Night was falling as I stood outside the main lodge of a Scout camp earlier this month. The air seemed to tingle with anticipation as many boys in Scout uniforms lined up with sleeping bags in tow. One boy approached me and asked when we were going to head up to the ceremony site. I pointed to three older Scouts who were reviewing preparations nearby and said, “I don’t know. You’d better ask those young men; they’re in charge here.”
Before long a number of older Scouts spaced out along the line and began leading the train of Order of the Arrow candidates down the trail. Several of us adults tagged along, but the youth had everything well under control. Thus began the induction into the OA for a group of Scouts along with a few adult Scouters. This OA site briefly describes the Ordeal experience:
“The induction ceremony, called the Ordeal, is the first step toward full membership in the Order. During the experience, candidates maintain silence, receive small amounts of food, work on camp improvement projects, and sleep apart from other campers. The entire experience is designed to teach significant values. All candidates for membership must complete the Ordeal.”
To demonstrate the validity of the final sentence of this statement, I invite you to review a short video featuring current BSA National Commissioner and former LDS Young Men General President Charles W. Dahlquist, who completed his Ordeal while doing service on a cold and rainy weekend this past spring.
The title of this post is taken from one of the statements made in the video by Brother Dahlquist: “Service is much more than a project; it’s a way of life, and I encourage you to live that life full of service, not just in a project, but looking for every opportunity to make a difference.”
This is what the Order of the Arrow aims to do for Scouts: change them from good boys, who show up and work when asked to participate in an organized service project, into young men who lead service projects and who willingly reach out to unselfishly serve others in their daily lives.
Youth today are constantly bombarded with messages telling them that happiness is found in the ultimately empty pursuits of status and stuff. They need institutions that help them realize that the true path to a meaningful and happy life is found in selfless service.
This is particularly important for bearers of the Aaronic Priesthood, since one of the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood is to give meaningful service. Truly meaningful service emulates the example of our Savior Jesus Christ, whose atonement constitutes the greatest act of unselfish service in history. Tellingly, after this unparalleled sacrifice, the Savior told the Nephites, “Behold, my joy is full” (3 Nephi 17:20). Sacrifice for others brings joy.
Service projects are valuable and important. But the most meaningful service a young man will give will be the service he chooses to render of his own accord. Organized service can help lead young men to develop this desire. The OA offers an institutionalized service-oriented opportunity to enhance and augment your efforts to instill a Christlike love of service in the lives of your young men.
Hurry. Time is running out for the young men you serve to get involved.
Questions to Ponder
- How important do you feel it is for the youth in your care to unselfishly serve others?
- What opportunities do your youth have to develop a love of selfless service?
- What opportunities do they have to lead out in selfless service?
- Did you realize that the Order of the Arrow can help your boys develop a greater desire to serve others and to lead others in service?
- How will you use this understanding to bless the youth you are called to serve?
-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.