The connection between a youth’s duty to God has long been one of Scouting’s tenets. 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 newest Scouts learn that “a Scout is reverent” and as they take the oath “to do my duty to God and my country.”
Charter and Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America
ARTICLE IX. POLICIES AND DEFINITIONS
Section 1. Declaration of Religious Principle, clause 1.
The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God. In the first part of the Scout Oath or Promise, the member declares, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law.” The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgment of His favors and blessings are necessary to the best type of citizenship and are wholesome precepts in the education of the growing members. No matter what the religious faith of the members may be, this fundamental need of good citizenship should be kept before them. The Boy Scouts of America, therefore, recognizes the religious element in the training of the member, but it is absolutely nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training. Its policy is that the home and the organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.
To strengthen this part of Scouting, last year, BSA added “duty to God” requirements to every rank. Since the beginning of 2016, Boy Scouts seeking rank advancement are being asked, with each respective rank, “Tell how you have done your duty to God.” This makes youths’ obligation to serve God a defined element of their advancement through Scouting—from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout, including Eagle Palms.
However, no defined list of “duties” is prescribed. This is simply an opportunity for youth, at each step of their Scouting path toward Eagle, to reflect on and consider their own personal relationship with God.
“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 national 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.
“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.
In Cub Scouting My Family’s Duty to God became a Tiger Adventure, Duty to God Footsteps became a Wolf Adventure, Fellowship and Duty To God became a Bear Adventure, and Duty to God and You became a Webelos Adventure.
In Venturing the Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit Awards all require you to: “Complete a structured personal reflection, and use this reflection and what you learned from the process to prepare for goal-setting and as part of your Discovery Award Advisor conference. Explore one of the following areas: Development of Faith, Development of Self, Development of Others.” In addition, for the Summit Award you must also: “Create a personal code of conduct. This code of conduct should be guided by your explorations in the areas of faith, self, and others.”