Earlier this month, I shared the news that Utah produced more Eagle Scouts last year than any other state.
Utah has a high concentration of LDS Scouts, so the post generated some conversation about LDS Scouting.
A few commenters shared incorrect information about the LDS church and suggested that earning Eagle is easier in LDS units than other units. (Not true.)
Then I received this email from Terry Stimson, Las Vegas Area Council Commissioner:
I enjoy your daily blog since I subscribed several weeks ago. I noticed in today’s post re: number of Eagle Scouts by state, that there were a lot of references to LDS-sponsored Scouts having “vastly different” or even different standards from national. I’m pretty sure that is false. I’m council commissioner of the Las Vegas Area Council where we have a significant portion of our Scouts coming from LDS-chartered units.
I wonder if a future blog topic could be used to dispel what I see as a myth. Maybe a statement from the BSA-LDS relationships guy, Mark Francis, would be good.
Thanks for your fun and informative blog,
Thanks, Terry. And great idea!
I got in touch with Mark Francis, director of LDS-BSA relationships. Find the answer below in today’s Ask the Expert.
The history of Scouting in the LDS church
In 1913, 102 years ago this May, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially joined the Boy Scouts of America as its first chartered organization.
That historic partnership set the pattern for other organizations to partner with the BSA, and it helped both the fledgling BSA and the church give thousands of boys the chance to life-changing experiences of Scouting.
Scouting in the LDS church today
Scouting in the LDS church continues to thrive today. The LDS church sponsors 38,168 units and 449,077 boys in the program, meaning it’s the BSA’s largest chartered organization.
The majority of LDS Scouting units are in Utah and Idaho, where a large population of church members reside. But there are also plenty of LDS units across the nation.
Francis says there are 151 BSA councils with LDS-BSA Relationships committees that work to support and strengthen the partnership. That’s more than half of all councils.
LDS units follow the same BSA guidelines as all Scouting units
LDS units function under the same national guidelines as other units in Scouting. And, like other chartered organizations, LDS units have some flexibility to implement Scouting in the way that best fits the church’s needs that make their units unique.
Since most church units (wards) maintain their own Scout pack, troop, team and crew, these units average 12 boys instead of the national average of around 25 boys.
“But we still run the full Scouting program,” Francis says. “And we are always happy to welcome new Scouts into our units.”
In other words, the requirements to become an Eagle Scout are the same in LDS units as they are in all other units.
So why is there such a high percentage of Eagle Scouts?
A high percentage of Eagle Scouts
The LDS church produces a ton of great Eagle Scouts. Since 2009, Utah has ranked first in Eagle Scouts, with Idaho and Wyoming following close behind.
Francis wasn’t surprised when he saw the state rankings on my blog.
“Part of that is due to the fact that the Eagle is given such a high emphasis in our Scout troops,” he says.
“In the church we believe that the skills and steps of Scouting, especially emphasized in the Eagle trail, help LDS Young Men prepare to serve full-time missions and go on to be successful citizens and fathers.”
So getting Eagle Scout isn’t easier in the LDS church, but it does receive added emphasis. Why?
Eagle Scouts on a mission
All LDS young men are asked to serve a two-year volunteer mission for the church.
Housing and living costs are paid by the young man and/or his family, and he is assigned by the church to serve in a particular area around the world.
There’s no better preparation for this challenge than Scouting, Francis says.
“Many young men learn a new language in order to serve their mission, and some of the physical challenges — such as riding a bike or walking several miles a day — as well as leadership opportunities, are experiences which we believe Scouting naturally prepares boys for,” he says.
All are welcome
By the way, you don’t have to be a member of the LDS church to be a member of an LDS unit. Church-sponsored units keep their doors open to any individual interested in Scouting, Francis says.
“Many leaders and boys in our Scouting units are not LDS,” he says. “We welcome all to come and participate in the Scouting program, without any faith restriction.”
What they said
Francis shared two quotes from LDS church leaders that I wanted to pass along.
Rosemary Wixom, church primary general president: “When you combine the teachable, yet adventurous spirit of boys and the BSA Scouting program, you create leaders with character. Let’s join together and help all boys and youth of today reach their full potential through the Scouting program.”
David L. Beck, young men general president: “Scouting is a bridge to join with good people of other faiths and organizations whose values and aspirations are similar to ours, and to work together to bless all youth in our communities.”
For more information on how the LDS Church operates their Scouting program refer to their Scouting Handbook (PDF).
And learn more at the LDS-BSA relationships website.