This article covers the events leading up to this stake Wood Badge course and why the stake presidency decided to do it in the first place:
Maria: First of all, I know we’ve talked about this a lot, but what is your vision for the stake?
President McFarland: Our vision has been, from the beginning, D&C 97:21. That is, one pure heart at a time through the atonement of Christ and building, strengthening, and expanding the borders of Zion. We do that through the word of God and a number of other ways. But all for the purpose of immortality. So that’s really what we’re about.
Maria: So why did you choose Wood Badge as a forum for that?
President McFarland: The very first presidency meeting we had, I looked at President Doman and said, ‘Scouting in our stake stinks, get it fixed or get rid of it.’ And he said, “I’m all in.” And that’s when he started in the process. We’re not really stuck on a lot of numbers, but there is a number that sticks out for us. We only have half of our available young men going on missions and we feel like the Lord expects far more for us than where we are. We want more. We are concerned not only with the missionary work that isn’t being done, but for our young men and their lives and their families.
When President Doman started checking around with neighboring stakes, they attributed Wood Badge with getting the Scouting program going and reported 90+% of their young men going on missions. So that was very important to us.
President Doman: I went [to Wood Badge] under the direction of our stake president’s stewardship to wrap our arms around Scouting and figure out what would be our vision for Scouting, because we really weren’t doing an effective job as a stake capturing the hearts and minds of our leaders around a central vision. It was pretty splintered ward by ward and there was a lack of enthusiasm for Scouting.
So I went to Wood Badge with the understanding that I would come home with a vision that I could then give to the stake presidency. And that wasn’t easy. It wasn’t that they weren’t desirous to do the right thing or even desirous to do Scouting, they just weren’t certain that it was going to require a wholesale buy-in to a Wood Badge course that our stake would host—and that’s what I began to push. I believed that there would be an opportunity to bring 85 members of our stake up here, both staff and participants, and provide the environment that we’ve been able to create for the last five days.
One thing I would say to each stake presidency or stake that’s wanting to do this: The stake president holds keys, the second counselor doesn’t. The members of the stake, they look to those keys. The leaders look to the keys. The keyholder has a vision and he asks us, as members of the stake, to do things because he has received guidance and directions and believes there’s something that we need to do. For the most part, there’s a rallying cry to the keys. And I believe if we were going to have something that needed to be key-driven, that needed to have the keys of the stake president involved. Until he was involved and had had his own experience and his own vision, it wasn’t going to work. I didn’t want to champion that effort myself because it wasn’t going to work if I championed it.
President Thayer: President Doman’s an Eagle Scout. But President McFarland and I are anything but Eagle Scouts.
President McFarland: Boy Scout dropouts.
President Thayer: Boy Scout dropouts. Real negative experiences. And we hadn’t had a really good Scouting experience our whole adult lives in the Church for the most part. So President Doman, along with Dave Pack [Utah National Parks Council Scout Executive], came in and visited with the stake presidency and helped us have the vision that this could be priesthood-key driven and it could be a spiritual experience.
So President McFarland and I went to Wood Badge last fall. We went together, which we thought was wonderful. We were in the same patrol. Then all three of us had been through Wood Badge, and all three of us could talk about the experience and get revelation. And then we turned it into what we’ve done this year, and I’m a convert. I can see personally how doing this Wood Badge and then our next Wood Badge—already thinking about doing another one—can help us incorporate the vision of building Zion. The benefit of having sixty some-odd—eighty with the staff—members of our stake here together for six days . . . there has been a bonding and a unification and a brother- and sisterhood (we’ve got eleven of our sisters here too). To me this has just been a wonderful experience.
People who know me would say, “What? Brother Thayer’s talking about Wood Badge as a wonderful experience?” They had heart attacks thinking I was going to go, but it’s been wonderful. I think it’s just been a wonderful process.
President McFarland: Speaking to the process, the process was one of counseling together, of being candid and pushing back and really, truly seeking what the Lord would have us do, and this is what we landed on. But it wasn’t an easy process. In a lot of ways, especially President Thayer and I, we’re trying to catch up with President Doman. But especially the two of us, we had to get out of our own way and see what the Lord really wanted us to do. So this was not an easy process. We didn’t just jump in and fall in line.
President Thayer: So if you’re familiar with team development, we were the perfect picture as a presidency of team development—of forming, storming, a bit of that, and then moving forward and performing. It’s been a wonderful process.
Interested in hosting your own stake-sponsored Wood Badge course? Contact John Gailey.
Authors: Pleasant Grove North Field Stake Presidency