Foreword by firebirdluver
I recall my excitement when I was first called to be a Cub Master. I was thrilled for the opportunity to be a part of the Cub Scouting program again for the first time in many years; a certain change from the Boy Socuting I had been involved with! Early on I met with the ward Primary Presidency representative and the topic of uniforms came up. She told me as far as she was concerned, the proper uniform for baptized boys is a white shirt and tie. I was stunned. I really didn't have a reply for that at the time. On later reflection, I had to agree that in certain situations, that may be the appropriate attire. However, not when participating in Scouting activities. The uniform is more than just a shirt with patches on it; it is a unifying symbol of what the wearer stands for and what group he belongs to. A person in uniform tends to stand taller and be more cautious in his words and deeds. Like the traditional white hat, wearing the Cub Scout uniform should be a constant reminder that the wearer is one of the good guys and must uphold the high standards he has committed to. Proper wearing of the uniform is a very important part of the program.
Uniforms are expensive.
They are also an important part of Scouting. The Church Handbook on Scouting states, "No boy or young man should be excluded from Scouting if he is unable to purchase a uniform... The wearing of Scouting uniforms by adult leaders is optional, but it is encouraged where feasible." Uniforms are not required, but they are strongly encouraged.
Uniforms are one of the Methods of Scouting. There are many reasons for the boys to wear them. Uniforms will give the boys more of a sense of belonging to a group. They will be more likely to identify themselves as part of the pack or troop and feel like they belong. Uniforms also affect their behavior. A group of boys in uniform will behave differently than a group of boys in street clothes. (Note: They will still be boys. Uniforms help, but they are not magic.) Uniforms also give the boys a place to display their badges. They are very proud of their achievements and like to show them off. The chance to display achievements also serves as motivation to earn achievements.
The boys should be helped to understand that when they are wearing their uniforms, they are representing more than just themselves. They are representing their den, pack, church and the Boys Scouts of America. You can relate this to when they were baptized and took upon themselves the name of Christ. Their actions everyday should reflect Christ, and their actions when they are wearing Scout uniforms should reflect the Scouting ideals.
It is especially important for boys to get in the habit of wearing uniforms as Cub Scouts. This may be the first uniform they have ever worn. It is good for them to have the experience of wearing a uniform, both because of the pride it will give them and so that they will be ready for other uniforms they may wear in the future.
One of our biggest aims as Cub Scout and Boy Scout leaders in the Church should be preparing the boys to serve missions. On a mission (with rare exception) they will be expected to wear a uniform. The uniform they will wear on their mission is different than the Scout uniforms they have worn in practice, but it will serve some of the same purposes. It will identify them, and they will be expected to act in a way that represents Christ and the Church.
Making sure everyone in your pack or troop is outfitted in a uniform can be looked at as an opportunity for some ward teamwork. Some boys' families may be able to afford uniforms, but likely some will have trouble with it. When a family is financially unable to send a boy on a mission, often other members of the ward donate funds to help out. The same can be done for boys who need uniforms. Ask around the ward to see whether anyone has an old uniform they can donate. A uniform library can be started where uniforms are recycled. Boys can borrow uniforms from the library for as long as they need, then give them back when they are done. Choose someone to run the library whom you can rely on to keep track of the uniforms. Encourage anyone who outgrows a uniform (and doesn't have little brothers who might need it later) to donate it. Enlist the help of ward members in rounding up uniforms from other sources. For example, there are no DI's where we live, but many people from our ward visit Utah on a regular basis. We ask people to check a DI or two if they can while they are there. DI's and other thrift stores don't always have Scout uniforms (they tend to get snatched up quickly), but with enough people checking, your uniform library will grow.
It is just as important for leaders to be in uniform for all meetings, if possible. This sets a good example for the boys, and it is an outward sign that you care about the boys and about Scouting. Again, the boys will act differently towards a leader in uniform. It will give you an aire of authority.
Wards can also have a uniform library for leader uniforms. Since leadership positions in the Church often cycle frequently, there will be people who were involved in Scouts for a short time, purchased a uniform and don't need it anymore. Ask around. Check ebay for deals. Sometimes "Class-B" type shirts are available for a low price at the scout shop or online. These can be used as leader uniforms in a pinch. In one ward we belonged to the Cub Scout Committee Chair purchased several tan polo shirts on clearance at the local Scout Shop. She understood that Cub Scout leaders are often reluctant to purchase uniforms, especially if they don't have a boy in the program or don't expect to be in the calling for very long. She made the shirts available to borrow for those that didn't have real uniforms to wear.
As of the writing of this article, there are Ladies' Uniform Blouses available in the clearance section of the online Scout store for only $5. This is a good opportunity, while it lasts, to start a leader uniform library. You might also want to talk to other leaders in your ward about who is interested in purchasing a uniform and put in a group order to save on shipping.
Making it a ward effort to supply uniforms for everyone who needs them can help strengthen and unify your ward. Just as "The pack is the strength of the wolf, and the wolf is the strength of the pack," (Law of the Jungle, Rudyard Kipling), if the ward as a whole will strengthen the Scout program, the Scout program will in turn strengthen the ward.