Scouting in Primary helps prepare boys for a life of service

When Church members think of Scouting, they often think of Aaronic Priesthood-age young men, but slightly more than half of the registered Scouts in the Church are Primary boys ages 8-11, said Michaelene P. Grassli, Primary general president.

The Cub Scout program, for 8- to 10-year-old boys, accounts for 39 percent of LDS boys enrolled in Scouting, and 11-year-old Blazer Scouts account for another 12 percent of LDS youth in Scouting."We have Scouting in the Church for these boys because it's in harmony with gospel principles," Pres. Grassli explained. "A boy who really believes and lives the ideals of Scouting (the Scout law, motto and oath) will be a better priesthood holder, a better missionary, a better husband and a better father.

"Scouting and the gospel work hand in hand to strengthen the boy and prepare him for a life of service and gospel living. The program helps him learn about living in the world successfully. Scouting develops patriotism, citizenship and duty to God."

Young boys begin their Scouting experience at age 8 when they join the Cub Scouts, and begin putting into practice the character-building concepts they learn in Primary on Sunday.

The Cub Scouts are organized into dens and meet in the afternoons once a week, typically in the home of the den leader, to work on their requirements. Pack meetings, usually held at the meetinghouse once a month, include the boys in all the dens and their families.

A unique aspect of Cub Scouting is that it is closely tied to home and family, Pres. Grassli added. Cub Scouts complete some requirements in their den meetings, and others are carried into the home.

"Because the boy is young," she said, "family is an important part of life and the Cub Scout program. The Cub Scout still needs to be directed by the family."

In fact, the National Cub Scout Committee recently published The Family Book, a manual patterned after the Family Home Evening Resource Book, Pres. Grassli explained. The Scout book shows families how to meet together to develop unity and values that are important to them.

"The book had a great deal of input from Church members and leaders who were asked to develop the main concepts," she added.

"Boy Scouts of America also has as one of its goals to strengthen families because the organization recognizes the necessity and the value of the family in nurturing the growth of a boy, shaping communities and the nation.

"In a day where values are becoming less defined, Boy Scouts of America has taken a firm stand in preserving traditional American values," Pres. Grassli remarked. "That is why the Church takes such an active part in the program."

Blazer Scouts are in the same troop as the older Scouts, but belong to a different patrol. They meet at least twice a month and may meet as often as once a week, usually in the evenings at the ward or branch meetinghouse.

"Being in separate patrols helps them develop social skills and prepares them for entering the deacons quorum," Pres. Grassli commented.

"The Scout programs are well-developed and age-appropriate. Each year the requirements are increasingly challenging according to abilities.

"When an 11-year-old becomes a Blazer Scout, he is at the age where, in addition to his family, others are beginning to have more of an influence on him."

Sister Grassli continued: "When these boys work for merit badges, they work with merit badge counselors who can have a positive effect on helping shape a boy's character. It's a way to help boys begin to recognize good adult role models and to interact in a productive way with adults other than their parents."

Sometimes the Blazer Scout program gets lost in the shuffle between Cub Scouting and Scouting for Aaronic Priesthood-age boys, but Pres. Grassli said, "The Blazer Scout program can be strengthened by the Primary president participating in an active way on the troop committee. She represents the boys and can ensure that they have good leadership and that they are advancing and enjoying the program.

"We see a direct connection in the success of these programs for boys to the strength of the pack and troop committees. These committees are the groups that pave the way for the boys to have a good program. They are the ones who make it happen because they take care of such things as the logistics, rechartering, registration, funding and transportation.

"A good committee enables a den leader, a Cubmaster, a Blazer Scout leader or Scoutmaster to be able to focus their attention on planning the weekly meetings for the boys and building relationships with the boys."

Pres. Grassli also spoke of the concern occasionally expressed about the cost of providing an effective Scouting program. "It does cost a little bit to have your boy in Scouts, but the investment compared to the return is very cost-effective. When we look at the expense of some of the entertainment that we provide for our youth, the comparative value is considerably more in Scouting.

"Scouting helps boys develop character and new interests," she remarked. "Often interests developed during the time they fulfill Scout requirements become lifelong hobbies, even vocations because they are exposed to such a wide variety of experiences."

While the Primary presidency is responsible to see that boys participate and advance in the Cub Scout and Blazer Scout programs, the bishopric is responsible to see that they are organized and functioning, according to the Primary Handbook.

Stake Primary presidencies train ward presidencies in their Scouting responsibilities, at the request of the ward bishopric, and know how the Church uses Scouting to benefit boys, Pres. Grassli added.

"In Cub Scouting and Scouting, meetings begin with prayer. A good Scout leader will be able to help boys grow in testimony and help them see that what they are doing helps them be better Church members. Scouting is only a tool that we use."

Pres. Grassli related the story of one Scout leader who taught her boys that a Scout is clean. The leader not only taught about physical cleanliness, but about being morally clean and worthy to officiate in priesthood ordinances.

Years later the Scout leader received an invitation to the wedding of one of her former Scouts. She called to say she would come, but asked the young man why he had thought to invite her since it had been years since she had seen him.

The young man, Pres. Grassli related, told her he grew up remembering that a Scout is clean. As he faced decisions in dating and about serving a mission, he could hear her saying, "A Scout is clean."

"Because of you," he said, "I am worthy to go to the temple."

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed