ST. GEORGE — Prior to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially cutting its century-long ties with the Boy Scouts of America at the start of the year, a Washington City man created a community scout troop where preexisting scouts and newcomers could continue to participate in the scouting program.
Troop 435 was formed in October by Cade Hoff, an area realtor, and became officially registered with the national organization last month thanks to the sponsorship of the Washington City Lions Club. The troop has grown to include a mix of Boy Scouts pursuing their Eagle Scout ranks and others having fun with friends at the troop’s weekly meetings.
Ben Stanley, a 14-year-old who said he’s been involved in scouting since he was younger, was upset that the LDS church dropped the program. However, he’s thankful for the new troop he’s found.
“It’s been good. They’re all a little crazy, but it’s been fun,” he said while his fellow scouts were engaged in shooting video footage for a film-making merit badge at Hoff’s home Monday evening.
Stanley was one of 13 boys at the scout leader’s home that evening. Most were clad in scout uniforms as they handled a camera on a tripod or acted out a scene they had devised for a movie. Others were in the backyard shooting video with their phones.
While all of that was happening, one of the younger scouts stood in front of Hoff with his right arm brought up to the square and three figures pointed high in the scout salute as he recited the Scout Law, Oath and other scout-related mantras.
Hoff told St. George News that previously they had a troop for 11-year-olds that was involving a lot of the boys in the neighborhood.
“They were having a really good time with that,” he said. “When the church decided to pull out, we thought (creating a new troop) was a good way to continue with the boys and give them some activities to do, and we’ve expanded it to more areas in the neighborhood.”
The LDS church announced in 2018 that it was withdrawing from the Boy Scouts of America at the end of 2019 in order to pursue its own faith-based youth program, removing over 400,000 youth from the program.
At the time, church representatives said the program was difficult to apply worldwide and wanted to craft a program that suited the needs of those outside North America. More than half the church’s nearly 17 million members live outside the U.S. and Canada.
They also cited the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to open its doors to openly gay youth members and adult volunteers, as well as girls and transgender youth.
The church, while moving to be more empathetic toward LGTBQ members, has maintained its stance that being in a homosexual relationship is a sin and is opposition to same sex-marriage.
In November of last year, one the church’s high-ranking leaders, Elder M. Russell Ballard, said, “The reality there is we didn’t really leave (the Boys Scouts); they kind of left us. The direction they were going was not consistent to what we feel our youth need to have…to survive in the world that lies ahead for them.”
Hoff said having a community troop versus one sponsored by the LDS church has both its advantages and disadvantages.
Among the advantages are the troop’s membership not being locked within a single church ward, the congregation units with geographical boundaries. This has allowed the troop to open up to several boys within the community. Another bonus is not having a restriction on how far the scouts can travel to campouts or other scout-related activities.
One of the drawbacks, however, is not having the funding for the activities the LDS church largely covered. It doesn’t help that the Boy Scouts of America recently hiked its annual fees by more than 80%. Hoff nonetheless sees some benefit to this challenge for his scouts.
“It does make it a little more expensive, but (the Boy Scouts) needs to be able to keep itself financially solvent, right?” Hoff said. “It is a little difficult because everyone’s used to the LDS church covering the cost, so now the boys are going to have to fundraise. It also opens up the horizon, because if they can fundraise, then they can do can some bigger activities that cost some more money.”
Fortunately for Troop 435, at least one cost is being covered by an outside organization. The Washington City Lions Club is sponsoring the troop’s annual registration with the Boy Scouts.
“We felt it would be helpful for these young men to have a scout troop,” club president Russell Miller said. “They were looking for a sponsor because they wanted to keep the scout program going, so we wanted to help out and be an asset to them.”
The Boy Scout program helps young men become great adults, Miller said, and the Lions Club wanted to help that tradition continue.
Through the Lions Club, Hoff said he sees many opportunities for service as far as the troop is concerned. He hopes to build synergy between the Lions Club and Troop 435 as the scouts participate in many of the service projects the club sponsors in the community.
In addition to the Washington City’s Troop 435, the Elk’s Lodge in St. George has long-sponsored Troop 0509. The Rotary Club also sponsors scout troop in St. George and Hurricane.
For those interested in joining a local scout troop, they can be located though the Boy Scouts of American website.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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