Talk on Scouting
By Devin Szymanski
Delivered to the Smoot Ward on December 12, 2010
This is the first time I have ever volunteered to give a talk. The bright side of
volunteering to speak is you get to pick your topic. I chose a topic that is very dear to
my heart and something in which I truly believe in. Unfortunately volunteering
doesn’t make me any less nervous.
Our own boys have already heard me relate this story I’m going to share with
you, so I’m going to ask them to just bear with me.
When I was a scout I went to summer scout camp, in Camp Tomahawk in the
high Uintah Mountains. Our scoutmaster had set up a troop shoot. A troop shoot is
where you can sign up to have a time in the day where the whole troop can shoot
together at the shooting range with no other troops there.
So we got there and I took the booth right next to our assistant scoutmaster.
Now this assistant scoutmaster is the type of person who is a perfectionist on the
shooting range. He took his time to aim his gun and keep a steady hand, and he
would slowly squeeze the trigger when he was ready as to not jar the gun and
potentially have his shot be slightly off. I could tell this just by watching him. Well
we got the go ahead to commence shooting from the range officer. Then I got this
really nasty idea of how I could have some fun with him.
What I did is I slowly angled my gun toward his target. Since his target was
right next to mine, and the targets were at least 20 yards away, nobody ever noticed
me pointing my gun toward his target. Then I aimed for a spot on his target that was
nowhere near the bulls eye, which he would be aiming for and no doubt would be
hitting it. All I did was fire one shot, that’s all it took and moved back to my target
and fired the remaining nine bullets I had at my own target.
After we were done shooting we all anxiously ran up to have a look at our
targets and evaluate how good we did. The goal when you are target shooting is to
be able to group all ten of your shots within the diameter of a quarter.
Now my assistant scoutmaster went up to have a look at his and for the most
part he was pleased. He had all his shots grouped within the diameter of quarter
except one stray shot, which was nowhere near the rest. I could see how puzzled he
was over this. Then I could see him counting up his shots to make sure that all ten
were accounted for. So precise were his shots that he put 2 shots through the same
hole, and so all-10 shots were accounted for. I could physically see how much this
bothered him. Eventually I couldn’t hold back my laughter and I confessed that I
took the bad shot.
Now that is one of my fondest memories from my days as a scout. Often times
when I think of some of my best times in scouting I think of that moment. I want
each of you to think of scouting. What do you think of? What kind of thoughts do you
have about it? Pay close attention to how you feel? I want you to be completely
honest with yourself. I’ll come back to this later.
Scouting... what is scouting? A man by the name of Baden Powell started the
scouting movement. Baden Powell was a lieutenant general in the British army.
Much of his military career was spent in India and Africa from 1876 through 1910.
Baden enhanced and honed his skills as a military scout during this time. Often
times he would disguise himself as a butterfly collector. He would incorporate
locations of military installations within his drawings of butterfly wings.
During this time Baden Powell also wrote a military training manual on
scouting called Aides to Scouting. In 1903 Baden Powell returned home from abroad
and discovered that his military training manual was a bestseller book and that
teachers and youth organizations all around England were using his book. So what
did Baden do? He recognized a need and he decided to rewrite Aides to Scouting to
direct it more toward the youth. In 1908 Baden Powell published Scouting for Boys.
Approximately 150 million copies of Scouting for Boys have been sold. It is the 4th
bestselling book of the 20th century. Boys spontaneously formed scout troops and
scouting eventually grew into an international movement.
How did scouting come to America? In 1909 an American by the name of
William D. Boyce was in London en route to Africa. An unknown scout helped Boyce
out and then Boyce offered to give the unknown scout a tip for his service. This
young scout refused the tip explaining that he was only doing his duty as a boy
scout. Isn’t that great, that a boy would have that kind of integrity? Boyce was so
impressed by this, that he asked for the address to the Boy Scout Headquarters in
London. There, Boyce bought the book Scouting for Boys and other printed material
on scouting. During his safari in Africa he read the material he purchased on
scouting and was so impressed that he made a return trip home through London so
he could visit Scout Headquarters again. There he volunteered to organize scouting
Boyce founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. The Boy Scouts of America
is now one of the largest youth organizations in America. This year we have been
celebrating the 100th anniversary of scouting in America
Baden Powell, the unknown scout, and William D. Boyce were all inspired in
their roles in bringing forth the scouting movement. Something this big is not
started without divine help.
What is the purpose of scouting? Why do we do it? Some of us may answer,
“to earn your eagle”. Right? Believe it or not, the purpose of scouting is not to earn
the rank of eagle. If that were the purpose, scouting would be a complete failure.
Only 3% of all boy scouts achieve the rank of eagle. Not a very big number nor a
good way to measure success.
On a side note, even though scouting is not all about getting your eagle, there
are many great benefits to earning your eagle and all boys should be working on
their rank advancements and striving to earn their eagle.
So if getting your eagle is not the purpose of scouting, what is the purpose?
The answer is in the mission statement of the Boy Scouts of America which is: To
prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by
instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
I’m always telling our scouts that the most important thing in scouting is to
learn the Scout Oath and Law, and live their lives according to them. Every week I
have our scouts start out our meeting by raising their hands to the square, making
the scout sign and repeat the Scout Oath and Law. So important are the Scout Oath
and Law that I have also offered a reward for every boy who can repeat to me the
Scout Oath and Law word for word from memory. The offer still stands.
For those of you who don’t know, the Scout Oath is:
“On my honor,
I will do my best,
To do my duty, to God and my Country,
To obey the Scout Law,
To help other people at all times,
To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight”.
I looked up the definition of “Honor” and I like what I found. It means “A
moral obligation”. The Scout Oath simply means that it is our moral obligation to
serve God and serve our fellow man, and to be obey the Scout Law.
The principles in the Scout Oath and Law are perfectly aligned with the
Mosiah 2:17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom;
that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in
the service of your God.
Now on to the Scout Law.: there are twelve points to the scout law, and I’m
going to include a brief explanation of each of the points as I give them.
A scout is Trustworthy: a scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his
promises. People can depend on him”.
Loyal: a scout is true to his family, friends, scout leaders, school, and nation.
Helpful: a scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers to help
others without expecting payment or reward.
Friendly: a scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other scouts.
Courteous: a scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He
knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along.
Kind: a scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others, as he
wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm of kill any living thing.
Obedient: a scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys
the laws of his community and country. If he thinks the rules and laws are unfair, he
tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobeying.
Cheerful: a scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that
come his way. He tries to make others happy.
Thrifty: a scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for the
future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and
Brave: a scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to
stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him.
Clean: a scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses the company of those
who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean.
Reverent: a scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties.
He respects the beliefs of others.
Again, all the points in the Scout Law are found in the scriptures along with
advice to learn these commandments when you are young. Alma 27:35 O,
remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep
the commandments of God.
Now I want you to recall those feelings and attitudes about scouting that I
talked about at the beginning. How do you personally feel toward scouting? I’m on
the front lines of the scouting scene. I deal with scouting daily. It’s a part of my daily
life now. Here is what I hear and what I see in others when it comes to thoughts and
attitudes about scouting. I’ve heard words used such as ‘stupid’ and ‘hate’. I’ve seen
a number of other things I won’t name that demonstrate attitudes of being ashamed
of belonging to the scouts.
I say this not to point the finger of blame. I’m not blaming anybody. I don’t
blame those boys or anybody for any negative feelings you may have toward the
boys scouts. We have wonderful boys and I am extremely blessed and proud to be
their scoutmaster. It’s hard for the youth not to pick up on those feelings and
attitudes in this culture of ours, and then just ignore it. With all the negative
attention the Boy Scouts gets from the media and the youth in general, it’s easy to let
that have a negative effect on you.
I mention this to bring an awareness of some the feelings and attitudes that
we sometimes have to deal with in scouting. I love scouting. I love what it teaches, I
love how it helps and changes boys’ lives. I wish I had the time to tell you all the
ways it can change a boy. I wish I had the time to tell you all the ways I have seen
our own boys grow from scouts. It breaks my heart to see something so great and
inspired, associated with these feelings and attitudes. We can see how Satan is hard
at work trying to change the image of scouting into something negative just like
Satan it trying to change the image of marriage and anything else that is good and
wholesome and that brings people closer to Christ.
So what do we do about this? I’ve accepted the responsibility that it all starts
with me. As a result I’ve done everything I could to get trained on how to be a good
scoutmaster including attending a Woodbagde course. I’m trying to do everything
within my own power to improve the scout program and make it what it should be.
Next the responsibility is with the rest of the leaders in the Aaronic
priesthood to embrace scouting and get trained. Scouting is the activity arm of the
Aaronic priesthood. Scouting is something that doesn’t end when the boys turn 14.
Within the scouting program there is varsity and venturing programs designed for
the teachers and priests and the rest of entire Aaronic priesthood. Our Aaronic
priesthood boys would benefit from a continuation of scouting all through their
Aaronic Priesthood years. Some of my best most memorable scouting experiences
were beyond my years in the Deacons quorum.
Next it is up to parents to encourage their boys to attend weekly meetings
and work on rank advancements and scouting at home. The idea of scouting is to be
living it daily rather just on one night a week. The programming is designed such
that the lessons are taught at church, and at the weekly meetings we have activities
that further solidify what was taught on Sunday. If boys are left to choose to do
scouting on their own, they will fail. I did earn my eagle, but I never would have
received my eagle if it weren’t for my mother always there to help and encourage
Finally it is up to the boys to have the courage to stand up for what is right. I
will submit that all it would take to make a difference is to embrace the scouting
program, wear the uniform proudly, encourage your peers to do the same and they
I have so much more I wish I could say and I’ve already gone over on my
time. Brother Hess didn’t give me enough time. I thank Brother Hess for allowing me
to speak to you. I hope that I was able to shed some light on the scouting program,
on how it got it’s start, and I hope I was able to change some feelings and attitudes. I
hope that the scouting program in our ward will continue to get stronger. I know
that through scouting, our boys will grow into men and will be better prepared for
Melchizedek priesthood responsibilities and serving missions.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen