My Ordeal, the overnight experience where I was inducted into the Order of the Arrow, tested and stretched my capabilities. Almost none of the others in attendance were familiar to me. I felt very alone. Little did I know how much that would change.
While my first OA brothers were friends from my home troop, I soon found myself serving with fine youth and adults from around my council and eventually from other councils in the area. My friend Scott, who happens to have a great name, is among those many OA brothers. Scott and I first met around an OA campfire, where bonds are still built in the age-old way. His friends dubbed him Indian Paintbrush due to his artistic abilities and his intense interest in Native Americans and mountain men.
Over the next few years Scott and I shared many OA adventures, first as youth and later as adult Scouters. Nowadays Scott is a professional artist and an assistant Scoutmaster for a special needs troop. We no longer see each other frequently, but we will always be brothers.
Brotherhood is one of the three main principles of the OA. Members are taught to develop brotherhood through cheerful unselfish service together, extending morally sound friendship to others, and setting a good example for all.
At a recent OA event I asked Dan, a 15-year-old member of a teachers quorum, about his views on the types of brotherhood found in his quorum, the OA, and sports teams. While all three types seemed good to him, he felt that priesthood and OA brotherhoods were qualitatively different from sports due to their focus on serving others.
Several teachers and priests said that they cherished the opportunities they had to fulfill their priesthood duties with respect to the sacrament and home teaching. But each noted that their Varsity Scout teams and Venturing crews focused mainly on personal growth, while the chief aim of OA involvement was to fulfill their obligation to unselfishly serve others. The brotherhood they had developed through regular and purposeful service with their fellows was important to these young men.
Many heads nodded knowingly when Baden, a member of a priests quorum, said that not much real Scouting happened in his ward once a boy turned 14. The OA provided an outlet for continuing and expanding the Scouting endeavors he had found so fulfilling from ages 8 through 13.
Last summer I had the privilege of spending a week with two of my sons and 15,000 OA brothers at the centennial National Order of the Arrow Conference at Michigan State University. It was a grand event where brotherhood was instantly shared with OA members from across the nation. I’m thinking of people like Dr. John, a chemist from South Carolina. We worked side by side volunteering for two days so that young men could experience the wonders of hands-on chemistry.
For the OA’s 50th anniversary in 1965 founder Dr. E. Urner Goodman wrote, “The Order of the Arrow is a thing of the spirit rather than of the mechanics. . . . The things of the spirit count.”
“Brotherhood—in a day when there is too much hatred at home and abroad.
“Cheerfulness—in a day when pessimists have the floor.
“Service—in a day when millions are interested only in getting or grasping rather than giving.
“These are the things of the spirit, blessed of God, the Divine Spirit,” (Order of the Arrow Handbook. 2015 ed. Boy Scouts of America, 1).
Like thousands of other Latter-day Saint OA members, I have seen how the OA can build upon and enhance the Aaronic Priesthood principles and skills young men like Dan and Baden are developing. The Scouting brotherhood found in the OA can complement and intensify the brotherhood fostered in priesthood quorums.
While priesthood brotherhood is essential, it is also vitally important that Aaronic Priesthood bearers develop choice connections beyond the Church. When Glenn L. Pace was a member of the Presiding Bishopric, he taught that “we cannot become the salt of the earth if we stay in one lump in the cultural halls of our beautiful meetinghouses. We need not wait for a call or an assignment from a Church leader before we become involved in activities that are best carried out on a community or individual basis,” (Glenn L. Pace, “A Thousand Times” [general conference, Oct. 1990];.
The Order of the Arrow consistently offers opportunities for young men to develop brotherhood as they serve with fine people outside of their wards and stakes, people who may or may not be Latter-day Saints. It provides ways for young men to let the light within them influence others who are also God’s children.
Questions to Ponder
- How could the young men you serve benefit from service-based brotherhood beyond their Church assignments?
- How could others benefit from Aaronic Priesthood bearers serving through the OA?
- Could the OA be an avenue for greater fulfillment of the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood?
“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27).
-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.