Submitted By The Lehi Utah East Stake
Our experience with using the Boy Scouts of America Adult and Youth Leadership Training programs in a stake-sponsored Aaronic Priesthood Leadership Encampment on a stake-wide basis has been and continues to be a great blessing for the youth and adult leadership in our stake. Our first experience with the program was in 2003 when we conducted the first encampment that included Wood Badge for the adult leaders, Kodiak for the Priest age boys, Varsity All-stars for the Teacher age boys and Timberline for those of Deacon age. We used the Council’s programs for all four programs and council camps as sites for the training. Without Council support, this program would not have been nearly as successful and we have had and continue to have a great partnership in this endeavor.
Our determination of a need for this experience came when we were called as the Stake Presidency of the Lehi Utah East Stake in 2000. We soon discovered a number of concerns with the youth programs in our Stake. We had some great “Scouters” in the stake, but in every ward the Scouting program was a separate program from Aaronic Priesthood quorum programs. Scouting was not being used to support the goals and objectives of the Aaronic Priesthood.
One indicator that this was the case was in the percentage of young men serving missions when of age. Our stake was sending out about 32% of age eligible young men, pretty much the average for the stakes in Utah County at that time. At the time of our release in 2009 that number had increased to 61% of eligible young men. In addition, fewer were returning home early from their missions. We felt that alone made the effort worthwhile, but there have been many other benefits experienced as well, as other stakes who did the same thing have discovered.
When we first started there were only two Wood Badge trained leaders in the Stake. Our first effort then was to concentrate as much as possible on getting as many of the adult leaders—who would be providing leadership at the Encampment—to attend Wood Badge as possible. The Stake Presidency set the example by having attended prior to asking others to do so. The focus of Wood Badge at the Encampment itself was to give this same experience to Bishops, Bishops Counselors with Aaronic Priesthood responsibilities, and Aaronic Priesthood Advisors.
To make a long story short, we were delighted at the effects that the Wood Badge Training had on our adult leaders. It created a new vision of how Scouting supports the goals and objectives of the Aaronic Priesthood. As a result of this effort, all of our Stake Presidency, Bishops, High Council working with the Aaronic Priesthood, Bishops, Bishops Counselors, and very importantly Aaronic Priesthood Advisors had a Wood Badge experience with the resultant new vision of Scouting’s role in the Aaronic Priesthood.
This effort was well worth the effort and cost. During our presidency we conducted two of these encampments involving Wood Badge as well as the Boy Leader training programs. The Stake Presidency that replaced us have also continued the program and have seen the same results we did. Because of the nature of Wood Badge and the Boy Leader training programs, Aaronic Priesthood principles are very much incorporated into the training such that adults and youth have wonderful spiritual experiences during and after the events. The support from the Utah National Parks Council was invaluable to us. We greatly appreciated the partnership we have had and continue to have with them and the great help and encouragement from both the volunteer and professional staff we have and continue to receive.
I would conclude with this observation. It is not just the training that Wood Badge and other leadership programs provide that made all the difference. It was the training, coupled with the vison created when the two are linked, and the commitment to specifically act in our callings.
Author: Douglas C Muir | Former Stake President, Lehi Utah East Stake