My Favorite Scoutmaster


Based on a speech delivered at the Great Salt Lake Council Eagle Scout banquet, February 13, 1981.

It was 113 degrees at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and some of the Scouts were starting to see that they would learn a lesson the hard way before the day was over. Our Scoutmaster had warned us to get up early, get organized, and be on our way before the sun got a head start on us. But we had lazed around, and so now we were struggling slowly upward in the hot sun. Many of the Scouts were guzzling their canteen water, too—another thing our Scoutmaster had warned us about. Before we climbed out of the canyon, some of those canteens would be bone dry.

I was pleased when I arrived at the top of the trail with water left to share. So was our leader. He turned to me and said, “I knew I could count on you, Kent.” I’d been through enough adventures with our Scoutmaster to learn to do what he suggests, things like “Drink plenty of water, but take it one swallow at a time,” or, “Always suck on something so your mouth won’t get so dry.”

With our Scoutmaster we have hiked the back country and the mountains. We have also discovered the hills in our own backyards. Every once in a while, I’ll look up at the mountains behind my house and say, “Wow! I was actually up there! I know what it looks like.”

That night at our usual chat around the campfire, he told us other stories from the mountains—stories about Enos wrestling before God, about Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son, about Nephi’s broken bow, about Christ teaching the Nephites in the tops of the hills. Then he talked about missions in life and missionary service, and he told each of us he expected us to go on a mission. (Every once in a while a returned missionary speaks in Church and thanks him for the same kind of encouragement he’s giving us now.)

On the trail, our Scoutmaster points things out to us—different kinds of plants and trees, how to avoid stinging nettle, how to judge geological formations to find spring water, how watersheds are organized, or which side of the mountain has more vegetation. Sometimes he stops us on a plateau or a knoll and says, “Look, guys. The Creator’s system works.” Things like that really help us see.

We went on a hike with our Scoutmaster last summer, and he reserved one night for each of us to be alone and talk to our Father in Heaven. He told us we could pray to him, just like Joseph Smith did, and get an answer. The next morning we were back on the trail again, with our Scoutmaster urging us over “just one more hill,” and “just around the next bend,” and repeating his slogans like, “When you see a man on a mountaintop, remember he didn’t fall there,” or, “Make your mind tell your body what to do. Don’t let your body tell your mind what to do.”

One of the best things about our Scoutmaster is that he’s not afraid to let us see him make a mistake or two. It lets us know he understands when we flub it. One time we lined two maps up crookedly and ended up climbing the mountain next to King’s Peak. We still laugh about that, and we named the mountain “Troop 112’s Mistake”.

But the thing I appreciate the most about our Scoutmaster is that he’s my dad. For more than 10 years now I’ve been sharing him with three older brothers, a younger sister, and a troop of Scouts. But that’s not hard to do because my dad has always saved part of himself for me. That’s why he’s the best Scoutmaster I know.

[photo] Photo by Michael McConkie

Kent McKay, 15, is president of his teachers quorum in the Bountiful 25th Ward, Bountiful Utah South Stake.