By The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Oct 31, 2013

Duty to God – A Sure Foundation

In 2004 Hurricane Ivan swept through the Caribbean and the United States. At its peak, it reached category 5 strength and winds as high as 165 miles per hour, becoming the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record.[1] Damages were estimated at nearly 19 billion dollars.[2] One of the islands hit hardest was Grand Cayman. During part of the storm, the entire island was completely covered with water and was reported to have even disappeared from satellite.

One homeowner there was Dick Mason. Aware of the approaching storm, he fled to a bunker for protection. When the storm passed and it was safe to leave the bunker, he emerged to a scene of devastation. Home after home was torn apart—nearly 85 percent of the buildings on the island sustained damage. As Dick walked back to his home on the coast, he did not know what he might find there. Then, as his street came into view, he found, amid the devastation, a single home standing intact on the road—his home. He even found lights on because his generator had survived. Now there’s a man who understood the motto “Be Prepared!”

Why had his home withstood the wind? Because years earlier he had understood the power of a strong foundation. When the home was built, he had prepared his foundation 20 feet down, boring and anchoring into bedrock. To some, that depth may seem excessive. Yet Dick maintained the importance of a deep foundation to secure his home. And that strong foundation provided safety against the intense storm.


A solid, deep foundation is always critical for success—not just in individuals, homes, and families, but also in businesses and organizations. Prior to my full-time assignment with the LDS Church, I was co-founder and principal of a consumer products company.  As the business grew into worldwide markets and head count increased to over 2500, so did its complexity.  We engaged a consultant to help us adopt a world-recognized quality standard, called ISO 9000.  This was an extensive and complicated integration process.  Interestingly, prior to commencing their considerable consultation, the first task was a thorough review of the company mission statement.  Their extensive experience had taught them that without such a statement, and a culture which understood and supported it, product quality would never be world class.

A foundation or mission statement seems to be a common denominator in many great organizations—and lacking in some of those not so great. To stay focused on its mission, it develops a succinct statement that informs every meeting and drives every decision. That mission statement is clear and concise, and it motivates and inspires. It can guide an organization, decide the destiny of a generation, or determine the fate of a nation.  Examples abound:

For General Norman Schwarzkopf and his multi-national coalition, it was two words: “Liberate Kuwait.”

For Abraham Lincoln: “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

For America’s Founding Fathers: “In God we trust.”

For the followers of Jesus: “Love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

And for a Boy Scout: the Scout Oath. Central to the Oath: “I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.”

Isn’t it impressive that this great organization, so far ahead of its time, established this foundation or mission statement, integrated it deeply into its culture, and practiced it, beginning in 1910.  Ask any man who was a boy scout, and you will find near 100 percent recognition and an “off the chart” recall of this mission statement.

Duty—shall we drill down just a little deeper?  Thomas S. Monson, the leader of my church and a longtime member of BSA’s National Executive Board, said, “I love and cherish the noble word duty and all that it implies.”[3]

Duty to God is the heart of Scouting. It is a founding principle as old and deep as the organization itself. What does it imply? The World Organization of the Scout Movement defines duty to God as “adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom.”[4] And a BSA duty to God task force said, “Spirituality, reverence, morality, [and] ethical behavior . . . are terms which reflect and demonstrate ways to fulfill duty to God.”[5]

Eric Liddell

eric liddell

British Olympian Eric Liddell embraced this duty to God throughout his life. The movie Chariots of Fire tells the story of his preparation for and competition in the 1924 Olympics. In the movie, Liddell, a devout Christian, learns that the race he is most likely to win—the 100-meter—will be held on Sunday. He boldly announces that he will not run on the Lord’s day, despite pressure from the British Olympic Committee and the Prince of Wales himself. Fellow runner Lord Andrew Lindsay, having already won a silver medal, graciously offers Liddell his place in a longer race—the 400-meter—to be held on Thursday. Liddell accepts the offer and runs the race of a lifetime, defeating the heavily favored opponents, and winning a gold medal.

Before the race, the Duke of Sutherland, who tried to convince Liddell to run on Sunday, discusses the turn of events with Lord Birkenhead, leader of the British team.

“A sticky moment,” says the Duke of Sutherland.

“Thank God for Lindsay; I thought the lad [Liddell] had us beaten,” Lord Birkenhead responds.

“He did have us beaten, and thank God he did,” responds the Duke.

“I don’t quite follow you,” says Lord Birkenhead.

The Duke of Sutherland then clarifies his meaning:

“The ‘lad,’ as you call him, is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself.”

Care must be exercised that we never sever Scouting from itself, but rather that it stand firm and remain strong in its foundation. What is that foundation? It is found in the Scout Oath and Law. It is found in Scouting’s methods and aims. And it is found in the Scout charter and bylaws, which I quote:

“The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise the member declares, ‘On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law.’ The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members.”[6]

The understanding of duty to God is fundamental to Scouting. It’s a foundation that maintains great strength, just as Eric Liddell’s devotion not to compete on Sunday strengthened him. His speed derived from his character and integrity. Make Eric Liddell run on Sunday, and you shear him—just like Samson—of his strength and his power. But let him stay true to his duty, and you will see his strength flourish.


[1], quoting: National Hurricane Center; Hurricane Research Division; Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (February 15, 2013). “Atlantic hurricane best track (HURDAT version 2).” United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved April 28, 2013.


[3] Thomas S. Monson, “The Call of Duty,” Ensign, May 1986.


[5] task.html

[6] Charter and Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America, article IX, section 1, clause 1


See, Gary E. Stevenson, “Bishop Gary E. Stevenson Boy Scouts of America National Annual Meeting Keynote Speech,” (2013, May 23), The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Newsroom.


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