By Don Larson
Jul 10, 2016

How Do You Find Duty to God in the Wilderness?

13568900_1121168017922514_7133249904485203411_oThat was the question, “how do you maintain “duty to God when you are at camp or on overnighters?” We asked this question to a group of about twenty-five Scoutmasters who had gathered for a “Munch and Mingle” before regular Scoutmaster meeting at Blue Mountain Scout Camp a couple of weeks ago. We spent nearly an hour discussing the issue in what felt like the best Priesthood Meeting I had attended for a long time.

Here is the gist of the discussion:

  • Prayer: Make it a matter of course to have the SPL call on someone to pray before event, as you load up to travel, before meals, at the end of the day, after Scoutmaster’s minutes, etc.
  • Scoutmaster’s Minute: Relate it to events of the day and bring in the Spirit to the message. “It’s a wasted activity without a SM Minute.” Keep the SM Minute a minute—don’t preach.
  • Honor Trail: Take time at the top of the Honor Trail to express your feelings/testify; have SPL model expressing his feelings; give boys a chance to reflect; “camp is where boys come to recognize the Spirit and begin to hear the Spirit’s voice;” back at camp, have the SM minute circle back to what the boys have felt on the Honor Trail.
  • Participate at the camp Scout’s Own Service: follow up with troop devotionals; have troop scripture study; relate to “Duty to God” and “For the Strength of Youth;” have the troop Chaplain’s Aide lead the focus.
  • Scriptures in camp: invite dads on overnighters and have them bring their scriptures to model how to use them at camp; make assignments of topics to discuss; around the campfire, talk about the Stripling Warriors and apply it to the boys own experiences; reinforce patriotism, service, family, etc.
  • Scoutmaster Conference: use this as a time to connect overnighters/camp with values of Scouting, including conflict resolution, tolerance, service, preparation for a mission, etc.; do not exclude non-LDS boys from this activity—they feel the Spirit, too, and want to experience it more; this brings in accountability and application.
  • Boy-led Scouting: Patrol method! Patrol method! Patrol method! – get it? Use your SPL and PL and make Duty to God a discussion item for Patrol Leaders Council.
  • Scouting to Prepare for a Mission: the value of doing hard things and talking about it; building time away from home as a preparation for mission service; scripture studies; the buddy system; uniform. All of these things, both in troop meetings and camping out, are what prepare boys for mission service.
  • Spiritual Moments, both spontaneous and planned: stop and “reflect” to get the full impact of the moment; involve parents in the planning and implementation; be flexible; be guided by the Spirit; pray for them to happen.
  • Top Down Examples: expect the district and stakes and wards to be involved in supporting Scouting; ask for themes to be emphasized at events; for example, use points of the Scout Law or particular scriptures; expect District leaders and Stake and Ward leaders to be trained Scouters—those who lead ought to have a testimony of the “activity arm of the Priesthood” and that testimony comes through training and application of Scouting Values.
  • Prepare Yourself: ask yourself the question, “how do I do my duty to God?;” study your own scriptures; read good books about building boys into men, like Skinner and Packer; use your troop committee to help plan and prepare events with Duty to God as a focus; make sure you are trained and have a testimony of the “activity arm of the Priesthood;” trust your youth leaders to lead.

We could have spent hours more exploring how Scouting helps boy learn to do their “duty to God.” The topics listed about just skim the surface. But the best Scouting events are those that work to accomplish this purpose.

Baden-Powell once wrote to a Mr. Power in an undated letter about “duty to God.” He said, “In the Promise I purposely put the “duty to God” as a concrete form of active work that a boy can understand. An attitude of mind like “loving God” is not comprehensible to the average small boy, whereas he can understand that doing his good turn is a form of service to God.” B-P also said, ‘There is no religious side to the Movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.” (Headquarters Guide, January 1912).

When boys are out of doors on an overnighter or at long-term camp, they see God’s creation, feel His power and presence, and come closer to Him in a real life way.

Don Larson THumbAuthor: Don C. Larson, Ph.D. |  BSA Camp Chaplain and National Camp School Instructor

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2 thoughts on “How Do You Find Duty to God in the Wilderness?

  1. AvatarTom Palmer

    Thanks Don, as soon as I saw the photo I was filled with the sweet spirit that scout camp has. Thanks for your part in that.

  2. AvatarLeah Overson

    So important! One thing to teach might be “How to respond when someone tells on you.” In the spirit of adventure some may begin to break safety rules and others may feel the need to let the leaders know what has happened. Any kind of retribution towards a “tattler” should be discouraged I think. Who knows what other adventures could come into the young people’s minds if safety is ignored for even longer periods of time? A boy who has the courage to stand against the older members of the patrol and remind them of what is right should not be shamed. A more mature youth would be able to stop unauthorized activities one-on-one, but a younger fellow usually needs the backup of the leaders.


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