Ben Anderson is the founder of Boy Scout 411. You can learn more about their resources for scouting here.
I have been asked this question numerous times: “Why does the LDS Church support Scouting when they have the Duty to God program?” I always ask a follow-up question with “What do you know about the Duty to God program?” I will usually get a dumbfounded look or an unsure answer. This just shows that people don’t know the programs for the Aaronic Priesthood. People will always associate Scouting with camping, hiking, merit badges and rank advancements. That is what we do. What people need to start asking is why we do it. You can’t have Scouting without doing your Duty to God. In fact Baden-Powell, the founder of the scouting, said, “There is no religious side of the scouting movement. The whole of it is based on religion; that is, on the realization and service of God.” It wasn’t by accident or coincidence that six years after the Scouting movement was formed and three years after the Boy Scouts of America was founded, the Prophet Joseph Fielding Smith received revelation to adopt Scouting as the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. President Thomas S. Monson as repeatedly said, “If there has ever been a time where the principles of scouting are needed, that time is now.”
How does it all tie in together?
Before we make connections of all three programs, we must know each ones purpose. In Handbook #2 of the Church Handbook of Instruction we read:
“Young men are in a time of preparation and personal spiritual growth. Accordingly, parents and the bishopric and other Aaronic Priesthood holders help each young man to:
- Be converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live by its teachings.
- Serve faithfully in priesthood callings and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices.
- Give meaningful service.
- Prepare and live worthily to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances.
- Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission.
- Obtain as much education as possible.
- Prepare to become a worthy husband and father
- Give proper respect to women, girls and children.
This is what I call the Aaronic Priesthood’s mission statement. The Boy Scouts of America has one as well:
BSA Mission Statement
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people
to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in
them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
The Duty to God program is a tool to help Aaronic Priesthood holders:
Strengthen their testimony and their relationship with Heavenly Father
Learn about and fulfill their Priesthood duties
Apply the standards from For the Strength of Youth
All three programs have both a physical and spiritual elements to them. Some have more of one than the others. According to the Scout Law, it is the overall goal for the young man to be:
A scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal,
Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind,
Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave
Clean, and Reverent.
Doesn’t this sound like the 13th Article of Faith?
“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
We All Have a Role
You cannot force someone to do something unless they want to do it themselves. God gave us free agency for a reason. We get to choose for ourselves whether we want to do something or not. But regardless of the choice, that person needs to understand the consequences.
The prophet Nephi had to choose whether to believe the words of his father Lehi or not. He also had to choose to gain a testimony.
1 Nephi 2:16
“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.”
Parents and Family Members.
Depending on your situation, the parental figures in a young mans life are extremely vital. Not only are we charged with raising them in paths of righteousness but we need to let them know or show them that we live what we tell them and we know it.
Nephi’s parents were a great example. The most read scripture in the Book of Mormon is 1 Nephi 1:1. “I Nephi having been born of goodly parents…” A goodly parent is constantly praying for their children, hold family home evening and family prayer and scripture study. They talk with their children about their problems and concerns and always point the way to answers to life’s questions can be found through prayer and scripture study. More importantly, they share their testimonies with their children and tell them the things that have enriched their lives.
Helaman’s 2000 warriors were young men like our young men who were willing to sacrifice themselves so their parents wouldn’t have to break their promise to God of never shedding blood again. These young men were so pure, courageous, have strength in both body and spirit and everything they did, they did it with exactness, honor and with dignity. Why were they like this? In Alma 53:21 we read, “Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.” Parents need to teach their children. They need to be told that their duties in the Aaronic Preisthood, Scouts and Duty to God are there to help them become all what God wants them to be.
We can say all of this until we are blue in the face, but it won’t sink in until our young men know something. In Alma 56, right before the warriors go into battle, they had no fear. They were willing to lose their lives because of one thing. In verse 21 it says, “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” Do we, as parents know it? Do we truly know the importance of these programs as well as whether the gospel is true or not? Our young men cannot be moved unless they know we know it.
I believe the hardest calling in the church is to teach another person’s child. People are trusting you that you will teach their child true doctrine. But not only should we teach it, be we need to live it as well.
A great example of a leader is Captain Moroni.
Alma 48:11-13 & 17
And Moroni was a strong and a mighty man; he was a man of a perfect understanding; yea, a man that did not delight in bloodshed; a man whose soul did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery;
Yea, a man whose heart did swell with thanksgiving to his God, for the many privileges and blessings which he bestowed upon his people; a man who did labor exceedingly for the welfare and safety of his people.
Yea, and he was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ, and he had sworn with an oath to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion, even to the loss of his blood.
Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
President Beck, former General Young Men’s President said this:
“If there ever were a time when our young men needed to associate with adult advisers who are strong in the Spirit, that time is now. As leaders of young men, we have the blessing of working with them during the time that they transition from childhood to adulthood. It is a time fraught with temptations and challenges. What a great privilege and an awesome responsibility we have.
Young men need to be guided, motivated, and strengthened by those who are strong in the Spirit. They need to discover through spiritual experiences the intrinsic motivation of being a disciple of Christ—to taste for themselves the fruits of the gospel and of the Spirit.
Young men need to know that their leaders are men of God who can be trusted, who truly care about them, and who take seriously their Scout callings. Trusted leaders can become a powerful resource to help and bless young men
The rest of us.
There is an old African proverb that says “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” The young men can’t perform their priesthood responsibilities (ie: sacrament, fast offerings, home teaching, etc) without you. They cannot do service project or work on merit badges with you and your help. They really want to get to know you and learn from you. They want to hear about your experiences and overcoming of your trials. They also need to know you care and love them for what they do for you.
In the past decade and a half, we have witnessed some amazing revelation. In 2002, the bar was raised for missionary service Instead of repent and go missionaries, only the ones who are physically and spiritually prepared are recommended for missionary service. In 2004, Preach My Gospel was released changing from memorized discussions to a principle based, spiritually driven lessons. In 2012, we witnessed the missionary age change: 18 for young men and 19 for young women.
If we want our young people they need to be, then they need to participate in their priesthood quorums, earn the rank of Eagle and accomplish their Duty to God Award. If this happens then the prophecy of President Benson will be come true:
“Give me a young man who has kept himself morally clean and has faithfully
attended his Church meetings. Give me a young man who has magnified his
priesthood and has earned the Duty to God Award and is an Eagle Scout. Give
me a young man who is a seminary graduate and has a burning testimony of
the Book of Mormon. Give me such a young man, and I will give you a young
man who can perform miracles for the Lord in the mission field
and throughout his life.”
Isn’t this what we want our young men to be? If yes, then this is the reason why the Aaronic Priesthood needs Scouting AND Duty to God and not one or the other. This has an eternal effect and everyone.