I couldn’t take my eyes off the sashes worn by the young men in seasoned Scout uniforms. Each wore a white sash emblazoned with a shiny embroidered red arrow pointing over his right shoulder. To my 12-year-old eyes, these 15- and 16-year-old boys seemed rugged and mature.
Although I still didn’t know much about the Order of the Arrow (“OA” or “the Order”) following the boys’ brief explanation, I did know that I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be like those boys. I met one of the eligibility requirements because I held the First Class rank, but I couldn’t qualify for nomination because I lacked the required 15 days and nights of Scout camping.
I watched with envy as two of my good friends went away to the overnight induction experience known as the Ordeal and returned wearing those coveted sashes. They wouldn’t say much about their experience. I would have to wait a year until I was nominated by my troop to find out for myself what it was like.
Many good Latter-day Saint Scoutmasters and Varsity Scout Coaches know as little about the OA as I did during my year of anxious waiting. Some know far less.
Many Scout leaders don’t know what the OA is or why they would want their boys to be part of it. They have no idea how the OA can help the members of their troops and teams better fulfill the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. They don’t see how a secondary organization can do any more than the standard Church programs to help young men become true servants of God.
In my monthly Scott’s Brotherhood Blog posts I hope to answer these questions and many others. Although I am still learning, a lifetime in the Church and more than four decades in the OA should allow me to provide useful insights about OA Scouting from a Latter-day Saint perspective.
Let’s start off with this BSA statement describing the OA:
As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:
- Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
- Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
- Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
- Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
After reading this, perhaps you can begin to understand how membership in the OA can help young men fulfill the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. The Native American name of the OA translates to “the brotherhood of cheerful service.” Can you see how membership in an organization that is dedicated to unselfishly serving others can help fulfill the constant prophetic call to joyfully lose ourselves in service to God through serving others? (See Mosiah 2:17 and Prophets and Apostles/President Monson: Service Brings Joy.)
Frankly, when I joined the OA as a 13-year-old boy, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. My understanding of the OA and its purposes grew as I became more involved. Little by little, my selfish reasons for joining the Order gave way to taking seriously the Order’s charge to develop a happy life through selfless service.
Is this something you want for the young men you are called to serve? Then join me each month for a brief message about how the OA can help Latter-day Saint young men along the trail to becoming happy servants of God.
Questions to Ponder
- Do you believe that selfless service leads to godly joy?
- Do the youth you serve have a sufficiently strong testimony of unselfish service?
- Is it worth exploring the resources the Lord has made available to increase the testimony of service among these youth?
“I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
-Scott Hinrichs has been actively Scouting since age eight. He has served in many youth and adult Scouting positions and has been a member of the Order of the Arrow for more than four decades. He and his wife are raising their family in North Ogden, Utah. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.