Few men are as devoted to Scouting as is President Thomas S. Monson, who has been a member of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board since 1969, and who is a recipient of Scouting's highest volunteer awards, including the Silver Beaver, the Silver Buffalo and the Bronze Wolf.
With his background and interest in Scouting, it's no wonder that President Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency, seemed to be right in his element early Saturday morning, Sept. 21, as he arrived at the 360-acre pasture land that was the site of the Great Salt Lake Council Centennial Heritage Jamboral. The event was held at Swaner Ranch, near Park City, about 27 miles east of Salt Lake City. (Please see related article on this page.)As soon as he got out of his car, he was surrounded by dozens of young men, all eager to shake his hand. And as he participated in a brief program at the campsite, he quickly captured and held the attention of some 12,000 Scouts and their leaders.
He reflected on the long tradition of Scouting and its many accomplishments. Of those who volunteer to make Scouting possible, President Monson said, "Every leader here today is grateful for the opportunity he had to be in Scouting years ago."
He told of having gone to London's Westminster Abbey a few weeks ago and seeing Great Britain's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which characterizes those who "gave their lives for all that we hold dear."
"Then I went over to a beautiful corner in that Abbey and saw the memorial to the founder of Scouting, Lord Robert Baden-Powell. The memorial is done beautifully in marble, with the flag of the Boy Scouts. Above the memorial were the words, `Give thanks.'
"I give thanks to God for all of you and for your leaders, without whom you would be hard pressed to stay organized in this kind of an encampment, men who have left their homes, warm beds and home-cooked meals."
President Monson, noticing that many in the encampment were dressed in several layers of clothing or wrapped in blankets to stave off the early-morning chill, said, "I think the Scout Law needs to be amended. You remember it: `trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent – and cold.' Responding to shouts from the audience, he added, "And, this morning, hungry."
After commenting on the new merit badge in crime fighting that Salt Lake City Police Chief Ruben Ortega spoke of earlier in the program, President Monson said: "Many years ago I had a long conversation as a leader with Judge Rulon Clark, who was known throughout the country as a long-time serving and a wonderful and effective judge in the Juvenile Court of Salt Lake City. I remember one great statement he made to me: `In all my years presiding in Juvenile Court, I've observed that 96 percent of all the boys who have stood before me after having committed a crime had no experience in Scouting.' "
President Monson added, "I believe Scouting to be a great deterrent to crime, and a great builder of boys in an America that needs you.
"I say thanks to you for another great principle which you demonstrate in your daily lives – Scouting for food. I'm happy that we continue that program throughout this country, and in Salt Lake City, where once a year the Scouts turn out and, with previous advertising, go to every home in every neighborhood and collect contributed food for the hungry. Then the National Guard and others with their trucks pick up the food, take it to the storehouses where it is distributed to the needy, and those who are hungry have an opportunity to eat when otherwise they would not have had that privilege. You make it possible. You are the benefactors. You are also the recipients of that great blessing of doing something for others."
President Monson counseled the Scouts, "Remember your motto, remember your credo. Always be prepared. Always do a good turn daily. Always give thanks to God for the great blessings that are yours, and thanks to your leaders."