Mac’s Message #33: Scouting and Duty to God

Mac McIntire

Mac McIntire

In the Scout Oath a young man pledges to do his duty to God. Duty to God is the first responsibility of a Scouting youth. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints young men of the Aaronic Priesthood are given a Fulfilling My Duty to God: For Aaronic Priesthood Holders (2010) booklet to help them grow closer to the Lord.

As should be readily apparent from all of my previous messages—particularly my recent messages on rank advancement and merit badges—Scouting and the Aaronic Priesthood are inseparably connected. Scouting and the Church’s Duty to God (DTG) program are also inseparably connected. They are not independent programs. Yet I often hear Young Men leaders say they calendar one weeknight per month for Scouting, one night to work on DTG, and another night to fulfill priesthood responsibilities. The fourth weeknight of the month is reserved for joint activities with the Young Women.

Brethren, I hope you realize by now, there is no “Duty to God night” because the purpose of the DTG booklet is not about checking off tasks or completing assignments. It is not about getting a certificate or being recognized for one’s accomplishments. It is about teaching a young man to learn how to humbly fulfill his priesthood and Scouting responsibilities by being in tune with the Holy Spirit. DTG is an experiential instruction manual of how a young boy should live his life. DTG is a process that teaches a boy to learn about the gospel, act upon the things he learns, and share his testimony with others regarding his spiritual experiences. It is a process a young boy ought to experience every day of his life, not just one night a month or during special times set aside in quorum meetings.

You can help your boys learn the power of constantly learning, acting, and sharing by holding a reflection after each of your Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood activities (see Message #28). Through reflection a young man ponders how the experience helped him to gain the spiritual strength he needs to stay on the path of righteousness, to draw closer to the Savior as he exercises the priesthood, to learn how to apply the standards from For the Strength of Youth, or to prepare to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and be worthy to serve a full-time mission (see Fulfilling My Duty to God, 10–11). Again, fulfilling one’s duty to God is something a boy should be thinking about and doing regularly.

A boy learns about his duty to God from faithful parents and adult leaders who teach him through understanding, shepherding, and experiencing priesthood power. A boy begins to understand the priesthood when you “let every [boy] stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling” (D&C 84:109). Through shadow leadership you shepherd a boy and teach him how to fulfill his duty to God by “tak[ing] with [you] him that is weak, that he may be edified in all meekness, that he may become strong also” (D&C 84:106). The teachings of Jesus Christ connect in a boy’s mind when he experiences the gospel through service, missionary work, ministering to others, and fulfilling priesthood assignments. DTG is a means by which a young man learns “his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99). DTG definitely is not a one night per month program.

When the new Duty to God booklet originally came out, some Young Men leaders were puzzled that there no longer was a commemorative coin to be presented when a boy completed his DTG requirements. They didn’t realize that the responsibility of a righteous priesthood holder to fulfill his duty to God never comes to an end. A young man never finishes working on his Duty to God accomplishments during his six years in the Aaronic Priesthood because Duty to God is not a program; it is a way of life. The lack of a coin award was meant to emphasize this point.

Adult Scouting and Aaronic Priesthood leaders need to help their boys learn that the reward for DTG comes through learning, acting, and sharing. When a young man prayerfully studies the scriptures and learns about the gospel, he is rewarded with knowledge, insight, inspiration, and enlightenment. His heart and mind are opened with eyes of understanding. When he acts upon the things he learns, a boy is rewarded with the joy that comes from serving others. And when he shares what he learns, the Spirit bears witness and rewards him with the warmth that comes when one knows a thing is true.

The rewards of fulfilling one’s duty to God can be a daily experience. That is why every young man in the Church is encouraged to read his scriptures daily, pray daily, and “do a good turn” daily. The Lord wants your young men to “always have His Spirit to be with them.” He wants them to feel the wonderful blessings that come when one faithfully fulfills his priesthood duties each and every day.

If you are holding separate Duty to God nights, please stop. Fulfilling one’s duty to God is what every boy should be doing every day of his life for the rest of his life. I pray the Lord will bless you with an understanding of the DTG concept and how you can use it to inspire your young men to immerse themselves in regularly fulfilling their duty to God. Yours is an important calling in the Lord’s Church. You have been given stewardship over God’s young men. You have a duty to God to ensure your boys “may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands” (D&C 105:10).

 

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Have you helped your boys realize that fulfilling one’s duty to God is a lifelong pursuit?
  • Are you shepherding your young men in their priesthood duties so they gain understanding and experience in serving the Lord?
  • Do you fully recognized the power you hold to mold young men into righteous priesthood leaders?
  • Have you helped your boys to experience the rewards that come when they learn, act, and share their experiences with the Holy Spirit?
  • Do you take your calling seriously and magnify your priesthood responsibilities to teach the Lord’s “little ones” and bring them unto Him?
  • Are you doing your duty to God?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  • What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?

 

 “Fulfilling your duty to God is lifelong experience. Don’t think of this book as a list of tasks that you must hurry through in order to earn an award. Instead, focus on how the activities you choose can help you develop spiritual attributes and become the kind of priesthood holder Heavenly Father wants you to be” (Fulfilling My Duty to God, 8).

 

-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. David Ripplinger says:

    I agree that the Duty to God program in its current incarnation is meant to act less like a checklist than previously and encourage a regular way of life. However, I have seen many people repeat “it’s not a checklist” only to see the young men under their tutelage fail to ever open their booklets, much less earn the certificates.

    What’s happening is that people—I’m not sure whether consciously or subconsciously—are concluding that because “it’s not a checklist”, it is wrong to for the youth or adults helping them to set specific goals or pass things off in a sense (which is just a synonym to tracking progress on those goals). With such a fear to pass things off boy scout style, I have seen many leaders left wondering how to implement the Duty to God program.

    I’m going to break away from the popular crowd and argue that the Duty to God program is indeed a well-defined checklist with an end goal and award for completing it. It differs from previous versions in that it is much more customizable and is intended to have the requirements revisited on a regular basis throughout the young man’s time in each priesthood office, even after they have been initially completed.

    One argument toward it not being a checklist is in the “To Quorum Advisers and Parents” section, where it states toward the beginning that the booklet “should not be seen as a list of tasks that the young men must hurry through in order to earn an award.” But please note the qualification. It’s not a list of tasks that they hurry through to earn an award. It’s a list of tasks meant to promote a way of life and help them become effective servants of the Lord. But it’s still a list of tasks.

    Later in the “To Quorum Advisers and Parents” section, it explains several venues and methods for advisers and parents to “work on the learning activities”, “write their plans”, and to share “as they fulfill their plans”. That language sure sounds like completing well-defined tasks. In the “Duty to God Certificates” subsection, it explains precisely what is required for the young man to earn the certificate for a particular office, which is:
    1. Complete each Review page, one for Spiritual Strength and one for Priesthood Duties, when nearing advancement to the next office. This requires a conversation with and signature from a parent or leader.
    2. Complete the For the Strength of Youth project (and for priests also the Preparing for the Melchizedek Priesthood project).
    Additionally, each activity in the Spiritual Strength and Priesthood Duties sections is well defined with steps to complete it, such as read these passages or teach this lesson to your family or quorum or share your experiences. There is space to right down specific plans, progress, and evaluation. Definitely a checklist.

    The certificate obviously shouldn’t be the focus, but if they aren’t earning it, how do you know they aren’t at least minimally doing their duty to God?

    My suggestions for making an effective Duty to God program in your quorum are:
    1. The bishop should personally hold the quorum presidency accountable for a regular report on the progress of the young men in the quorum, both toward earning the certificate as well as regularly including it in their personal, family, and quorum study. The quorum presidency will most easily be able to report on this by having interviews of some sort and looking at each young man’s booklet together.
    2. The quorum presidency leads the quorum in discussing duties and sharing experiences from their Duty to God books in a portion of each quorum meeting. There’s a spot in the suggested agenda outline found within any Come Follow Me lesson outline online for them to do this before the adviser-led lesson has even started. It’s a good time to set and follow up on quorum goals that appear in the book, and the presidency can use the interviews I mentioned above to plan ahead for certain young men to share specific experiences and thus help them progress.
    3. Advisers and/or quorum presidencies ensure that each young man has a mentor, in most cases his father or mother, who explicitly agrees to sit down with him and work on the book together or discuss his progress (preferably at least once a week).
    4. Young men are regularly encouraged to either open the book or work on the plans previously made in the book during their daily scripture study. They are encouraged to repeat activities if they’ve completed everything.
    5. Duty to God progress of the quorum is discussed in every quorum presidency meeting and opportunities and expectations to receive revelation about how to help young men with this are given to the key holders (i.e. the presidents), with support from his counselors.
    6. Advisers personally work on their own Duty to God books. This familiarizes them with the book (too many leaders don’t even know what’s in them), makes a good example for young men to follow, and allows them to also participate in the sharing portion in quorum meetings and other settings.

    Regarding holding a Duty to God night at mutual, I disagree that this necessarily does a disservice or is out of line. The section “To Quorum Advisers and Parents” states multiple times that mutual is an appropriate place to consider working on the activities in the book. However, it is important to help people, especially parents, see that working on Duty to God (at mutual or anywhere else) is part of scouting and that scouting is part of duty to God. The On My Honor award and Boy Scout Religious Square Knot are scout awards which are achieved by earning the certificate for one office in the Duty to God program and by earning the rank of Star. Since “Reverent” is a point in the scout law and “duty to God” is the first point in the scout oath, religion is integral in scouting and this should be reflected in scouting activities. It is entirely appropriate and encouraged to call a Duty to God night the activity for that week of troop meeting or to call a worship service a scout activity.

    But I disagree that holding a Duty to God activity night is bad. I also disagree that it absolutely must be considered a regular troop meeting or scout activity. I think in the vast majority of the cases, if one decides to hold a Duty to God night, it is beneficial for it to be considered the scouting activity because it is in line with scouts and it helps people see the two as intertwined. Although troop meetings aren’t required to happen every week, it is very beneficial in almost all cases to do so to create a regular pattern for people to expect. Hey, you could even call combined mutual night a special troop activity.

    So, in conclusion:
    1. Though not necessary, Duty to God nights are not bad.
    2. Though Duty to God nights can be considered non-scout activities, it is almost always beneficial to consider them scout activities.
    3. Though Duty to God is less of a checklist approach, it’s still a checklist with clearly defined activities and goals.
    4. The best way to implement Duty to God is to measure and report their progress toward the certificate as well as their process of becoming and encourage regular opening of the books in personal daily scripture study and in quorum meetings.

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Excellent points and suggestions. Thank you for your comments and perspective!

  2. Alvin says:

    Our stake has Duty to God nights. They have only produced one young man who got all three (Deacon, Teacher, Priest) awards. 25% of time for everyone and only one boy result.

    My boys received all three. How did we do it? We took our Duty to God Books while doing fast offerings.

    Duty to God Nights have good intentions but do not produce results.

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