizations into the movement.

One of these early joiners was Ernest Thompson Seton, 1860- 1946. He was an artist, writer and outdoorsman. In 1902 he formed the Birchbark Roll of the Wood Craft Indians. Seton is responsible for injecting into the Scouting movement the importance of the culture of the Native American. When Boyce formed the Boy Scouts of America and with Robinson’s urging, Seton merged his organization into the new Boy Scouts of America. Many of his writings were given to Baden Powell who incorporated them into the Scouting movement.

Seaton, was not alone; Daniel Carter “Uncle Dan” Beard (1850- 1941) was also an artist, writer and outdoorsman, Beard’s monthly column of pioneer boys became so popular that he formed in 1905 the Sons of Daniel Boone. He, too, was captivated by the writings of Lord Baden-Powell and also at Robinson’s urging merged his organization into the Boy Scouts of America.

The last founder of American Scouting was James West. Who would have expected West to be a great leader. He was an orphan and a sickly and crippled boy. As an adult he walked on crutches and had a severe limp. He was in pain most of the time. Yet, he rose to become a great juvenile lawyer and felt that scouting was cure for what ailed American youth at the turn of the 20th century. West became the organization’s first Chief Scout. He turned the movement into a not for profit organization and received a charter from the U.S. Congress in 1916. Congress has renewed the charter every year since it was issued.

Sea Scouting was formed in 1912 and Cub Scouting was formed in 1930. In 1935 Exploring began as Senior Scouting. In 1982 Career Awareness Exploring began. Finally in 1998, Exploring divided into two groups. The career explorers kept the name, Explorer, and became part of Learning for Life, a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America. The traditional Exploring program, high adventure and emergency preparedness, became Venture Scouts.

Scouting Comes to the Church

The Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association (the “YMMIA”) was organized by the direction of Brigham Young in June 1875 to provide spiritual and cultural activities during leisure time for the young men of the church. Scouting, with its spiritual background and cultural ideals, appealed to church leaders as an excellent program for boys. The YMMIA thoroughly investigated Scouting in 1911, and, on motion of President Anthony W. Ivins of the WMMIA general superintendency, the MIA Scouts were officially organized. On February 9, 1912, Lord Baden-Powell came to New York to address 600 of America’s leaders at the Astor Hotel. In attendance was Scouting’s founders, West, Boyce, Eaton and Beard. Also in attendance was the father of our Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley. Consequently, in May of 1913, the Church formally affiliated with the national counsel of the Boy Scouts of America and became the first religious institutions in America to do so. The Church is one of the leading sponsors of units and boys in the Boy Scouts of America.

The Church adopted Scouting as part of the activity program for Aaronic Priesthood quorums and later for Primary boys ages 8 and older. The church continues to follow the programs of the Boys Scouts of America to help its young men 12 to 18 years of age as they magnify their callings in the priesthood. The Young Men general presidency emphasizes that Scouting continues to play a strong role in fulfilling the Aaronic Priesthood objectives and preparing young men for full-time missions, temple blessings, and righteous manhood.

Why has the Church chosen the Boy Scouts of America?

“Since 1913, when we became the first partner to sponsor Scouting in the United States, we have remained strong and firm in our support of this great movement for boys and of the Oath and the Law which are at its center. To commit a boy to do his best — to do his duty to God, to his country, to his fellowmen, to true principles, and to himself — is to open avenues of vision and direction for him which can be critically important in his life. A young man who understands and is fully committed to the great principles of the Scout Law has his feet firmly planted on a path that can lead to a happy and constructive life. He will qualify for his own self-respect and he will very likely form wholesome relationships with others and will establish an honorable family. Being true to Scout principles will help him in forming a companionship with his Heavenly Father that will strengthen all the other relationships and aspects of life. It is our understanding and belief that Scouting is still strongly centered in these duties and principles, and that there is a determination in its present leadership to strengthen them further. This being true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms the continued support of Scouting and will seek to provide leadership which will help boys keep close to their families and close to the Church as they develop the qualities of citizenship and character and fitness which Scouting represents.” Spencer W. Kimball

President Kimball spoke these words when he received international Scouting’s highest honor, the Silver World Award, from Arch Monson, president of the Boy Scouts of America. The methods of Scouting provide an effective means whereby boys can learn self-reliance, teamwork, duty to God and country, and respect for the beliefs and convictions of others — all by subscribing to the Scout Oath and Law and supporting it. In this way, they develop a code of ethics and a sense of values by which they pattern their lives.

President Gordon B. Hinckley in November 2001 said, “I make you a promise that God will not forsake you if you will walk in His paths with the guidance of His commandments.”


Well, that’s the history. You know where we’ve been; now you should know where we are going. Baden-Powell, Eaton, West, and Beard were the past; you’re the future. Good Luck!


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