Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Using the Scout Oath to Prepare Young Men for Temple Covenants

You may have seen the announcement last week that the BSA is moving to a single Oath and Law for all of the families of Scouting. What this means is that Cubs and Venturers will no longer have their own Oath, Promise or Law of the Pack, but will instead use the Boy Scout Oath and Law.

One objection to these changes was the idea that Cub Scouts can't really understand the meaning of the Boy Scout Oath and Law, but it was determined that at each age, the Oath and Law will evolve to mean different things. I can agree with that. To be honest, I suspect that 90% of Boy Scouts can't even provide an accurate definition of each of the twelve points, let alone describe how they use the Scout Law to make better decisions on a daily basis.

I think the Oath and Law has a special place within LDS Scouting (or at least it should have). We are a covenant making people, and the Scout Oath is a tool that can better prepare young men to take on additional covenants through the Priesthood and in the Temple.

However, I'm not sure the Scout Oath is often used that way. By observation, it is often recited at the commencement of Scout meetings of different kinds, and it seems to be a favorite during Boards of Review. But mere repetition is clearly not enough. The Scout Oath and Law only become useful when they are applied to daily decision making, and that takes much more attention that passing off the requirement to memorize them.

Here are a five simple ideas to better integrate the meaning and importance of the Scout Oath and Law into our teaching, and to prepare young men to make and keep sacred covenants:
  1. Use the Scout Oath as an example when discussing covenants during Priesthood lessons.
  2. Frequently ask young men to define terms used in the Scout Law.
  3. Have a campfire discussion of the meaning of the Scout Oath and its particular applicability to Priesthood holders.
  4. Instead of asking more experienced Scouts to merely recite the Scout Oath, ask them to give an example of how they have recently applied it in their lives.
  5. Weave the Oath and Law into Scoutmaster minutes, or similar reflective comments.
I believe that the existence of the Scout Oath and Law, and their alignment with gospel values is one of the reasons that Scouting was endorsed by the Church. That link has not declined during the past 100 years. President Monson has said, "Brethren, if ever there were a time when the principles of Scouting were vitally needed—that time is now. If ever there were a generation who would benefit by keeping physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight—that generation is the present generation." Called to Serve, Ensign, 1991


  1. I wrote a letter to my Stake President discussing my thoughts about why we seem to be hemorrhaging 14+old boys. One of my observations was an apparent discrepancy between expectations of YW and YM:

    "The Young Women recite the YW values at least twice per week, from their 12th birthday to the day they enter the Relief Society. That is the expectation and they meet it. On the other hand, since upon turning
    14, Young Men are "done with Scouting" they don't revisit those lofty ideals until the increasingly unlikely Eagle Court of Honor (COH). They will meet the expectations we have of them, low or high. At one recent Eagle COH, the 17-year-old recipient could not repeat the Oath and Law alongside his younger companions (all age13 and under). Truly, of what value is the badge, if a young man cannot declare:
    On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my Country, and to obey the Scout Law;
    to help other people at all times;
    to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

    I wish I would have read this before sending the letter, as you have drawn parallels any Priesthood Leader will understand.

    1. Thank Eric. I'm curious, did you get any response from your Stake President? What steps would you suggest for Stake Presidencies that want to address this issue?

  2. I think it will make some difference when the Cub Scouts start using these as well. Right now there are monthly themes which correspond to the 12 core values of Cub Scouting, and those core values are integrated into den meetings and pack meetings (or should be). I read that the core values will be replaced with the 12 points of the scout law, so there will be boys learning about the points of the scout law, one per month, every year from the time they turn 8.