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The “Trail to Eagle” Talk from Brendan’s Court of Honor

Brendan asked me to fill in because one of his Scout leaders couldn’t be here to give this talk. This is the part of the program where we go over what it takes to become an Eagle Scout. However, I would rather focus on why we encourage boys to become Eagle Scouts, than on how one attains Eagle rank. You can learn about Brendan’s path to Eagle rank from the summary on the back of the program.

Given the ceremony attendant to Eagle courts of honor, one could conclude that becoming an Eagle Scout is the point of Scouting. However, it isn’t. Rank advancement is just one of the means Scouting uses to achieve its real goal, which is to help boys become trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, [point to Scouts and have them help finish the list] courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. In other words, Scouting is about helping boys understand and internalize and believe to their cores that their honor depends on doing their best to do their duty to God and their country, that it depends on obeying the Scout Law, and on keeping themselves physically strong, [get the Scouts to help finish this sentence] mentally awake, and morally straight.

Brendan, your Eagle rank suggests that you are making progress in this direction. However, remember that the Eagle medal is not a gold star denoting your own importance. Rather, it is a symbol of your responsibilities.

The silver eagle on your medal is supported by a ribbon of red, white, and blue. Let the white of the ribbon remind you to live with honor. Long before he became an apostle and a counselor to President Hinckley, James Faust was a young boy who looked forward to the day when he could become a Boy Scout. His mother helped him memorize the Scout Law and otherwise prepare to be a Scout, and young James was delighted when he was able to join his ward’s troop. One day his mother left him to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen while she went to care for a sick neighbor. James did not do his job. When his mother returned she looked at the uncleaned mess, put on her apron, and went to work. She spoke only three words when James came into the kitchen. Can you guess what they were? “On my honor.” The words stung the young Scout “worse than the sting of a dozen hornets,” and on that day James Faust “resolved that I would never give my mother cause to repeat those words to me again.” The entire purpose of the Scouting program is to teach young men the meaning of the words “On my honor.” There are few words more important. Always live so as to bring honor to your family, your ward, and your community.

The blue of your Eagle ribbon should remind you to be loyal. As an Eagle Scout you are an example to other Scouts, and you owe it to them to be a good example. You also have duties at home, at church, and to everyone around you, and you must be true to those duties. Show your loyalty by doing your best to do your duty. General Lee, who knew about these things, called “duty” the “sublimest word in the English language.” Live so that you can come to appreciate that wisdom.

It would not be necessary to emphasize these things if they were easy to do. They are not, which is why you should let the red of the ribbon remind you of courage. You need more than bravery in the face of physical danger, you need the fortitude to choose the right even when it would be easier to follow another path, even when it seems you have to walk the path of honor alone. What am I talking about here, Brendan? [Discuss his answer.] Always remember that on that path of honor you never will be completely alone, for your Elder Brother has been there before you, and your faith will give you the courage to follow in His footsteps.

The ribbon of your medal hangs from a metal scroll turned up in the shape of a smile, with a knot hanging from the scroll. This reminds you to do a good turn daily, and to give such service cheerfully. “Duty” is an important word, but it is not the only word that must characterize your life. The other is “love.” Sometimes teenage boys don’t like to talk about showing love to others, so we use words and phrases like “kindness.” and “good turn.” It amounts to the same thing. Elder Faust also told a story about the old Scout diary of a man he knew, which had “GT” printed on each page. Throughout the diary, when he was a Scout the boy had marked “GT” every time he had done a good turn for someone. The boy later gave the diary to his father as a present, and the evidence of a boyhood full of good works was the finest gift a son could give a parent. Show love for others. Do a good turn daily. Remember that one way to do a good turn is to express gratitude for what others have done for you.

On the medal’s scroll is printed “Be Prepared.” Your grandfather—who was the finest Scoutmaster I have known—used to say that you cannot lift someone else unless you are already above them; it is hard to lift someone from below. Be prepared for disasters, as your Scout training has taught. Prepare yourself also for tests, for the working world you will enter, and for a mission and marriage. But especially, be prepared to help and lift others to a better way of living, to higher moral ground, to righteous living. To do that, you need to be there yourself.

Brendan, as you can see, your Eagle medal is a reminder that you are not at the end of a trail, but at the beginning. I know that you will walk it well. We are proud of you.

This talk was given at Brendan’s Eagle Court of Honor in Troop 1467.

graphic showing troop numbergraphic showing troop numbergraphic showing troop number Return to Troop 139’s What Is Scouting? page.