The LDS Church has released its guidelines for its new Duty to God Award, and the changes are being cheered. In the past, the award was set up like Boy Scout merit badges — complete with a checklist of requirements to fulfill and a shiny medal of achievement for fulfilling them.
The new award holds to the maxim "virtue is its own reward" and offers a series of goals instead of specific tasks.
It emphasizes three things: learning, acting and sharing.
Just as an athlete must be taught basic fundamentals, then put those fundamentals to use until they become second nature, the new Duty to God Award stresses spiritual fundamentals that — with some effort — will eventually become part of the fabric of a young man's life.
In fact, most caring people already follow the process without much thought.
They learn to read, for instance, then they read to gain knowledge. Finally, they use what they've learned to help others — to teach them how to read, perhaps, or instruct them in history, literature and religion.
Learn. Act. Share.
And the reward they get for such efforts isn't a medal, but a gleam of goodwill down inside for doing good works.
As one who works with the young men in our ward, I'm excited about the new Duty to God Award.
In fact, I wish we could learn to apply it to other parts of our lives.
Too often, I feel, we do something to benefit others spiritually but expect to be rewarded materially. Pay your tithing, get extra dough.
But in my trial-and-error life, I've found that spiritual contributions are usually rewarded with spiritual blessings.
Sacrificing for others doesn't always boost your income. What it does do is teach you perspective. Suddenly, knowing you are pleasing God and having a feeling of serenity inside seem much more valuable than having a yacht on Lake Tahoe.
The Duty to God Award will get boys off on the right foot with the right attitude. It will teach them what matters most and show them that service doesn't always lead to recognition, it can lead to things much sweeter.
Now, if the rest of us can just find a way to catch the same vision.