Exhibit Dates: July 19, 2013 – October 5, 2014
The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910. That same year, the first Scout troop was formed in Utah, and Scouting quickly became popular in local Latter-day Saint Church units. Leaders of the Boy Scouts of America and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints realized that a formal partnership would benefit both organizations. As a result, the Boy Scouts of America issued a charter in 1913, making the Church the first organization to officially affiliate with the Boy Scouts of America. The original signed charter is featured in the exhibition, along with other historical objects—including a Scout handbook that belonged to Howard W. Hunter when he was a Boy Scout in the early 1920s. He later became the 14th President of the Church.
Robert Baden-Powell, Founder of the Boy Scouts
Robert Baden-Powell was born in London in 1857. As a youth, he loved to act, to paint and draw, to participate in sports, and to spend time in the outdoors. He also loved the military and joined the British Army in 1876. He became a national hero after he played an important part in defending the South African city of Mafeking during the Boer War.
Upon his return home to England, Baden-Powell found that the book Aids to Scouting, which he had published in 1899 for military scouts, was a huge success among boys and had become a national bestseller. Recognizing the need for an organized program for boys, Baden-Powell rewrote and illustrated his book for a younger audience and tested his ideas at a camp he held on Brownsea Island. In 1908 he published Scouting for Boys, and the Scouting movement was born. It soon had followers all over England and throughout the British colonies.
The Beginnings of Scouting in Utah
Thomas George Wood, an English immigrant, was 22 years old when he organized the Church’s first Scout troop in the Salt Lake City Waterloo Ward in 1910. By November of 1911, the Liberty Stake had created the first official Boy Scout organization in Salt Lake City. Church leaders could see the great value of Scouting and so began using Scouting methods in the Young Men program. As Scouting became more popular in the Church, it became apparent that an official relationship between the Church and the Boy Scouts of America would benefit both organizations. As a result, on June 9, 1913, the Boys Scouts of America signed a charter that made the Church a Scout council.
Scouting in the Church Grows
For 100 years, Scouting has helped leaders in the Church strengthen the character of young men. Once Scouting was established in the Church, it grew quickly among the Church’s wards and stakes. In 1913, John H. Taylor, a member of the YMMIA general board, was the first Church leader to be given a special commission by the Boy Scouts of America to oversee all Scouts sponsored by the Church. Just five years later, in 1918, the Church was sponsoring 183 Scout troops and 5,867 Boy Scouts. Today, the Church is the largest organization chartered by the Boy Scouts of America. There are over 430,000 Scouts registered in Church Scout troops and Cub Scout packs! Three Presidents of the Church have served on the Boy Scout National Executive Board—George Albert Smith, Ezra Taft Benson, and Thomas S. Monson. President Monson has served since 1969 and is the longest-serving member of the Executive Board.