CIMARRON, NEW MEXICO
Bishops and branch presidents — want a deacons quorum filled with young men well prepared to perform their Aaronic Priesthood duties? Start first by building successful Cub Scout dens.
That was the message shared here by Sister Cheryl C. Lant, Primary general president, during the recent Priesthood Leadership Conference at the Philmont Scout Ranch.
"Cub Scouts are part of the whole [priesthood] picture — it's where we lay the foundation," she said.
Sister Lant may have appeared to be preaching to the proverbial choir. The dozens of men in her audience were all priesthood leaders in Scout uniforms who had come to Philmont in hopes of strengthening their respective quorums, troops and, yes, Cub Scout dens. Still, Sister Lant reminded the leaders about the essential role the ward and stake priesthood leadership should play in Cub Scouting. The young boys in the blue and gold uniforms are not merely the charges of the Primary.
The purpose of Scouting and Cub Scouting is the same: to provide activities and leadership opportunities to young men in the Church preparing for future duties as missionaries, fathers, husbands and temple-going Melchizedek Priesthood holders.
Sister Lant taught that the Primary's Faith in God Award need not operate independently of Cub Scouting. Instead, Cub Scouting helps boys get the most out of their Faith in God experience.
"Faith in God helps us to focus on what it is we want to teach these boys," she said.
Several Faith in God Award requirements — such as serving others and developing talents — fit nicely with tasks Cub Scouts perform to earn their various badges. Cub Scouts are also encouraged to earn the Scouting Religious Square Knot.
Sister Lant said local Primary leaders sometimes feel overwhelmed when asked to implement both Faith in God and Cub Scouting in their ward or branch. That won't be the case when Primary presidencies and bishoprics fully understand the compatibility found between the two. Sister Lant suggested that Cub leaders first learn the purposes and requirements of the Faith in God Award. "Then they can use its guiding principles as they approach Cub Scouting."
It was no coincidence that Sister Lant was sporting the regulation yellow Cub Scout Den Leader uniform for her presentation. Wearing the uniform, she said, helps both the leaders and the boys feel they are a part of something important. Encourage the boys to wear their uniforms to all of their Cub Scout activities.
"They act different when they are in their uniforms," she added.
Buying a new Cub Scout uniform may pose a financial challenge for some families. A few of the Philmont participants spoke of organizing a "uniform bank" in their ward or stake to help offset the costs. Sister Lant also recommended that families donate their "gently worn" Scout uniforms to inner-city groups operating troops and dens.
Sister Lant said new Primary presidencies may not fully realize the importance of a well-run Cub Scout den.
"Priesthood leaders need to understand that these women need training so they understand [their callings]."
In closing, Sister Lant shared her beliefs in the Scouting program and its role as the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. Cub Scouts is another tool that local priesthood and Primary leaders can utilize to train and prepare boys to receive that "preparatory" priesthood. "Truly the work we are doing is the work of the priesthood."
Philmont participants were also reminded during Sister Lant's presentation that Cub Scout activities can also be a lot of fun. The Primary leader divided the men into small groups, handed them the basic parts of a pinewood car and told them to start building. Minutes later, they nostalgically gathered around a pinewood derby track and staged spirited races.
There were plenty of high-fives, a few beaming winners and even some good-natured, pinewood derby ribbing amongst the middle-age stake presidents and young men leaders.