In the months leading up to leaving on my mission I worked as a groundskeeper at the Ogden Temple. Although I had acted as proxy for baptisms for the dead a number of times, I had little understanding of other ceremonies performed in the temple. Still, I was preparing to receive temple ordinances, which is one of the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Of course I knew that there were ordinances referred to as initiatory, the endowment, and finally sealings that bind families together eternally. I knew that temple worshippers dressed in white and that endowed Church members continually wear a sacred temple garment under their clothing. After all, my parents were faithful temple worshippers and I saw people coming and going from the temple day after day. But as I approached my own endowment, I had only the foggiest idea of what I would experience after entering the temple that morning.
Church members preparing to enter the temple for their own ordinances nowadays can attend a temple preparation class and can study the excellent manual Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple. Even seasoned temple attenders can benefit from such study. But many first time attenders that have thus prepared still feel like they are in unfamiliar territory as they make progressive covenants in ceremonies that seem peculiar to them. Some come away feeling uncomfortable.
As explained in Preparing to Enter the Holy Temple, “the teaching of the temples is done in symbolic fashion.” While we all use symbols constantly, the symbolism used in the temple often seems to hearken back to a different era. This should not be surprising, since much of what occurs in the temple has been restored from ancient ordinances.
Despite being told to be at peace, I was nervous as I entered the temple for my own endowment. Friends had elusively warned me that I might be uncomfortable. But as I participated in temple ceremonies that day, I quickly sensed a certain degree of familiarity. Although Order of the Arrow ceremonies are vastly different than temple worship, I found that the symbolic approach I had often experienced at OA ceremonies had prepared me well for temple worship.
A campfire under nature’s sky can feel like a hallowed space under the right conditions, despite looking nothing like the sacred setting inside a beautiful temple of God. Still, the learning style used in OA ceremonies has valuable parallels with the teaching methods used in God’s “house of learning” (D&C 88:119).
OA ceremonies focus on uplifting and ennobling the boys that attend. Through symbolism young men are reminded of the importance of implementing the three promises of the Scout Oath and twelve points of the Scout Law in their own lives. They are encouraged to take seriously an obligation to cheerfully and unselfishly serve others throughout life.
While there is plenty of room in Scouting for fun and laughter, OA ceremonies are carried out in solemnity. In each OA ceremony Scouts are encouraged to lift their thoughts and hearts to God. They enact the final point of the Scout Law, demonstrating that a Scout is reverent, granting gravity to the promises they have made.
So, not only do OA ceremonies help Latter-day Saint Scouts prepare to grasp the symbol based learning style used in God’s holy temple, these Scouting ceremonies also help Aaronic Priesthood holders prepare to make and keep sacred covenants. At least, that is how it worked for me and how it has worked for many others.
Could the Aaronic Priesthood holders in your troop or team benefit from this kind of preparation? Actually, much of that is dependent on whether you will allow them that opportunity. Contact your local Order of the Arrow lodge or chapter for more information.
Questions to Ponder
- Did you know that OA ceremonies use symbolism and solemnity to help boys make and keep promises to live right and serve others?
- Were you aware that the learning style used in OA ceremonies parallels the holy temple’s learning style in important ways?
- Would you like to help your Scouts better prepare to make sacred covenants in the temple and then keep those covenants?
- What will you do to better enable the youth in your unit to have these opportunities?
-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.