Tuesday, June 8, 1982, dawned bright and clear in London, England. It was destined to be an historic day. A spirit of excitement permeated the very air and filled expectant hearts with keen anticipation. The President of the United States of America had arrived in Great Britain and soon would be addressing Parliament. Crowds gathered for the occasion, filled the streets and overflowed the nearby park. Uniformed policemen maintained order while famous Big Ben chimed its proud and clarion call which marked the appointed hour.
My wife, Frances, and I stood midst the milling crowd. Then, suddenly, Parliament’s doors swung open, the Prime Minister and the President greeted the throng, entered their limousines, and the motorcade drove slowly away. The crowd gave a mighty cheer, then began to disperse. Frances and I walked from the sunbathed street into the semi-dark, yet welcome, refuge of Westminster Abbey.
A reverence filled this world-famous edifice, as it should. For here, kings are crowned, royalty wedded, and rulers, whose mission of mortality has ended, are honored then buried. We walked along the aisleways, thoughtfully reading the inscriptions which marked the tombs of the famous. We remembered their achievements, recalled their deeds of valor, and marked their well-earned places in the world’s history. Then we paused before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, one of many who fell in France during the Great War. From an unmarked grave, the body of this fallen youth had been brought to London to forever lie in honor. I read aloud the inscriptions: “They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and toward His house.” “In Christ shall all be made alive.”
Toward the doorway we walked. Still visible in the park beyond were the remnants of the crowd. The immortal words of Rudyard Kipling coursed through my mind and spoke to my soul:
One final marker to see, one more inscription to read. As a Scouter, I had come from America to view the plaque of honor dedicated to the memory of Scouting’s founder, Lord Baden-Powell. We stood before the magnificent marble memorial and noted the words:
Robert Baden-Powell, 1857–1941 Founder of the Boy Scouts Friend of all the World
On that day during this year which commemorates the 75th anniversary of Scouting and the 125th anniversary of its founder, I pondered the thought, “How many boys have had their lives blessed—even saved—by the Scout movement begun by Baden-Powell?” Unlike others memorialized within the walls of Westminster Abbey, Baden-Powell had neither sailed the stormy seas of glory, conquered in conflict the armies of men, nor founded empires of worldly wealth. Rather, he was a builder of boys, one who taught them well how to run and win the race of life.
Boys do become men.
The reality of this thought is delightfully portrayed in the closing lines of the well-known musical Camelot. King Arthur’s Round Table has been destroyed by the jealousies of men, the infidelity of a queen, and the appearance in the present of a mistake from the past, even Mordred. Deprived of his dream, King Arthur and his forces prepare to meet the armies of Lancelot. All he held dear is gone; disillusionment has darkened into despair.
Suddenly, however, there appears a stowaway—the young boy Tom of Warwick. Filled with the hope of youth, he tells the king he has come to help him fight the mighty battle. He reveals his intention to become a knight. Under the questioning of Arthur, Tom declares his knowledge of the Round Table. He repeats the familiar goals: “Might for right! Right for right! Justice for all!”
A look of renewed confidence spreads across King Arthur’s face. All is not lost. To the boy he repeats the goals and glory of Camelot. Then he formally knights him “Sir Tom of Warwick.” Thus commissioned to depart the battlefield, to return to England, to renew the dream of Camelot, to grow up and to grow old, Sir Tom places aside the weapons of war; and armed with the tenets of truth, he hears his monarch command, “Run, boy, run!” A boy had been spared, an idea safeguarded, a hope renewed. (Alan J. Lerner, Camelot, New York: Random House, 1961, p. 115.)
Every boy blessed by Scouting learns in his youth far more than that envisioned by Sir Tom of Warwick. He adopts the motto “Be Prepared.” He subscribes to the code “Do a Good Turn Daily.” Scouting provides proficiency badges to encourage skills and personal endeavor. Scouting teaches boys how to live, not merely how to make a living. How pleased I am that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1913 became the first partner to sponsor Scouting in the United States.
I love the inspired words of President Spencer W. Kimball when he spoke to Church members everywhere: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms the continued support of Scouting and will seek to provide leadership which will help boys keep close to their families and close to the Church as they develop the qualities of citizenship and character and fitness which Scouting represents. We’ve remained strong and firm in our support of this great movement for boys and of the Oath and the Law which are at its center.” (In Conference Report, April 1977, pp. 50–51.)
What is the Scout Oath of which President Kimball spoke?
“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.” (Boy Scout Handbook, North Brunswick, New Jersey: Boy Scouts of America, 1972, p. 34.)
A hero from war’s battlefield, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, emphasized this same commitment when, in the twilight of his illustrious career, when the daylight of youth had departed and the shadows of age had descended, he declared in a message to young men: “In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory, I always come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes in my ears—Duty, Honor, Country.” (Address accepting Sylvanus Thayer Award, West Point, 12 May 1962.)
The Protestant minister Harry Emerson Fosdick phrased differently the same commitment: “Men will work hard for money. They will work harder for other men. But men will work hardest of all when they are dedicated to a cause. Until willingness overflows obligation, men fight as conscripts, rather than following the flag as patriots. Duty is never worthily performed until it is performed by one who would gladly do more, if only he could.” (Vital Quotations, comp. Emerson Roy West, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1968, p. 38.)
And from the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee: “Duty is the sublimest word in the English language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.” (Inscription beneath his bust in the Hall of Fame.)
Let us consider the Scout Law referred to by President Kimball. When I think of the Scout Law, I reflect upon the life of one who knew the laws of God and who kept them—even the Lord, Jesus Christ. The twelve points of the Scout Law have their counterpart in the message of the Master.
A Scout is trustworthy. What did the Lord say? “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4.)
A Scout is loyal. “Get thee behind me, Satan.” (Luke 4:8.)
A Scout is helpful. “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” (John 5:8.)
A Scout is friendly. “Ye are my friends.” (John 15:14.)
A Scout is courteous. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” (Matt. 7:12.)
A Scout is kind. “Suffer the little children to come unto me. … And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:14, 16.)
A Scout is obedient. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38.)
A Scout is cheerful. “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33.)
A Scout is thrifty. “Sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22.)
A Scout is brave. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” (Matt. 26:39.)
A Scout is clean. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” (D&C 38:42.)
A Scout is reverent. “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matt. 6:9.)
Such inspired teachings, when taught by devoted leaders to precious boys of promise, influence not only the lives of the boys; they also affect eternity. “Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Eccl. 11:1.) Such is Scouting.
Several years ago a group of men, leaders of Scouts, assembled in the mountains near Sacramento for Wood Badge training. This experience, where men camp out and live as do the Scouts they teach, is a most interesting one. They cook and then eat—burned eggs! They hike the rugged trails which age invariably makes more steep. They sleep on rocky ground. They gaze again at heaven’s galaxies.
This group provided its own reward. After days of being deprived, they feasted on a delicious meal prepared by a professional chef who joined them at the end of their endurance trail. Tired, hungry, a bit bruised after their renewal experience, one asked the chef why he was always smiling and why each year he returned at his own expense to cook the traditional meal for Scouting’s leaders in that area. He placed aside the skillet, wiped his hands on the white apron which graced his rotund figure, and told the men this experience. Dimitrious began:
“I was born and grew to boyhood in a small village in Greece. My life was a happy one until World War II. Then came the invasion and occupation of my country by the Nazis. The freedom-loving men of the village resented the invaders and engaged in acts of sabotage to show their resentment.
“One night, after the men had destroyed a hydroelectric dam, the villagers celebrated the achievement and then retired to their homes.”
Dimitrious continued: “Very early in the morning, as I lay upon my bed, I was awakened by the noise of many trucks entering the village. I heard the sound of soldiers’ boots, the rap at the door, and the command for every boy and man to assemble at once on the village square. I had time only to slip into my trousers, buckle my belt, and join the others. There, under the glaring lights of a dozen trucks, and before the muzzles of a hundred guns, we stood. The Nazis vented their wrath, told of the destruction of the dam, and announced a drastic penalty: every fifth man or boy was to be summarily shot. A sergeant made the fateful count, and the first group was designated and executed.”
Dimitrious spoke more deliberately to the Scouters as he said: “Then came the row in which I was standing. To my horror, I could see that I would be the final person designated for execution. The soldier stood before me, the angry headlights dimming my vision. He gazed intently at the buckle of my belt. It carried on it the Scout insignia. I had earned the belt buckle as a Boy Scout for knowing the Oath and the Law of Scouting. The tall soldier pointed at the belt buckle, then raised his right hand in the Scout sign. I shall never forget the words he spoke to me: ‘Run, boy, run!’ I ran. I lived. Today I serve Scouting, that boys may still dream dreams and live to fulfill them.” (As told by Peter W. Hummel.)
Dimitrious reached into his pocket and produced that same belt buckle. The emblem of Scouting still shone brightly. Not a word was spoken. Every man wept. A commitment to Scouting was renewed.
It has been said, “The greatest gift a man can give a boy is his willingness to share a part of his life with him.” To leaders who build bridges to the hearts of boys, to parents of Scouts, and to Scouts everywhere, on this our 75th anniversary, I salute you and pray our Heavenly Father’s blessings upon you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.