Boy Scouts, Mormon Church Split After More Than 100 Years

Following policy shifts within Boy Scouts of America over the last five years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it will formally end its relationship with the youth program.

Boy Scouts salute
Photo by: Nate Pesce

In 2013, Boy Scouts of America began admitting openly gay Scouts. In 2015, it supported gay Scout leaders. Then, in 2017, the organization took a stance supporting transgender Scouts. Most recently, this year it announced a name change to reflect the inclusion of female Scouts.

But despite its ethos of inclusion, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) this week said goodbye to a key partner. In a joint statement posted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (LDS) website, the LDS and BSA announced an end to a century-long partnership.

“The Church has increasingly felt the need to create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally. In so doing, it will be necessary for the Church to discontinue its role as a chartered partner with BSA,” the LDS said in the statement.

Mormon Church Leaves Boy Scouts

Mormon Church
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo by: Michael Whiffen

According to the LDS, the split will become final at the end of 2019. The Church announced a new “Children and Youth Development Initiative” beginning Jan. 1, 2020. The specifics of the program haven’t been announced. But leading up to the switch, the LDS said it will phase out of Scouting programs.

“The Church will continue to register all boys ages 8–13, those 14 and older working on rank advancement, and adult leaders associated with those youth,” the Church said. “Camps, regular activities, and Friends of Scouting will all continue until December 31, 2019.”

While the LDS pinned the move on a “need to address diverse needs and fortify all children and youth with gospel-centered growth and learning experiences,” the rift between the two organizations has widened over the last few years.

Prior to BSA’s decision to formally accept openly gay Scouts in 2013, LDS presiding bishop Gary E. Stevenson enumerated the Mormon Church’s stance. The Church publicly opposes same-sex marriage and considers homosexuality a sin.

“I am very aware of the controversial moral, legal, and policy issues that face this great organization. They are deep and they are wide, and they will test the best in us,” he said.

Two years later, after BSA announced it wouldn’t prohibit Scout leaders based on sexual orientation, the LDS said it was “deeply troubled” by the decision. The Church then began scaling back its affiliation with BSA last year, beginning its own youth programs for high-school-age boys.

Today’s announcement comes less than a month after BSA announced it would change its name to “Scouts BSA” in 2019 with the admission of female members.

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Mormon Church, Boy Scouts History

The two institutions have a deep relationship, as the Church has chartered the BSA for 105 years. In 2017, the Church had 425,000 Scout-age boys in its congregation, according to Scouting Magazine. That accounts for more than 18 percent of the BSA’s total membership.

For its part, BSA said that it will continue to welcome LDS youth into the Scouts after the 2020 split. “For LDS families who want to continue the tradition of Scouting beyond 2019, the BSA will ensure a smooth transition to community-sponsored units that will welcome youth previously served by LDS-sponsored units.”

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Adam Ruggiero is an all-sport activity junkie - from biking, running, and (not enough) surfing, to ball sports, camping, and cattle farming. If it's outside, it's worth doing. Adam graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in journalism. Likes: unique beer, dogs, stories. Like nots: neckties, escalators, manicured lawns.
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