Scott’s Brotherhood Blog #1: The Order of the Arrow: WHY?

Scott Hinrichs

Scott Hinrichs

I couldn’t take my eyes off the sashes worn by the young men in seasoned Scout uniforms. Each wore a white sash emblazoned with a shiny embroidered red arrow pointing over his right shoulder. To my 12-year-old eyes, these 15- and 16-year-old boys seemed rugged and mature.

Although I still didn’t know much about the Order of the Arrow (“OA” or “the Order”) following the boys’ brief explanation, I did know that I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be like those boys. I met one of the eligibility requirements because I held the First Class rank, but I couldn’t qualify for nomination because I lacked the required 15 days and nights of Scout camping.

I watched with envy as two of my good friends went away to the overnight induction experience known as the Ordeal and returned wearing those coveted sashes. They wouldn’t say much about their experience. I would have to wait a year until I was nominated by my troop to find out for myself what it was like.

Many good Latter-day Saint Scoutmasters and Varsity Scout Coaches know as little about the OA as I did during my year of anxious waiting. Some know far less.

Many Scout leaders don’t know what the OA is or why they would want their boys to be part of it. They have no idea how the OA can help the members of their troops and teams better fulfill the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. They don’t see how a secondary organization can do any more than the standard Church programs to help young men become true servants of God.

In my monthly Scott’s Brotherhood Blog posts I hope to answer these questions and many others. Although I am still learning, a lifetime in the Church and more than four decades in the OA should allow me to provide useful insights about OA Scouting from a Latter-day Saint perspective.

Let’s start off with this BSA statement describing the OA:

As Scouting’s National Honor Society, our purpose is to:

  • Recognize those who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives and through that recognition cause others to conduct themselves in a way that warrants similar recognition.
  • Promote camping, responsible outdoor adventure, and environmental stewardship as essential components of every Scout’s experience, in the unit, year-round, and in summer camp.
  • Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation.
  • Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others.

After reading this, perhaps you can begin to understand how membership in the OA can help young men fulfill the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. The Native American name of the OA translates to “the brotherhood of cheerful service.” Can you see how membership in an organization that is dedicated to unselfishly serving others can help fulfill the constant prophetic call to joyfully lose ourselves in service to God through serving others? (See Mosiah 2:17 and  Prophets and Apostles/President Monson: Service Brings Joy.)

Frankly, when I joined the OA as a 13-year-old boy, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. My understanding of the OA and its purposes grew as I became more involved. Little by little, my selfish reasons for joining the Order gave way to taking seriously the Order’s charge to develop a happy life through selfless service.

Is this something you want for the young men you are called to serve? Then join me each month for a brief message about how the OA can help Latter-day Saint young men along the trail to becoming happy servants of God.

 

Questions to Ponder

  • Do you believe that selfless service leads to godly joy?
  • Do the youth you serve have a sufficiently strong testimony of unselfish service?
  • Is it worth exploring the resources the Lord has made available to increase the testimony of service among these youth?

 

“I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).

 

-Scott Hinrichs has been actively Scouting since age eight. He has served in many youth and adult Scouting positions and has been a member of the Order of the Arrow for more than four decades. He and his wife are raising their family in North Ogden, Utah. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. David Parker says:

    I LOVE that this will be a new regular blog. We struggle to get units to hold elections. Hopefully this will shine more light on this great program.

  2. Kevin Gecowets says:

    The principles and activities that the OA involves youth in are very compatible with LDS theology and practices. But the biggest obstacle I run into with encouraging LDS troops to run elections in our area is the same obstacle I run into with LDS Scouting relationships in general. Our youth and adults are just so busy with worthwhile things. Adding another seems daunting. My boys and I have had to make choices to attend OA events or church events, and that choice often turns off LDS scouters, or results in the OA sash being a trophy not a commitment. How do others deal with this?

    1. Kevin, you bring up an issue that is general across all organizations that involve youth. Youth today have nearly limitless options vying for their finite time, where youth of previous generations tended to have far fewer options. This is a complex issue that doesn’t lend itself well to a short comment. I have plans for a full post on the issue, but it’s a few months down the road. In the meantime, Christopher Parrett’s comment below offers some interesting insights.

      1. Hello Scott:

        I think we have indeed found a working solution for OA and LDS boys. At least in my case it is working and working VERY well. And I am eager to share with any and all what we have found that works. There are some 17 districts in our council with perhaps 7-8 active chapters. But NONE of them have more than a handful of active boys. Our chapter frequently accounts for 50% of attendance at Lodge Events. Wish there was a way to attach images or documents to this post, would love to share some material with you!

        1. You can email me at reachupward at comcast dot net.

  3. I am the Chapter Advisor for the SouthFork District in the Grand Teton Council near Idaho Falls ID. Our chapter currently has 27 highly active young men in it and several adults. We became a chapter in March of 2015 after being elected into the order in the summer of 2014 and 7 of us completing our ordeal in August. At the time there was NO functioning chapter and had not been on in many years. Myself and 6 boys formed the new chapter and set out to GROW by recruiting! We reached 30 members (adult and boys) last December. This year we expect to at least double that!

    The key to our success and rapid growth in a 100% LDS environment has been through aggressive recruiting coupled with FUN FUN FUN chapter meetings that all the boys WANT to go to. The moment a new boy has been elected we imeadiatly bring them into the chapter and get them participating, so by the time the next fellowship/ordeal comes along they are already, for all intents and purposes, chapter members.

    The new boys already have friends and relationships and are EAGER to continue forward. And as a chapter we do LOTS of activities that focus in on building up the relationships of boys as friends! As the chapter advisor I let the boys determine the focus for the chapter and do my best to support them and follow their lead. We have traveled to Colorado and Washington for leadership courses as a chapter activity.

    I have also created custom brochures that I use to introduce OA to Scoutmasters to encourage them to let us stage unit elections, and a brochure we pass out to all newly elected candidates that welcome them into OA. This summer our chapter will have representatives at all 3 of our council summer camps to make sure every elected boy or adult from our district is identified and welcomed in and followed up with!

    And we use SOCIAL MEDIA in a huge way to stay in daily contact with all of our chapter members!!

    1. Patch says:

      Christopher – I would be very interested in seeing your materials.

  4. Jeff Ansley says:

    I have been trying to get the LDS units in my area (Beaverton, Oregon) to hold elections for the longest time. Sometimes I am successful and get a Scoutmaster that knows about it, often I run into a lot of grief. I teach the LDS relationships class at conclave and have been a chapter adviser (2 times). Currently I serve on the Lodge as the Merchandising Adviser and do the same at the section level.
    Any current information would be of great help as I will pass that along to my successor and others in the lodge.
    Thanks — Keeping the Vigil for 34 years.

    1. Jeff, I am in my third round as chapter adviser and I feel your pain. Over the course of my monthly blog posts I plan to address in detail the concerns you mention.

      For starters, I think it’s important to look at the matter from the point of view of the typical LDS Scoutmaster and Varsity Scout Coach. Consider everything they are trying to do, the influences they experience, and the resources available to them.

      Seriously imagining ourselves in their places can help OA stalwarts understand why adult unit leaders act as they do. It can help us realize how we can better help them carry out their callings. Empathy and compassion are Christ centered attributes that we need to model if we hope to succeed in our mission. Prayer and pondering are also indispensable tools.

      More to come in future posts.

    2. Hello Jeff: Shout me your e-mail address and let me see if I can’t be a resource for you. I have some materials that MIGHT be of assistance. MORE are being created as we speak!!

  5. John Garrett says:

    Thank you, Scott! This is just what we need!!

  6. Mark Francis says:

    Excellent article!!!! Scott, thanks for taking the time to put this together and for sharing it. I am so thankful for the Order of the Arrow. As a young man the leadership and service opportunities it provided me changed my life for the better. I will be forever grateful for the impact the Order of the Arrow had on my life.

  7. When properly implemented, the Order of the Arrow can be a great opportunity for service to others beyond their troop.

    When I was a youth I avoided the Order of the Arrow because they didn’t seem to be doing much. Now, knowing the potential of the Order of the Arrow, I believe that we need to be better at educating people about its potential and reasons for membership and continued service through it. It is a way to “give back more to Scouting that it has given to us.”

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