President Thomas S. Monson often enjoys quoting James Barrie, who said, "God gave us memories, that we might have June roses in the December of our lives."
For countless members, such "June roses" are cherished memories from an adventuresome Scout camp, a life-changing youth handcart trek or, perhaps, a few fun days spent roughing it at a Young Women camp. Church-sponsored activities and events have enriched the lives of Latter-day Saints for generations. But the success of all such activities — and the happy memories they promise — will depend on keeping all participants free from harm and injury.
The vast majority of Church-sponsored activities are enjoyed without incident. LDS-sponsored Scout units, for example, spend more than 265,000 nights a year with only a miniscule percentage resulting in injury to Scouts or their leaders.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to ensure complete and certain safety in each and every Church activity. But the risk of harm or accident can be minimized through effective planning, by following defined safety precautions and, of course, by enlisting common sense.
A recently released section on the Church's web site lds.org focuses on safety in Church activities. It's found in the site's "Aaronic Priesthood" section and is rich in resources, information and direction. If followed properly, the page can help bishops, Scoutmasters, youth leaders and others lessen the likelihood of trouble in activities.
In a letter released earlier this year, the First Presidency emphasized the importance of "safety first" in all Church events:
"Stake presidencies and bishoprics are responsible to oversee the planning of Church-sponsored activities. Stake and ward council meetings provide opportunities to carefully plan activities and to discuss safety guidelines and safety practices. When considering activities, leaders should use good judgment and only approve those with a minimal risk for injury or illness."
In that same letter, the First Presidency references the "Activities" chapter of the Church Handbook 2: Administering the Church (pages 101-111). The safety-related topics addressed in Handbook 2 are also highlighted on the web site's "Safety in Church Activities" page.
The handbook reminds readers of the importance of proper activity planning, appropriate training and leader supervision. "Leaders should be prepared for emergencies that may occur. They should also know in advance how to contact local law enforcement and emergency services."
An "Accident Response" and "Accident Reporting" checklist is included in the site and could prove invaluable to leaders when incidents occur. Also included on the web page are "help line" phone numbers that bishops, stake presidents and other leaders should use to report accidents, abuse or other incidents.
The web page also posts excerpts from Handbook 2 regarding Church policy and guidelines on travel for Church-sponsored activities, including direction on necessary travel forms and parental permission slips.
Another section emphasizes the importance of proper adult supervision at all such activities and detailed guidelines for overnight youth activities.
Also found are safety-related information from the Scout Handbook such as the importance of proper Scout registration for adults and the fundamental rule of "two-deep leadership": "Two registered adult leaders or one registered adult leader and a parent of a participant are required on all Scouting trips, outings, classes and meetings" (Scouting Handbook, p. 5).
The recently-released "Risk Management" page also features several downloadable materials for priesthood leaders, Scoutmasters and others assigned to plan activities. These downloads include necessary medical and parental release forms, Scouting tour plans, youth handcart trek guidelines and a time-tested guide to safe Scouting.
Visitors can also click on a link that allows them to email a specific question to a representative from Church's risk management office.
The risks of accident or injury on a Church activity can be minimized when faithful leaders and participants of all ages utilize prayer, careful planning and proper preparation. Then that chilly winter Scout camp or youth handcart trek under the summer sun will be defined by gospel learning, personal growth and journal pages filled with testimony and fun.