Scouting's founder Lord Robert Baden-Powell once declared that the whole of his storied program is based on the realization of God and service in His name.
"I stand here today with a resolute belief that Scouting must never overlook this core principle," said Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, the Church's Presiding Bishop, on May 23 during Scouting's annual national meeting.
"We still need duty to God," he added. "We always will. When the societal and political winds come, and they surely will, Scouting cannot unhinge itself from this foundational principle. This great organization cannot be deterred when we remain strong in our solid foundation, when we stand united for duty to God."
Bishop Stevenson delivered his message during the meeting's Duty to God Breakfast. More than 1,500 people attended the event, including Elder Adrian Ochoa of the Seventy. The Young Men general presidency — Brother David L. Beck, Brother Larry M. Gibson and Brother Randall L. Ridd — also attended, along with the Primary general presidency — Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Sister Jean A. Stephens and Sister Cheryl A. Esplin.
The Presiding Bishop expressed his appreciation for adult Scout leaders, noting that he himself had spent time "in the trenches" at summer camps, merit badge course work and rank advancement reviews. Each of his four sons is an Eagle Scout. He said today's Scout leaders would be wise to invoke divine direction while leading the organization during turbulent times.
A solid, strong foundation is critical for success in Scouting, he said. Performing one's duty to God remains the foundation of the program and the charge of each Scout and his leaders. It includes adherence to spiritual principles, reverence, morality and ethical behavior.
"Care must be exercised that we never sever Scouting from itself, but rather that it stand firm and remain strong in its foundation," he said.
Today's Boy Scouts, he added, face issues not faced by prior generations, including declining morals, technology, addictive behavior and declining academic performance. "I believe that the key to solving these issues lies in family and duty to God. If boys truly understand what their duty to God entails and lived it, they would grow safely into manhood. That is where the Boy Scouts of America can help."
Bishop Stevenson also noted the Church's century-old relationship with Scouting. "One hundred years of evidence has shown that this impact-proof, non-rusting core principle works better than whatever has been, historically, the next best idea. Duty to God is where the power lies. Duty to God is what changes lives."
A Scout's duty to God must be taught, explained and shown by example. "There are opportunities to teach in every activity, every hike, every knot tied — because duty to God is the essence of Scouting, woven through every detail."
Duty to God, he added, is not a consolation prize — it's the main prize.
"We live at a time when there is great need for youth to look outward, focusing less on themselves and more on others," he said. "This is a time to reinforce and defend duty to God. That is the message of Scouting. It always has been and ever should it be."