ST. GEORGE – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday it will be dropping its participation in Boy Scouts of America programs for older teens starting next year.
Specifically, the church will be dropping the Varsity and Venturing scouting programs that cater to teenage boys between 14-18.
Church officials said in a Q-and-A posted on the church’s newsroom website that the decision to end the scouting programs was not due to the BSA’s opening up to gay and transgender scouts and leaders. Instead, those programs just haven’t served the young men of the church well, church officials said, and they haven’t been the easiest programs to run locally.
“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,” officials said. “This change is to address the needs of young men ages 14 to 18.”
Instead, activities offered through the church’s Young Men program will focus on “spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs” of the older teens in the church.
The withdrawal from the Varsity and Venturing programs will occur Jan. 1, 2018.
The church is not completely dropping out of the scouting program, however. Boys 8-13 will still be involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and individuals who wish to pursue earning an Eagle Scout rank are encouraged to do so.
“We anticipate that many youth from the LDS Church will continue to participate in Scouting beyond the age of 14 as young men work to earn the Eagle Scout rank,” BSA officials said in a press release Thursday.
The change only affects LDS church congregations – called wards – in the United States and Canada, as it only offers the Varsity and Venturing scout programs in those two countries.
“The Boy Scouts of America deeply appreciates our relationship with the LDS Church, one that began in the earliest years of the Scouting movement when the LDS Church became the first partner to sponsor Scouting in the United States,” BSA officials said.
While scouting programs are embraced nationwide, the BSA noted that some programs are not “a perfect fit for all partners.”
Church officials previously said that the Boy Scouts program did not meet the needs of young men in other countries. Because of this they are working on developing their own global program.
Overall, approximately 470,000 boys ages 8-17 in the church in the United States and Canada participate in scouting, with an estimated 280,000 between 8-13 remaining once the church leaves the older-teen scouting programs.
- LDS church: Questions and Answers about Changes to the Young Men Program
- Boy Scouts of America statement
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