The first BSA Handbook for Boys published in 1911, says “No boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God” (page 250).
In the Scout Oath a young man promises to do his best to do his duty to God. Lord Baden-Powell said this is the first duty of a Scout. He continued, “It is with this idea before us and recognizing that God is the one Father of us all, that we Scouts count ourselves a brotherhood despite the difference among us of country, creed, or class. We realize that in addition to the interests of our particular country, there is a higher mission before us, namely the promotion of the Kingdom of God” (“Statements by Lord Baden-Powell,” Scouting.org).
Every young man in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knows his first duty is to God. This was made clear when Jesus Christ was asked by a lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:36–37).
Scouting provides countless opportunities to teach a young man how to love and serve God with all of his heart, soul, and mind. LDS Scouting is a fertile training ground for boys to become young men of God.
In a speech at the Boy Scouts of America national meeting on May 23, 2013, Bishop Gary E. Stevenson declared, “There are opportunities to teach in every activity, every hike, every knot tied—because duty to God is the essence of Scouting, woven through every detail. Conversation [should be] centered on choices, temptation, dark clouds, rough water, unexpected obstacles, and the existence a loving Heavenly Father who will help.
“Now that’s the essence of what we do—giving boys an understanding of the words duty to God. That means we must teach them, translate for them, and help them see the connection between what they’re doing in the mechanical and how it relates to the moral. Duty to God is not a consolation prize; it is the main prize. And as we focus on it, we will see its effects” (see the transcript of the speech on the Church’s online Newsroom).
In four previous Mac’s Messages I described ways in which adult Young Men leaders can help young men learn and act upon their duty to God (see Mac’s Messages #33 through #36). Additionally the Duty to God program for Aaronic Priesthood boys, and the related On My Honor Award, help focus young men on their sacred duty “to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). The preacher in Ecclesiastes makes it clear what this duty is: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl. 12:13).
At this troubled time in the history of the world, I’m pleased that the Boy Scouts of America is placing a greater emphasis on a Scout’s duty to God starting in 2016. At the Scoutmaster conference for each Scouting rank a boy should be asked what he has done to fulfill his duty to God since achievement of his current rank (see “Beginning next year, Boy Scouts will tell about their ‘duty to God’ at each rank,” scoutingmagazine.org). To LDS Scouting leaders this emphasis on one’s duty to God shouldn’t be new, but rather an additional reminder of why the Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting programs are so intricately linked. Scouting is a vital component of a young man’s religious education.
Lord Baden-Powell said, “There is no religious ‘side’ of the [Scouting] movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God” (Scouting.org). A wonderful video produced by the Church and shown at the A Century of Honor celebration at the LDS Conference Center in 2013, beautifully describes how Scouting helps a boy fulfill his duty to God. I love to hear Church and community leaders testify of the moral value of Scouting.
I hope your Scouting activities are meaningful spiritual experiences, and not just fun diversions. I hope your young men can see the connection between the things they are doing in Scouting and their responsibility as priesthood holders to do their duty. In the Book of Mormon, Alma told his son, Helaman, where to channel his energy when he admonished, “O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God” (Alma 37:35). Adult Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leaders have a sacred obligation to teach the Lord’s young men to do their duty to God. The six years a boy spends in the Young Men program is a crucial time when a boy should learn to become “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
Take a Moment to Reflect
- How are you helping your young men to fulfill their first duty as a Scout—their duty to God?
- Do you see the connection between Scouting and Church principles and practices?
- Do you ensure that God is at the center of your Scouting program?
- Have you determined how you will include the duty to God component in your Scoutmaster conferences and/or boards of review?
- Are you helping your young men learn in their youth to keep the commandments of God?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“Our objective in the Scouting movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth by including among youth the spirit and the daily practice in their lives of unselfish goodwill and cooperation” (Lord Baden-Powell, Scouting.org).
–Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.