The Promise

The Scout Promise

The traditional scout promise has changed little from its introduction in the 1908 version of Scouting for Boys:

Before he becomes a scout, a boy must take the scout’s oath, thus:
On my honour I promise that —

  1. I will do my duty to God and the King.
  2. I will do my best to help others, whatever it costs me.
  3. I know the scout law, and will obey it.

Lord Baden-Powell later changed the wording of the promise without changing its substance:

On my honour I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to God and the King, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Scout Law.

When Fr. Sevin implemented Baden-Powell’s educational method in a Catholic context, he emphasized the grace of God in making this promise:

Sur mon honneur, avec la grâce de Dieu, je m’engage: à servir de mon mieux, Dieu, l’Église, ma patrie; à aider mon prochain en toutes circonstances; à observer la Loi Scoute.

On my honor, and with God’s grace, I pledge: my best to serve God, the Church, my country; to help my neighbor in all circumstances, and to observe the Scout Law.

The Scouts and Guides of Europe (FSE) still use this promise today, with a small addition reflecting their idea of European reconciliation and brotherhood:

Sur mon honneur, avec la grâce de Dieu, je m’engage à servir de mon mieux Dieu, l’Eglise, ma patrie et l’Europe, à aider mon prochain en toutes circonstances, à observer la loi scoute

On my honor, and with God’s grace, I pledge my best to serve God, the Church, my country, and Europe, to help my neighbor in all circumstances, and to observe the scout (or guide) law.

In North America this is usually translated as follows:

On my honor, and with God’s grace, I promise to do my best to serve God, my Church, and my country; to help others at all times; and to obey the Explorer Law.

All traditional scouting organizations use a version of this promise.

What about the “Outlander” promise?

There is an unwritten “tradition” that Baden-Powell approved of a version of the scout promise for those who could not, for reasons of conscience, make a promise to do their duty to God. Frankly, this writer does not believe this particular tradition (“legend” might be a better word); it can’t be harmonized with B-P’s documented and undocumented statements on the role of religion in scouting. Furthermore, even if he did approve of such a promise for those belonging to religions that don’t believe in a personal God or who aren’t comfortable with mentioning “God” in a promise, he almost certainly did not have atheists in mind. You need only to read what he wrote about atheists in Rovering to Success to see that.

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