Mac’s Message #29: The Importance of the Scout Uniform

Mac McIntire

 

Your boys can tell whether you have a testimony of Scouting and whether you are committed to your calling. They can hear it in your words, see it in your behaviors, observe it in your actions, and sense it in your attitude.

Before I gained a testimony of Scouting (Mac’s Message #1), I was embarrassed to wear a Scout uniform. In fact, I never owned one, even though I’d been a ward Young Men president twice. I thought people would think I was being childish when they saw me in a Boy Scout uniform. I was afraid of being laughed at or ridiculed.

But now I wear my Scout uniform proudly because I know why the uniform is important and what it represents. “The uniform makes the Boy Scout troop visible as a force for good and creates a positive youth image in the community. Boy Scouting is an action program, and wearing the uniform is an action that shows each Boy Scout’s commitment to the aims and purposes of Scouting. The uniform gives the Boy Scout identity in a world brotherhood of youth who believe in the same ideals” (“The Aims and Methods of Boy Scouting,” National Eagle Scout Association website). The Scout uniform is a symbol of youths and adults who exemplify honor, do their best, and model strong moral character.

Perhaps more important, the wearing of the Scout uniform properly and proudly prepares your young men to wear a future uniform properly and proudly for the rest of their lives. There is a uniform for men in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is instantly recognizable throughout the world. Our young male missionaries have a distinctive look. That look identifies them as men of high morals and values. It identifies them as men of God and believers in Jesus Christ. It sets them apart as faithful priesthood leaders. For most missionaries, when they put on the missionary uniform, it reminds them of who they are—and because of that reminder, correct behaviors usually follow.

Interestingly, in the Church, you typically can tell the active, faithful brethren from the less-active, less-faithful brethren. It can be seen in their appearance. The truly faithful brethren wear the uniform of a priesthood leader. Likewise, you can tell which boys and leaders are dedicated to Scouting by whether they wear their Scout uniform. Sadly, at summer camps and BSA council events I often can easily identify some LDS units from the non-LDS units. The non-LDS units almost always are properly attired in full Scout uniforms. Sometimes the LDS units merely look like a bunch of boys on an outing who could be from any organization. Their lack of uniform gives me no sense of who they are or what they represent.

I earnestly encourage you to teach your boys the importance of wearing their Scout uniform. Teach them what it represents. Teach them how it prepares them to wear the future uniform of a missionary and priesthood leader. Teach them to wear it properly and proudly. Hold uniform inspections so the boys will know how to inspect their own appearance in the future. I believe it will be much easier to get your boys to tuck in their uniform shirt and take off their hat indoors when they realize it is the proper way to dress and act in the mission field and in the work-world. Your boys will wear their Scout uniform proudly when they see their uniform as a symbol of their identity as young men who do their best to live the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

As a Scoutmaster I wanted people to instantly recognize my young men as men of honor, duty, service, and sacrifice. I hoped that somehow people would know when they saw my uniformed boys that they were striving to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. For that reason I required the boys to wear their official “Class A uniform” to weekly meetings, community events, merit badge jamborees, and when traveling to or from overnight campouts or summer camps. We wore our “Class B field uniform” for service projects, hikes, bike rides, campouts, and summer camps. No matter what the activity, we always wore our uniforms. Without our uniforms, we weren’t Scouts.

I plead with you as a Scouting leader to acquire and wear your Scout uniform. Wear it properly. Wear it proudly. Set a positive example for your boys. Show your commitment to Scouting and your desire to magnify your calling as an Aaronic Priesthood leader by honorably wearing the Scout uniform and the uniform of the priesthood. Remember, your young men are listening to your words, watching your behaviors, observing your actions, and sensing your attitude. They can easily tell whether you have a testimony of and are committed to your Young Men and Scouting callings.

Take a Moment to Reflect

  • Do you wear your Scout uniform properly and proudly?
  • Do you encourage and require your boys to wear a Scout uniform?
  • Have you taught your boys why the uniform is important and what it represents?
  • Do you hold uniform inspections so your boys know how to dress properly?
  • Do you and your boys wear a uniform at every Scouting activity?

 

Turn Your Reflection Into Action

  • What will you start doing, stop doing, or do better as a result of your reflection?

 

“Scouting uses the uniform both as the great equalizer between youth from families of modest means and those who are well off. The uniform, apart from erasing any class distinctions, also fosters the spirit of belonging into a single society in which all members are equal to one another and responsible to one another. It gives the Scouts a sense of pride of belonging to a worldwide movement” (“Uniforms,” Baden-Powell Service Association website).

 

-Mac McIntire is a dedicated Scouter who has blessed many lives through his service and acute understanding of the Scouting program. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.

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  1. Jason says:

    Finally, a leader who appreciates the importance of the uniform. This needs to be taught at Roundtables, University of Scouting and any other scout leader trainings. It begins at the top leaders in the ward over boys. The biggest complaint I hear is how much a uniform costs. When compared to other youth activities, ie. sports, scouting costs are much less.

    1. Mac says:

      A Scout uniform does cost a lot . . . for a boy, since they grow out of the uniform. But an adult uniform is a cost that gets spread out over many years if the leader continues his/her involvement in Scouting. The purchase of a uniform is an investment in the future. Perhaps the real reason why so many adult leaders don’t buy a Scout uniform, particularly in the LDS Church, is they hope they won’t be in their Scouting calling very long (see Mac’s Message #6).

    2. David Parker says:

      Jason, I too was thrilled with this article. I’ve had the same experience as Mac at council events where it is very clear which units are LDS and which are not, just from uniforms.

      To help on the cost, one thing I did while serving as Cubmaster and at the same time on the Troop/Team/Crew committee, was to attach to my position patch some heavy duty Velcro from my local fabric store. I attached to my uniform the other part of the Velcro and could easily swap out my position patches, depending on the event I was attending. I do recommend sewing on the Velcro to the position patch and the shirt, as the adhesive really isn’t strong enough to keep it on the shirt. I kept my Cub and Boy Scout epaulets in my shirt pocket so those could easily be switched, too. Now, the Crew does have a different colored shirt, so if I ever actually served as an Advisor in the crew, I would get the dark green shirt. As a YM leader, let’s face it that you’re probably going to have multiple callings in Scouting, so why not make the investment? A ward uniform bank can also be helpful for the boys and the leaders.

  2. Thank you for your insightful blog posting on the importance of the uniform. I couldn’t agree more. You may be interested in a post I published a couple of weeks ago about this topic, only I wrote it more specifically for scouts than leaders. Same message, different audience. I welcome your thoughts and comments. Here’s a link: Scouting Wisdom Blog, March 27, 2015: Everyone’s Uniform

    1. Mac says:

      Great article, Benjamin. I liked your other articles too. I look forward to reading more articles on your blog. Keep up the good work!

  3. Randy Sorensen says:

    what is the proper uniform for the Presdent of the Aaronic Preisthood and his counsellors ? Is it important for them to wear it to Scouting activities? Why?

    1. David Parker says:

      Randy, in an ideal situation you have brethren called separately as Scoutmaster (Deacons), Coach (Teachers) and Advisor (Priests). These brethren are not not members of the Young Men presidency, but they are generally also called as assistant quorum advisors, in addition to their Scouting callings. If your YM Presidency members are not also serving in the above positions, then they should be registered as assistant leaders in their respective quorums. This typically means that the YM President registers as and receives training for the position of Associate Advisor in the crew, the 1st Counselor as an Assistant Varsity Coach and the 2nd Counselor as an Assistant Scoutmaster. These leaders should, in most cases, be participating in the Scouting activities of their associated quorum. You may have the case where a presidency member can’t participate in the activities during the week due to things like work schedules, but if there’s any chance they’ll participate in a campout or Court of Honor or weekly activity, then having and wearing the uniform should happen.

      1. Steve Faber says:

        David,

        The answer to the “Presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood” (bishopric) has been addressed below in Michael’s response, but to your point, I’ve seen the opposite work regarding adult callings in the Aaronic Priesthood, and generally work out more ideally than you’ve described.

        In prior stakes and wards I have observed that sometimes, when the YM Presidency are not also serving as the Crew Adviser, Team Coach or Scoutmaster, a subtle division can happen in the Aaronic Priesthood, whether intended or unintended. The tendency is that the YM Presidency member handles “Sunday” stuff, and the other adult adviser handles “Weekday” stuff, or surprisingly even “Weekend” stuff. Sometimes scout training is emphasized more for the adult with the scouting position. Sometimes one feels obligated to attend Roundtable, and the other does not. We run the risk of not acting/working or being as “one” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27).

        When the YM Presidency member, for example the 2nd Counselor/Deacon’s Quorum Adviser, is also the Scoutmaster, there is no separation between Priesthood activities and Scouting Activities, they are the same. They have the same purpose and emphasis. They first begin with “How will the quorum fulfill their Duty to God?” Deacon’s Quorum Presidency meeting can naturally flow into the Patrol Leader’s Council. He does not out of the communication loop (for example, by attending YM Presidency meeting and then not going to Scout Committee Meeting, or perhaps attending BYC in place of the YM President). He then works with and DELEGATES to his Assistant Deacon’s Quorum Adviser/Assistant Scoutmaster so that Priesthood responsibilities and scouting activities are fully carried out. Duty to God is more fully understood and implemented in everything the quorum does, and not given token attention for a few minutes during quorum meeting. The chance of burnout decreases significantly IF he delegates, AND has adequate support from a properly functioning committee (properly supported the Bishopric).

        Even though this may seem counter-intuitive for the purposes of distributing workload, this approach simplifies so many things.

        The Bishopric of course is ultimately responsible for how scouting is carried out in the ward, so they can prayerfully choose who fulfills what responsibility. To the other extreme, I’ve seen bishoprics who have not yet caught the vision of scouting, delegate the COR responsibility to someone else, who is not a member of the bishopric or the YM Presidency (you can guess how well this works out).

        Having said this, I’m in the situation you describe, and it does actually work! I’m the scoutmaster but I’m the assistant adviser to the Deacon’s Quorum, and am not a member of the YM presidency. I’ve been blessed to work with an amazing brother who is the 2nd counselor in the YM presidency, who is an Eagle Scout and who went to NYLT when he was a young man. This arrangement works because we communicate well and communicate often, AND, because we have both become better men because of scouting activities. We advise at our Deacon’s Quorum presidency meetings, and the boys do a great job as the quorum leaders/scout leaders leading the troop/patrol activities and the PLC.

        As a result of one of my Wood Badge tickets, our unit maintains a “uniform bank.” Because the brother I work with has a young family and he’s grown out of his youth uniforms, I asked him one day if he wanted to try one from the “uniform” bank. Now we both have uniforms to set the example with the boys.

        Another fun thing our dragon patrol has done is to make patrol t-shirts as a class-B uniform. Both I and the brother I work with wear our class-B t-shirts to various activities and camp outs, when the boys decide what uniform to wear. This also helps promote patrol unity and spirit.

        1. Mac says:

          Steve,

          Prior to my “conversion” to Scouting I acted exactly as you state in your first few paragraphs. As a member of the YM presidency and a quorum adviser I didn’t step into the Scoutmaster’s sandbox and he didn’t step in mine. I did my priesthood thing on Sunday and he did his Scouting thing on Mutual nights. Obviously we both completely missed the point of why Scouting is the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood.

          I hope through these blog messages others are learning what I (we) now know about the wonderful power of the Scouting program to bless the lives of both young men and their adult leaders.

    2. Michael says:

      Randy,
      The Bishop is the President of the Aaronic Priesthood (Handbook 2 paragraph section 2.1). As such he is the “Institutional Head” for the Chartering Organization. I am fairly certain he may be uniformed in a scout uniform should he choose, but I do not think there is an Institutional Head position emblem for his sleeve… (may be wrong – perhaps Mac or Mark Francis can comment?). Otherwise the appropriate uniform is that of the Priesthood (Suit & tie), except when camping or doing service projects or other activities that dictate more durable clothing while with the youth. The Bishop’s counselors (one or both) are typically or should be registered as the Charter Organization Representative. As such they may be uniformed in the appropriate adult uniform for the unit(s) they represent (Pack, Troop, Team, Crew). There is a “Charter Organization Representative” emblem for their uniform shoulder. Likewise the uniform of the Priesthood is appropriate. When adult leaders show their commitment to Aaronic Priesthood and Scouting by wearing the scout uniform, the boys take notice and will be more willing to wear the scout uniform. Youth will emulate those they admire. For the same reasons that other adult leaders should wear the scouting uniform, the Bishopric should wear it to scouting functions if/when they can. I remember my father wearing a scout uniform as a counselor in the Bishopric and occasionally for special occasions such as church encampments as the Bishop. I also remember him wearing suit and tie to various Courts of Honor.

      1. Patrick Sperlein says:

        While there isn’t a position patch for Executive Officer (which is how Bishops are registered with the council), the Bishop does meet the criteria to wear the position patch of ‘Chaplain’ (see . If a Bishop wishes to wear a scouting uniform to scouting events, that is an appropriate position patch for him to wear.

  4. Randy Sorensen says:

    What do the handbooks say about uniforming?

    1. Mac says:

      “Young men registered in a Scouting unit are encouraged to wear the appropriate uniform. No young man or boy should be excluded from Scouting if he is unable to purchase a uniform. Units may wish to maintain a supply of used uniforms to make them available for boys. Abbreviated or simple uniforms and insignia, which have been approved by the BSA, are appropriate and encouraged. Adult leaders are also encouraged to wear appropriate Scouting uniforms, where feasible” (Scouting Handbook
      for Church Units, 8.14).

  5. Brenden Taylor says:

    Back in 1985 my brother and I were invited by our council to participate in what was then NJLIC out at Philmont, which was a great honor for us. It would be a three-day bus trip from South Carolina to New Mexico, and we debated a little about what to wear while en route, but decided that being in uniform would be best. We felt a little self-conscious at first, but as we got closer to Philmont we started seeing more scouts in uniform, and knew that we were among friends. One experience in particular from that journey stands out to me now; it happened during a lay-over in Birmingham. We were waiting in the bustling terminal with several hours to kill before they next leg, when a woman approached us. She has some business to take care of in town before she continued her journey, and couldn’t take her luggage with her. Would we be there for a while, and would we watch it for her? We were happy to help, all proceeded as expected, and in the end we all went our separate ways. Pretty run-of-the-mill it seemed then, and we didn’t give it a second thought. It wasn’t until many years later that I considered how remarkable it was that a stranger would ask two unknown teenage boys in a bus terminal to take care of her valuable personal effects for an extended period of time. The only reason I can give is that we were in uniform, and she recognized and honored what that meant.

    I have never been ashamed to wear my uniform (as a youth or adult) and have found it to be a great conversation starter. In grocery stores, at gas stations, movie theaters, and other places, invariably someone comes up and asks about some badge I’m wearing, or reminisces about their scouting experiences. Most are positive; some regret not having done more with it, and I have a chance to invite them to get involved with it again. Sometimes it leads to invitations for me to come teach skills to other youth groups, or request for various sorts of assistance. Often times it leads to questions about who sponsors our troop, and opportunities to share a bit about the Church. I always ask them how their scouting experience has shaped their lives, and what they view as their greatest lessons learned from it. They will usually respond with something they learned from observing a dedicated leader, and how seeing my uniform reminded them of that. I love that wearing the uniform opens the door for these conversations, and that people recognize and respond to it in such reaffirming ways.

    1. Mac McIntire says:

      Brenden,

      You’ve given me a different perspective about wearing my Scout uniform in public. I’ve always been a little self-conscious about it. And, as an introvert I’ve never wanted to engage in conversations with strangers. But you show these interactions can be very rewarding. I think it’s time I pull off the civilian jacket that covers my uniform and show my pride and passion for serving as a Scouting leader.

      Thanks for your insights!

      Mac

  6. Brendan says:

    Get a uniform, then respect the flag on your shoulder when you wear it.

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