Boy Scouts of America officers visit leaders at Church headquarters
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The Church embraced Scouting in 1913, just three years after the movement was founded in England, and today remains perhaps its foremost supporter.
"We're the largest charter partner in terms of the boys and young men that participate in Scouting, and in terms of adult-leader participation, we're way bigger than any other sponsoring organization," said David L. Beck, Young Men general president, adding that nearly a million Latter-day Saint adults are involved in Boy Scouts of America through the Primary and Young Men auxiliaries.
Eager to nurture and strengthen that relationship, he said, the three key BSA leaders traveled to Salt Lake City on Nov. 16 to meet with the First Presidency and other Church leaders, including the Young Men and Primary general presidencies.
"As far as I know, that has never happened before," Brother Beck said in an interview after the visit.
The three were Rex W. Tillerson, national president; Tico Perez, national commissioner; and Robert J. Mazzuca, chief Scout executive.
With them on the visit were Wayne M. Perry, national president-elect (and a Church member from Bellvue, Wash.); Wayne Brock, deputy chief Scout executive; Gary P. Butler, assistant chief Scout executive for Council Operations; and David Pack, director of LDS relationships with Scouting.
"First off, they wanted to establish communication with the leaders of the Church," Brother Beck emphasized. "They were here to listen, to get to know us better, to understand what our needs are. They also shared their strategic plans."
Brother Beck said the visit was initiated by the BSA leaders, though the seed was planted in February at the National Jamboree in Fort AP Hill, Va., where Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve and Brother Beck met with Mr. Mazzuca and Mr. Tillerson in private meetings. "They both said they would like to come visit the Church leaders," Brother Beck said.
While in Salt Lake City, the BSA leaders were greeted by Church President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in the North Board Room of the First Presidency's office.
That was followed by discussions with other Church leaders in the Church Administration Building; a tour of Temple Square, including the Conference Center; a reception and luncheon with the Primary and Young Men general presidencies and General Authority advisers; and a visit to the Church Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City.
By no means was it the Scout leaders' first exposure to President Monson, who has been on the BSA Executive Board for 40 years, longer than any other member.
"He's very much respected by the members of that board and by the officers of Boy Scouts of America," Brother Beck noted.
Topics during the meeting included the Church's Duty to God Program and how the BSA officers can support what the Church is trying to accomplish with it.
"We talked about the training of our leaders, and we helped them understand the Aaronic Priesthood better and what our priorities and objectives are," Brother Beck said. "We helped them understand the strengths we have. The Church is strong in the retention of our young men in the Scouting program. It's unique that the Church has said Scouting is our activity program for young men and boys."
Giving it that institutional stamp helps with the retention, he acknowledged, "and the fact that we are very much interested in retention. That's a focus of the Church, not only in the activity portion, but in a spiritual way."
Brother Beck said the Primary general presidency explained the Primary organization. "That was very helpful to them."
He added, "We emphasized the importance of the family. They are very clear that the Church is interested in programs that strengthen the family."
Mr. Tillerson is on record as championing family values and the support that Scouting gives them.
"And he's very strong about the values of Scouting," Brother Beck said. "Rex Tillerson as president has emphasized the Scout Oath and the Scout Law, that these are values they won't vacillate on, that they want these values to be embedded into the very bone and marrow of Scouting. And they're beautiful; they're very much aligned with the Church's values."