Part of a speech given by Bishop Gary E. Stevenson, Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at the Boy Scouts of America national annual meeting on 23 May 2013.
Now that’s the essence of what we do—giving boys an understanding of the words duty to God. That means we must teach them, translate for them, and help them see the connection between what they’re doing in the mechanical and how it relates to the moral. Duty to God is not a consolation prize; it is the main prize. And as we focus on it, we will see its effects.
We will see Scouts like a group of young men from Queen Creek, Arizona, two of whom have already achieved the rank of Eagle. But more important, they have learned—and now live—their duty to God. This was evidenced last fall when Liz Johnson became concerned about her daughter Chy, who was being bullied at school. Born with a genetic defect that limits her brain function to a third-grade level, this 16-year-old sophomore was being pushed in the halls and even had trash thrown at her. When Chy’s mom could receive no assistance from the teachers and administrators, she contacted Carson Jones, the school’s starting quarterback who had once escorted Chy to the Special Olympics. She hoped he could find out the names of the bullies.
Given the situation, surely telling Liz the names would have been doing a good turn. But for a Scout who understood his duty to God, that was not enough. Carson said, “Telling on kids would’ve just caused more problems.” Instead, Carson invited Chy to eat lunch at a table with him and his teammates. Then running back Tucker Workman made sure someone always walked with her between class, and cornerback Colton Moore made sure she sat by the team in class.
As you can imagine, no one bullied Chy with this group of starting football players—who went on to win the state championship—escorting her. Chy now calls this group “my boys,” and she sat near them at each of their football games to cheer them on. Rather than coming home from school crying, Chy began to enjoy a life filled with excitement and joy. No one is “mean to me,” she says, “because all my boys love me . . . so much.”
Chy’s mother refers to these Scouts as “angels in disguise,” but the young men are humble in their heroism. Tucker points out, “It feels good to know that we helped someone else, because . . . everything for us is going well, but someone else needs to feel good too.” Powerful words from someone who understands his duty.
One of my predecessors, Keith B. McMullin said, “As men and women and boys and girls do their duty to God, they feel impelled to do their duty to one another, to their family, to their church and nation, to all things entrusted to their care.” The young men of Queen Creek, Arizona, understand that, and it’s changed lives—theirs and others, including many students at the school who now have a better understanding of what it means to be “helpful, friendly courteous, [and] kind”—to do one’s duty to God.
We live at a time when there is great need for youth to look outward, focusing less on themselves and more on others. 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…
…Some may not see the sacred gatekeeping role scouting plays. They may see only fundraising and not a foundation. Others may brand scouting activities as merely outdoor recreation, but it can and must be shown that BSA is not a camping club; it is a character university centered on duty to God. I quote again from Robert Baden-Powell: “The whole of [scouting] is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.”
I stand here today with a resolute belief that Scouting must never overlook this core principle. We still need duty to God. 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.
Author: Bishop Gary E. Stevenson | Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints