Elder Holland accepts key Scouting assignment


On May 20, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was elected as a member of the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board during the BSA’s National Annual Meeting. Elder Holland attended the meetings during the week and also spoke at a closing reception.

His election to the board is significant in that Elder Holland is the fourth member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to receive this appointment.

Elder George Albert Smith was the first Utahn and apostle to serve on the Executive Board, beginning in 1931. He was replaced by Elder Ezra Taft Benson in 1949 and then Elder Thomas S. Monson in 1969. President Monson is the longest-standing member of the National Executive Board and was recently given lifetime status as a board member. President Monson will remain involved in decision making; however, Elder Holland will now take a more active role on the board.

Brother Stephen W. Owen, recently sustained Young Men general president, was also elected to the board replacing David L. Beck, former Young Men president. Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary general president, serves on the National Executive Board as well.

“It’s significant to have the involvement of key Church leaders in the BSA,” said LDS-BSA Relationships Director Mark Francis. “It shows that the Church is involved and interested in the activities of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Approximately 225 Church Scouting leaders, representing BSA local councils, areas, and regions across the nation, attended the BSA National Annual Meeting. They gathered for a special reception on May 22, during which a choir of young men from the Atlanta area sang and Church leaders — including Sister Wixom and Brother Owen — shared their testimonies.

After hearing the choir’s performance, Sister Wixom commented about the importance of mothers and their role in training in the home. She told the singers, “I’d like to meet your mothers.”

Brother Owen spoke about his discovery that he is related to Thomas George Wood who, in 1910, as a 22-year-old English immigrant, organized the Church’s first Scout troop in Salt Lake City’s Waterloo Ward.

Incoming Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh also spoke at the reception, recalling that the first time he ever met a member of the Church was while serving on a camp staff as a youth.

“I could tell there was something different about him,” he said of that Latter-day Saint.

Mr. Surbaugh gained a greater understanding of the Church when he attended the recent general conference in Salt Lake City. “We toured the Missionary Training Center and saw young men who were learning Mandarin Chinese in a matter of weeks.” He also noted that his tours of Welfare Square, the LDS Humanitarian Center and the FamilySearch Center enhanced his appreciation of the Church.

Elder Holland concluded the reception by thanking the Scouting leaders in attendance.

“This whole conference represents among the very best people who give civic service in the nation. There’s something very special about the Latter-day Saints who serve in the Boy Scouts of America. I say ‘thank you’ and I mean it. You’re not taken for granted. Your service is recognized and appreciated. Take that message of gratitude back to the councils and wards and stakes and troops and units where you serve.”

Elder Holland shared a story about a young American soldier in the Vietnam War. The young man was a member of the Church but was somewhat rebellious as a youth. When the fighting was intense and dangerous, his terrified comrade asked him for some words of comfort. “He wanted to hear anything about the good life or about hope or about the future,” said Elder Holland.

The young man admitted that he couldn’t bring to mind anything he believed. Not an article of faith, not even a song or a scripture. The only thing he could recall to share as a message of hope was the Scout Law.

“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent,” recited Elder Holland. “The Scout Law is a pretty impressive description of what a religious life ought to be. Somewhere, someone — a Scoutmaster or a parent or a Primary teacher or a bishop or someone — came through for that young man. ...

“We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Elder Holland said. “We need to pray. We are at a difficult moment in the nation’s history where wonderful institutions like the BSA, and supporting organizations like the Church, will need to be brave, clean and reverent. We’re going to need God’s help, but we’ll have it. The BSA will need God’s help, but they’re entitled to it. Church leaders need God’s help and we’ll have it.

“I’m eternally optimistic. For me the glass isn’t just half full, it’s flowing over the top. A Scout is cheerful. These are sobering moments but we’ll work our way through whatever difficulties come. Good will prevail; truth will triumph and bless the lives of young men in generations to come.”

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