By The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Jul 20, 2014

A Strong Foundation

In 2004 Hurricane Ivan swept through the Caribbean and the United States. At its peak, it reached category 5 strength and winds as high as 165 miles per hour, becoming the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record.[1] Damages were estimated at nearly 19 billion dollars.[2] One of the islands hit hardest was Grand Cayman. During part of the storm, the entire island was completely covered with water and was reported to have even disappeared from satellite.

One homeowner there was . Aware of the approaching storm, he fled to a bunker for protection. When the storm passed and it was safe to leave the bunker, he emerged to a scene of devastation. Home after home was torn apart—nearly 85 percent of the buildings on the island ivan03sustained damage. As Dick walked back to his home on the coast, he did not know what he might find there. Then, as his street came into view, he found, amid the devastation, a single home standing intact on the road—his home. He even found lights on because his generator had survived. Now there’s a man who understood the motto “Be Prepared!”

Why had his home withstood the wind? Because years earlier he had understood the power of a strong foundation. When the home was built, he had prepared his foundation 20 feet down, boring and anchoring into bedrock. To some, that depth may seem excessive. Yet Dick maintained the importance of a deep foundation to secure his home. And that strong foundation provided safety against the intense storm.

A solid, deep foundation is always critical for success—not just in individuals, homes, and families, but also in businesses and organizations. Prior to my full-time assignment with the LDS Church, I was co-founder and principal of a consumer products company.  As the business grew into worldwide markets and head count increased to over 2500, so did its complexity.  We engaged a consultant to help us adopt a world-recognized quality standard, called download.  This was an extensive and complicated integration process.  Interestingly, prior to commencing their considerable consultation, the first task was a thorough review of the company mission statement.  Their extensive experience had taught them that without such a statement, and a culture which understood and supported it, product quality would never be world class.

A foundation or mission statement seems to be a common denominator in many great organizations—and lacking in some of those not so great. To stay focused on its mission, it develops a succinct statement that informs every meeting and drives every decision. That mission statement is clear and concise, and it motivates and inspires. It can guide an organization, decide the destiny of a generation, or determine the fate of a nation.  12-28-2012_81442_lExamples abound:

For and his multi-national coalition, it was two words: “Liberate Kuwait.”

For Abraham Lincoln: “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.”

For America’s Founding Fathers: “In God we trust.”

For the followers of Jesus: “Love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

And for a Boy Scout: the Scout Oath. Central to the Oath: “I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.”

Norman-Rockwell-Boyscouts-620x320Isn’t it impressive that this great organization, so far ahead of its time, established this foundation or mission statement, integrated it deeply into its culture, and practiced it, beginning in 1910.  Ask any man who was a boy scout, and you will find near 100 percent recognition and an “off the chart” recall of this mission statement.

Duty—shall we drill down just a little deeper?  Thomas S. Monson, the leader of my church and a longtime member of BSA’s National Executive Board, said, “I love and cherish the noble word duty and all that it implies.”[3]

Duty to God is the heart of Scouting. It is a founding principle as old and deep as the organization itself. What does it imply? The World Organization of the Scout Movement defines duty to God as “adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom.”[4] And a BSA duty to God task force said, “Spirituality, reverence, morality, [and] ethical behavior . . . are terms which reflect and demonstrate ways to fulfill duty to God.”[5]

elder-stevensonExcerpt from keynote speech delivered by Bishop Gary E Stevenson at the BSA Annual Meeting 23 May 2013


[1], quoting: National Hurricane Center; Hurricane Research Division; Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (February 15, 2013). “Atlantic hurricane best track (HURDAT version 2).” United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved April 28, 2013.


[3] Thomas S. Monson, “The Call of Duty,” Ensign, May 1986.


[5] task.html

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