By Maria Milligan
Oct 27, 2015

What Need Hath My Lord of Cub Scouting?

I’ve heard some of my LDS friends question why we need Cub Scouting in the church. They wonder if the effort poured into activities, pack meetings and advancement is really paying off for these boys. And let’s face it, having a successful Cub Scout pack takes some serious effort, so it had better have a serious impact in return.

The ADL is taking the picture.

Sometimes I think it’s easier for parents and leaders to understand how Boy Scouting can help their youth. After all, at Boy Scout age our young men are taking leadership roles and learning to navigate their priesthood responsibilities so they can grow into men of God. The Council’s six pillars for being prepared focus on how Scouting at that age can help these young men gain testimonies, learn to serveprepare for missions, gain confidence, grow to be good men, husbands, and fathers, and commit to integrity.

But where does Cub Scouting fit in? Is the program for younger boys also playing an important role in youth development or is it just something to help boys release energy and have fun before the serious work of Scouting begins?

Cub Scouts and the Age of Accountability

Cub Scouting, like Boy Scouting, comes at a crucial point in a boy’s life. In Doctrine and Covenants 29:47 the Lord teaches that little children “cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me.” Scripture and modern revelation have taught us that the age of accountability is eight years, the same age these boys start the Cub Scout program.

President Harold B. Lee said of the age of accountability:

Native American Cub ScoutingWhy is it that the Lord doesn’t permit Satan to tempt a little child until he comes to the age of accountability? It’s in order to give parents their golden opportunity to plant in the hearts of little children those vital things except for which, when that time of accountability comes, they may have waited too long.

Eight, then, is a pivotal age for the children in our keeping. They are suddenly faced with temptation and they must learn to navigate the pitfalls of a fallen world and everything it entails. For our young men, they are also only a few years away from being ordained to the priesthood with its accompanying responsibilities.

Before eight, it is the parents’ responsibility to prepare their children to make correct decisions and strive to live a Christlike life. Once they reach the age of accountability, parents and leaders can help them navigate temptation successfully and prepare for future responsibilities and challenges.

What Cub Scouting Does for Boys’ Character Development

Tufts Study on Cub Scouting and Youth DevelopmentI love Darryl Alder’s recent article, “Does Cub Scouting Really Work?”, on the Voice of Scouting. It gives an overview of a study conducted by Dr. Richard Lerner, the director of the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts that showed the effect of the Cub Scout program on positive youth development. The study team surveyed over 2,000 Cub Scouts and non-Scouts over a three-year period to track the development of positive character traits.

Initially, there was no difference between the two groups. As the Cub Scouts joined and progressed in the program however, they began to show a marked increase in positive character traits:

After 3 years of research, Cub Scouts reported significant increases in cheerfulness, helpfulness, kindness, obedience, trustworthiness, and hopeful future expectations, but there were no significant increases reported among non-Scouts. Cub Scouts, for example, are 20% more likely than non-Scouts to embrace other-oriented values, including “helping others” and “doing the right thing”

With Scouting’s focus on providing prosocial experiences, young people are able to build a foundation of positive character attributes that allow them to embrace opportunity, overcome obstacles, and be better prepared for life.

Tufts Study on Cub Scouting and Youth DevelopmentIf we can help our boys learn to be cheerful, helpful, kind, obedient, and trustworthy, they will be much better able to withstand temptation and grow into men of God. Eight is a turning point in their lives, and this study shows that Cub Scouting, along with values taught at home, can help them be successful.

So Why Get Involved in your Child’s Pack?

Perhaps the most telling finding in the Tufts study for LDS parents and leaders is the importance of helping your child participate fully in a well-run Cub Scout program. The study found that Cub Scouts saw greater character growth than their non-Scout peers. Within the Cub Scout group, however, there were significant differences as well. Those who attended regularly, stayed in Scouting longer, reached out to include others, and most importantly, were fully engaged in the program, ended up more cheerful, helpful, and kind, and had higher future expectation and intentional self-regulation.

cub-scouts-den-motherIt’s not enough to send a child to den meeting every week and assume good character will happen. Parents and leaders have to work together to make sure the Cub Scout program is fully engaging the youth and functioning the way it should. Parents are vital in this process. The home is the most important classroom and proving ground in a child’s life. President Lee called on parents to do their part in training their children: “Oh, you mothers, you fathers, I plead for the return to a sense of the complete responsibility for those treasured souls. Except you prepare them for this day that is coming, who is going to?”

Cub Scouting can help a boy navigate those early years of accountability and reinforce lessons and character traits learned at home. Get involved in this process. Check out the BSA resources for parents, learn about the program, and find out what you can do to make sure Cub Scouting is doing everything it can for your children and the boys in your ward.

What Need Hath My Lord of Cub Scouting?

I was recently reading through Elder Mark E. Peterson’s 1948 talk, “What Need Hath My Lord of Scouting”. He relates the Scout program to the parable in Doctrine and Covenants section 101, in which a nobleman tells his servants to build a tower and set a watchman on it to protect his vineyard from his enemies. His servants set out to do as he asked, but decide that since it is a time of peace, there is no need for the tower. When the enemy comes, there is no watchman set to see them coming and the vineyard is destroyed. Elder Peterson explains,

There are so many of the Latter-day Saints today who say, “Well, what need hath my Lord of all this program?” And then like the workers in the vineyard in the story, they become slothful and they do not do the job, and they let the thing slide, and the first things they know the enemy is upon them and comes in and breaks down the work that has been done.

What need hath my Lord of this Scout program? My Lord hath need of the Scout program because it is one means whereby we can make the boys in this Church real Latter-day Saints.

You cannot divorce Church work from scouting. Church work and scouting are identical so far as the scouting program is concerned. When you are building scouting in your boys, you are building the work of God and helping to establish the kingdom here on the earth.

Cub Scouting is in the church because it can help boys develop Christlike attributes and prepare to receive the priesthood. Like the other youth programs, it is “one means whereby we can make the boys in this Church real Latter-day Saints.” Building these youth is one of our most important tasks in the church, and Cub Scouting, implemented well, can help us do that.

What impact have you seen Cub Scouting have on boys in your ward?

Maria Milligan


Author: Maria Milligan | Grant Writer, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.

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3 thoughts on “What Need Hath My Lord of Cub Scouting?

  1. AvatarClaire

    This is a wonderful and very comprehensive article clarifying and capturing well the proven benefits,blessings and aims, of scouting. The purpose both spiritually and practically . Does scouting really work?
    Yes it does…

  2. AvatarTai P. Ho'o

    One of the greatest problems in Cub Scouts, especially among LDS Chartered Units, is the apathy of the leaders and parents involved. This is particularly true in the proper wear and appearance of the Cub Scout Uniform. The article above actually demonstrates the INCORRECT wearing of the Uniform, and thus stifles the initiative that each Cub Scout so desperately wants to possess and demonstrate.
    Wearing uniforms has been a method of the Scouting movement from the beginning. Decades of experience show uniforming to have many benefits, including these:
    Equality. The uniform represents a democratic ideal of equality. Boys from various cultures and different economic levels wear the same uniform and cooperate as equals.

    Identification. The uniform identifies a boy as a member of the Cub Scouts. Badges on the uniform tell other members that he belongs to their den, pack, and council. The uniform itself identifies a good citizen to the entire community.

    Achievement. The uniform displays badges and other awards so the accomplishments of each Cub Scout can be immediately recognized.

    Commitment. Wearing a uniform is a constant reminder to each Cub Scout of his commitment to the ideals and purposes of Cub Scouting: duty to God, loyalty to country, and helpfulness to others.
    For these reasons, among others, all parents should emphasize to their Scouts the importance of wearing the correct and complete uniform on all suitable occasions.
    The BSA National Committee has specifically given these guidelines for Cub Scouts:
    DO keep the uniform clean and in good repair. The official uniform is a sturdy, machine-washable garment that will last for years with proper care.

    DO be sure to wear the complete uniform. A Cub Scout wearing a uniform with parts missing is not in uniform.

    DO NOT wear non-BSA badges, awards, or insignia on the Cub Scout uniform or make any alterations to the uniform or insignia.

    DO NOT mix uniform parts with non-uniform clothing, such as wearing a uniform cap with other clothing or wearing the uniform shirt with blue jeans. The uniform should be treated as a unit—worn in its entirety, or not at all.
    Nearly every picture in this article depicts Cub Scouts incorrectly wearing the official uniform, this compromising the uniformity and unity that a Cub Scout Unit should provide. The pictures depict Cub Scouts wearing blue jeans with holes and soli, and generally in poor repair. The pictures depict missing components of the uniform, and in one picture especially, a Cub Scout “mother” (I suppose) with the second button of her uniform unbuttoned, deliberately, and her shirt untucked. The pictures above show Cub Scouts wearing civilian baseball caps with non-Scouting insignia.

    If an article is going to be drafted indicating the need for greater efforts in Cub Scouting, then certainly a better example of efforts can be made to show a Cub Scout Unit’s unity and adherence to proper authorization.

    1. Maria MilliganMaria Milligan Post author


      I love your well-reasoned, passionate explanation of the importance of wearing a uniform and the benefit it can have for the boys in our packs. You’re absolutely right, wearing a uniform is a method of Scouting and an important piece in the Scouting program.

      Unfortunately, I didn’t have any readily available pictures of boys in full uniform that also conveyed the message of fun, service, character, hard work, and family togetherness that I was going for in this article. This is probably because of the issue you’ve mentioned above: many Scouts don’t wear the full uniform, especially to activities. Do you have access to any Cub Scout pictures I could use?

      Also, would you be willing to write a blog article about what a full uniform is for Cub Scouts and why it is so important? We would love to have your input and experience on how the uniform has helped and can help Cub Scouts accomplish the aims of Scouting.


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