“How is this change going to affect your organization?” an adult Scouter asked me. By “your organization” he meant the Order of the Arrow. I have lost count of the number of times this question has been posed to me in some form since the First Presidency announced on May 11, 2017 that the Church will no longer sponsor Varsity and Venturing programs effective January 1, 2018. Cub Scout and Boy Scout units will continue to be sponsored.
The OA is a nationwide Scouting organization that operates independently of sponsoring organizations. So regardless of the Church’s Scouting policies, the Order will continue to work to fulfill its purpose to:
- Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.
- Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship.
- Develop leaders with the willingness, spirit, and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately the nation.
- Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.
(Order of the Arrow Handbook. 2015 ed. Boy Scouts of America, 8)
The Scouter’s question, of course, related to how the Church’s policy change would affect my OA chapter and lodge, where most youth members are currently registered with a Varsity Scout team or Venturing crew sponsored by a Latter-day Saint ward.
The First Presidency letter specifies that boys older than traditional LDS Scouting age who are seeking the Eagle Scout rank should be registered as Scouts. Many LDS OA youth are already Eagle Scouts. I hope that they too will be allowed to be registered as Scouts, since OA membership is only valid when one is registered with a Scouting unit. I will encourage the youth in my chapter to work with their local Scoutmaster and chartered organization representative (usually a counselor in the bishopric) to ensure that they are registered with their Scout troop each year.
Over my decades in the Order of the Arrow, I have seen the OA act as a refuge for boys 14 and older who still find an interest in Scouting and its ideals. Not every youth falls into this group, but many outstanding Latter-day Saint boys do. Even with the Church’s policy change, the OA can continue to provide a Scouting refuge for interested young men.
At our Scout district’s recent round table meeting, a member of a stake presidency gave some wise counsel. Noting that human nature is to assume we know what is coming next, he admonished the Church and Scouting leaders present to avoid second guessing the First Presidency, and to valiantly fulfill their callings until other authorized direction is given. That means that Latter-day Saint Scouts will continue to be eligible for and join the Order of the Arrow.
For some insights into why Scouts who hold the Aaronic Priesthood should join the OA and how OA membership can benefit the Church, I invite you to peruse my past blog posts. I also invite you to consider which Aaronic Priesthood holders might wish to continue their Scouting endeavors after they turn 14 and provide opportunities for these young men to become members of the OA. Speaking from many years of experience, it’s a great place for them to be and to become.
Questions to Ponder
- Did you know that the OA provides great opportunities for boys who want to continue Scouting?
- What will you do to help the Scout-minded boys you serve?
-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.