“Have You Done Everything?” New Era, July 1983, 24
I’ll never forget a lesson I learned as a young man, age 14, from a great leader. I went up to Scout Camp Kiesel east of Ogden in the summer of 1936. I reported at the lodge to our Scout executive. We called him “Uncle Dil.” You knew him as Elder S. Dilworth Young. Uncle Dil was our Scout executive. He had long legs. He was as tall as a pine tree to every young boy. He didn’t smile much, but he knew and loved boys.
I went up to the lodge and reported to him. I said, “Uncle Dil, I would like to pass my cooking merit badge.”
And then in his encouraging way he said, “Do you think you can cook without killing somebody?” You know, that really builds your self-image to begin with.
I said, “I hope so.”
Then he said, “Have you got a buddy who can run?”
I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “Well, someone who can run up here to the lodge from your campsite every time you cook something.”
I said, “Well, Bob’s over here.”
“Well, all right, you send Bob up every time you cook something, and the examiner will come down to your campsite and taste it.”
I said, “Great! Who’s going to be the examiner?”
He said, “You’re looking at him.” Now there was nothing in the Scout book that said I had to pass my cooking merit badge to Uncle Dil. I mean, there were a lot of men in camp. Why Uncle Dil? Boy, I went back to my camp and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to become an Eagle Scout if I had to cook for Uncle Dil. I’ll never forget that week.
I had to cook an omelet. I sent Bob up the hill, and down the trail came Uncle Dil. I can see those long legs to this day. He came down to my campfire, tasted my omelet, and didn’t even smile. He just kind of grunted and walked away. Next I baked my oven bread in a reflector oven. I sent Bob up the hill, and down came Uncle Dil again. He tasted it and said, “It’s kind of doughy on one side, isn’t it?” Then I baked a bread twist on a stick over a fire. Then came the stew. I did everything that week, and never worked so hard in my life to try to please somebody. At the end of the week, just as we were breaking camp, I went up to the lodge and I said, “Uncle Dil, did I pass?”
He asked, “Did you do everything, LaMar?”
I said, “Well, remember you came down to our camp, and I cooked those meals for you.”
For the second time he asked, “Did you do everything?”
“Well, yeah, Uncle Dil, there was the omelet, the oven bread, the stew, the twist.” I enumerated all the things I had prepared.
For the third time he asked, “LaMar, did you do everything?” By then I was a little exasperated, I took my Scout book, opened it to the cooking merit badge, and went down every requirement, reading aloud and checking it off. I got down to requirement number ten. Number ten said, “Carve and serve a complete meal.” He looked at me and I said, “Well, I’ve done that many times at home.”
Then he said, “You’ll have no objection, then, to coming to my home a week from Sunday at noon to carve a roast and serve dinner for us.” I could have died right on the spot. I mean, no way did it say that I had to go to Uncle Dil’s home to carve a roast and serve a meal.
I prepared all week—we never ate so well in all our lives as we did that week. It was during the depths of the depression, but every day that week my mother had a different kind of roast, and I would carve it and make it look nice.
I got up on Sunday morning, nervous as could be. I went to priesthood meeting and Sunday School. Then I got on my bike and rode the two miles up the foothills to 24th Street and Taylor Avenue. Uncle Dil lived in a great big, three-story, red-brick house. The lawn kind of sloped down at the front. I took my bike and put it up by the old wooden porch. I climbed up on the porch and nervously knocked on the door. No answer. So I knocked a little louder. No answer! I said to myself, “Good, he’s forgotten all about me.” I got on my bike, and started to ride off of the lawn, and I had just reached the sidewalk when he came around the corner in his car with his family. They were just returning from church.
He asked, “Where are you going, LaMar?”
I said, “Just to park my bike over by a tree.” I didn’t dare tell him that mentally I was halfway home.
He got out of the car and invited me to go into the kitchen with Sister Young, “Aunt Gladys.” “She’ll have things there for you to do.” I went into the kitchen, and we began to get out the food that had been cooking during Sunday meetings.
Do you know that when you carve meat you carve it across the grain? Well, she brought out the roast. I had never seen a roast like that in my life, before or since. I couldn’t even find a grain. I went to work on it and tried to make sure that I got the slices even. I never worked so hard in my life. That roast had more gristle and bone than I had ever seen. Finally I got it all together and took it to the dining room.
We sat down at the table, and then Uncle Dil had the nerve to say, “LaMar, will you say the blessing, please?” Now there was nothing in the merit badge book that said I had to say the blessing at Uncle Dil’s house. Oh, I’d done it at home all right, but this was a little different. I said the blessing on the food, not sure if I was being judged on my cooking merit badge or my ability to pray.
Things went pretty well until halfway through the meal. Uncle Dil said, “LaMar, we’ve run out of bread. Will you go in the kitchen and slice some more bread?” Now that’s where I almost met my Waterloo.
I got into the kitchen. Aunt Gladys had baked fresh bread the day before. I was sure that Uncle Dil hadn’t sharpened his butcher knife for several years. I took that butcher knife and started on that bread, and the harder I sawed, the flatter that bread got. I’d get a slice off, and then I’d stretch it back to size and place it on the plate. Then I’d slice another slice and stretch it back. I sliced a third one and stretched it also. Then I got the fourth piece and stretched it. Let’s see—there was one for Uncle Dil, Aunt Gladys, Leonore, and young Dil. I decided that I didn’t want any more bread. I decided that four slices of bread were enough.
I took the bread back into the dining room, and we finally got through eating. Then I had to help clear up the table and do the dishes. When I got through, I said, “Uncle Dil, did I pass?”
He said, “LaMar, did you do everything?”
I said, “I surely hope so.”
My cooking merit badge was the toughest merit badge I ever passed in my life—lots tougher than lifesaving. But Uncle Dil was trying to teach me a correct principle. He was teaching me to do my best, to never take a shortcut, and I have never forgotten that lesson. I don’t think he did either.
A few years ago I had just reported to the mission field in Sacramento, California, as the new mission president. I had some questions that I thought were important, so I wrote a very formal letter to the First Quorum of the Seventy.
“Dear President Young.” He was the senior president then, and I listed the questions. Pretty soon, back came an answer. “Dear President Buckner.” And he listed all of the answers. Then at the bottom, in his own handwriting, he included a P.S. “Got your head above water yet, kid? If not, keep cooking.”
You know, it taught me a great lesson. Young men, you need to learn to do your best, wherever you are.
I had a father come to me one day and say, “Brother Buckner, you are a merit badge examiner for public speaking.”
I said, “Yes, that’s right.”
He said, “I’ve got a son who’s got all of his merit badges for his Eagle Scout rank except one, and I’d like to have you sign his card for public speaking.”
I said, “Well, I’d love to pass your boy on public speaking, but I want to meet your son. You wouldn’t deprive me of that, would you?”
“No,” he said, “but there’s a board of review this Thursday, and we’ve got to have it done by then.”
I said, “Well, I’ll set aside any time you wish—today, Sunday, tomorrow, Monday. How about Tuesday night at 4:00?”
“That’ll be fine,” he said reluctantly.
Tuesday night at four the boy didn’t show up. But a few days later I saw his picture in our local paper getting his Eagle Scout award. I wondered which merit badge examiner the father talked into signing his card. Don’t take shortcuts! Always do your best! That’s part of honoring your priesthood—to do your best in whatever you do. The Lord teaches us what it means to “do our best,” in Doctrine and Covenants 4:2, when he instructs us to serve “with all [our] heart, might, mind and strength.” [D&C 4:2]
It doesn’t matter if you’re earning a merit badge, preparing for a mission, or carrying out an assignment on a summer job. Always ask yourself that question Uncle Dil asked me: “Have you done everything?” If you can always answer yes, you’ll have a happy life and succeed when others fall short.