Eric was a typical Latter-day Saint 13-year-old deacon and Star Scout when he joined the Order of the Arrow. He had developed a love of Scouting and its ideals during his time in his ward’s Cub Scout, new-Scout patrol, and Boy Scout troop programs. But within a few months Eric would turn 14 and would be headed into a different situation, because his ward did not implement the optional Varsity Scout and Venturing programs.
A few weeks from now, on January 1, 2018, the majority of Latter-day Saint Aaronic Priesthood holders in North America will find themselves in a situation similar to Eric’s, as the Church discontinues its sponsorship of Varsity Scout and Venturing units, in favor of the new Teacher and Priest Activities program.
While the First Presidency has stated that LDS young men who wish to continue working toward the Eagle Scout rank should be supported by their local troops even after they are beyond typical deacon age, more than a few have wondered how this will work. Will some 14- through 17-year-old young men continue to meet with the Scout troop for Mutual activities instead of going with their own quorum? What about young men who achieve the Eagle Scout rank but still wish to remain involved in Scouting?
I believe that questions like these will largely be answered at the local level in each Church unit. Many situations will be worked out on a case-by-case basis, depending on the desires of the boy and his parents in conjunction with direction from local Church leaders. Let’s look at what happened with Eric for an example of how the OA can help.
Fortunately, Eric was a member of an active Order of the Arrow chapter. While he found fulfillment in his teacher and priest quorum activities, he was also invigorated by the Scouting focus found in the OA. Eric’s involvement in OA helped him demonstrate Scout spirit, fulfill service hours, complete merit badge requirements, and teach others using the Trainer’s EDGE method so that he could more readily advance to the Life and Eagle Scout ranks.
Eric also found himself serving in leadership positions in the Order. While these positions did not fulfill rank advancement requirements, they helped Eric develop valuable skills that came in handy in his church assignments, school life, and the jobs he worked. Even after becoming an Eagle Scout, Eric continued his OA involvement, where he earned additional distinction. He tells of some valuable spiritual experiences that occurred during OA campouts.
The time eventually came when Eric served an honorable mission. His Order of the Arrow brothers were among the group that welcomed him home at the airport at the close of his mission. Even today as a busy young father, Eric still maintains ties with some of his old OA comrades.
Not every LDS young man will want to continue Scouting after turning 14, but some will. For these young men the Order of the Arrow can be a haven that provides strong Scouting experiences that lend themselves to many of the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood.
Looking at a group of 12- and 13-year-old LDS Scouts, it can be difficult to tell which ones will want to continue Scouting after their tenure in the deacons quorum ends. For that reason it is wise to offer the OA opportunity to as many as possible. Eligibility requirements include holding at least the First Class rank, completing at least 15 nights of Scout camping, and being nominated by their peers to join the Order.
Once nominated, each boy can work with his parents to customize his level of involvement in the Order. The imperative role of making sure your boys have the chance to get to this point is yours as a Scout leader. Contact your local Scout council for details.
Questions to Ponder
- Did you know that the Order of the Arrow can offer valuable experiences to teachers and priests?
- Did you realize that as a Scouting leader you can play an essential role in helping your young men have this opportunity?
- What will you do differently now that you have this understanding?
-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.