SANDY, Utah President Thomas S. Monson told a gathering of more than 1,000 Eagle Scouts on April 13 to look about them and they'd see that Scouting's spirit is alive.
"Here you see a monument, in these Eagle Scouts, a monument which bespeaks patience, endurance, encouragement and accomplishment," said President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency.
The Church leader's comments came at an annual "Breakfast for Champions'" sponsored by the Great Salt Lake Council to honor young men who had recently earned their Eagle badge. President Monson who was called a "wonderful Scouter and champion of youth" received the America's Champion Award, bestowed by the council during the event that was held at the South Towne Exposition Center in Sandy, Utah.
Achieving the Eagle rank is a wonderful accomplishment, President Monson said. Yet the Eagle Scout's commitment to serve is just beginning.
"You've reached the eagle's nest, but you don't go anywhere staying on the nest," he said. "You've got to get involved in the lives of others. You've got to take a boy by the hand and show him the way. And be there to steady him when he falters, that he, too, might rise successfully to the eagle's nest in his life and in service to others."
President Monson shared the experience of a young friend's special Eagle service project.
Several years ago, Samuel was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an incurable ailment that disrupted his life and has forced him to undergo countless treatments at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City. President Monson said Samuel noticed during his trips to the hospital that crowds of children and parents who gathered to watch a toy train that winds through a permanent display inside the facility.
An active Scout, Samuel thought about trains. For his Eagle project he decided to build an intricately detailed model train set that would be placed in his doctor's office to entertain his fellow patients. The hospital staff agreed and Samuel went to work.
Despite Samuel's illness, the devoted Scout sidestepped discouragement and never gave up. He completed his project following hours and hours of labor. Later, President Monson presented Samuel his Eagle badge during a special ceremony. The young man's doctors also attended. The group then walked to the rear of the building where Samuel displayed his model railroad. Those who viewed the train were touched by Samuel's efforts.
"We stood in the presence of a champion," President Monson said.
Soon the train set was winding through the doctor's office and comforting sick children.
"[Samuel's] project lights the way and inspires hope and confidence in other boys and girls," President Monson said.
President Monson acknowledged the efforts of Scoutmasters who "go where duty calls." He spoke of being a young Scout and taking his first overnight encampment at Tracy Wigwam in Utah's Millcreek Canyon. His Scout leader, a jovial man named Carl, walked on an artificial leg. The boys decided to play a practical joke on Carl and hid the artificial leg while their leader slept.
In the morning, Carl discovered the prosthesis was missing. Instead of being angry Carl simply told his Scouts he would leave the cabin for a few minutes and asked the boys to help him locate the artificial leg while he was gone, recalled President Monson.
The leg was promptly returned to Carl's bunk. The good-natured Scout leader returned. He did not scold or scowl, President Monson said, but exclaimed: "I'm glad I found my leg; I'd have a hard time hopping on one leg and trying to keep up with you boys."
In Carl, each of the boys saw the ideals of Scouting personified, President Monson declared.
The Church leader called the Eagle Scouts attending the gathering "true champions."
"You truly give, for you give of yourselves. And when you do you give to God," President Monson affirmed.
Past America's Champion Award recipients include former U.S. Senator Jake Garn; athletes Steve Young, Dale Murphy and Thurl Bailey; former BYU football coach LaVell Edwards and composer Kurt Bestor. Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner was last year's recipient.
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