By Annaleis Smith
Dec 21, 2017

Thesis Review: If I Were Bishop Again

I recently read a paper (A Doctoral Thesis for Commissioner College) by Todd Cope titled “If I Were Bishop Again – The Pursuit of Successful Scouting in LDS Wards.”  I had noticed it on display at the Commissioner College in September and again in October 2017 and the title intrigued me.  I made a note to find time to read it and see what he had to say.  You too can read it as well as other UNPC Commissioner College Doctoral Thesis here.

Right at the beginning Todd writes:

It is intended that the ideas shared will act as a catalyst to personal thoughts, not only for Bishops, but for all who serve with them and desire to establish a solid foundation for Scouting in their wards.”  

Well, that gave me “permission” to read and learn more about Scouting from a former Bishop’s perspective, even though that is not a position that I will ever hold.

Todd breaks his thesis into six main topics or sections in which he shares his personal experiences, what he learned and what he would do differently if he were the Bishop again (Hence the title of his Thesis). His section titles are: Testimony, Organization, Training, Meetings, Participation and Leader Recognition.  I’m going to comment on and share a favorite quote from each section.


He starts with the importance of having a testimony of Scouting – him personally, his counselors and the Scout leaders.  Those of you who know me know how important I think Roundtable is so my favorite part of this first section is when he tells us about the importance of leading by example:

“Many Bishops feel as I initially did, that they can’t afford the time to attend Roundtable and other training opportunities. I learned that the opposite was true; I could not afford to miss them. At this point, my testimony of Roundtable attendance was growing and I went from encouraging others to participate, to inviting them to attend with me. It became more difficult for Scout Leaders in our ward to claim they were too busy to attend Roundtable when their Bishop, arguably the busiest man in the ward, was able to make time to attend.”


He then talks about what he learned about how to organize the ward.  Experiences trying to organize a committee without a clear understanding of what it was they were to do and on trying to call Scout leaders who were “boys’ men” as described by then LDS Your Men General President Charles Dahlquist – who currently serves as the National BSA Commissioner.  My favorite part in this section is where he says:

“I do not know where the tradition of separating priesthood and Scouting first started, but I do know, that from my perspective, it is the source of many problems faced by LDS units. Church leadership has always been clear about the relationship between the priesthood and Scouting and how they work together, yet ward leaders continue to separate them by making a clear division in leadership responsibilities. The LDS Scouting Handbook states, “Generally, Aaronic Priesthood quorum advisers serve as the adult leaders of the Scouting units in the ward.”4 The use of the term, “generally” does imply that this need not always be the case, but more importantly, it suggests that is should typically be the case. In my experience, I have not been aware of a situation where separating these callings was in the best interest of the boys.”


He talks about the various trainings available and the importance of having trained leaders.  He has a specific section talking about Wood Badge and his experience as a participant and then again on staff.  About Wood Badge he writes:

“…in spite of my inward conviction and outward years of service in Scouting, Wood Badge still managed to change me. It provided an opportunity and setting in which I could dig to the depths of my soul and ponder what Scouting really is and how it could bless the lives of the young men I served and how they could go on to benefit society.”


Then he has a section about meetings – Roundtable, Key Scouter Meetings, Courts of Honor and others. I was especially touched by his feelings of the importance of Courts of Honor.

“As Bishop, I loved attending our ward courts of honor and I encouraged my counselors, especially the COR, to attend with me. I felt it was important that the boys and their families recognized that Scouting was a priority for their bishopric. It was a great opportunity to acknowledge the hard work that went in to each merit badge, pin, rank advancement or recognition. Though not always possible, I tried to be dressed in full Scout uniform for each court of honor to signify my feelings about the importance of the Scouting program.”


He talks about his changing attitude towards his participation in weekly activities and campouts.  His advice in this area is:

“If I were to do it again, I would try to arrange my schedule so that I would have an opportunity to participate in a greater variety of activities and be able to see the boys in many different circumstances… Not only would it be a benefit to me to get to know the younger boys better, it would be a delightful way for the younger boys to see their Bishop in a different setting.”

Todd also points out that

“Baden Powell and every Scout leader since has come to know the value of the outdoors in training young men and helping them reach their potential. As Bishop, I would want to be a witness to that and perhaps even play a small role in helping the boys find that potential. Attempting to do this exclusively from behind the desk in the Bishop’s office would probably result in many missed opportunities.”

Leader Recognition

His last section it titled “Leader Recognition” he talks about the importance of knowing about and quailing for different awards from the District, Council, National and LDS Awards (Specifically the On My Honor Award) and he talks about his feelings when awarded with the Venturing Leadership Award.

“For the first time in my Scouting service, I realized that this was a genuine honor and that I had been nominated because of my service, not because I had served for a specified length of time. The fact was, I did not even know this particular award was something I was eligible to receive.”

He then adds that if he has the opportunity to serve as Bishop again

“I would not only see that all leaders were recognized for their faithful Scouting service, but I would actively teach the principle with the hope that nominations would not just come from the bishopric, but from within the ranks of the leaders themselves. As leaders recognize the value of the service their colleagues give, they become more aware of the value of their own service.”

He then concludes his remarks and includes the following statement that I really liked.

“Scouting is unquestionably a part of the LDS church culture in the United States and while some disparage the uniqueness of this partnership, I choose to embrace it because I believe it is a partnership based on inspiration. I have never had reason to question the direction from the general church leadership on any other subject, so what logical reason would there be to question it in regards to Scouting? We embrace Scouting because we have been asked to do so by those whom we sustain as inspired leaders. We do so, because it is our duty.”

I really enjoyed some of the insights that Todd shares in his Doctoral Thesis.  Some have supported some of my own thoughts and others have made me think a little deeper about a few things too.

Thesis 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.

  • About the Commissioner Collage Thesis Repository:  You can read  the rest of (less than 40 pages) Todd Cope’s thesis as well as others from the repository of UNPC Commissioner College Doctoral Thesis here.  I invite and encourage you to check them out.  Just a few of the papers you can read are “Providing a Purposeful Cracker Barrel”  by Julia Oldroyd, “The 11 Year Old Scout Factor” by Trello Prince,  Cub Scout Activities for Day Outings in Utah County” by Lorena Norris, “First Timers Breakout Session” by Tammy Thomas, “Working with Non-LDS Units in and LDS Community” by Blaine Smith and many more.  There are currently over 30 Thesis or project reports and as a Commissioner College Cabinet we are going to be highlighting a few, here in the blog, throughout the year.  

Author: Annaleis Smith is a “stay-at-home” mom of 5 (3 boys 2 girls).  She has been a Cub Scout leader since 2003.  She has been a cubmaster, den leader, pack trainer, Boy Scout Committee Chair, advancement coordinator and is currently cubmaster again.  She has been involved with roundtable at the district level since 2008 and involved in various council committees since 2010. She loves Cub Scouting and her favorite thing to do is to train other Cub Scout leaders.  She currently serves as the president of the Commissioner College Cabinet for the UNPC.

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