Sunday, December 11, 2011

Two Arms
Brad Harris, in Trails to Testimony, cites the oft-repeated “Activity Arm of the Aaronic Priesthood” metaphor and clarifies it by comparing it to a push-up. Now, I can do a handful of one-arm push-ups, but I’d much rather use two of ‘em. It’s easier, and more effective to do so. Eyes front, knuckles down, back straight, up, drop, repeat 50 times. In growing our LDS boys and young men into responsible adults, we (in the United States, anyway) have two arms: the left arm, Scouting, and the right one, Duty to God. (DTG is flexible enough, however, to be adapted to those regions where Scouting is not part of the Church’s YM program.)

On My Honor medal
There’s an award that actually recognizes this two-armed approach: the On My Honor award. To earn it, young men must (1) complete the requirements for the Duty to God certificate for deacons (or for another Duty to God certificate) and (2) achieve the Scout rank of Star in the United States, or equivalent Scouting award in other countries.

Let’s explore it a bit.

At its most basic, DTG emphasizes five areas of growth, tied to the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood, listed below with corresponding Aims: Character (C), Fitness (F), Citizenship (Z) and followed by the DTG Emphases and the Methods of Scouting. Both programs are individually-based achievement curricula with a significant time commitment and an extensive support apparatus (patrols/quorums and adult volunteers), not to mention a “return and report” component. DTG is the spiritual focus, the right arm; BSA is the adventure and fun, the left arm.

AP Purposes

  1. Become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and live its teachings (C,F)
  2. Serve faithfully in priesthood callings, and fulfill the responsibilities of priesthood offices (Z,C)
  3. Give meaningful service (Z,C)
  4. Prepare and live worthily to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and temple ordinances (C)
  5. Prepare to serve an honorable full-time mission (C,Z)
  6. Obtain as much education as possible (C,F,Z)
  7. Prepare to become a worthy husband and father (C,F,Z)
  8. Give proper respect to women, girls, and children (C,Z)

DTG Growth Areas
Methods of Scouting
  • Spiritual Strength
  • Priesthood Duties
  • Health (D)
  • Education (T)
  • Family and Friends (P)
  • MP Prep (P)

  • Ideals
  • Patrols
  • Personal Growth
  • Leadership Development
  • Adult Association
  • Outdoors
  • Uniform
  • Advancement

And here are the Star requirements, with selected corresponding AP Purposes:
  1. Be active in your troop and patrol for at least 4 months as a First Class Scout (2)
  2. Demonstrate scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life. (1-8)
  3. Earn 6 merit badges, including 4 from the required list for Eagle (6)
  4. While a First Class Scout, take part in service projects totaling at least 6 hours of work. These projects must be approved by your Scoutmaster. (3)
  5. While a First Class Scout, serve actively for 4 months in one or more … positions of responsibility (or carry out a Scoutmaster-assigned leadership project to help the troop) (2)
  6. Take part in a Scoutmaster conference (1,2,4,5)
  7. Complete your board of review (3,6,7,8)

The first paragraph of the DTG book neatly sums up what the objective is, in the same way that Scoutmasters will explain how the purpose of Scouting is not the badges:
Fulfilling your duty to God is a 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.
The journey’s the thing, the badges (or certificates) are just mileposts. But it’s important to recognize those mileposts.

The projects within DTG evoke similar BSA-provided opportunities (i.e. merit badges), indeed, the Church specifically states that doing one will often satisfy the other. For example: a suggested project in the Education field (DTG p. 57) mirrors the Personal Management Merit Badge, suggested Family and Friends projects (p. 81) mirror Family Life, other projects require service commitments and demonstrating leadership, and boys/quorums are responsible for planning their activities (p. 91). There are frequent reviews with AP advisors (p. 99), which exactly parallel Scoutmaster conferences. A final comparison based on page 101, should illustrate just how much these two arms have in common: the quorum is to understand their duty, work together, share with each other, build each other up, the quorum president/SPL is to lead by example. Compare that with the Patrol Method. By seamlessly integrating DTG and Scouting, (maybe instead of having dedicated DTG and Scout nights throughout the month) we have a better shot at getting to that perfect push-up.

The methods drive the requirements, which reinforce and build up the Aims, which in turn augment and strengthen the AP Purposes. So, what we have are two mutually inclusive and interconnected programs that encourage: leadership, service, setting/achieving goals, personal development and more, plus a nice little medal to recognize the effort. Presenting a boy the On My Honor medal will recognize his efforts in a way that handing him a paper certificate to “give it to your mom so it doesn’t get lost” just can’t.

When I was younger, DTG was not emphasized as much as it is now - it was Eagle, Eagle, Eagle. (I did get an OMH, but I don’t remember anything of the DTG program.) But Scouting can only work for boys in the US and a handful of other countries. It's actually the Church that has turned a corner to emphasize that we need two arms to succeed, that Scouting is only half of the process. It also recognizes that boys in countries without viable Church-sponsored Scouting need similar excellent opportunities to direct them in this critical period of their lives. It is not, however, a replacement program.

Clearly, as a mere "EYOS leader", I'm thinking way outside my stewardship box, but I'm ok with that. At the very least, here's another way to recognize your boys' efforts. One final note, though, grown-ups can get an OMH, too! Just get trained. :) I’ve also decided that I’ll spend next year following the DTG plan and see where it takes me.

Prepared. | For Life.™

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