BSA's 17 Ideals

The BSA's 17 Ideals for Scouts

Scout programs around the world have a Scout Motto, Scout Promise, and Scout Law. While varying, they tend to provide a similar set of ideals for their youth and adults. The Boy Scouts of America's Motto, Slogan, Promise (with its three parts), and Law (with its 12 points) provide a set of 17 Ideals to live by.

Scout Motto

Be Prepared

Virtually every Scouting organization uses a variant of this motto (often translated as "Always Ready"). 


Scout Slogan

Do a Good Turn Daily

While many Scout organizations don't have an official slogan, the concept of the daily Good Turn is universal in Scouting.


Scout Promise (Scout Oath)

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

Scouting in most countries uses the term "Promise", though the BSA more often calls its Promise the Scout Oath

(Baden-Powell's original term was "Scout's Oath"). The BSA Promise consists of the three ideals of:

  • Duty to God and Country
  • Duty to Others
  • Duty to Self

Most Scout Promises around the world also express the concept of a Scout's three duties or obligations, but more often follow the three obligations contained in Baden-Powell's original Scout Promise:

  1. Honour God and the King (nowadays usually stated as duty to God and country [or in countries of the British Commonwealth, duty to God and Queen])
  2. Help others
  3. Obey the Scout Law

The three fingers of the international Scout sign, and the three leaves of the international Scout insignia (fleur-de-lis), remind us of these three obligations. All Scout Promises include the concept of making a promise based on one's sacred Honor.


Scout Law

A Scout is: Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, Reverent.

The Scout Law varies quite a bit around the world, but most express the principles of honesty and trust, loyalty, helpfulness, friendship and courtesy, obedience, and cheerfulness. The BSA's Scout Law has twelve points; while most countries have from seven to ten points.

Each of the Scout Law's 12 points has a standard explanation that is part of the full wording of the Law. The original wording went unchanged for 61 years (1911-72). In 1972, the explanation was rewritten, and it seems the BSA just can't leave the explanation alone, changing it almost every time the Scout Handbook is updated, even though the 'improvements' are of questionable value.

1911-72 Wording

A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy. A Scout's honor is to be trusted. If he were to violate his honor by telling a lie or by cheating or by not doing exactly a given task, when trusted on his honor, he may be directed to hand over his Scout badge.
  • Loyal. He is loyal to all to whom loyalty is due, his Scout leader, his home and parents and country.
  • Helpful. He must be prepared at any time to save life, help injured persons, and share the home duties. He must do at least one Good Turn to somebody every day.
  • Friendly. He is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout.
  • Courteous. He is polite to all, especially to women, children, old people, and the weak and helpless. He must not take pay for being helpful or courteous.
  • Kind. He is a friend to animals. He will not kill nor hurt any living creature needlessly, but will strive to save and protect all harmless life.
  • Obedient. He obeys his parents, Scoutmaster, patrol leader, and all other duly constituted authorities.
  • Cheerful. He smiles whenever he can. His obedience to orders is prompt and cheery. He never shirks nor grumbles at hardships.
  • Thrifty. He does not wantonly destroy property. He works faithfully, wastes nothing, and makes the best use of his opportunities. He saves his money so that he may pay his own way, be generous to those in need, and helpful to worthy objects. He may work for pay, but must not receive tips for courtesies or Good Turns.
  • Brave. He has the courage to face danger in spite of fear and to stand up for the right against the coaxings of friends or the jeers or threats of enemies, and defeat does not down him.
  • Clean. He keeps clean in body and thought; stands for clean speech, clean sport, clean habits; and travels with a clean crowd.
  • Reverent. He is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties and respects the convictions of others in matters of custom and religion.

1972 Wording

A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him.
  • Loyal. A Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.
  • Helpful. A Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.
  • Friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.
  • Courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.
  • Kind. A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason.
  • Obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.
  • Cheerful. A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.
  • Thrifty. A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.
  • Brave. A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.
  • Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.
  • Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

1990 Wording

A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can always depend on him. [added "always"]
  • Loyal. A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school, nation, and world community. [reversed the order of "friends" and "Scout leaders"; added "and world community"]
  • Helpful. A Scout is concerned about other people. He willingly volunteers to help others without expecting payment or reward. [second sentence completely reworded]
  • Friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs that are different from his own. [changed "other than" to "that are different from"]
  • Courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that good manners make it easier for people to get along together. [added "that"]
  • Kind. A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not harm or kill anything without reason. [changed "hurt" to "harm" and "harmless things" to "anything"]
  • Obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them. [no change]
  • Cheerful. A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy. [no change]
  • Thrifty. A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property. [changed "unforeseen needs" to "the future"]
  • Brave. A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him. [added "him" after "laugh at"]
  • Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean. [no change]
  • Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others. [no change]

1999 Wording

A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him. [combined second & third sentences; deleted "always"]
  • Loyal. A Scout is true to his family, friends, Scout leaders, school, and nation. [deleted "world community"]
  • Helpful. A Scout cares about other people. He willingly volunteers to help others without expecting payment or reward. [changed "is concerned" to "cares"]
  • Friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own. [combined third & fourth sentences, rewriting the second sentence]
  • Courteous. A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along. [added "using" and deleted "together"]
  • Kind. A Scout knows there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. Without good reason, he does not harm or kill any living thing. [changed "understands" to "knows", rearranged third sentence adding "good" & "living"]
  • Obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them. [no change]
  • Cheerful. A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy. [changed "things" to "life"]
  • Thrifty. A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property. [no change]
  • Brave. A Scout can face danger although he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at him or threaten him. [changed "even if" to "although"]
  • Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses the company of those who live by high standards. He helps keep his home and community clean. [deleted "and clean", completely rewrote second sentence]
  • Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others. [no change]

2009 Wording

A Scout is:

  • Trustworthy. A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him. [no change]
  • Loyal. A Scout is loyal to those to whom loyalty is due. [almost restores the 1911 wording; BSA has failed for 100 years to come up with a definition of 'loyal' understandable to an 11-year-old]
  • Helpful. A Scout cares about other people. He helps others without expecting payment or reward. He fulfills his duties to his family by helping at home. [simplifies the second sentence, and adds a new third sentence]
  • Friendly. A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He offers his friendship to people of all races, religions, and nations, and respects them even if their beliefs and customs are different from his own. [adds "religions" in addition to races and nations]
  • Courteous. A Scout is polite to people of all ages and positions. He understands that using good manners makes it easier for people to get along. [minor re-wording]
  • Kind. A Scout treats others as he wants to be treated. He knows there is strength in being gentle. He does not harm or kill any living thing without good reason. [minor re-wording and re-ordering]
  • Obedient. A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he seeks to have them changed in an orderly way. [minor re-wording to last sentence]
  • Cheerful. A Scout looks for the bright side of life. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way and tries his best to make others happy, too. [minor re-wording]
  • Thrifty. A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for the future. He protects and conserves natural resources. He is careful in his use of time and property. [very minor change to last sentence]
  • Brave. A Scout faces danger even if he is afraid. [minor re-wording to first sentence; deletes second sentence]
  • Clean. A Scout keeps his body and mind fit. He chooses friends who also live by high standards. He avoids profanity and pornography. He helps keep his home and community clean. [changes 'company' in second sentence to "friends"; adds sentence about profanity and pornography]
  • Reverent. A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others. [no change]

Another Interpretation

Here is another interpretation of the 12 points of the Scout Law, as we present them to our Scouts at the beginning of summer camp:

  1. Tell the truth—always!
  2. Stand by and stick up for the other Scouts.
  3. Help anyone who needs your help.
  4. Be a friend to every other Scout (yes, every other Scout).
  5. Be polite to everyone (everyone).
  6. Treat others the way you would like them to treat you.
  7. Do what you're asked to do (don't complain, don't whine).
  8. Be cheerful, even in the rain.
  9. Take care of your stuff, and spend your money wisely.
  10. Be brave, even if you are afraid, and stick up for what you know is right.
  11. Wash your Kool-Aid mustache, take a shower every day—and keep your mind, your thoughts, and your mouth as clean as your body.
  12. Keep God in your daily life, and notice his handiwork everywhere we go.

The BSA's 17 Ideals for Scouts (in Spanish)

As part of its outreach to the Hispanic community, the BSA has translated some of its handbooks and literature into Spanish, including the Motto, Slogan, Promise, and Law. These are taken from the BSA's official Spanish website.

El Lema Scout [Scout Motto]

Siempre listo

La Divisa Scout [Scout Slogan]

Hacer una buena acción cada día

La Promesa Scout (El Juramento Scout) [The Scout Promise/Oath]

Por mi honor
haré todo lo posible
para cumplir con mi deber hacia Dios y mi patria y
para obedecer la Ley Scout;
para ayudar a los demás en todo momento;
para mantenerme físicamente fuerte,
mentalmente alerta y moralmente recto.

La Ley Scout [Scout Law]

Un Scout es: Confiable, Leal, Servicial, Amigable, Cortés, Bondadoso, Obediente, Alegre, Ahorrativo, Valiente, Sano, Reverente.