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.
So here is the lesson for us. Duty to God is a new concept for young minds. Scouts need the understanding that goes with this principle of life. And that needs to be taught and explained and shown by example.
It’s so easy to get focused on the things that we can measure, like miles and merit badges, that we forget that our central focus is on things that can’t be measured. Robert Baden-Powell must have seen that in the future when he warned nearly a hundred years ago: “In training our Scouts, keep the higher aims in the forefront. . . . Don’t let the technical outweigh the moral. Field efficiency, back woodsmanship, camping, hiking, Good Turns, jamboree comradeship are all means, not the end. The end is CHARACTER with a purpose.”
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. I offer an example of mine while in a role as an adult Scout leader, some years ago.
The excitement was palpable for the nearly 20 Boy Scouts and leaders, as we arrived at the West Thumb boat launch of the Yellowstone Lake. Reservations had been made for the remote South Arm campsites, accessible only by an hour-long boat ride across the lake, commencing a week of fishing, hiking, and scouting fun. As quickly as the gear and the boys were loaded in the boats and embarked to cross the lake, so did the dark thunderheads form and begin to roll across the lake. Winds picked up, and dangerous dark white-capped waves began to form. “Push forward,” “turn back,” “let’s offer a prayer” were three suggestions heard by me from the boys as I navigated the stormy waters. Well, a prayer was offered, and we did turn back, without incident. That night, we all gathered to reflect on “What did we learn from this activity?” and “What were the problems?” and “How did we overcome them?” The conversation quickly turned to insightful, spiritual-based metaphors. Conversation centered on choices, temptation, dark clouds, rough water, unexpected obstacles, and the existence a loving Heavenly Father who will help. That experience and our reflection upon it that night, likely has been and will be the catalyst for spiritual thought for many of those boys, now men, for years to come.
Author: Bishop Gary E. Stevenson | Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints