For me the National Meeting in Atlanta took a bit of a different twist. Having injured my foot just after landing, I had to carefully choose when and where I would be. But over and over, I kept crossing paths with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of BSA’s newest elected National Executive Board members (significant in that he is only the fourth member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to receive this appointment). It was as if we were meant to face one another.
What a relief it was Friday to finally be at a place where he would speak: the LDS Open House/Reception just prior to the Silver Buffalo Dinner Meeting.
Elder Holland shared the most captivating Scouter’s minute. In fact, I have already used it in two settings at National Camp School.
The story began with a young man growing up a member of the LDS Church in Utah. But he was rebellious and anxious to escape the hold the faith had on him, so he joined the military and was sent as a soldier to Vietnam during the War there.
Eventually, this young man found himself fighting an intensely dangerous gun battle. Seeking cover, he jumped into a fox hole with another comrade. The other soldier was terrified and asked him—no, begged him—for some words of comfort. “He wanted to hear anything about the good life or about hope or about the future,” Elder Holland said.
But this young soldier could not think of anything he believed; not an article of faith, not a song, no not even a scripture. But finally something came to mind, the Scout Law. Slowly and quietly he whispered:
A Scout is trustworthy,
A Scout is loyal,
A Scout is helpful,
A Scout is friendly,
A Scout is courteous,
A Scout is kind,
A Scout is obedient,
A Scout is cheerful,
A Scout is thrifty,
A Scout is brave,
A Scout is clean,
Then more quietly, Elder Holland recited: “and a Scout is reverent.”
The recitation worked and the terrified comrade felt the peace he sought. Elder Holland went on:
“The Scout Law is a pretty impressive description of what a religious life ought to be. Somewhere, someone — a Scoutmaster or a parent or a Primary teacher or a bishop or someone — came through for that young man. …
Other comments from Elder Holland included :
“This whole conference represents among the very best people who give civic service in the nation. There’s something very special about the Latter-day Saints who serve in the Boy Scouts of America. I say ‘thank you’ and I mean it. You’re not taken for granted. Your service is recognized and appreciated. Take that message of gratitude back to the councils and wards and stakes and troops and units where you serve.”
“We have a lot of work ahead of us, … We need to pray. We are at a difficult moment in the nation’s history where wonderful institutions like the BSA, and supporting organizations like the Church, will need to be brave, clean and reverent. We’re going to need God’s help, but we’ll have it. The BSA will need God’s help, but they’re entitled to it. Church leaders need God’s help and we’ll have it.
“I’m eternally optimistic. For me the glass isn’t just half full, it’s flowing over the top. A Scout is cheerful. These are sobering moments but we’ll work our way through whatever difficulties come. Good will prevail; truth will triumph and bless the lives of young men in generations to come.”
I left the reception with a full cup and more.
Other Speakers at the Reception
A choir of Aaronic Priesthood Scouts set a reverent tone for the reception. Then it began with remarks from Sister Rosemary M. Wixom, Primary General President. She bore a brief testimony and commented about the important role of mothers in training in the home. She also told the singers, “I’d like to meet your mothers.”
Following her comments, President Stephen W. Owen, new Young Men General President, shared his testimony and included a bit of genealogy from his past: Thomas George Wood, the first Scoutmaster in the Salt Lake City Waterloo Ward Troop, was his great uncle.
Earlier in the week, President Owen joined Elder Holland as a new Executive Board member, along with Charles Dahlquist, former Young Men general president. Sister Wixom, Primary general president, and President Thomas S. Monson both currently serve on the board. President Monson is the longest standing member of the board and was recently given lifetime member status.
For me an interesting feature of the reception were remarks by incoming Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh. He recalled the first time he ever met a member of the LDS Church. It was while serving on a camp staff as a youth. He said, “I could tell there was something different about him.” He also commented on his visit to Salt Lake last fall for the LDS General Conference and explained that they had “toured the Missionary Training Center and saw young men who were learning Mandarin Chinese in a matter of weeks.” He also noted that his tours of Welfare Square, the LDS Humanitarian Center and the FamilySearch Center all helped deepen his understanding of the Church.
The reception is a regular feature of BSA’s National Annual Meeting held each May, along with delegate sessions, breakouts and a trade show. I must say the LDS reception is always one the highlights of the conference for me.