Mac’s Message #20: Recite the Scout Oath and Law Weekly

 

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

Scouting has been a part of the Young Men program in the Church since 1913. The three aims of Scouting—character development; citizenship; and proper physical, mental, and moral fitness—align perfectly with the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood.

The boyhood of Jesus Christ is described in only one verse in the scriptures: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). The phrase “favor with God” describes character; “favor with man” describes citizenship; and “in wisdom and stature” describes physical, mental, and moral fitness.

Scouting is “the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood” because it provides an ideal program for building character within your young men. Scouting encourages your boys to subscribe to an oath, law, motto, and slogan. It then provides opportunities for the boys to practice these values through small group associations and outdoor activities. When properly exposed to and taught these values, your boys will have a higher propensity to incorporate these characteristics into their daily lives.

As you may have noticed, I continually encourage you to learn and follow the Scout program as designed. I know it is an inspired program that is of increasing importance in keeping your boys on the proper path in this confusing and difficult world. You will strengthen the boys, and their moral fortitude, when you continually reinforce gospel and Scouting principles.

There is great power in pledging weekly on one’s honor do one’s best to do his duty to God and country, to obey the Scout Law, to help other people at all times, and to keep oneself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight. The weekly renewing of our covenants when partaking of the sacrament reminds us of our commitment to God. Likewise, when repeated weekly, the Scout Oath will remind your boys of additional commitments to God, their fellowman, and themselves. The Scout Law, Scout motto, and Scout slogan reaffirm the characteristics and attributes the boys should emulate in their daily lives.

The Lord uses repetition to ensure we “always remember” important gospel principles. When the young men raise their arms in the Scout sign each week and recite the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan, they are repeatedly reminded of the qualities that will help them become noble men of profound character. The ritual of repetition engrains in the minds of the young men the values we wish them to exemplify as missionaries, priesthood holders, husbands, fathers, and community citizens. As they stand in unison, the boys raise their arm to the square and testify they will be men of honor who do their duty to the best of their ability. They affirm they will represent what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America are all about.

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you have your boys repeat weekly the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan?
  • Are you preparing future missionaries, husbands, fathers, and priesthood leaders who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent?
  • Are you giving your boys ample experience doing a “good turn” by providing them with regular service opportunities?
  • Are you preparing your boys to succeed in life by instilling in them the qualities and characteristics that will make them good boys and great men?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  • What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?

 

“Verily I say, [young] men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; for the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as [young] men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward” (D&C 58: 27-28).

 

-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas. The views and opinions expressed in these blog messages are solely those of the author.

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  1. Michael Briggs says:

    Do you have a recommendation on how to do a Scout opening each week when Activities night also does a Combined opening with the YW?

    1. Mac says:

      I had posters printed of the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan and put them up permanently in the “Scout” room of our Church building. Since three wards meet in our chapel I got permission to do so from the three bishops. Right after the Mutual combined opening the boys go into the Scout room and the SPL immediately leads the boys in reciting the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan. They also recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Once this becomes ingrained in the boys’ routine each week they get into the good habit of going directly to the Scout room
      rather than standing around talking after the opening.

      On another note, Brenden’s suggestion is very good. Several years ago when I was the scoutmaster of our ward the Church had dispensed with the Mutual opening at that time. That worked perfectly for Scouting. I commandeered a room under the stage that was used for storage and turned it into a Scout room. Since there was no other opening meeting, the boys went immediately to the basement room where there always was a pre-meeting activity to engage the boys upon arrival. Then, exactly at 7:00pm, the SPL called the boys to order. They then lined up in patrol ranks and recited the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan. They also recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The SPL conducted any business for the week, introduced the activity for the night, and dismissed the boys to their individual patrol tables for the activity. The activity lasted exactly 45 minutes, unless the boys chose for it to continue longer. The activity also could go longer if the boys misbehaved. By misbehaving they cut into the 45 minutes set aside for team building games (or patrol meetings) that followed the activity each night.

      Unfortunately, I think the Mutual opening often inhibits a successful Scouting experience because it starts out on a negative. Sadly most Mutual openings are not as well organized or structured as the Scouting program.

  2. Brenden Taylor says:

    I’d recommend not meeting together each week. Have a bona fide scout opening on activity nights with the YM on their own, and save the joint opening exercises for the once a month combined night with the YW.

    I asked about that very thing when out at Philmont this summer, and was told the opening exercises did not necessarily have to be held jointly each week–“usually” is what the handbook says: the question of whether to split them for regular scout/YW activities was up to individual Bishops to consider.

    For wards who continue to hold a joint opening each week, perhaps do a scout opening when the Priests conduct, and a YW opening when the Laurels conduct. Personally I think it would be good for the YM to be familiar with the YW theme & values, and the YW the Scout Oath & law.

    A tangential part to consider is length of meeting. Some units have held a joint opening, then a short, separate scout opening once they separated. The main problem was how long this took when they were trying to shoe-horn the whole night’s activity into 1 hour. After two openings there wasn’t much time for actual activity. I don’t know where the one-hour limit mentality comes from, but I have encountered it in many wards across the country. Most non-LDS scout units meet from 1.5-2 hours for their weekly meeting; Handbook 2 says mutual activity nights should be from 1-1.5 hours long (8.13.1). If you are one of those trying to pack it all into 60 minutes, spread it out a little.

    1. Michael Briggs says:

      Our ward here in Michigan is considered a “rural” ward with some families traveling 20-30 minutes from the outskirts of the ward boundaries.

      So, we have pressure to end as close to 8pm as possible so that the families can get the boys home and get them in to bed in time to get them up again in the morning for seminary class.

      Having grown up in a non-LDS Scouting unit it was very hard on me to wrap my head around trying to do a “scout meeting” in 30-40 minutes.

      Combined opening NEVER started on time and then usually took 15-20 minutes. Didn’t have a fixed starting time, but had a “fixed” ending time.

  3. Geoff says:

    Thanks Mac for your post. On a similar note, I think it is important for the troop to do a flag ceremony every week. At our ward’s JUL 4 picnic last year (before I was involved in the troop), the scouts did a flag ceremony. It was pretty clear that they had either never done one before or it had been a long time. The flag ceremony was disrespectful and did not reflect well on the boys, the church, or scouting.

    1. Mac says:

      I agree. I’m amazed to learn in Eagle boards of review of boys who have no experience participating in a flag ceremony. With the new Honor Guard shoulder patch for boys, flag ceremonies could be something the boys perfect. I would love to see Scouting units doing more flag ceremonies at civic meetings, rodeos, school sports events, parades, etc.

  4. Gary Miller says:

    The key is to get the combined opening exercise to start on time and to last no longer than 10 min. Don’t have announcements that don’t pertain to everyone. The adjourn to your individual meeting places and have a scout opening. The scout opening ran by the SPL is the most important part of the meeting its the part where the SPL establishes the boys being in charge and its the part where the boys learn the meaning of the Scout oath and law.
    As a committee member I sit on many BORs where the scout does not know the Oath, Law, slogan, or motto. Where they don’t know the meaning of “On my Honor” or “Duty to God” and the opening is where the scouts learn these principles.

    1. Mac says:

      I have experienced the same thing on Eagle boards. In my opinion I find it hard to accept a boy is qualified to earn his Eagle if his experience in Scouting is so limited he doesn’t know the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan. It makes me wonder what parts of Scouting the boy’s unit actually practice. Hopefully by now the readers of these blog messages realize there is much more to Scouting than merit badges and advancement. I would hope by the time a boy becomes an Eagle candidate he has internalized the values of the Scout Oath, Law, motto, and slogan.

  5. When I was scoutmaster I was disappointed with the lack of organization and promptness of the combined Mutual opening exercises. Our TLC ultimately decided to start Scout meetings 15 minutes before Mutual was supposed to start. We had a pre-opener every week and then the SPL or ASPL would run through the whole opening: flag ceremony, oath, law, motto, slogan, and outdoor code. We would continue with our meeting until it became obvious that the combined opening exercises were actually going to begin. Troop leaders would then lead the boys into that meeting in an orderly manner. We would participate and then return to our meeting in an orderly manner.

    We didn’t have trouble getting the boys to come to meetings early because our patrols always executed such great pre-opener activities that the boys didn’t want to miss out. Due to our weekly routine, all of the boys were well versed in flag ceremonies and the values of the oath, law, etc.

    Not all troops can successfully pull off something like this. Boys in spread out units might have difficulty getting to the meeting early. But this system worked for our unit.

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