A hush settled over the Scouts and Scouters standing in the snow. The group and the flag were illuminated by two lanterns and a campfire. I watched as youth members of my Order of the Arrow chapter re-enacted a tradition that has endured for a handful of years, reverently lowering the flag at our annual district Klondike derby camp.
For nearly a decade now our OA chapter has helped staff district camping events, such as camporees and Klondike derbies. This is a natural fit for a number of reasons:
- The OA chapter falls under the leadership of the district camping chair.
- Promotion of Scout camping is one of the central purposes of the OA (Order of the Arrow Handbook. 2015 ed. Boy Scouts of America, 8, 10, 102-103).
- As camp event staff, OA members serve while demonstrating leadership, helping fulfill two more of the the Order’s purposes.
In Blog #5 I explained about the Scout camp origins of the OA. Although more than a century has passed since that founding, the OA continues to hold to its camping roots. One of the Order’s purposes is to “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” (OA Handbook, 8).
While camping is a method rather than a purpose of Scouting, proper Scout camping can’t help but accomplish the Scouting aims of building character, citizenship, and fitness.
When a troop or team attends any of the camping events sponsored by my district, they see OA members serving on staff. This happens in multiple seasons and all kinds of weather conditions, helping to promote year-round Scout camping.
This staff experience helps “Develop leaders with the willingness, character, spirit, and ability to advance the activities of their units, our Brotherhood, Scouting, and ultimately our nation,” which is another purpose of the Order (OA Handbook, 8).
Working on camp staff also moves OA youth along the path to yet another of the Order’s purposes, to “Crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others” (OA Handbook, 8).
I reminded the boys in my chapter of the value of serving others as they struggled to dig the camp’s fire bowl out from under feet of snow and hard ice last Friday night. Their service allowed a lot of boys to enjoy the flag ceremony and the subsequent campfire program that was carried out by chapter members.
Then in the morning the OA boys raised the flag during a snowstorm and helped run Klondike events afterward. The members of the units in attendance no doubt did the lion’s share of the work at the overnight event. But the OA boys provided valuable service and leadership that enhanced the camping experience.
Nearly every LDS scoutmaster and Varsity coach has boys in his unit that would benefit greatly from further developing the kinds of leadership and service qualities that the OA is designed to promote. Every mission president pines for missionaries to arrive in the field with these character traits firmly implanted in their souls. Years of camping can also instill the ability to deal with spartan living conditions, which is a plus in many missions. It doesn’t hurt for missionaries to arrive in the field being used to standing up and doing presentations in front of people.
While one of the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood is to prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission, that’s just the beginning of the need for the attributes that can be developed through OA membership. The Church desperately needs young men to become Melchizedek Priesthood holders with leadership skills and an undying willingness to serve others unselfishly.
Today’s young men will be tomorrow’s Church leaders. The character your boys develop today helps dictate the kind of Church members and leaders they will be in the future. As a scoutmaster or Varsity coach you have the ability to better build the future of the Church by helping young men join the Order of the Arrow. Contact your local OA chapter, lodge, or your council office for details.
Questions to Ponder
- Were you aware that OA membership can help your young men develop traits that will enable them to be better missionaries, Melchizedek Priesthood holders, husbands and fathers?
- Would you like the young men you serve to become adult Church members and leaders infused with the qualities promoted by the OA?
- What will you do to better enable the youth in your unit to become these kinds of souls?
-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.