It’s interesting to me that I never heard him complain about having to wear a uniform. Rather, it was something to be proud of. It represented the good he’d done and the service he accomplished among his neighbors in Erda, Utah.
About two weeks ago, my brother donned another uniform, one completely different in appearance yet similar in meaning. He put on a suit and name tag to serve the people in Busan, Korea as an missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The uniform he wears now represents the good he is doing and will do as he prepares in the Missionary Training Center to serve.
I have contemplated the symbolism of the two uniforms and how wearing a Scout uniform and being a Scout has prepared my brother for his mission. As the saying goes, clothing can be an “outward expression of one’s inner commitment.”
For my brother and other young men, the Scouting uniform and missionary wardrobe represent Christ-like qualities.
The Scouting uniform has a lot of positive symbolism. A Scout may wear a World Crest above his left pocket. The stars on it represent truth and knowledge, the square knot represents service, and the crest as a whole represents brotherhood, according to the BSA uniform site.
An American flag on his shirt serves to remind a young man of his own country, and shoulder loops signify the level of service the Scout has accomplished. A unit number reminds him of the group of peers he represents.
When others see a Scout in uniform, they expect him to behave in a certain way. They know the boy has committed to be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” They also know he strives to “do a good turn daily.” They understand who the young man is and what he is supposed to be doing.
President Thomas S. Monson tells a story of a Norman Rockwell painting in which a young man knew what the Scout uniform represents. He says, “[The painting] is of a small lad, clad in the oversized Scout uniform of his older brother. He is looking at himself in a mirror which adorns the wall, his tiny arm raised in the Scout salute. It could well be entitled ‘Following in the Footsteps of Scouting’.”
I think of Mikey, dressed in his Scouting uniform. He wasn’t a perfect teen, but he tried to embody the qualities of a Scout. I consider him now, serving as a missionary. Over his left chest, he currently wears a name tag instead of a World Crest. This can also serve to remind him of service, truth, and brotherhood as he considers the names he bears on his tag.
The tag bears the title of Elder, which marks him as one willing to serve with priesthood authority. He proclaims the name of the Church and of Christ himself.
Just like when he was a Scout, when people see him in his missionary clothes, they will know who he is and what he represents. He will want to continue to be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” He will continue to do good for others every day.
The qualities he gained while in his Scouting uniform will go with him while in the field. His two uniforms lead him to a life of Christ-like service.
Author: Michelle Carpenter | Marketing Associate, Utah National Parks Council.