A few months ago, Rushford Lee, owner of Research Emotion Design (RED) started asking himself some questions centered on the subject of Scouting and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. How did Scouting relate to Church objectives for youth? Was there a spiritual side to Scouting? Is there really any link between the trail to Eagle and a mission?
After pondering these and others, Lee asked his own stake president some of these questions and was surprised by the answers. This prompted him to embark on a large research project for the Utah National Parks Council, Boy Scouts of America that included focus groups (he called them “love” groups—turns out not all the Scouters who like Scouting, love the Boy Scout Council), including broad surveys to hundreds of LDS Church leaders, who had plenty to say. What followed were many meetings with the council officers to discuss the findings, and in the end, Lee was appointed to Vice President of Marketing for the Council.
When guessing what the most important outcome of Scouting to LDS Church leaders, many thought that becoming Eagle Scouts was at the top of the list. RED found that while having a young man receive his Eagle Scout Award was on the list, it was far from number one.
He also found the most effective way to champion the message of Scouting was through stake presidents and bishops, 80% of whom were Scouts when they were younger and 44% earned their Eagle. Many of these key leaders had been in the trenches as Scout leaders and 61% had been in young men presidencies.
From his research, Lee explained, “Our young men need heroes to look up to. They need role models in their lives, at home and as they grow. Our goal is to help them become men such as the great leaders and teachers around them.”
From this finding, the Utah National Parks Council, BSA responded by incorporating the theme “Becoming such as These.” Which was later turned into an original song composed by R. Ross Boothe which premiered at the Celebration of Eagles this last July.
Lee explained that we need to tie church leaders to Scouting and, “encourage our boys to become men like the key leaders in the church, stakes, wards and Scouting troops; to become men like Christ.”
Lee further clarified “This is what Scouting is meant to be; bringing God into Scouting in a large way and making this tie together. It’s time to make the purpose of Scouting clear.”
Before his research, it was not clear to him. The study surprised him on every turn and it became clear that many don’t understand the “Duty to God” connection that Baden Powell intended the program to have.
Scouting Pillars of Communication to Reach LDS Leaders
The research pointed the Utah National Parks Council, BSA in a new direction that centers around six pillars that connect with and communicate to LDS leaders the “why” of Scouting.
Through surveys of stake presidents and bishops, the six pillars are in order of importance to young men leaders as they youth go through their Aaronic Priesthood/Scouting experience.
1- Be prepared by developing a testimony of Christ and of the gospel while doing our duty to God and our country. In the survey one stake leader described it this way: “Bearing our testimonies around the campfire: If we take our young men to outdoor activities and forget to have them bear their testimonies around the fire, we’ve missed the purpose of Scouting.”
2- Be prepared through personal growth and learning to serve others through charity and doing a good turn daily. In the survey another stake leader said: “There are life learning experiences in an outdoor environment with other boys and men that give the boys a unique experience outside of the home that support what’s going on inside the home.”
3- Prepare to go on a mission and teach others by preparing through the Scouting program as the activity arm of the priesthood. A stake leader described it this way: “Life is full of difficult experiences. Teaching resilience in the early years is very helpful preparation for missions, marriage and parenthood.”
4- Be prepared by learning to do hard things. A young man will gain confidence, learn leadership skills and prepare for the future as a son of God. One survey participant offered: “Learning how to do hard things, gain confidence and preparing for the future.”
5- Be prepared to be good fathers and husbands by following the examples of men, such as our Scout leaders, the bishopric, our prophets and the Savior. One Stake leader explained it this way: “To develop young men through faith in God, hard work, problem solving, achievement, and character-building activities.”
6- Be prepared by learning who we are as Scouts and sons of God by keeping ourselves physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight, understanding our true nature as a son of God. Finally to quote one more Stake leader: “Many young men don’t have the opportunity to connect with others. They don’t have strong family ties, they may not make friends easily, don’t fit in well at school. Scouting provides an atmosphere where the kids can fit in with their peers. Our leaders try and do a variety of activities that interest all of the boys. Gives leadership a chance to reach the one.”
The Utah National Parks Council, BSA is grateful to Rushford Lee and the team at RED; this research will shape the message and direction of Scouting for many years to come.
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA