When you think of President Thomas S. Monson's civic contributions, one of the first things that comes to mind is Scouting.
And though he shows his support at the local level, his influence is felt nationwide.
Since 1969, President Monson, 80, has served on Scouting's National Executive Board, making him one of the longest-serving, if not the longest-serving, members of the 62-member board.
He received the Silver Beaver Award in 1971, the Silver Buffalo Award in 1978 and international Scouting's highest award, the Bronze Wolf, in 1993.
President Monson just seems a natural fit in the photographs from national jamborees, held every four years, in which Scouts gather as a community of youths engaged in service.
He has truly been a fixture in the Boy Scouts of America.
Chief Executive Scout Bob Mazzuka first met President Monson in February 2005, though he had heard of him long before that.
National Executive Board members attend three meetings a year during which they serve on committees to mold and shape the national Scouting organization.
"He has been a very, very, very loyal and faithful board member," Mazzuka said, adding that President Monson has dedicated his time to serve on various committees and subcommittees. "I can't recall a meeting where he was not able to attend and participate."
The LDS Church sponsors 400,729 Scouts in 36,713 units, which makes the church one of the top three chartering partners of the Boy Scouts of America.
The LDS Church is the only church that has embraced Scouting as the activity arm for its young men's program because the Scouting values align so closely with what the church teaches its young men.
"President (Gordon B.) Hinckley was instrumental in making it that way," Mazzuka said. "And President Monson is very instrumental in keeping it that way.
But President Monson doesn't take advantage of the church's heavy enrollment in Scouting, Mazzuka said.
"He's careful to not be dominant," he said. "And he's incredibly supporting to the ecumenical nature of Scouting."
President Monson helped shepherd Scouting through a difficult time in 2000 when the organization's ousting of a homosexual Scoutmaster landed it in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
"His voice of reason through that and his help through that process was huge for us," Mazzuka said.
Roy Williams, a former chief Scout executive, told The Associated Press recently that President Monson has one regret about the Boy Scouts of America.
One thing President Monson won't forget or forgive was the decision by the Scouts to abandon a pigeon-raising merit badge, Williams said.
President Monson raised pigeons as a youth, and the decision bothered him.
"I keep telling him the world's changed, and we try to keep up with the times," Williams told The Associated Press.
That's true, says another former Chief Scout Executive who worked closely with President Monson during the 1990s.
Jere B. Ratcliffe told the Deseret Morning News he knows how President Monson felt when a beloved merit badge was discontinued. Pathfinding was a merit badge Ratcliffe was sorry to see go the way of pigeon-raising.
Ratcliffe, who lives in Jacksonville, Fla., called President Monson a "man of true vision."
"He must have the enthusiasm and energy of a 45- or 50-year-old," Ratcliffe said. "I think the church is in good stead with his leadership. He's bigger than life. I think he'll make a wonderful prophet."
Mazzuka said he imagines President Monson's schedule will get a whole lot busier now that he is the church's president.
"We'll work with him on that," Mazzuka said.
But there's no rule that says the head of a religious organization can't belong to Scouting's executive board."He's such a great friend to Scouting and a great friend to kids," Mazzuka said. "The work he's done in the church and in the world speak to his passion for leveling the playing field for helping young people grow into good, wholesome, responsible and mature adults."
Contributing: The Associated Press E-mail: [email protected]
E-mail: [email protected]