Duty to God (Scout Oath)

From ScoutWiki, For Everyone, Everywhere involved with Scouting and Guiding...
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Duty to God - Living the Scout Promise - This term has multiple usages in the Scouting Movement:

  • See Duty to God for other scouting references such as Scouting Religious Awards.

This article discusses how a scout can do his duty to God as the requirement to live the principles of the Scout Oath or Promise.

Article Objective

Duty to God is an important yet sensitive topic in scouting. It can be a very controversial topic because there are thousands of religious movements and traditions around the world, and many thousands more families that practice their own religious traditions. Many religious traditions are of a personal or sacred nature, but because they can vary quite dramatically, this topic can become quite controversial.

"The World Movement of Scouting is in a very unique position to help the different peoples and cultures of the world find common ground from among their best traditions and beliefs. By this Scouting can help promote better world citizenship and world peace." [1]

  • Duty to God - Key statements from notable scouting leaders.

Show Scout Spirit

A scout is expected to at all times, and in all places to show Scout spirit by living the principles of the Scout Promise and Scout Law. Many of these principles are closely connected with doing your Duty to God.

It should be clear to everyone that this is not a requirement that every scout lives the Law of God with exactness to your own religious beliefs. Instead this should be encouragement for every one to seriously study, pray and ponder about the meaning of life and what does religious mean to you and how can appropriate religious practices make you a better person.

One very important reason for these things is to help every young person learn the difference between right and wrong and why that should be an important part of your moral compass for the future. Remember also that just because everyone around you engage in activities that you know are wrong still does not make it right because you understand things from a greater, deeper perspective.

BSA Eagle Scout Requirement #2

An an example, Requirement #2, for to become an Eagle Scout, makes very specific reference to doing your Duty to God:

"As a Life Scout, demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law. Tell how you have done your duty to God and how you have lived the Scout Oath and Scout Law in your everyday life, and how your understanding of the Scout Oath and Scout Law will guide your life in the future. List on your Eagle Scout Rank Application the names of individuals who know you personally and would be willing to provide a recommendation on your behalf, including parents/guardians, religious (if not affiliated with an organized religion, then the parent or guardian provides this reference), educational, employer (if employed), and two other references."

Board of Review

During the Board of Review, a young scout will be asked questions about how he fulfilled this requirement. Depending upon his/her faith and beliefs, the scout's answers may vary greatly. A member of the Board should include at least one or more members that share the same faith background as the scout.

Questions may include the following:

  • How do you demonstrate Scout spirit in your daily life?
  • What does Scout spirit mean to you?
  • What does Duty to God mean to you?
  • As a scout what is your most important duty?
  • How do you think other people regard your character?
  • Do you think other people can count you to always do the right thing, even when no one else is watching?
  • What is the difference between right and wrong?
  • Do you respect the religious beliefs of others?
  • What does it mean to be reverent?
  • What does it mean to be obedient?
  • How has living the Scout Oath or Promise made you a better person?
  • How role will living the Scout Oath and Scout Law play in your future?
  • What principles guide you in being to able to determine the difference between right and wrong?
  • Everyone around you participates in an activity that you know is wrong, would you join them or abstain?
  • What are actions and consequences?

BSA Duty to God Video Series

Great collection of videos to teach youth about Duty to God:

  1. Duty To God - "It is better to build boys than to mend men."
  2. How to Start your Duty to God -
  3. Duty to God - Program Feature from Troop Leader.
  4. Duty to God in Action - Waterloo Council


1st Principle of Scout Promise

The exact wording of the Scout Promise varies slightly by country. To see the exact wording for your Scout Movement refer to the article Scout Promise.

Every scout is required to follow the Scout Promise (AKA: Th Scout Oath) which outlines four key principles or duties -

  1. Duty to God
  2. Duty to Country (or King)
  3. Duty to Fellow Man
  4. Duty to Self (ie obey the Scout Law)

WSOM Constitutional Requirements

Duty to God is a specially defined requirement of the Constitution of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). [2] In order to accommodate many different religions within Scouting, "God" may refer to a higher power, and is not specifically restricted to the God of the monotheistic religions. The WOSM Constitution explains "Duty to God" as "Adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom."

The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), which is a sister organization to WOSM, has the very same wording in their constitution (Part I, Article 2: Original Promise),[3] and follows similar policies.

1916 BSA Declaration of Religious Principle

The Boy Scouts of America maintains that no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognizing an obligation to God and, 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 organization or group with which the member is connected shall give definite attention to religious life.

Only persons willing to subscribe to these precepts from the Declaration of Religious Principle and to the Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America shall be entitled to certificates of leadership.[4] (Accredited to James E. West, 1st Chief Scout Executive of BSA)

2018 BSA Duty to God Affirmation

Underscoring just how important it is, the BSA National Executive Board met at their 2018 National Annual Meeting in Dallas and adopted a resolution that reaffirms the organization’s Duty to God:

WHEREAS the foundational values of the Boy Scouts of America are reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law;

WHEREAS the first part of the Scout Oath declares “On my honor I will do my best to do my Duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;”

WHEREAS the Declaration of Religious Principle in Bylaws of the Boy Scouts of America states that:

The recognition of God as the ruling and leading power in the universe and the grateful acknowledgement 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 of good citizenship should be kept before them.

WHEREAS the twelfth point of the Scout Law is Reverent and while the Boy Scouts of America is absolutely nonsectarian in its view of religious training, Reverent means that a Scout is faithful in his or her religious duties and respects the beliefs of others; and

WHEREAS these faith-based tenets have been a part of the Boy Scouts of America since it was founded and, notwithstanding any changes to Scouting programs, the commitment of the movement to Duty to God is unwavering;

Now therefore be it resolved that the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America hereby reaffirms its unequivocal commitment to the Declaration of Religious Principle as a fundamental component of the mission of the Boy Scouts of America. [5]

Common Core Beliefs

While there are thousands upon thousands of religious movements in the world today, but Scouting's Duty to God promises attempts to accommodate all of them as best as possible. Many of these will define Duty to God in great detail and with some bit of variation. Many scouting families identify with particular movement. Many others may not identify with any form of organized religious movement, but follow their own traditions in the home. However, many religious traditions follow a few key core beliefs that are important to note:

  1. Faith in a Supreme Being -
  2. Scripture Study - learning and understanding the Word of God.
  3. Prayer - Communication with deity
  4. Worship Service - (Examples: Regularly attend weekly religious service or to commemorate a religious holiday)
  5. Charitable Service - (ie: Do a Good Turn Daily - the Scout Motto)
  6. Obey the Law of God - general righteous living
  7. Invite Others to Faith -

It is noted here that some religious movements may have additional important core beliefs all of which you should discover during your practice of Scripture Study which will help you to learn about those.

1. Faith in a Supreme Being

The definition of faith made very dramatically for each person. But you may find some of the following elements necessary:

  • Founded on Truth : Faith only works when it is placed upon true principals. One Biblical writer called it "the evidence of things not seen." Otherwise it is just hope. [6]
  • Righteous Living : For Faith to work, you must put your life into harmony with deity. Usually done through prayer, righteous living and performing good works.
  • Faith provides the basis for Moral Living and making correct choices.

Sample discourses on Faith :

2. Scripture Study


A key part of fulfilling your Duty to God is to first learn it. Many religious faiths of a collection of both history and wisdom that are referred to as scripture. Taking a few minutes each day to study the holy books for your faith is an essential duty. An added bonus is the discovery of life-enhancing wisdom.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. [7]

Here are a few sample links of holy scripture that you can access free online:

  1. Christian New Testament (Holy Bible - King James Version) - A history of the ministry of Jesus Christ, his teachings, prophesies and wisdom, as well as the early history of the Christian Church, from nearly 2000 years ago.
  2. Christian Old Testament (Holy Bible - King James Version) - History, prophecies, and wisdom of the early Israelite People, beginning with the writings of the great prophet Moses. Core scripture for Christian, Jewish and other Abrahamic faith groups.
  3. The Book of Psalms - (Holy Bible - King James Version) - Jewish wisdom originating mostly from King David. Highly regarded in many faiths and cultures. (Yes, it is part of the Old Testament)
  4. The Book of Mormon - "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" - Used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Community of Christ Church and other Mormon/Christian faith based groups as a companion scripture to validate the Holy Bibile.
  5. New Era Magazine - A publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which believes in a church led by modern-day prophets and apostles. They believe that a key ingredient for the true church of God is that it is led by a living prophet. It is his duty to stand as the spokesman of God and his message is considered to by modern day scripture, specific to our lifetime. [8]
  6. Wisdom Literature - Seek Ye out of the best books wisdom and understanding.
    1. 100 Classic Books to Read -
    2. Book 2 -
    3. Book 3 -

3. Prayer

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (The Lord's Prayer: St Matthew 6:5-13)

"We are all children of God. He loves us and knows our needs, and He wants us to communicate with Him through prayer. We should pray to Him and no one else. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded, “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name”. As we make a habit of approaching God in prayer, we will come to know Him and draw ever nearer to Him. Our desires will become more like His. We will be able to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that He is ready to give if we will but ask in faith." [9]

  1. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. [10] [11]
  2. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?[12] [13]

4. Worship Service

Several of the major religious hold aside one day of the week for worship, introspection to repents of one's mistakes and to renew one's covenant to follow a path of good works.

  • Friday - Holy day of Islam
  • Saturday - Sabbath day of Judaism and Adventist Christians
  • Sunday - Common Sabbath day of mainstream Christianity

Observing a weekly Sabbath is #4 of the Ten Commandments given to Moses in the ancient Old Testament:

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Exodus 20:8-11

Additionally, there are many religious commandments and faith-based traditions for celebrating special holiday observances during the month and year. Which ones are unique to your religion?

See also

5. Charitable Service


See also:

  • Proverbs about Service - WisdomCommons.org - Exploring, Elevating and Celebrating our Shared Moral Core.
  • Lift Where You Stand - Everyone stands at a unique place and has an important task that only he can perform. (Dieter F Uchtdorf - Oct 2008)

6. Obey the Law of God

See the following Scoutwiki Articles:

  • Scout Law - The Scout Law attempts to closely mirror the Law of God.
  • A Scout is Reverent - Be reverent toward God. Be faithful in your religious duties. Respect the beliefs of others.
  • A Scout is Obedient - Follow the rules of your family, school, and pack. Obey the laws of your community and country. [14]

7. Invite Others to Faith

The resurrected Savior in his final instruction to his disciples before his departure, repeated a simple commandment three times : "Feed My Sheep". (St John 21:15-17)

Related Articles:

Duty to God Examples

Young Christ teaching the scholars in Jerusalem Temple

There are many significant Duty to God examples from history:

Example #1 : Jesus Christ

And when he was twelve years ​old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast...And when they (his parents) found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my (Heavenly) Father’s business?...And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. St Luke 2:42-52

Do you Have to Believe in God?

Fulfilling your Duty to God is actually a private, personal spiritual quest for each individual. Scouting is "absolutely non-sectarian" and therefore does NOT have a set Religious standards test. In fact, the opposite applies, where everyone has the free agency to define and pursue any religion they belief appropriate and are willing to allow all others the same liberty.

Now it could certainly be possible, that a person is unable to find a belief that is agreeable to their conscience. Some people spend their lifetime wrestling with their beliefs. Many others may conclude that God does not exist.

Look again at the wording of Requirement #2 (BSA) for Eagle rank: "Tell how you have done your duty to God...". The test is not if the scout became a devout member of a particular faith system or completed some mighty miracle.

But rather is he able to explain the following:

  1. What efforts he/she has made to ponder the nature of deity in the universe?
  2. The difference between good and evil?
  3. What it means to be Reverent?
  4. What is the purpose of life?
  5. What is his future role and responsibility to society?

Non-Faith Definitions

Consider the following general definitions that may fit who will exploring his Duty to God, may have decided that his/her path is not to join any set organized religion:

  1. Humanism - a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism and empiricism) over acceptance of dogma or superstition. Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress. It views humans as solely responsible for the promotion and development of individuals and emphasizes a concern for man in relation to the world. In modern times, humanist movements are typically non-religious movements aligned with secularism, and today humanism typically refers to a nontheistic life stance centred on human agency and looking to science rather than revelation from a supernatural source to understand the world. This group may define their Duty to God ideal as seeking the betterment of Humanity or of all life forms in the Universe.
  2. Agnostic - a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God. It is the view that the existence of God, of the divine or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. He might conclude that it is impossible to know what is your duty to God.
  3. Atheist - a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods. Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is the rejection of belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.
  4. Convert - one who sets aside the religious traditions of his ancestors to pursue another faith that he feels better defines his duty to God.

Teaching Scouts about Duty to God


Scouting teaches youth to do their Duty to God through 1) Program Delivery, 2) Special Observances, 3) Faith-based Partnerships and 4) BSA Religious Support.

  1. Scout Promise - at the start of every scouting meeting, the youth recite the Scout Oath and Scout Law and through that repetition come to know that they have a duty to God.
  2. Religious Emblems Program - earning the religious awards particular to your faith helps the scout and his family to better understand, appreciate and to follow their religious traditions.
  3. Give Meaningful Service - a scout learns that a important way to fulfill his Duty to God is to serve his fellow man.
  4. Earn a Heritage class Merit Badge - Some merit badges like American Heritage, Scouting Heritage, Genealogy, etc. focus on the study of important people from your past. Here youth have an opportunity to see what important role Duty to God played in shaping their lives and the choices they made. For example: did your forefathers come to America to seek religious freedom?
  5. Chaplain's Aide - Each scout troop, crew and ship should have a youth serving as Chaplain Aide to teach scouts about their duty to God and to promote scouting's Religious Emblems Program.
  6. Scout Sunday -
  7. Calendar of Religious Dates (BSA) -There are certain holidays that individual Scouts and Scouters of different faiths celebrate each year. These holidays are not always on the same date on the calendar and may not be familiar to everyone. In order to respect the traditions of all Scouts and Scouters, care must be taken in scheduling Scouting activities.
  8. Scouts' Own Inter-faith Worship Services - frequently held at weekend campouts.

Faith Based Partnerships

Several scouting organizations have developed meaning full relationships with same major religious groups to help promote Duty to God and religious emblems work unique to that faith:

  1. LDS/BSA.org - BSA and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, promoting Duty to God (Latter-day Saints) program.
  2. National Catholic Committee on Scouting - BSA with Catholic Church. " Scouting is a youth ministry."

Benefits of Practicing Duty to God

2018 Harvard Study

  • 2018 Harvard Study has shown that youths who regularly attend religious services, pray or meditate may get a well-being boost that sticks around into young adulthood.[15] The study, by VanderWeele and Harvard research scientist Ying Chen, is published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. (See also Benefits of Scouting.)

Among the findings, youths who attended religious services at least weekly as children and adolescents were:

  • About 18 percent more apt to report higher happiness between ages 23-30 than those who didn't
  • 29 percent more likely to be volunteers
  • 33 percent less likely to use illegal drugs

Those who prayed or meditated at least daily as kids were, as young adults:

  • 16 percent more likely to report higher happiness
  • 30 percent less likely to have sex at a young age
  • 40 percent less likely to have a sexually transmitted disease

Duty to God Quotes

1) "I have been asked to describe more fully what was in my mind as regards religion when I instituted Scouting and Guiding. I was asked: 'Where does religion come in?' Well, my reply is: 'It does not come in at all. It is already there. It is the fundamental factor underlying Scouting and Guiding.' " ( Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of Scouting)

Teaching Adventures


Duty to God Adventures - scouting activities that promote learning about Duty to God. Scouting is well known for its many great teaching activities. This especially holds true for teaching Duty to God:

  1. Ten Commandments Hike - town center day hike to visit local churches.
  2. Religious Emblems Program - Title used for a number of religious scouting awards.
  3. Chaplain's Aide - Each scout troop, crew and ship should have a youth serving as Chaplain Aide to teach scouts about their duty to God and to promote scouting's Religious Emblems Program.
  4. Scout Sunday -
  5. Calendar of Religious Dates (BSA) -There are certain holidays that individual Scouts and Scouters of different faiths celebrate each year. These holidays are not always on the same date on the calendar and may not be familiar to everyone. In order to respect the traditions of all Scouts and Scouters, care must be taken in scheduling Scouting activities.
  6. Scouts' Own Inter-faith Worship Services - frequently held at weekend campouts.

External Links

  • Emphasizing Duty to God in Scouting - Slide show from the College of Commissioner Science.
  • blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2014/10/03/belief-in-god-scouting/ About that "Belief in God" requirement - Scouting Blog Oct 2014.
  • Unitarian Universalist Duty to God Workbook - If you find yourself takling over the Duty to God pin and a parent or child is concerned that their particular spiritual path might not accommodate what needs to happen to complete the pin, the Unitarian Universalist workbook for scouts is a good option. Because Unitarian Universalist accept ALL religions (and even those without one) their doctrine requires no faith in any particular one (or more) god(dess). Because of this, the program can fit multiple paths. Completing the BSA approved workbook you can get from their website will fullfill the requirements, earn their knot, and if you want you can buy the medal too.