Lis Yapias, For The Deseret News
Scout leader Richard Pollei helps Victor Tirado work on tying knots during the activity portion of Saturday's training session for Scout leaders organized by the Great Salt Lake Council and LDS Church.

TAYLORSVILLE — Being prepared is important for Scout leaders, too.

That was the message Saturday at a training session and activity day for the 60-plus Latino wards and branches of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints within the Great Salt Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

The session was organized by the council's Scoutreach Program and the LDS Church.

Elder Patrick H. Price, an area authority Seventy, told the group of leaders and youth assembled at the Bennion Stake Center in Taylorsville about the church's adoption of the Scouting program in 1913 and the church's strong support for Scouting now.

"The real purpose of Scouting is to develop character and (develop) character with a purpose," he said. All Scout activities are means, not the end, to that purpose.

Rafael Leano, now chairman of Cub Pack 4224 in the Oquirrh Point 5th Ward, recounted his experiences in helping to set up a viable Scout program.

He first set up a small training program for Scoutmasters and assistants and tried to motivate them to read the manuals and train each other. To be a well-organized Scout unit, it's important to know the manual, Leano said. When he was getting started, he joined another unit to learn from its leaders because it's important to know how activities are done.

Leano also urged bishopric members to talk to the kids and take the time to be trained in Scouting themselves, as well as ask all Scout leaders to participate in the Wood Badge leader training.

Through Scouting, we can best serve the Lord, he said, because "all things are to benefit our youth. Youth will be closer to God as they get involved."

Andres R. Ramos, a member of the Young Men General Board, said parents need to take an active role in knowing what their children are doing. The mission is to help youths, he said.

As Scouters in the church, a leader's duty is to help youths have strong testimonies, and Scouting is a tool to strengthen testimonies, Ramos said. He urged leaders to ask their boys when they have felt the spirit and encourage them to share their spiritual feelings when they're hiking or camping.

Many Latino youths are attracted to gangs, he said, but Scouting can help stop that. If people see a Hispanic youth wearing a Scout shirt, people will know he's good. The mission is to save young men, and help the spirit to touch their hearts, Ramos said. Latino Scout leaders need to have the passion to promote Scouting to youths, he said, and it's worth the effort because "our kids have the blood of Israel in their veins."

Elder John C. Pingree, of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy, said he hopes every young man has the opportunity to participate in Scouting programs.

"Some of my favorite memories are from when I was a Scout," he said, adding that it is important for every Latino unit in the church to have a Scouting program. Many young men join gangs because they're looking for a group to belong to, but Scouting provides a much better group to fill that need, he said.

Richard Aird, volunteer chairman of the council's Scoutreach committee, said the goal of the event was to help Latinos see what the partnership between Scouting and the LDS Church can do to help young people.

After the general meeting, Aird recited Boy Scout founder Robert Baden-Powell's vision that Scouting is games with a purpose. "Kids see the game, and adults see the purpose," he said.

While the adults were receiving basic training, Scout troops had set up supervised activities for the youths, including a climbing wall, rain-gutter regatta, knot-tying, an orienteering course, flint-and-steel fire-building and leg wrestling.

Saturday's event is a start toward helping youths in Latino LDS units have strong Scouting experiences and strengthening their leaders, said Tony Yapias, the council's Scoutreach director.

"This year we're holding it here in the city," he said, "and next year we want to go to the mountains" so the youths can experience more of the outdoors.

E-mail: [email protected]