“Duty to God” Remains Essential to Scouting

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 5 April 2016

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve greets Scouts at the July 21, 2013, sacrament meeting at the 2013 National Jamboree.  Photo by Jeff Hattrick, Deseret News.

Article Highlights

  • Take time to reflect on and consider your own personal relationship with the Lord.
  • Look for opportunities to help a Scout understand and talk about his duty to God.
  • Make performing your duty to God become an everyday endeavor.

“Sometimes the best place to help a Scout understand and talk about his duty to God is still on a campout, outdoors, and sitting around the campfire.” —Bishop Russ Hunsaker, East Millcreek 11th Ward, Salt Lake East Millcreek North Stake

The connection between a young man and his relation to deity is one of the founding tenets of Scouting.

The first Boy Scouts of America Handbook for Boys, published over a century ago, stated, “No boy can grow into the best kind of citizenship without recognizing his obligation to God.” And the greenest Scout learns that “a Scout is reverent” even as he takes an oath “to do my duty to God and my country.”

For Latter-day Saint Scouts, the connection between a young man and the Lord is even more clearly defined. Scouting has long been the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood for deacons, teachers, and priests in the United States. Cub Scouting helps prepare many Primary boys for priesthood service.

Said President Thomas S. Monson: “I believe in the power of Scouting to bless and enrich lives for good.”

A boy’s obligation to serve God is now a defined element of his advancement through Scouting—from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout.

Since the beginning of the year, Boy Scouts seeking rank advancement are being asked, with each respective rank, “Tell how you have done your duty to God.”

For an LDS Scout, the “duty to God” question will likely be posed by his Scoutmaster, his bishop, or maybe his priesthood adviser.

No defined list of “duties” is prescribed. It’s simply an opportunity for the young man, at each step of his path through Scouting, to reflect on and consider his own personal relationship with the Lord.

“The question allows a youth to talk about his own duty to God,” said Russ Hunsaker, a national Boy Scout leader who also serves as bishop of the East Millcreek 11th Ward, Salt Lake East Millcreek North Stake.

Bishop Hunsaker was part of a nationwide committee that developed the new Duty to God rank advancement requirement. The committee included representatives from a variety of religions who recognized the deep and essential connection between Scouting and serving God.

Reestablishing that connection, he said, “helps make sure Scouting is around for the next 100 years.”

Throughout the committee’s development and eventual implementation of the Duty to God advancement requirement, Bishop Hunsaker kept the Primary and Young Men general presidencies up to date on the changes. They were supportive of the enhancements.

For young men—and young women—in the Church, performing one’s duty to God is already a part of their day-to-day lives. The Church’s globally practiced Duty to God program is framed by learning, acting, and sharing. Scouting’s new rank advancement question “is really just a complement to the Church’s Duty to God program,” said Bishop Hunsaker.

While each Scout seeking a rank advancement is asked about his duty to God, the discovery of that sacred duty still happens in a boy’s individual life and with his family, his priesthood quorum, and his Scout troop.

“Sometimes the best place to help a Scout understand and talk about his duty to God is still on a campout, outdoors, and sitting around the campfire,” said Bishop Hunsaker.

Houston-area Scout Jamboree. Photo by Brad Olson.