LDS Church parts ways with older scout programs, says policies on LGBT leaders wasn't part of the decision

Written by: 
Adam Case

In a letter by the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the church leaders wrote, “As part of the Church’s ongoing effort to evaluate and improve its services to families and young people worldwide, the Church will no longer charter Varsity or Venturing units with the Boy Scouts of America and Scouts of Canada effective January 1, 2018.”

Joseph Plicka, an English professor and past Venture leader, said, “It is both a little sad and bittersweet because scouting has been a part of the church for so many years, but times have changed and we are an international church now. Scouting is very American and it needs something different. Scouting taught us how to do it and the church has the means to make something that will work better for everyone.”

Deseret News reported, “The overhaul is stunning, because Scouting has been an indelible, seemingly inseparable, part of the LDS Church's Young Men program for 104 years, but it isn't a major surprise. Church leaders quietly have considered dropping Scouting from its Young Men and Primary programs for many years for multiple reasons.”

In an article answering questions regarding the change, Mormon Newsroom says, “In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14–18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church. This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.”

Scott Bennion, a junior accounting major from Tennessee, said, “I feel that by dropping Boy Scouts from the church ranks of endorsed programs, the young men of the future will feel an absence of one of the great pillars that has supported the rearing of our youth and helped me immensely in my life.”

The church will still be supporting Cub Scouts for boys 8 to 10 and Boy Scout programs for ages 11 through 13, according to the letter. Mormon Newsroom says, “These programs currently meet the development program needs of boys from ages 8 through 13.”

Deseret News reported, “The statement noted that ‘previous statements have indicated that the church wants a program that serves all young men around the world.’ It also noted, ‘the church continues to look for ways to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs of young men around the world.’”

In 2015, the BSA lifted a ban on gay scout leaders in response to a lawsuit. The church released a statement that said the leaders were “deeply troubled” and “the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined.”

One question on Mormon Newsroom was “Is this due to changes in Scout policy in the past few years to allow gay and transgender Scouts and leaders?” The response, “The BSA has always allowed the Church to operate its programs in ways that are consistent with our standards and beliefs, and they have been very supportive. This change is to address the needs of young men ages 14 to 18. The Church is always evaluating what is best for our youth and families, and will continue to do so.”

Anna Hadley, a senior psychology major from Texas, said, “I think that scouting was cool, but my brothers hated scouts. I feel like it gave them good structure so my parents really encouraged them to participate, but I know they really hated it.”

The LDS Church released a website with activities to replace the scouting programs. Activities include sports games, geocaching, film festivals, and more. The activities are divided into four categories: spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual.

Date Published: 
Monday, May 15, 2017
Last Edited: 
Monday, May 15, 2017