By Annaleis Smith
May 11, 2018

Be Known as a Commissioner

I recently re-watched the LDS Commissioner’s Orientation video narrated by The BSA National Commissioner Charles Dahlquist.  If you haven’t watched it or even if you have and it’s been a while, I recommend that all stake leaders watch it. (It only takes about 10 mins)  There were a couple of lines specifically that caught my attention.

 “The role of a commissioner is not always as visible as other leadership positions but it is essential and plays a highly influential part in the success of Scouting…. Each unit should have a Unit Commissioner assigned to watch over, nurture, mentor, support and encourage.”

and later in the training, he says;

“The commissioner role is a Scouting assignment that comes with certain church callings… It’s important to note that the role of a unit commissioner is very closely tied to, and in fact mirrors, many of your responsibilities as a member of a stake young men or stake primary presidency.”

I’d been thinking about this second quote about how being a commissioner is “closely tied to and in fact, mirrors many responsibilities”  And wondering if all Stake leaders understand this relationship and/or if most ward leaders even know that they have a commissioner assigned to them.  Then just the other day I received the following from a fellow Commissioner, Todd Cope, with some thoughts of his own basically the same topic. (I recently shared another of Todd’s writings on The Boy Scout)  I’ll let Todd take it from here as he does a very good job of explaining why it matters that both you and the ward leaders know what your Scouting role as a Commissioners is and why using the right Scouting lingo matters.

Author: Annaleis Smith currently volunteers as President of the Commissioner College Cabinet for the UNPC.

Thoughts from Todd F. Cope:

Several years ago while serving as an LDS Stake Young Men President and Unit Commissioner, I was visiting with a Scout leader who was struggling in his unit. After addressing his most pressing questions, I suggested that his Unit Commissioner could provide additional and ongoing help. His response was, “Do we even have a Unit Commissioner?”  This question caused me to pause. I knew that the Unit Commissioner serving that particular unit (who happened to be one of my counselors in the Young Men Presidency) was making regular visits to the unit meetings and activities, yet for some reason, this leader was unaware of the valuable resource available to him. 

I thought about this leader’s question for some time and began to wonder if the units I served knew they had a Unit Commissioner. I came to the conclusion that they probably did not. When I visited units, though I was filling the role, I was not identifying myself as their commissioner. While one might wonder why this would be important as long as the job gets done, I came to understand that is was very important. 

In order to benefit from all that scouting has to offer, we must deliver the program as intended. It is true that, as Charter Partner, the LDS Church has made adaptations to scouting that accommodate church standards and policies. Unfortunately, these authorized adaptations too often become the basis for further unauthorized adaptations.  Though usually unintentional, these additional changes potentially dilute the intent of Scouting as they become the norm over time. 

I began to realize that one of these unauthorized changes was the replacement of Scouting terminology with Church terminology. When I visited units, they knew I was there as the Stake Young Men President, but were unaware that I was there as Unit Commissioner. More to the point, they were unaware that I was a Unit Commissioner. Because I chose not to use the appropriate Scouting lingo, I was less effective in my Scouting role. While it could be argued that the roles are the same and this is just semantics, I believe there is an important distinction.  As Stake Young Men President, I also assumed the role of Unit Commissioner, but the reverse was not true. One responsibility encompassed the other, but they were still very distinct. Just as I am both father and friend to my children, it is important that I do not treat them as the same. As a father, there are times when I need to focus on being a friend and to make it clear to my children that that is my role at that time. 

So it is with Commissioners who serve dual roles in the LDS Church. When serving as a Commissioner, be sure to be focused on that role, and make those you’re serving aware of the reason you are there. Make it known that you are there as a Commissioner – that you are there as a resource.

Author: Todd F. Cope is a Registered Nurse and currently the Director of Education at Timpanogos Regional Hospital. He earned his Eagle Scout award as a youth and began serving as a Scout Leader in 1991. He has served in a variety of positions at the unit and District level since that time.  He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner in the Spanish Fork Utah Stake and the as Committee Chair for the Timpanogos Regional Hospital Explorer Post.

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