Scott’s Brotherhood Blog #26: Order of the Arrow SURGE-ing for LDS Scouts

Scott Hinrichs

I was once a 13-year-old Scout hoping that my troop members would elect me to become a nominee for membership in the Order of the Arrow. Not being particularly popular among my peers, I remember waiting nervously while an OA election team counted votes after conducting an election in my troop. The announcement that I was among those elected brought a feeling of gratitude for my fellow Scouts.

Last April I wrote about the new SURGE program from the BSA’s Western Region. This program is designed to bring the benefits of OA membership to more Latter-day Saint Scouts, since LDS Scouts are greatly underrepresented in the Order. You don’t have to be in the Western Region to use SURGE.

The Order of the Arrow is Scouting’s national honor society. Unlike most other honor societies, the OA doesn’t control who is nominated to join the organization. Each troop makes those choices by determining which eligible Scouts among them best exemplify the three promises of the Scout Oath and the 12 points of the Scout Law.

For this to happen, OA members must visit the troop to hold an election to nominate Scouts to become members of the Order. SURGE stands for Supporting Units through Really Great Elections. SURGE has been developed specifically to facilitate OA elections in LDS-sponsored troops.

SURGE materials have recently been updated. Now you have the opportunity to watch the latest SURGE video. Not only does this video show a sample of an OA election in a troop sponsored by the Church, it also features vignettes by Director of LDS-BSA Relationships, Mark Francis, and Director of the Order of the Arrow, Matt Dukeman. Both Mark and Matt are Latter-day Saints who joined the OA as youth and who today are BSA employees. Each has an important message for you.

After watching this video, you will have some idea of what it’s like to have an OA election team visit your troop. A unit election only needs to take about 20 minutes of your meeting time. Since each troop can hold only one election annually, 20 minutes once a year is a small price to pay for the great opportunity the OA affords your Scouts.

Being nominated to join the OA only starts the membership process. Each nominee must attend and complete the overnight induction experience called the Ordeal within a year of nomination to become a member of the Order. This demanding experience emphasizes the points of brotherhood, cheerfulness, and service to which the Order is dedicated.

While the Ordeal might be challenging, rest assured that any Scout who has achieved OA eligibility by attaining at least the First Class rank and completing 15 nights of outdoor Scout camping is fully capable of satisfactorily completing the induction. Doing so honors the trust of those who elected him.

In his April 2017 general conference address, M. Joseph Brough, a counselor in the Young Men general presidency taught that God “has developed a personal care package suited to each one of us.” The OA became a very important part of my personal care package during my teen years. It helped me grow from an uncertain, self-centered boy to a young man who loved leading out in service to others and started me on a lifetime journey of cheerful service.

Might the Order of the Arrow be part of God’s personal care package in the lives of some of the young men you serve? Provide them the opportunity to discover this for themselves by inviting the OA to send an election team to your troop. Now is a great time to jump on this because spring Ordeals are coming up soon. Contact your local OA chapter or Scout service center for details.


Questions to Ponder

  • Did you know that Latter-day Saint Scouts are significantly underrepresented in Scouting’s national honor society?
  • Is it worth 20 minutes of your troop meeting time each year to give your young men the opportunity to find out how the OA can fit into God’s personal care package for them?
  • How will you employ this knowledge to better serve those youth?


-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.

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  1. Jason Orton says:

    They are under represented in my area simply because LDS scouts could not join OA for decades due to the local OA’s decision not to allow LDS scouts to join without forcing them to do the ordeal on Sunday. A request was made by local church leaders on more than one occasion during the 80s and 90s and all were rebuffed. Now, that has changed and LDS scouts no longer have to do the ordeal on Sunday but, the dads (many of whom are Eagle Scouts) of many of today’s scouts never joined so their own sons do not know much about the organization nor do they have dads that are big supporters of the program. The exceptions are dads that move in from other areas that are shocked to find so few members of OA in the troop. My son’s LDS troop has one member of OA currently and he isn’t very active and doesn’t have much to say about it one way or the other. He does wear the pretty sash though. Another challenge is convincing a scout to pay annual dues and try and talk mom or dad to drive them in to OA meetings three towns away (20-30 minutes one way) to attend OA chapter meetings. The OA itself in our area has a difficult time selling the program to the scouts also. Their sales point seems to almost solely revolve around the “opportunity to do more service”, something LDS scouts already have no problems finding opportunities for, and “getting to wear the sash”. So what it boils down to is a scout can pay money each year for the privilege of wearing a sash that shows membership in an organization few if any of their friends in the troop or stake are members of with the benefit of doing even more service than they are already doing in their troop, quorum, and family. In my opinion, the OA in our area shot themselves in the foot and still does not have the right messaging to get LDS scouts excited about joining. They need to fix their messaging and better understand the LDS scouts in order to get the numbers up.

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