Manually hauling large logs pocked with lead shot at my Order of the Arrow Ordeal wasn’t my idea of fun. But the decaying hulks needed to be removed to improve the rifle range backstop at a Scout camp in Idaho and I was among those assigned to help. We kept lugging the seemingly countless logs for hours as mosquitoes mercilessly assaulted us. It was a distasteful task that we were required to complete silently. At age 13 I didn’t really appreciate the work, but doing it changed something inside me.
Now, decades later, I can take you to the spot where we did that work. The rifle range was moved to a different location a number of years ago and the logs we hauled have long since returned to nature. But I still feel good about the work we accomplished that day. I know that we helped many Scouts have a safer rifle range experience over a handful of summers.
Service is such a central feature of the Order of the Arrow that it is part of the Order’s Native American name. Service is so important to the OA that a Scout must engage in a day of arduous service to join the Order. The value of selfless service is heavily emphasized in OA ceremonies. OA founder E. Urner Goodman stated, “The things of the Spirit are what count: . . . service—in a day when millions are interested in getting or grasping, rather than giving” (Order of the Arrow Handbook, , Boy Scouts of America, 1).
In recent weeks the boys in my OA chapter have acted as the service staff for a Scout district event, put on a number of Arrow of Light ceremonies for Cub Scout packs, loaded tens of thousands of pounds of food stuffs for a shelter, set up and taken down hundreds of chairs for an adult training event, and instructed training courses, among other acts of service. Service is what the OA does.
One Arrowman told me that his favorite service experience with the OA involved a joint project with the U.S. Forest Service. OA members from around the country paid their own way to spend a week working together in the wilderness to improve miles of backcountry trails.
The OA’s emphasis on service dovetails nicely with gospel teachings. One of the best known scriptures among Latter-day Saints is Mosiah 2:17, where King Benjamin teaches “that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
Throughout his ministry President Thomas S. Monson has repeatedly talked and written about the necessity of following the Savior’s example of selflessly serving others. In the October 2009 general conference he said, “I believe the Savior is telling us that unless we lose ourselves in service to others, there is little purpose to our own lives. . . . [T]hose who lose themselves in service to others grow and flourish—and in effect save their lives” (“What Have I Done for Someone Today?”).
Our Heavenly Father and our Savior do not sigh, grumble, or groan when it comes to rendering service. Rather, service is what They are spending eternity doing. They are not off entertaining Themselves in some eternal retirement community or on some celestial vacation cruise. They have a fullness of joy (see 2 Nephi 28:10) because They are constantly serving others. We, too, can grow into that kind of joy as we learn to love others enough to actively serve them.
Our Aaronic Priesthood young men know that they should be serving others. As members of their priesthood quorums they receive opportunities to serve. As Scouts they repeat the Scout slogan: “Do a good turn daily.” But to be honest, few of our Aaronic Priesthood brethren learn to relish selfless service.
For Latter-day Saint Scouts, the OA offers a unique opportunity for greater growth along the path to an eternal fullness of joy through regular service others. The OA aims to make cheerful selfless service a central part of its members’ identities. Service comes naturally to many OA members because that is the kind of people they have become.
Years ago a boy named Lynn served as the chief of his OA lodge for two one-year terms. He could have served a third term or advanced to section chief, but the limelight of public leadership was never very important to him. Instead, he spent the final year before leaving to serve a mission quietly acting in support roles, where he provided more service than most people realized. He did that because of who he had become. Since returning from his mission Lynn’s adult life has been filled with continual, quiet, unselfish service.
Is this the kind of life you would like your Aaronic Priesthood boys to strive to attain? Then give them a greater chance at having that kind of life by helping them become contributing members of the OA. The Order played a key role in helping me learn the joy of selfless service, and it can do the same for the boys you serve. Will they have that chance? That’s up to you as their Scout leader.
Questions to Ponder
- Do you believe that true joy is found through unselfish service?
- Do you want the boys you serve to experience this kind of eternal joy?
- Will you work to help them expand their opportunities for joy through OA membership?
“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.