My gaze was naturally drawn to the mound of shaving cream that filled the pie tin that sat ominously on the table between me and the adult leader opposite of me. The two of us had been asked to participate in a friendly challenge, taking turns answering questions about the Order of the Arrow at an OA training event.
The questioning continued for quite a while, since each of us was well versed in OA matters. But one of us had to slip up at some point. That turned out to be me. The room filled with gales of laughter as my face was introduced to a shaving cream pie. My chapter chief snapped a photo of my undignified state while I couldn’t see.
The point was to help youth leaders learn more about the Order. The trainers figured that we might as well have some fun along the way. I was among a number of adults that cheerfully took a pie to the face that day to help boys learn.
Cheerfulness is the eighth point in the Scout Law. But it is such an essential element of Scouting’s National Honor Society that it is literally part of the Native American name of the Order, the brotherhood of cheerful service.
Smiles and generosity come easily when things are going well. But members of the OA pledge to “seek to preserve a cheerful spirit, even in the midst of irksome tasks and weighty responsibilities” (Order of the Arrow Handbook. 2015 ed. Boy Scouts of America, 11). This promise to choose optimism even under trying circumstances is part of the Obligation each OA member takes.
Bill Topkis, a member of the National Order of the Arrow Committee recently told a group of Arrowmen that the words cheerful and service can never be separated in the OA. It is cheerful service benefiting others that is at the heart of the OA brotherhood. This occurs in a virtuous cycle. Cheerful service brings joy that fosters cheerfulness in service, even when it may seem challenging.
Several years ago I watched Kelton, a fairly new OA member who was a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood accept an unexpected assignment to serve as an Elangomat at an Ordeal just moments before the event was to begin. Elangomats accompany and mentor Ordeal candidates throughout the 24-hour experience, doing pretty much the same things the candidates do. It’s arduous and challenging. But throughout the event, Kelton happily acted like it was the greatest thing in the world.
What does the OA promise of cheerful service mean to your Scouting unit? As a member of the OA you learn, “Your actions in living the Obligation as a member of your troop or team fulfill the primary goals of the Order.” You discover that “the main work of the Order is done by you, usually alone and without praise or reward” (Order of the Arrow Handbook. 2015 ed. Boy Scouts of America, 12).
Will the boys that join the OA from your troop or team always live up to this ideal? No. They are training for it, much as Aaronic Priesthood holders are imperfect while preparing for long-term temporal and eternal goals as outlined in the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. But the OA boys in your unit that take OA principles to heart will definitely be better at cheerfully serving others than they would be without the OA in their lives. I’ve seen this pattern repeated time and time again in the lives of young Arrowmen.
I challenge each scoutmaster and Varsity Scout coach in the Church to test this principle with the boys in his unit. Give them a chance and encourage them to find joy by becoming stronger in cheerful service. While this can be done without employing the OA program, I testify that God has provided this program for this purpose. He doesn’t need you to reinvent the wheel. Contact your local OA representatives today about holding an OA election in your unit in the near future.
Questions to Ponder
- What fruits of cheerful service have you experienced in your own life?
- Do you want the boys in your unit to have greater opportunities to enjoy these fruits in their lives?
- When will you contact your local OA representatives about a unit election so that boys in your unit can have more abundant opportunities for cheerful service?
“. . . For God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
-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.