This is a multi-part series on my predictions for what we will see in the new LDS Duty to God handbook and program.  This is part one, the Introduction.  Further posts will examine in detail each of my predictions, and finally, what the new program means overall.  Without further ado, Part 1: Introduction.

There has been a lot of speculation and questions concerning the new Duty to God program that will be instituted by the Church starting in June 2010. Here is the information I’ve been able to gather on the program, based on personal conversations and the information given both at General Conference and through LDS Newsroom sources.

The first question that I’ve heard asked is “Why?” Why would the Church change Duty to God again after only having the current program instituted for 8 years? I think it comes down to the purpose of the program. Prior to 2002, as long as you were involved both in the BSA program and in the ward, you were guaranteed to get your Duty to God award. I don’t really remember any requirements for the old “On My Honor” award (though, in researching for this article, I’m finding that the “On My Honor” award is still around, see here

I think this is what happened: BSA began having awards for all religious groups. A very high percentage of LDS Scouts achieved the award. The BSA wanted to level the playing field. Duty to God was instituted, in response to heightened requirements.

There was also talk when the Duty to God award was instituted that if the BSA embraced changes advocated by gay and atheist activist groups, the LDS Church was going to replace the entire BSA program with the Duty to God program (see here)

Well, what information do we know about the program? April 2010 introduced the 180th General Conference, where President Eyring introduced the changes.

The Duty to God program for young men in the Aaronic Priesthood has been strengthened and focused. It will be contained in one simple book for all three Aaronic Priesthood offices. The young men and their leaders will receive a copy of this new book.

Not much information there. We know there will be a new book for all three levels of Aaronic Priesthood (which is a good thing). If that’s the case, I’m thinking it will be something that can be utilized like the youth manual “For the Strength of Youth.” The less booklets, the better.

The next hints at the new program were by Elder Hales.

Church leaders regularly plan priesthood activities and Scouting pow wows and encampments—but do those activities always accomplish their most important purpose?

This is something that I am always asking myself, and I wish there was more focus on the “why’s” of things. For example, WHY is the Scouting Program emphasized? WHY is it important that my Deacons are on time to pass the sacrament. WHY do we have camp outs? WHY is there combined activities? The answer to those questions is, in my opinion, the crux of the Youth program.

From the same talk,

I have learned that what makes a priesthood or Scout activity most meaningful to a boy is not just getting a merit badge but having the opportunity to sit and talk with a leader who is interested in him and his life.

Good counsel for all leaders, whether ecclesiastical or parents. Elder Hales talk is an interesting one to see many of the “Whys” behind the program change.

Finally, President David beck, Young Men’s General President gives a lot of information on the program.

As a deacon, teacher, and priest, you will participate in activities that will help you build spiritual strength and learn and fulfill your priesthood duties. Each activity follows this simple pattern:

First you learn about a gospel principle or a priesthood duty. You discover what Heavenly Father wants you to do, and you strive to gain a spiritual witness about why it is important.

Next you make plans to act on what you have learned. You are encouraged to base your plans on your own needs, circumstances, and opportunities to serve others. This is a wonderful chance to take responsibility for your own growth and develop spiritual self-reliance.

Then you share what you learn and experience with others. As you do so, you will strengthen your testimony and build faith in those around you. You will increase your ability to talk about the gospel with others.

PREDICTION #1
The New Duty to God program will be patterned similarly to the Personal Progress award for Young Women. I think we’re going to see similar “values” for the young men (or “principles,” as President Beck put it). They’re going to Learn, Make Plans, and Share. The “Sharing” part sounds like a project of some sort, and the “Making Plans” sounds like something a leader could work with the youth on (like a Personal Progress Leader/Adviser in Young Women’s).

In a Church Newroom article, President Beck said this:

The new Duty to God program is not primarily an achievement program with pre-determined requirements…Rather, it’s about a boy transforming into a faithful priesthood man. The program focuses on allowing a young man to prayerfully outline his own personal, lifelong journey of learning what God would have him become and do.

PREDICTION #2
The New Duty to God will be less involved with Scouting than before.

Not a lot of talk in any of the articles about Scouting or Scouting-type things. I think this is in response to many young men who aren’t interested in Scouting-type things. There shouldn’t be any ostracism, whether real or perceived. I’ve known many in our program who don’t attend certain activities because they don’t enjoy Scouting. Hopefully, this erases the stigma that ALL should receive an Eagle Scout Award, whether interested in Scouting or not.

PREDICTION #3

Duty to God will NOT replace the Eagle Scout award as culmination of the Young Men’s program.

This is more a cultural thing than anything. In theory, it sounds as though Duty to God should have more emphasis and more involvement than other programs (especially once the young men reach age 16). However, since much of our religious culture is steeped in tradition and “social norms.” We have a tradition where every boy receives their Eagle as the ultimate point of their Young Men’s experience. I’ve even heard some Young Women say that one of their “marriage requirements” has “Eagle Scout” listed. I’d love for Duty to God to work in coordination with the BSA program. I’d love each award to hold equal rank in the eyes of the members. But only time will tell.

The only way I can see this happening is if Duty to God is not only made a focal point as much as Scouting is, but the award is treated with as much fanfare. Create a plaque that has their name and the date they received the award (like the Eagle Scout plaque). Make a big awards ceremony like the Eagle Court of Honor. The bigger deal you make of it, the bigger deal it becomes.

What are your thoughts on the new program?

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