The LDS Church and the Boy Scouts of America

How Scouting Operates in the Church

The official charter outlining the partnership between BSA and the Church was signed on June 9, 1913. It was signed by U.S. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Woodrow Wilson. Image courtesy of © 2013 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

Scouting is so infused into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. The partnership does result in both organizations functioning a little differently in order to accommodate each other.

Scouting does not replace Church programs, or teaching that should take place in the home. Scouting augments both in significant ways by helping young men apply gospel principles.

How Scouting Functions Differently

  • Troops are chartered by church units.
  • Most fees are paid out of church funds.
  • Church youth leaders are generally scout leaders as well.
  • Troops are organized according to age, not grade level.
  • Non-Mormon young men must agree to abide by church standards.
  • Scouting events do not conflict with Family Home Evening or Sabbath observance.
  • Training occurs with the BSA program as well as separately.
  • Some church scouting awards are unique to the LDS faith.

How are LDS Scout Troops Set Up, Chartered and Funded?

Only wards and branches sponsor scout troops, stakes do not. The Church pays chartering fees and other necessary scouting expenses, like registration fees, out of the stake budget. Some of these expenses are reimbursed from general church funds.

Scouting is only available to about 50 percent of the youth in the Church. This disparity could result in the Church splitting with the BSA.

Expenses for non-member scouts are handled the same as for member scouts, although voluntary private donations from non-members scouts and their families are accepted. Awards are purchased out of ward and branch funds.

The Church does participate in the annual Friends of Scouting drive. Contributions go toward the local BSA Council.

How are LDS Scouts Led?

The Church’s Young Men General Presidency directs the scouting program church-wide. Stake and ward leaders have responsibilities to oversee and manage scout troops under their jurisdiction. Local leaders that serve in church youth programs have dual responsibilities as scout leaders.

Locally, neither scout members nor scout leaders have to be members of the Church, but they usually are. Any leader participating in an LDS sponsored troop must be registered with the Boy Scouts of America.

When scouts are still Primary age, they may be led by women. Once scouts age into priesthood quorums, then priesthood leaders serve as scout leaders. Women may serve on, and chair, scout committees for quorum age scouts.

The BSA requires scout leaders to be elected. It accepts the LDS system of having callings extended and leaders sustained; because members raise their hand and vote, making their position known.

How are Young Men Assigned to a Troop?

Boys participate in Church sponsored scout troops according to age instead of grade level. From ages 8-11 boys in Cub Scouting function under the Primary and usually meet during the daytime. At age 12, boys are assigned to an Aaronic priesthood quorum.

The quorum becomes their scout troop. There is no church scouting for boys under age 8.

At age 11, boys are still in Primary but not yet in an Aaronic Priesthood quorum, although they have progressed to the Boy Scout’s age. They meet separately as 11 year old Boy Scouts until they age into a quorum.

  • Deacon's quorum: Boy Scouts, ages 12 to 13
  • Teacher's quorum: Varsity Scouts, ages 14 to 15
  • Priest's quorum: Venturers, ages 16 to 18

Non-LDS Scouts Must Abide by Church Standards

Any young man, LDS or not, can join an LDS sponsored troop, but must abide by the standards outlined in the Church’s guidance entitled, For the Strength of Youth. These standards are moral and behavioral.

Scouting events do not take place on Sunday, out of deference to LDS Sabbath observance, or on Monday nights, because it is reserved for Family Home Evening.

Scouts and leaders attend BSA training as well as training sponsored by the Church.

What are the Scouting Awards Unique to the LDS Church?

There are three different awards. All scouts, even non-members, can earn them.

The Faith in God award complements the BSA Religious Knot for scouts ages 8-11. Activities are generally structured to complete both Church and BSA requirements. This award can be earned by completing requirements in the Faith in God for Boys manual. Scouts are encouraged to begin work on the Faith in God award as soon as they turn 8 and must complete the requirements before they turn 12.

On My Honor is an LDS certificate award for those in Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouting or Venturing Scouting. It also requires young men to complete the Star level of Scouting. A series of three certificates for each quorum level (Deacon, Teacher, Priest), when the last certificate is achieved, young men have fulfilled their Duty to God award.

The Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God award is bestowed on young men who achieve all three certificates. This involves performing all of their priesthood duties, making and achieving personal goals and completing a substantial project. Generally, young men work on their Duty to God award while they complete Eagle Scout requirements.

In addition to the LDS awards above, leaders may achieve an On My Honor Adult Award.