At our district’s recent Klondike derby event, I ran into Al, a boy who joined the Order of the Arrow a while ago and who is a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood. Al didn’t serve on the event staff with ten of his fellow OA chapter members. He camped in the snow and participated in activities with his troop.
In fact, we haven’t seen Al at many OA events since he became a member of the Order. But as I watched him mentor younger members of his troop, I thought about what the Order of the Arrow Handbook says on page 35 (2015 ed. Boy Scouts of America):
“An Arrowman’s primary responsibility is to the troop or team. It was your fellow Scouts who elected you to membership in the Order and it is to them that you should devote most of your service.”
As I reflected on the many times I have seen Al serving his troop at camping events, I realized that he is doing precisely what young OA members are supposed to do. His service embodies the call by the Order’s founder, Dr. E. Urner Goodman, “Let it be remembered that the Order of the Arrow was created to help the unit—to help it present its membership a better idea of the inner qualities of the good Scout camper.”
Goodman noted that qualities “like cheerfulness and service are hard for a boy or a man to understand in the abstract. They come easier when seen in human life” (OA Handbook, 35).
We all admire from afar individuals who manifest virtuous characteristics. But we are more readily motivated to build character through regular close association with peers who model these ideals. The OA exists precisely for this purpose: to foster the close involvement of troop members with young men who embody brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service.
With the Church’s recent refocusing on the Boy Scout program, I am already seeing some LDS units in my area move to a model where the deacon, teacher, and priest quorums each form a patrol. In these units younger and older Aaronic Priesthood Scouts work with each other more closely and more frequently than they used to. So boys who become teachers shortly after joining the OA have more opportunity to serve the troop than before.
You can have older boys in your troop who are good examples of the Scout Oath and Law without those boys being members of the OA. But something happens to a boy when he is recognized by his fellow Scouts as an honor Scout camper through nomination to membership in the Order. Something changes when he demonstrates his gratitude for the nomination by completing the Ordeal. He becomes something he wasn’t before, allowing him to develop into an even greater resource for the troop.
Don’t rob your boys of this opportunity. Spring is the best time of year to hold an OA election in your troop so that boys can join the Order during one of the spring Ordeals. Contact your local Order of the Arrow chapter or Scout service center for details.
Of course, as a chapter adviser in the OA, I would like Al to come to more of the Order’s activities so that he can further develop the great traits his fellow Scouts have seen in him. Some studies show that the typical boy nowadays has far less disposable time than his parents did when they were his age. Families have to be selective about commitments. If Al must choose between being with his OA brothers or serving his troop, I want him with his troop where he can do the most good.
Questions to Ponder
- Did you know that the OA was designed to serve the troop?
- Can you recognize how young men can become greater assets to the troop through OA membership?
- How will you employ this knowledge among the 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.