Investing in virtues

FILLMORE, Utah — While playing games and enjoying entertainment on 400 acres of hot, flat, dusty, vegetation-less pastureland just west of Fillmore, 30,000 Scouts, including Cub Scouts, were also being taught the virtues of Scouting at the Millennial Jamboral put on by the Utah National Parks Council of the Boy Scouts of America Aug. 10-12.

Beginning Thursday and continuing through the breaking of camp Saturday afternoon, most of the stage shows and games were structured to reinforce exhortations by various speakers that the young men and boys commit to do their best to live the principles of the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Among the speakers were President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve.

The Jamboral was spectacular in its scope, and ran smoothly in spite of its massiveness. It was the second such event put on by the council. The first, in

1996, celebrated the centennial of Utah statehood; this one the new millennium.

Most of the Scouts at the camp were from the Utah National Parks Council which covers Utah roughly from the Point of the Mountain south of Salt Lake City to the southern border, as well as small bits of Arizona and Nevada. Also there were Scouts from several western states as well as Tahiti.

The Jamboral was the culmination of a four-year program focusing on service, heritage, training and camping. The troops of the council were asked to reach goals each year prior to the Jamboral which included 10 days of troop camping, visits to three sites relating to Utah's heritage, official training of all leaders and 12 hours of troop service each year broken down among neighborhoods, communities, and the state and federal level. The Jamboral was "A Celebration of Achievement" for those who reached the goals, and awards were given in each area.

During the event the Scouts, who were mostly LDS, watched Elder Holland receive the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and heard him speak. Former CIA director and longtime public servant Robert Gates, who is also president of the National Eagle Scout Association, presented the award to Elder Holland in ceremonies Friday morning.

Among the statements on the citation accompanying the award, one said of Elder Holland, "As an Eagle Scout he has continued to serve God, his country and other people by following the principles of the Scout Oath and Law."

In response, Elder Holland said, "I consider this among the sweetest and best, most appreciated hours of my life." Then, in brief remarks, he told the Scouts: "I promise you now that the virtues and values of Scouting, if you are true to the trust, will be more important the longer you live, not less. The principles and virtues, the law, the oath, the motto, the emblems, the symbols, the statement of Scouting are 45 years more important to me now than they were the day that I received my Eagle."

The former BYU president shared an experience from when he was chairing a national conference of university presidents. The presidents were discussing values of education, or the absence of values. Elder Holland said the argument arose from the presidents, "Whose values and whose virtues?" The meeting was crumbling because of major differences of opinion.

Then he said: "I remember in some frustration striking the gavel in an attempt to restore order. And I said, 'How would it be if we start with the Scout Law? Could everybody in the room agree with that?' At least the Scout Law could be a place that presidents of universities could start and say there are some things that matter."

From that point on, the meeting became more productive, Elder Holland said. And while the Scout Law wasn't adopted, a statement was that borrowed from its principles.

Elder Holland also challenged the Scouts to "personally, privately, aside and face-to-face, thank a leader for what they do for you." He said he remembers when he was a Scout and not fully appreciating what many leaders did for him.

"I was in it for the fun and the delight and the experience," he said. "I was in it for the same reasons you are in it. But I don't think I thanked enough people. And one of the reasons I wanted to come this morning, and one of the reasons I was honored to put on this uniform was to try to reach back to those leaders in my life who are gone now, and thank them."

Because of the size of the gathering, rivaling national jamborees, it attracted some of Scouting's top leaders including Milton H. Ward, the president of the Boy Scouts of America, and Roy L. Williams, Chief Scout Executive of the BSA. Each spoke to the Scouts, and Williams, who is a member of another faith, focused on his audience Friday night when he said, "From my perspective and what I've heard Church leaders say, I see Scouting as an excellent tool in helping prepare a young man for his mission. And I encourage every LDS Scout to go on a mission."

Along with speeches, the Scouts were treated to quality entertainment on the camp's main stage. Most of the entertainers took the opportunity to encourage the Scouts to abide by Scouting's virtues. Highlighting the shows was country/western singer Lee Greenwood on the opening night. He told the boys to remember their duty to God and then thrilled them with his hit patriotic song, "God Bless the USA." His performance was capped by a spectacular fireworks show.

While the audience spread out a quarter-mile and further from the stage, and many had their best view on one of four large video screens spread throughout the field, the Scouts, leaders and guests which numbered more than 32,000 cheered vigorously for all the speakers and performers.

Friday was spiced by a patriotic, daylong air show featuring vintage U.S. war planes. While planes buzzed overhead and trucks sprayed water around the camp to try to settle the dust, the Scouts swarmed like ants under the searing sun to play midway games. Many of the games related to the Scout Oath and Scout Law by requiring cooperation and teamwork while sharpening mental and physical skills.

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