Of the five temples in Arizona, with one more coming in Tucson, all but one have on top a golden figure pointed east. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
Officials with the Mormon Church say some teenage members will no longer participate in the Boy Scouts of America and Scouts Canada, as the church looks to develop a similar program of its own.
Boys ages 14 to 18 who are part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will no longer be encouraged to participate in the Varsity and Venturing programs offered by the Boy Scouts, church leaders wrote in a letter Thursday.
Instead, the letter said, young men will “focus on spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church” through a new, church-commissioned global scouting program.
But young Mormon boys who want to pursue the rank of Eagle Scout will be “encouraged and supported in their efforts,” church officials wrote. Any boys younger than 14 will also be allowed to remain in the Boy Scout program.
The new action will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
The move, church officials said, was not in response to a new Boy Scouts policy to include gay and transgender scouts and leaders, nor was it triggered by recent discussions about girls and young women becoming involved in Boy Scouts.
Instead, church leaders said the young men were “not being served well” and the move will make room for a program that “meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.”
“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,” church officials wrote.
‘Ensure a balance of purposeful … activities’
The Boy Scouts of America and the Mormon Church have a long history.
In 1913, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the first to sponsor the Boy Scouts and adopted it as part of its “Mutual Improvement Association” program for young men. It remains the program’s biggest sponsor today.
Presidents Henry B. Eyring, Thomas S. Monson and Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who make up the church’s highest governing body, provided in their letter a set of guidelines for the program’s activities to “[build] young men with strong testimonies in the Lord Jesus Christ, [help] them magnify their priesthood duties and [prepare them] to fulfill their divine roles.”
They recommended for church leaders to develop a calendar to “ensure a balance of purposeful spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual activities,” holding combined activities with men and women a couple times a month and holding conferences or a “multi-day high adventure activity” each year.
“Activities should provide opportunities to be with youth, connect them with heaven, and let them lead,” they wrote.
As many as 180,000 teens
In a press release, Boy Scouts of America officials said the group “deeply appreciates” its relationship with the Mormon Church, but it recognizes that “not all programs are a perfect fit for all partners.”
However, Boy Scout officials anticipate that many Mormon youth will “continue to participate in scouting… to earn the Eagle Scout rank.”
Church leaders said the move should have a “minimal financial impact” on the program, as the church will pay the registration fees for all its members through 2018.
“Most of these legal associations are in connection with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs,” church officials wrote on its website.
According to the Boy Scouts of America, more than 330,000 Mormon youth participate in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs today, a number that “consistently grow[s] in membership year after year.”
The church’s announcement is expected to pull as many as 180,000 teenagers from the Boy Scouts of America, a fraction of the 2.3 million youth who currently participate in the program.
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