As Committee Chair, I recently met with a Scout who told me he was ready to submit his Eagle Scout application and wanted some help. I asked him what his “position of responsibility” was in his unit and he looked at me like a “deer in headlights.” Unfortunately for me, over the years, this has not been an uncommon experience. What is our attitude toward the requirement for the ranks of Star, Life, and Eagle that a Scout must fulfill one of the specified “positions of responsibility?”
“‘Serve actively in your unit for a period of … months in one or more … positions of responsibility’ is an accomplishment every candidate for Star, Life, or Eagle must achieve.” Guide to Advancement 2017, 220.127.116.11. “The position must be listed in the position of responsibility requirement shown in the most current edition of Boy Scout Requirements.” Id., 18.104.22.168.1.
I have often heard Scouters and other adults discussing the need to make sure every Scout has one of the specified “positions of responsibility” as if it was to be achieved by some perfunctory assignment. Some even refer to it as a “waiting period.” Not only does this attitude raise questions about whether the Scout has met the requirements for advancement, it suggests a missed opportunity for the Scout for personal growth and development.
The “Duty to God” pamphlet observes that the Lord has commanded, “Let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). Could learning and fulfilling a position of responsibility help prepare a Scout to learn his duty in the priesthood? Could it help prepare him to make and keep sacred covenants?
Elder Holland taught us that covenant keeping is “the heart and soul of our purpose in mortality.” (“Keeping Covenants: A Message for Those Who Will Serve a Mission,” Jeffrey R. Holland, New Era, Jan. 2012, p. 2) In the gospel, “Helping children (Scouts) understand, make, and keep sacred covenants is another key in creating a sin-resistant generation” (A Sin-Resistant Generation,” Joy D. Jones, Ensign, May 2017, p. 89). Can we as Scouters help our Scouts see a connection between fulfilling a position of responsibility and doing our duty to God and making and keeping sacred covenants? What better way to help a young man prepare to serve a mission?
When we assign a position of responsibility just to check off the box, we not only deprive the Scout of an opportunity to grow, but we are not following the program. “When a Scout assumes a position of responsibility, something related to the desired results must happen. It is a disservice to the Scout and to the troop to reward work that has not been done.” Troop Leader Guidebook, Volume 1, page 99.
What is a “position of responsibility”? That depends on the position. Some of the responsibilities of a “Patrol Leader” are as follows:
- “Plan and lead patrol meetings and activities.
- Assign each patrol member a specific duty.
- Represent your patrol at all patrol leaders’ council meetings and the annual program planning conference.
- Prepare the patrol to participate in all troop activities.
- Work with other troop leaders to make the troop run well.
- Know the abilities of each patrol member.”
When we teach a Scout how to fulfill a position of responsibility, we help him work toward almost every one of the purposes of the Aaronic priesthood. He becomes converted, learns how to fulfill priesthood responsibilities, gives service, prepares for the temple and to receive the Melchizedek priesthood, serve an honorable mission, gain education and he prepares to be a worthy father and husband. If we do not have high expectations of our Scouts with respect to their positions of responsibility, we are depriving them of some of the greatest opportunities for growth they can experience in Scouting and in their years as a youth.
Fulfilling a position of responsibility is simply learning to serve others. “To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves,” President Thomas S. Monson teaches. “No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.” “President Monson: Service Brings Joy.” Not a flighty feeling that comes from pursuing selfish pleasures but a deep and lasting joy.
The “Genius of Scouting” is that when Scouts are doing fun things they enjoy with their friends and learning new skills, they are more easily motivated to serve each other. What might be viewed as a chore can be turned into an opportunity to serve the “team.” Scouts who might not otherwise take to a new assignment or responsibility are more open to service when it helps them “have fun with their friends.” In the process, they learn to find true joy in serving others.
 For Star and Life ranks: Patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, senior patrol leader, troop guide, Order of the Arrow troop representative, den chief, scribe, librarian, historian, quartermaster, bugler, junior assistant Scoutmaster, chaplain aide, instructor, webmaster, or outdoor ethics guide (or carry out a Scoutmaster-approved leadership project to help the troop). Eagle requirements are the same as above, however, bugler is not an approved position of responsibility for the Eagle Scout rank; likewise, a Scoutmaster-approved leadership project cannot be used in lieu of serving in a position of responsibility. Boy Scout Rank Requirements, pages 11-13.
-Bill Chapman lives in San Clemente, California, and loves to surf, trail run, backpack, camp, do anything in the outdoors, and watch young men achieve the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood through the Scouting program. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.