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Calling the evening "a time to thank," President Thomas S. Monson expressed gratitude for the 52 men and women who received the Silver Beaver award Feb. 28 from the Great Salt Lake Council of Boy Scouts of America.

The Silver Beaver is the highest honor bestowed by BSA councils throughout the United States for extraordinary service to youth through Scouting. Typically, many Latter-day Saints are among the recipients.President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency, is a member of the BSA National Executive Board and recipient of the Silver Buffalo from national Boy Scouts of America. He gave a tribute to the Silver Beaver honorees before the awards were presented by GSL Council Pres. Kevin R. Watts and his wife, Myrle. The 52 awards constituted the highest number given by any council in the U.S. this year, according to Kay Godfrey, council field director and director of public relations. One of the recipients was Sister Ruth B. Wright, second counselor in the Primary general presidency. The program was conducted at Symphony Hall in downtown Salt Lake City.

"Tonight, I feel, is a time to thank," reflected President Monson. "We thank God for the cease fire which exists in the Persian Gulf, and express appreciation for Divine Providence watching over our nation. And tonight we express thanks to you, the leaders of Scouting. . . .

"First of all, you have given your time for boys. Second, you give your skills - which, I might add, include your patience - and your leadership and your understanding to boys. And you give your love. It's an unqualified love, born of the desire to see boys grow to be righteous men."

Speaking to a mixed group of adults, youth and children - including many family members and friends of Silver Beaver recipients - President Monson lauded the value of the Scouting program.

"Each merit badge is an added skill that a boy might learn something about what he would like to do in life. Each badge earned on the Eagle trail is an upward step on the ladder that leads to maturity and service. And each camp, rough and tumble as it may be, is an opportunity for boys to have the privilege to get closer to God and to recognize in the beautiful sky the creations of our Heavenly Father."

He then cited some particular areas of success and service, starting with the Scouting for Food drive conducted annually around Thanksgiving.

"Scouting for Food was an overwhelming success last fall as more than 60 million cans of food were amassed by Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts and Explorers. Assisting in loading and delivering the food to local food banks for distribution to the hungry were the National Guard, Army Reserve and other organizations.

"This was the largest collection of foodstuffs ever undertaken in the United States. And everyone benefited: the giver, the recipient, the Boy Scouts, and those men in uniform who shared their time and their trucks with the boys. Tonight, many of those men are serving our country far away. But in their lonely vigil, I'm confident they remember with affection the smile of a boy, and the joy his face expressed when he realized he was doing something for someone else to make life better."

President Monson recounted the example of George Burbidge, a Church leader who left the meetinghouse one Sunday to comfort a troubled lad.

"The leader took the boy by the hand, and they returned to the ward where they belonged," recalled President Monson. "They had the opportunity to become lifelong friends.

"I'm grateful for men like George Burbidge, and men and women like you, who take a boy by the hand and show him the way to go."

After quoting a poem titled "At the Crossroads," President Monson challenged: "I would like to feel that every one of you is at the crossroads in the life of a boy, to help him avoid the snares and pitfalls of life and find, indeed, the better way."

Following President Monson's remarks, the 52 Silver Beavers were presented, along with William H. Spurgeon Awards to three people in the council who had made contributions to Exploring.