Several years ago at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, the participants were expressing gratitude to the ranch chairman, who happened to be me. They had asked my son, Scott, married with children, to say something. He came up on the stand, dressed in his Scout uniform, stood in front of me, raised his arm to the square in the Scout sign, and said:
“Dad, on my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight” (see Boy Scout Handbook, Boy Scouts of America ). He said it with sincerity and as an oath, tears glistening, his voice filled with emotion. I knew he meant it with all his heart and soul.
Before you take an oath, it’s important to know what it means. “On my honor” means that we will keep the oath—that our honor depends upon it. If we fail to keep the Scout Oath, we are violating a solemn promise. It continues, “… to do my duty to God.” This means, from a Church point of view, that we attend Church, pay tithing, accept callings, honor the priesthood, keep God’s commandments, and keep the standards of dress and conduct. Then the oath states, “… and my country.” Wherever we live in the world we should do our duty to our country by obeying the laws, sustaining good leaders, honoring the flag, and being good citizens.
An important part of the oath states, “… to obey the Scout Law.” The Scout Law is a wonderful model for life.
A Scout is trustworthy. Imagine if every Scout practiced this first principle of the Scout Law with all his heart. There are millions of Boy Scouts and leaders around the world. What a dramatic impact we could have on those around us if we all were trustworthy.
Each principle of the Scout Law is a sermon and demands action if we would live and practice the oath we take: a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
A Scout who takes the Scout Oath weekly should remember it is something he is committing his soul to. Imagine what a blessing it is to be loyal to Scouting, family, Church, country, and friends!
We take an oath to be friendly, kind, and courteous. At a national jamboree a 12-year-old Scout got separated from his patrol. He was standing alone in a sea of Scouts and about to break into tears. An older Scout saw him and went over and introduced himself. “I have a gift for you,” the older boy said. “It is a hand-carved bolo tie. A great Scouter, Bill Burch, carved it. He numbers each one. He has carved over 40,000.”
The older Scout presented the tie to the young scared Scout. About that time the patrol found the boy. They gathered around him, and for a few moments he was the center of attention with his new bolo tie. The tears had disappeared; he felt important. The older Scout had truly been friendly.
Not one of the 12 points mentioned in the Scout Law is selfish; the prophets of God in the Book of Mormon and other scriptures have taught each point. I believe the Scout Oath is an inspired oath for all young men.
For example, to be obedient is a great and wonderful blessing. It is a privilege to be obedient. It is not a “have to do” because of the standards; it is a “get to do.” We really are free when we are obedient to God’s commandments and to the Scout Law.
It is a blessing, as well, to be cheerful. I recall Elder Loren C. Dunn (1930–2001) of the Seventy several years ago suggesting in a talk “that a certain man looked like he had been weaned on lemon juice through a dill pickle.” Cheerfulness is contagious and is a strong positive influence for good. People enjoy being around others who are happy. In Proverbs we read, “A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance” (Prov. 15:13). Also it states, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine” (Prov. 17:22).
If being cheerful is good for the soul, being thrifty is good for our financial well-being. Wastefulness and indulgence are not of God. They are negative influences and have serious consequences on us by and by. When we are thrifty we are self-reliant, able to be free to assist those in need. Scouting instructs us to be wise with our resources.
Profound knowledge and direction come from the Scout Law. A Scout is brave, clean, and reverent. Bravery is usually not sensational, although it may be. Bravery is manifest in many small acts, such as defending a young man against those who would mock or physically abuse him. It is standing up for an ideal and letting your voice be heard.
Bravery is a trait every young man can develop. It is based on love for others more than safety for self. One Venturer Scout who is blind signed up to go on a hike in southern California with his Scout troop. They hiked to Lord Baden Powell Peak over a steep trail. The young man held on to the shirt of a fellow Boy Scout every step of the way. It was a long hike and took two full days. This boy did not complain, did not seek pity, just kept grinding on and on until they came to the trail’s end. Equally as brave was the Scout who volunteered to lead his friend over a steep and challenging trail. He felt honored to help.
The traits of cleanliness and reverence complement each other. To be clean refers to body cleanliness, clean clothing, being well groomed and wearing appropriate attire.
To be reverent demands that we acknowledge God, that by our actions we express our devotion to Him. Reverence for the Lord has a profound impact on our conduct, our language, our personal prayers, and our standards. It is interesting that reverence is the 12th point in the Scout Law. It sums up all the others. Violating any of the other 11 points would be irreverent.
We declare in the Scout Oath that we will “help other people at all times.” A 12-year-old Scout went to troop meeting at Mutual one Tuesday evening. When Mutual was over, he did not show up at home for about an hour and a half. His parents were concerned and were about to go look for him when he came through the door. “Where have you been?” the anxious father asked.
“One of the members of the bishopric was putting up the chairs all alone,” he replied. “You remember my patriarchal blessing states, ‘You were born to serve your fellow men.’ I stayed and helped him put away all the chairs. I sure love him.”
We do love those we serve. Imagine millions of men and boys helping other people at all times.
If we are true to the oath, we will also keep ourselves “physically strong.” We will eat wholesome foods, stay in good physical condition, and not abuse this wonderful body we have. Physical health brings happiness. It increases our capabilities in so many ways.
The Scout Oath includes being “mentally awake.” We must have good health to be mentally awake. Our eyes reflect whether we are awake or not. To be mentally awake we must see what is going on around us. We must be alert and aware.
The oath concludes with being “morally straight,” which means we do not deviate or compromise standards of chastity, virtue, or wholesomeness. We stand on higher ground and remain morally clean. A Scout who makes an oath that he will be morally straight is duty bound to live that way. The Scout Oath prepares us for the priesthood oath and covenant. Virtue is an essential part of our priesthood oath.
Think with me about President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Thomas S. Monson, and President James E. Faust taking the Scout Oath. Can you think of anything in the oath that they are not living daily? Do the other great men you know—your fathers, bishops, stake presidents, seminary teachers, and Scout leaders—live in harmony with the Scout Oath? They do.
Fellow Scouts, remember the sacredness of an oath. It is violated only to the detriment of your character. By living the Scout Oath and preparing for the oath and covenant of the Melchizedek Priesthood, you are truly preparing yourself to serve God, your fellow man, your family, and your community. Taking the Scout Oath is a sacred trust endorsed by the First Presidency. Living the Scout Oath will help you become the kind of man God can use in building His kingdom on earth.