FILLMORE, Utah The tradition of Scouting will instill values that help boys be better boys and grow into better men, President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, told more than 30,000 Scouts at the Utah National Parks Council Millennial Jamboral, which met Aug. 10-12.
The keynote speaker for the event, President Monson shared some of his thoughts with the Scouts, including Cubs, and hundreds more leaders and guests gathered just west of Fillmore, Utah, on Friday night, Aug. 11. He was greeted with a tremendous ovation from the boys and adults who represented troops from throughout the southern two-thirds of Utah as well as other western states, and Tahiti.
President Monson paid tribute to Englishman Robert Baden-Powell who founded the Boy Scouts and then said, "How many boys have had their lives improved by the principles of Scouting? How many men are better because Scouting graced their beginnings as young boys?"
Then he recited the Scout Oath and Scout Law and asked, "Where would you find a better blueprint after which to pattern your lives than that glorious blueprint of the Scout Law?"
Scouting can be a great help in planning for your future, he continued, adding that the Church has always been a strong supporter of the movement.
"Our own beloved President Gordon B. Hinckley's father was one of a small committee which studied the Scouting movement [early in the 20th century] and determined it was what the Church should have as the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood," President Monson said. "It was relevant then and it is relevant now."
Relating two experiences, President Monson illustrated the relevance of Scouting.
First, he spoke of Coach Charlie Welch at the University of Utah. Of him, President Monson said, "I think he helped more boys learn to swim and to pass merit badges in swimming than any person I've ever known." President Monson said he and other athletes were in a gym at the school in 1944, in the midst of World War II, when a man in a U.S. Navy uniform entered and walked up to Coach Welch. President Monson said, "He looked at Charlie Welch, the coach, with his gray sweatshirt and his whistle around his neck and he said to him, 'Coach, I've come to tell you thank you for saving my life.' Charlie looked up. The sailor said, 'Long years ago, you taught me as a Boy Scout how to swim. I was not your easiest student. In fact, you told me I swam like a lead ball. But you persevered with me.' "
Then the visitor related to the coach how, two months earlier, his ship had been torpedoed and sunk at Guadalcanal. "I remembered your lessons," he told the coach. "I swam and I'm alive today."
President Monson said, "That's the first time I'd ever seen Charlie Welch cry. . . . A great Scouter had received his reward."
Showing relevance in a more current time, President Monson shared with the Scouts an experience involving his own family. Shortly after the son of one of his nephews, Craig Dearden, had earned his lifesaving merit badge, the family was staying in a motel. Craig went to the pool to swim. When he arrived he saw something dark at the bottom of the deep end of the pool. He dived in and lifted the dark object, his little brother, Scott, to the deck. Then Craig used the skills he had recently learned by earning the lifesaving merit badge to save his brother's life.
"Ask that mother if Scouting is relevant," President Monson said. "Ask that father if Scouting is relevant. Ask Craig or ask Scott if Scouting is relevant. The answer is a resounding 'Yes!' "
President Monson emphasized to the young Scouts that they should remember the pledge: "On my honor I will do my best." He pointed out that while no two people are created equal and all are individuals, all can do their best.
He then told about a young man who had difficulty coordinating his body movements because of a handicap that was no fault of his own, honored that pledge in a 1,500-meter race during a youth conference in Sweden. His name was John Helander and he was mocked for even entering the race. He stumbled at the start and was soon left far behind by other runners in the race. In fact, President Monson pointed out, the winner broke the tape at the finish line when John had yet another complete lap to run.
"The race was over," President Monson said, "but was it really? The crowd wondered as they saw this rather awkward boy pass what had been the winning line, but then kept running. Soon they realized he was running the race of his life. He wanted to demonstrate to himself that he would really do his best. That he would be his best self. Onward he struggled, half stumbling, half running. But he never faltered. As he ran around the final lap, the crowd stood. They marveled at his endurance and his courage, wondered if he could make it. And finally, after what seemed like an eternity to John Helander, he came toward the last portion prior to what had been the winning line. Stumbling and staggering, out of wind, he had done his best. He put forth his chest and broke the newly erected tape."
President Monson continued, "Every one of us has deep within his soul a desire to do his best. I believe if we listen carefully in our mind and think back to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, we might perhaps hear that great scorekeeper, the Lord, say to John Helander, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of the Lord.' (Matthew 25:21.)"
President Monson expressed appreciation for the leaders of Scouting. "I commend you men for pretending you are boys again," he said. "To come out here in the desert and to enjoy the heat. It isn't easy for some men, but you love it. And why do you love it? Because you love the boys."
Highlighting his emphasis on the importance of Scouting, President Monson told of a group of Scout leaders in the Bay Area of California who gathered each year, after a week of eating Scout food at camp with their boys, to have a nice dinner together prepared by a Greek chef named Demetrius.
One of the leaders asked Demetrius why he hosted the dinner each year, and he told them his story. While Demetrius was living in Greece during World Ward II, the Nazis occupied his village. The villagers despised the Nazis and committed acts of sabotage against them, including blowing up a hydro-electric dam. After that act, the army assembled all the men and boys of the village in the street in the early morning hours while it was still dark. After they had lined up, a sergeant told them that because of the sabotage, they would be counted off and every fifth man or boy would be executed.
After the first group was shot, the sergeant progressed through the lineup. Demetrius was able to count ahead and was horrified to find that he would be the fifth person in the last group.
President Monson continued Demetrius' story: " 'When the sergeant came before me to have me join the others in the line to be executed, he looked at me and he stared down at my belt buckle, and there he saw on the belt buckle the symbol of Scouting, the fleur-de-lis. He recognized it and he gave to me the Scout sign, and then he said, "Run, boy, run." I ran like the wind and my life was spared because I had that belt buckle with that insignia that I had been given in Scouting for my accomplishments. That's why I come every year. That's why I provide the dinner. In a way, I'm saying thank you to a Divine Providence who watched over me that fateful evening.'
"Then he took from his pocket that belt buckle and showed it to the men; the fleur-de-lis shone brightly as a reminder of what Scouting had done to save his life. There were tears in the eyes of all present as they realized how someone on high had honored and blessed Demetrius."
Concluding, President Monson emphasized for each Scout the words of the Lord: " 'Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' (Matthew 6:19-21.)