Century of Honor Book Celebrates 100 Years of LDS Scouting
By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
On May 3, 1913, Chief Scout Executive James E. West mailed a brief letter to Church headquarters that would impact LDS young men living in the United States for generations.
“It gives me great pleasure as an executive of the Boy Scouts of America,” he wrote, “to welcome through you all of those who will actively take up Scout work.”
With that, a partnership between Scouting and the Church was forged that has thrived for 100 years. It’s a relationship that has involved millions of men, women, and boys who have, at some point over the past century, donned the Scout uniform, delivered the three-fingered salute, and pledged “to do my duty to God and my country.” The Church is the largest chartered organization of the BSA, sponsoring 37,856 units and more than 430,000 youth.
The dynamic story of Scouting and the Church is told in a newly published book titled Century of Honor: 100 Years of Scouting in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Published by the LDS-BSA Relationships Office, the full-color, hardbound book is the collective work of a committee of historians, writers, and administrators, along with contributors from both the Church History Department and the National Scouting Museum.
The book committee found itself working on a tight deadline at the moment of its inception. Last August, Brother David L. Beck, Young Men general president, called for a record of the history of the Church and Scouting to be published in conjunction with the centennial.
“The committee soon fell into place—it was quite miraculous,” said the book’s project manager, Nettie H. Francis.
Drawing from the archives of both the Church History Library and the National Scouting Museum, the committee spent months searching for as many primary sources as possible to offer a historically-tight telling of the beginnings of Scouting in the Church. Sister Francis said it was immediately evident that they were not working alone. “We could tell from the beginning that it was an inspired project.”
Compiling the book, she added, also served as a reminder of the inspired partnership between the Church and Scouting. Even as the Scouting program was being developed in England in the early years of the 20th century, Latter-day Saint leaders in Salt Lake City were seeking an outdoor-based activity program that would meet the needs of Aaronic Priesthood holders.
Church leaders were impressed with the guiding principles of service, reverence, and duty that anchored the burgeoning Scout program. In 1911 the MIA Scouts were organized following the format and activities found in Scout books of the day. Two years later, the Church officially joined the BSA, becoming its first chartered organization.
Century of Honor captures the pivotal role that several prominent Church leaders have played as Scouting developed into the storied activity program of the Aaronic Priesthood in the United States. Beginning with President Joseph F. Smith, a succession of Church Presidents has championed Scouting. President George Albert Smith was the first to be appointed to Scouting’s National Executive Board. He would be succeeded by President Ezra Taft Benson and, later, President Thomas S. Monson, who has served on the board for more than four decades.
The book also chronicles the Scouting efforts of women in the Church, particularly in Cub Scouts. Under the direction of President David O. McKay, Primary general president LaVern Parmley established Cub Scouting within the Primary in 1952. Sister Parmley would later become the first LDS woman to serve on the National Cub Scout Committee.
Century of Honor is more than a history book—it’s a visual celebration of the LDS Scouting movement. All who have worn the iconic uniform, spent a week at Scout camp, or, perhaps, struggled to earn a challenging merit badge will likely enjoy the book’s nostalgia. Counted among the hundreds of images are photos from national and international jamborees and Philmont Scout Ranch gatherings, along with heartwarming snapshots of President Monson and other Church leaders fellowshipping with wide-eyed Scouts.
Century of Honor is available at Deseret Book, Seagull Book, the Church History Museum, the LDS-BSA Relationships office, Intermountain West Costco stores, and online at Amazon.com.