In January, the Boy Scout ranks were updated with a new element of Scout spirit, “Tell how you have done your duty to God …”). This comes alongside the other elements of “living the Scout Oath and Scout Law” in the new requirements.
This weekend for Church News, Jason Swenson shared some of his thoughts on the subject:
The connection between a young man and his relation to Deity is one of the founding tenets of Scouting.
The first Boy Scouts of America “Handbook for Boys,” published over a century ago, stated “no boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God.” And the greenest Scout learns that “a Scout is reverent” even as he takes an oath “to do my duty to God and my country.”
For Latter-day Saint Scouts, the connection between a young man and the Lord is even more clearly defined. Scouting has long been the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood for deacons, teachers and priests in the United States. Cub Scouting helps prepare many Primary boys for priesthood service.
Said President Thomas S. Monson: “I believe in the power of Scouting to bless and enrich lives for good.”
A boy’s obligation to serve God is now a defined element of his advancement through Scouting—from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout.
Since the beginning of the year, Boy Scouts seeking rank advancement are being asked, with each respective rank, “Tell how you have done your duty to God.”
For an LDS Scout, the “duty to God” question will likely be posed by his Scoutmaster, his bishop or maybe his priesthood adviser.
No defined list of “duties” is prescribed. It’s simply an opportunity for the young man, at each step of his path through Scouting, to reflect on and consider his own personal relationship with the Lord.
“The question allows a youth to talk about his own duty to God,” said Russ Hunsaker, a national Boy Scout leader who also serves as bishop of the East Millcreek 11th Ward, Salt Lake East Millcreek North Stake.
Bishop Hunsaker was part of a nationwide committee that developed the new “Duty to God” rank advancement requirement. The committee included representatives from a variety of religions who recognized the deep and essential connection between Scouting and serving God.
Re-establishing that connection, he said, “helps make sure Scouting is around for the next 100 years.”
Throughout the committee’s development and eventual implementation of the “Duty to God” advancement requirement, Bishop Hunsaker kept the Primary and Young Men general presidencies up to date on the changes. They were supportive of the enhancements.
For young men — and young women — in the Church, performing one’s duty to God is already a part of their day-to-day lives. The Church’s globally practiced Duty to God program is framed by Learning, Acting andSharing. Scouting’s new rank advancement question “is really just a complement to the Church’s Duty to God program,” said Bishop Hunsaker.
While each Scout seeking a rank advancement is asked about his duty to God, the discovery of that sacred duty still happens in a boy’s individual life and with his family, his priesthood quorum and his Scout troop.
“Sometimes the best place to help a Scout understand and talk about his duty to God is still on a campout, outdoors and sitting around the campfire,” said Bishop Hunsaker.
Author Jason Swensen | Church News Staff Writer (article and photo by Jeff Hattrick are used with permission)
During a Scoutmaster conference or some other interview, the Scout tells about how he believes he has done his duty to God. It is a pretty simple requirement, but the idea is for the Scout to have a self-reflection about belief and reverence.
The requirement does not indicate that Scout and the leader need a long discussion nor is this some classroom group discussion. For this requirement, the Scout simply tells his leader how he believes he has done his duty to God. The telling might be a very brief statement, depending on the Scout and his family’s beliefs—and on where the Scout is in his development of understanding of such matters, which will evolve as the Scout matures through the ranks.
Pages 4–5 of this FAQ, will shed more light on the subject if you have further questions.