It was the first week of September 1990, the beginning of another exciting Cub Scout year! I had loved being a den leader when my two older sons were Cub Scouts, but this year I was a bit worried:
There were only two boys in the den—two brand new Wolves: my son Shane and the bishop’s son John.
At our first den meeting, I sat down with the two boys and we talked about how much fun Cub Scouts had been when I was the den leader for my two older boys. I told them we’d have lots of fun in our den, too, but it would be more fun if we had more boys. I told them “Wear your uniform to school on den meeting day and if anyone asks about Cub Scouts, invite them to join our den.”
The next Friday afternoon they arrived at my house from their separate schools, excited to announce that several schoolmates had asked about Scouts. By the third Friday, I had spoken to several parents who had called me during the week, hoping their sons could join. And by the end of the month there were nine boys in the den: two from the ward and seven non-LDS boys, two of whom had just arrived from Russia and were trying to learn English.
That year was the BEST! I had a support group of parents who had their boys in Scouting because they wanted to be in Scouting. They had no trouble driving their kids to the meetings, because they weren’t trying to juggle their own “Mom’s Taxi Service” schedules, while concurrently serving in several Church callings. The non-LDS moms would take turns helping out at our monthly den outings and everybody in the family would show up for pack meetings. The next year, when our Webelos leader moved, we asked the father of one of the non-LDS boys to replace him as the Webelos leader, which he did willingly and in an exemplary fashion. And that second year, when the ten-year-olds moved into the Webelos den, the remaining boys brought three more friends from school into the Wolf/Bear den.
Given our unique LDS Scouting policies, people might wonder how we managed with so many non-LDS boys in our dens and pack. That was easy! The families knew up front we couldn’t register anyone under eight, there were no Sunday activities, and overnight camping was not permitted. They understood we were a church group and meetings would begin and end with prayer. They saw the paintings of Christ in our building, impressing on them that Mormons really are Christians. The non-LDS boys learned how to pray, surprising some parents when their son would pray aloud at a pack meeting. We encouraged the non-member boys to earn the religious award of their denomination and several did so.
Funding might have been an issue, but fortunately we didn’t have any problems with that. I should mention that for us, the “uniform” consisted of a shirt and neckerchief. We frequently made theme-related neckerchief slides at den meetings. Dues of $25 per boy were collected (collecting dues was allowed back then).
We were very frugal: outings had no admission fees, costumes were made from paper bags, posters were drawn on cardboard, scenery for skits was made from newspaper, and so on. Camp fees were earned by everybody selling Boy Scout popcorn (that, too, was allowed back then). The major expense was the awards, but we’d been told it was cheaper to pay for a non-LDS Scout than to send a missionary out in the field for one month. Therefore, the bishop was willing to use budget funds for all the boys in the den.
As far as I know none of the families ever joined the Church, but I also know that there was a deep respect for the Church, its members, and its teachings that would not otherwise have been present in those families.
And another blessing… these boys were always proud to wear their uniforms.
Two years ago, one of my non-LDS Cubs called to ask me if he could register his stepson with our LDS pack. He wanted his son to have same Scouting experience he’d had at that age! Sadly, they had to move to Florida before his son could get involved in the pack. But I knew then that the non-LDS boys who were part of our well-organized pack could still recall the fun things they did in Cub Scouts.
The two LDS boys in that original two-boy den in September 1990 (John and Shane) now proudly wear the uniforms of the US Air Force and US Navy, respectively.