A century has passed since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became the first organization to formally sponsor Scouting troops for its youth.
Since then, millions of LDS young men have worn the iconic uniform of the Boy Scouts of America. Legions of men and women, meanwhile, have served as leaders in Scout troops and Cub Scout packs.
The church's 100-year-old partnership with Scouting was celebrated Tuesday at the LDS Conference Center in an original stage production chronicling the ongoing story of LDS Scouting. The program — which was broadcast live to thousands of meetinghouses across the United States — included choir music, historical reenactments and video tributes to what church and Scouting leaders have dubbed "a century of honor."
President Thomas S. Monson was recognized at the event for his lifelong service and support of the Scouting movement. BSA National President Wayne Perry added his voice to a variety of LDS Church and Scout leaders who saluted President Monson in video tributes — including his two counselors in the First Presidency, President Henry B. Eyring and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
Perry noted that earlier in the day, President Monson had been presented Scouting's Medal of Honor for saving the life a girl who was drowning in the Provo River when he was 12 years old.
"That was just the beginning of a lifetime of reaching out and rescuing others in need of hope, friendship, encouragement and strength," said Perry. "Further evidence of President Monson's enduring commitment to the values of Scouting came in his response to that presentation, when he recited the Scout oath and law flawlessly."
Perry then announced that the Leadership Excellence Complex, located on the 10,000-acre Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia, would be renamed the Thomas S. Monson Leadership Excellence Complex.
President Monson, who has served on Scouting's National Executive Board for nearly 44 years, said he was humbled by the recognition.
"I love the Boy Scout organization and can think of nothing with which I would rather have my name associated than the Leadership Excellence Complex of this organization," he said. "Scouting changes the lives of boys in positive ways, and I am grateful that this complex will help provide the training for them to become the leaders of tomorrow."
He then recalled his own adventures as a Boy Scout, including his first overnight camp during a cold winter weekend at Tracy Wigwam in Millcreek Canyon. Scouting, he added, brings out the best in boys and their leaders.
"As you continue to participate in this fine program, your abilities to think, to plan and to achieve will be heightened," he said. "This, along with your personal integrity and spirituality, will help guide you and keep you on the right path as you journey through life."
President Eyring said President Monson does not simply teach the values of Scouting, he lives them to the fullest.
"In all that he has done throughout his life, Scouting has never been far from President Monson's mind to build a boy, and to teach him (that) to run and win the race of life is significant beyond all worldly honor."
President Uchtdorf called President Monson "a role model" because of his Scout-like commitment to help others in need. "His example has shown the world that a single Scout can be a powerful source of strength and hope by serving God and fellow man."
At the celebration, the historical reenactments — portrayed by a massive cast, along with video clips — told the story of the history of Scouting and its storied partnership with the LDS Church. The program also championed Scouting's guiding principles such as honor to duty, parents and leaders.
The production also reaffirmed LDS Scouting's commitment to adventure and outdoor fun while building bridges to God and others, including those who will come after.
The evening concluded with a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, who joined their voices with choirs of Eagle Scouts and Cub Scouts.
A recording of Tuesday's event can be viewed at scouts100.lds.org.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company