When a young man recites the Scout Oath he promises to keep himself morally straight. The dictionary defines morals as principles or standards of behavior considered right or wrong by most people. Although the moral standards of the world may change, the Lord’s moral standards are clear and consistent. To LDS young men, the way to keep oneself morally straight is a straight and narrow path.
Elder Vaugh J. Featherstone said, “The oath concludes with being ‘morally straight,’ which means we do not deviate or compromise standards of chastity, virtue, or wholesomeness. We stand on higher ground and remain morally clean. A Scout who makes an oath that he will be morally straight is duty bound to live that way. The Scout Oath prepares us for the priesthood oath and covenant. Virtue is an essential part of our priesthood oath” (“On My Honor,” New Era, February 2006).
As adult Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting leaders we have a sacred obligation to teach our young men the Lord’s black and white standards of morality in a moral world that is becoming increasingly gray. We need to instill within them the moral fortitude to make right choices long before they come to an ethical fork in the road. We must ensure our young men know the Lord’s moral path is well marked and clearly defined. It is a straight path. It is a path to happiness and eternal life.
The For the Strength of Youth pamphlet declares, “The Lord’s standard regarding sexual purity is clear and unchanging. Do not have any sexual relations before marriage, and be completely faithful to your spouse after marriage. Do not allow the media, your peers, or others to persuade you that sexual intimacy before marriage is acceptable. It is not” (For the Strength of Youth, 35).
The scriptures and latter-day prophets repeatedly affirm the Lord’s injunctions against lust, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, sexual abuse, and other unholy and impure practices. These remain an “abomination in the sight of the Lord”—regardless of what others in the world may think (see Alma 39:5). The blessings of being morally straight are also clear: “When you are sexually pure, you prepare yourself to make and keep sacred covenants in the temple. You prepare yourself to build a strong marriage and to bring children into the world as part of an eternal and loving family. You protect yourself from the spiritual and emotional damage that come from sharing sexual intimacy outside of marriage. You also protect yourself from harmful diseases. Remaining sexually pure helps you to be confident and truly happy and improves your ability to make good decisions now and in the future” (For the Strength of Youth, 35).
Keeping oneself morally straight also means a young man will remain firmly planted on the moral high ground by standing for truth and righteousness at all times and in all places. President Monson has counseled: “You be the one to make a stand for right, even if you stand alone. Have the moral courage to be a light for others to follow. There is no friendship more valuable than your own clear conscience, your own moral cleanliness—and what a glorious feeling it is to know that you stand in your appointed place clean and with the confidence that you are worthy to do so” (“Examples of Righteousness,” April 2008 general conference).
Every young man needs to know that he cannot do wrong and feel right. He cannot be bad and feel good. Perhaps nothing impacts a young man’s self-image more than doing what is right. The right thing to do is usually apparent in most situations, particularly if he has been taught properly in his youth. Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting experiences should help a young man choose the right path and do the right thing. Young Men activities provide numerous opportunities to teach moral and ethical values. Perhaps there is no better place to learn the application of the redeeming process of the Atonement than through the trial and error experiences of Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood endeavors.
As I have stated many times in my blog messages, there is a reason for everything we do in Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood. There is a reason why these programs are designed the way they are. Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood activities need to go beyond fun to inculcating values, virtues, and character within our young men. We need to help our youth realize that the standards outlined in the For the Strength of Youth booklet are devised to ensure their happiness. They are the measurements by which Scouts can determine whether they are keeping themselves morally straight. When an LDS Scout raises his arm in the Scout sign and repeats the Scout Oath he is signifying he will always abide by these standards. It is an oath and promise that should be kept!
Take a Moment to Reflect
- Have you explained to your young men what it means to be morally straight?
- Are you teaching your young men how to make right choices and keep themselves pure and unspotted from the world?
- Do you teach from and reference often the For the Strength of Youth booklet? Do you use it as the moral code for your young men?
- Do your young men see the connection between the Scout Oath and other oaths and covenants they make in the Church?
- Have you taught your young men about the Atonement and the repentance process to help them return to the morally straight path if they have strayed?
- Are you a model of one who keeps himself morally straight?
Turn Your Reflection Into Action
- What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?
“The standards in this [For the Strength of Youth] booklet will help you with the important choices you are making now and will yet make in the future. We promise that as you keep the covenants you have made and these standards, you will be blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, your faith and testimony will grow stronger, and you will enjoy increasing happiness” (For the Strength of Youth, ii).
-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.