Image courtesy of Grand Teton Council
By Jason A. Kofoed
This past week, 26-29 June 2013, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in conjunction with the Boy Scouts of America's Grand Teton Council held the Rise Up 2013 Scout Encampment just outside of Shelley, Idaho. I was in attendance for the entire event and was impressed...and even inspired by what I saw and experienced. This massive undertaking began two years ago and was designed to accomodate over 11,000 youth and leaders which it did quite successfully, all things considered.
I know there has been much hesitation, doubt and concern among many of us with the BSA's recent announcement that they welcome "gay" youth to fully participate in the organization's programs, leaving it up to the individual units to set their own standards and make adjustments as needed. Many within the LDS community have had the same concerns. For me, those concerns ended when the Church officially announced that they will continue to embrace, support and participate in the BSA organization and its programs while maintaining the Church's moral standards for all their activities, for all participating members, old and young alike. Knowing that the leaders of our Church had fasted and prayed over this resolved all concerns for me, but I know this isn't the case for all LDS Church members. I want to here reiterate why my mind is perfectly at ease, reinforced by what I experienced at this wonderful event.
The Boy Scouts was officially organized by Robert Baden-Powell in England in 1908 and in 1913, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was the first organization to become a chartered member of his Scouting program. For the past 100 years, the Church has become the largest faith-based organization to be chartered with the BSA and the relationship has become very, very strong with many LDS serving as members of the national board, the longest-serving member being Thomas S. Monson, current president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If ever there were a man alive who had a vested interest in the scouting program, it's Thomas S. Monson.
On Thursday evening, Wayne Perry who currently serves as the President of the BSA addressed our group and said many things that helped to reiterate my feelings to continue my firm support of the Scouting organization and program. Perry (LDS) spoke on many things pertaining to the organization itself and how it continues to move forward, doing the best it can to touch the lives of as many young men as possible in the current environment. In addition to the spiritual points he made, he also mentioned the ways in which the organization has made continued progress in cutting many of the "liability" nuts so that they can expand the program in many ways, one of which is pertaining to firearms. Beginning next month at the National Jamboree, it will be announced that high-powered rifles such as .223- and .308-calibers will be allowed as well as pistols including the 9mm. This is an announcement that caught most all of us by complete surprise considering the anti-gun direction our spineless society is moving as of late. It is a very, very good and positive development. They are also expanding many of their activities with a little more risk being allowed which will, ultimately, benefit the young men by placing upon them more responsibility which had previously been denied them due to liability concerns. What is happening here is that there is coming full circle the common sense factor that began vacating the program several years ago. Mr. Perry's attitude and outlook on the scouting program was very inspiring and, no doubt, inspired from on High and left many of us with great hope for the future of this organization...as well as strengthening a brighter future for our young men. If there is any doubt in the mind of the reader, please hear me when I say that The Boy Scouts of America is still a worthy and worthwhile program for your boys. As long as there is good and righteous leadership at its head, it will receive the blessings of God Himself.
I don't know what the future may hold as the atheists and gay community continue to attack the BSA, but as for right now the organization is in very good hands. Any adjustments that need to be made in the future will be done carefully and under the direction of Almighty God. Of that I have full confidence.