Church reevaluating Scouting program

The Church released the following today:

Church Re-evaluating Scouting Program
Concern expressed over BSA policy change, lack of global reach

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the following statement today after a vote on a policy change by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board to admit openly gay leaders:

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.

As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.”

Here is a link to the release.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

45 thoughts on “Church reevaluating Scouting program

  1. Yep. That’s about where I expected the line would be drawn. What a shame that BSA has been overrun by SJWs at the top. We had a great run…

  2. I saw the preliminary statement a month or so ago and knew that if the BSA went thru with it, that the Church probably would disapprove. I wonder what the Catholic Church will do, hard to say in their case. I’ve heard that that majority of US scout troops are associated with one Church or the other. The biggest effect may be the loss of the Scout campgrounds that are used for the summer trips.

  3. It looks like I may not have to feel so badly about myself for not making it to Eagle now….

  4. Input from the father of three young boys: the Church leaving Scouts will have very little effect on me or my kids. We live in a small town where our troop is almost all young men from our ward. Almost all events for the Scouts only involve members of the ward. The Church could very easily set up a young men’s program that was similar to the Scouts and we would hardly miss a beat.

    It is not insignificant that the Scouts do not have a significant international presence. As the Church grows, it would be nice for it to have a more robust international scouting program of its own. I think this would appeal to young men outside of the U.S.

  5. I have served as an adult leader including Scoutmaster and Chartered Organization Representative in a very strong District (in numbers of boys it’s bigger than some Councils). The Varsity Scout program was invented here. I love the Scouting movement and the principles it instills. I cannot pretend that the death of BSA will not be a horrible loss.

    But like Geoff hints, something even better may come of this. Since 1) most troops in my District are LDS rather than traditional, 2) a huge number of experienced Scouters who served and have served at the District and Council levels are LDS, and 3) I suspect the same is true across at least the mountain west, the Church is in a prime position to develop and implement an outstanding replacement program that scales internationally.

  6. There is another point that some people have not considered, and it is that the Scouts can be expensive for people on a budget. When you include the costs of uniforms and manuals and scout camps and jamborees and assorted paraphernalia, the cost is not insignificant. The church’s similar program would be less costly.

  7. I’m in the same boat as Geoff B. I’m the father of two Eagle Scouts, and have been active in scouting since 1986. However, I could sit down in an hour and beef up DTG to track many of BSA’s positives, and it wouldn’t involve nearly the expense and headache involved with BSA. Time to exit.

  8. I am very frustrated by this. If not for scouting, I never would have even met members of the church, much less joined it. I hate to think we are further insulating ourselves from the opportunity to do good in the world. I also don’t understand how such a position would be in accordance with the church’s position regarding religious freedom. I hope our affiliation continues.

  9. The handwriting is on the wall. A local-option compromise might buy us a year or two or three while the lawsuits and government pressure are being ramped up. LDS troops could be denied access to BSA-owned property in, say, California during that period Time to consider a Benedict Option for Scouting.

    Others have correctly noted that the Church could create a less expensive and more international program. The transition, if it comes to that, might be a bit rough. It will be interesting to see what Catholics and Methodists do. And what might the Scouts do if major sponsors of troops develop their own alternatives to scouting? It could be a death spiral for scouting.

    The Church leaders are rightly troubled. I am sure they will make the right decisions, but it is sad that it has come to this.

  10. Maybe in October’s general conference an apostle will announce that Duty to God is being expanded to replace Scouting. This has been rumored ever since DTG was created, anyway.

  11. There will also be the issue of transgendered leaders. And I can imagine a human sexuality merit badge down the road, though it might not be called that. Maybe it will be an LGBT rights badge. At some point the tension between the BSA and the Church will become too great. Maybe it is there already. It is disappointing to see the timing of the decision given the Church’s request for a delay. If left alone, we could manage with another compromise. But we won’t be left alone. The drumbeat for change will continue. We will be made to conform or be forced to exit.

    If the faith-based troops head for the exits, Scouting’s slow decline will become a near collapse. The BSA is top heavy and will have a hard time maintaining its national offices if its major supporters leave.

    This is Robert Conquest’s Third Law: The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

  12. Conquest’s Second Law also applies: Any organization that is not explicitly right wing will eventually become left wing.

  13. Steve S, please bring up your question on another thread. I am sure there will be other places, even on M*, to discuss this in the days ahead. Thanks.

  14. Those who have chosen to face the wrong way may have a little leeway to straighten out. I expect this to be a tipping point. It will probably be resolved by October.

  15. I watched the BSA Chairman (or President?) initially propose this rule a couple of months ago. He didn’t seem to want to support it because he believed it was the right thing, but he proposed it because he feared that the BSA would be torn to shreds in the courts and that they would lose additional control over the organization as a result. In some ways, this was a preemptive surrender… One that they probably would have been forced to make eventually.

  16. Starting a new organization will not be easy or cheaper, at least initially. In my neck of the woods we recruit at the schools and rec. centers to beef up our troop. It is now about 50% community kids with no affiliation with the Church.

    If the Church’s affiliation with BSA changes. I just hope the YW can maybe try to get a bigger piece of the budget pie. At least I hope for my daughter’s sake. I see the activities and it looks like six years of marriage prep.

    I think if church chartered groups leave, Scouts will just draw on the urban areas and push hard in the schools. Girl Scouts went through similar phase, they trimmed down and now are leaner and better run than most BSA councils. I am sure there will be lots of phone calls and Scout exec.’s shaking in their boots.
    Should be an interesting few months (especially since I am the YM pres.)

  17. One of my daughters and her husband have been avoiding enlisting their several sons in Scouting. Over several decades I have served as a den mother and merit badge counselor in several areas. On this basis I created a series of ‘units’ covering activities addressed by Scouting. I included their sister in the weekly 2-3 hour sessions. So far we have studied First Aid, including beefing up their family’s first aid kit, creating personal kits for each of them and testing competence. They studied construction and architecture and built a shelter. They helped me inventory my Certified Emergency Response Team kit and created a plan for family emergency evacuation. Our recent unit covered nutrition and cooking. The same generosity of sharing talents and skills that made Scouting successful for so long are still available in our communities. I am not a big fan of making everything equal, but most of the skills boys learned in Scouting would be valuable for girls. ‘Activity Days’ for girls have not been well focused. I find it interesting that the statement about the lack of Scouting internationally elicited the statement that ‘fully one half of its youth’ face limitations. Last time I checked, ‘For the Strength of Youth’ is aimed at both boys and girls. That makes the number closer to 75% of youth who lack the structure Scouting has provided. Possibly we’ll see a beefed up and more standardized ‘Activity Day’ that sometimes provides separate activities as appropriate, but anyone who has witnessed a Ward wide Pinewood Derby knows that girls (and grandmas) can make cool cars that win prizes.

  18. The “six years of marriage prep” is sad and unfortunate. One cousin did not feel like YW answered needs and I suspect that that is part of why she identifies as he now. I viewed it more as prep for future, because while I might not have to utilize knot-tying… I certainly had to cook for myself in the future.

    I reiterate the hopes of friends that the YM will get a program as flexible and yet spiritually rigorous as the YW personal progress.

  19. Geoff B., feel free to remove my comment (and your response, and this one) if you feel like it is detracting from the central point of this thread. It is a question I have, but this may not be the appropriate place to get into those weeds.

  20. Interesting. And with this change, we may see more opportunities for youth within the Church to participate across traditional lines, when there is not the artificial BSA vs. not BSA delineation.

    I don’t know if 4-H is a possible alternative, but 4-H is a global organization in 50 some countries that brings young men and young women together. Our girl’s camp is held at a 4-H camp, for example. 4-H brings numerous existing resources to bear in the forms of manuals, etc.

    In the US it would be a problem, because the US 4-H is administered by the USDA. As a gov’t program, US 4-H would be directed to not exclude leaders based on [pick criteria]. However in other countries, 4-H is often a non-profit rather than a gov’t program.

  21. On the one hand, the Church has *not* announced its withdrawal and I wouldn’t think its withdrawal is set in stone. We probably shouldn’t try to anticipate where the church is going until it gets there. On the other hand, a public announcement that you are reconsidering your relationship is a pretty big shot across the bow–not something you are going to do lightly. So without significant concessions by the BSA, you have to think that whatever this presages, it presages something.

    Whatever happens, I hope that members don’t take it as an opportunity to try to push the youth programs in a more unisex direction. Now more than ever, boys need a separate masculine identity that is fostered and encouraged in the church and elsewhere. We can’t be a church that preaches complementarity from the pulpit at General Conference and then preaches the opposite in our day to day church life during the week, every week. The latter preaching will drown out the former.

  22. “Conquest’s Second Law also applies: Any organization that is not explicitly right wing will eventually become left wing.”

    ROTFL – The view from the right wing or the left wing is remarkably similar with respect to how much of the world seems to be under the substantial influence of one’s political opponents.

    Scouting helped the Church meet the needs of the young men for many years, but if it is no longer capable of doing that (in the leaders’ judgment) then by all means the Church should develop its own programs.

    I think the Church will be able to do a much better job of creating content broad/spiritually rich *world-wide* programs for both the young men *and* the young women once the General Authorities and the General Young Women Leaders are directed to focus their efforts on doing so. My guess is they will start with the Strength for Youth ideas and add in practical life skills, some preparedness/survival/outdoors stuff, and some career exploration opportunities. I do think that there will need to be a lot of area-by-area variation when it comes to the specifics though. In the end they will figure it out because the Church needs good programs for *all* of its youth, and they will have the advantage of revelation and correct principles. I do think it will take many years to work out the details, develop content, and iron out the “kinks” though. The transition likely will not be either fun nor pleasant.

  23. I regret the situation the BSA has been forced into by those who really want to destroy it. I generally understand the reasons for its decision. This is not an easy matter — to be destroyed for standing for good by outside forces, or to be destroyed from the inside by the abandonment of former friends.

    I believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States has benefited greatly from its association with the Boy Scouts of America. It is the really the ONLY avenue we have that allows for ongoing organized interactions between member and nonmembers. It is good for LDS young men to go to district camporees. It is good for LDS men and women to serve on district committees. So much goodwill has been created over the years — it simply cannot be measured, but it is real. And certainly, although not it’s purpose, it has been good for our missionary work.

    And Scouting provides structure for an ongoing program. I have seen the mediocrity where YM leaders let the boys play basketball, and I have seen the mediocrity of turning Duty to God into a program. I do not understand why some members actually want to embrace and formalize that mediocrity — parity with the YW is a poor reason.

    I hope the Church will continue to be loyal to its friend, the BSA, during this time of difficulty. I don’t know what the outcome will be, and I don’t know all the inner discussions and realities, but I do not want to join all the LDS-BSA naysayers yet in advocating for the mediocrity in our young men program that will be the result of a divorce. Scouting can work well in a ward — I have seen it a number of times when a very few good men choose to make it work, even against the desire for mediocrity espoused by other men in the ward — those other men go on to be promoted, so to speak, in church office, but I have seen the mediocrity that results when those men win the day. I know this mediocrity is the reality in many wards where Scouting is not embraced and those men instead do basketball and DTG — I am saddened to think this might become our official program. I wish some of our Good Scouting men (there aren’t very many) could be promoted in church office — but I am sure there is a place for them in the celestial kingdom of our God.

  24. Personally I think the Church would do well to rethink it’s youth programs and drop scouts. I think improving women’s programs such as activity days would be great. Maybe have a joint monthly meeting. Some things, like the pinewood derby or boat race really ought already to be joint. (Fortunately in my ward everyone was pretty open about allowing my daughter to also race her car – although she wasn’t in the formal competition)

    As others have noted there’s a lot of silly overhead that comes with it. It’s often too expensive too. While the revised program that came out this year is helpful, I think it can be a bit overwhelming as a calling. There are a ton of places we could improve things and make it a bit more Mormon.

  25. I find it interesting that the BSA NEB could not, or perhaps would not, accommodate the Church’s request, given the Church’s long-standing support, for a delay. The Church certainly has a strong, unique, and peculiar voice to stand up against the tide, but whatever the case, even that would probably not have much altered the outcome which was unanimous in the vote. Given also that the Church has unique foresight, I would not at all be surprised if alternate programs and measures have been or are being developed by, say, members of the 70, as assigned by Pres. Monson, for this exact scenario.

  26. By the vote it seems like this was a popular decision. The BSA was torn between funding and volunteers it gets from religion (LDS, Catholic, others) and from corporate organizations. Honestly it was in a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation. I’ve no idea what internal politics were going on but it seems like it made its decision. Regardless of whether you agree with it or not, I’m not sure delaying would do much. What’s the point? From an organizational perspective clearly they’ve decided to alienate the Churches who see this as problematic. Presumably they have done this because they think their survival wouldn’t survive the demographic and social changes in the US. Delaying wouldn’t change anything and might just build up more ill will with the group they’ve decided to support.

    As I said, honestly I think this is good for the church. Long before this I was pretty at best mixed on the mixing of a secular organization so deeply into the church. Further, as many have noted, boy scouts leads to problems treating young women and young men equally. Further it’s a fairly problematic calling due to the time requirements, funding issues (I buy all my stuff myself), and so forth. While the recent changes in scouting have improved things somewhat, I still think the church could do much better.

    The reality is that likely there would be legal challenges in the future (and perhaps some are already going on) that the BSA would lose. So again, the quasi-religious is a problem legally on this issue.

  27. “So again, the quasi-religious is a problem legally on this issue.”

    I think this is right. Our secular society wants to wall off religion into its own isolated sphere, with no overlap of secular and religious, so anything quasi-religious is an obvious target.

  28. I would say “Further, as many have noted, boy scouts leads to problems treating young women and young men equitably.”

    There are times when it is good to do things together. There are other times when it is good to do things separately.

  29. “The “six years of marriage prep” is sad and unfortunate.”

    The only thing I see unfortunate about it is that the boys aren’t getting it as well.

  30. I’ve been a Scoutmaster, Committee Chairman, and District Commissioner over the years. My stake is very involved in the local district and council, and have many of our members (including my stake president) in BSA leadership roles. If we leave, I think it will hurt boy scouts more than the Church. If the Catholics, Baptists and Mormons leave, it will affect about 70 percent of Scout troops/packs. BSA will essentially reduce to 1/3 of its size, never to recover again, due to the spineless actions of Robert Gates.

    The Church needs to do something different for the international crowd. Perhaps it can develop a program with the Catholics, Baptists, and others who wish to join us. Instantly, we would have a program that is 70 percent the size of the current BSA. We could easily share resources, reduce the needs for expensive uniforms and badges, and give greater focus on faith in God. We could also develop a program that works for both boys and girls.

    I am sad for the changes in BSA. That said, they have chosen to follow the world, rather than follow what is right. For that reason, the Church needs to part ways and make their own path, perhaps with DTG.

  31. I wish I could predict where this trend will lead. That this is even a point of open discussion for the BSA is simply obscene, shameful. It effectively lends legitimacy to a dirty joke. You can be sure that most of the normal boys still snicker about this kind of deviance. The mission of scouting used to be about teaching boys to be men, by service to others, by learning from good examples, and good role models. Now it must be all fussing and fretting about “gender identity” and other narcissistic and psychotic delusions. If our society persists in raising up a generation of girly-men inculcated with these twisted self-centered ideals, I fear it will have very ugly consequences for the future.

    I am not asking to compromise on the future of LDS boys. That has already been done. What we need now are preventive measures to strengthen the separation between disciples of Christ and the rest of the world.

  32. Abm
    Didn’t the Boy Scouts of America win the Supreme Court ruling saying that the right of association means you don’t have to associate with someone you don’t want to? So what court battles would there be if they won the Supreme Court ruling?

  33. The New York Times reports that the BSA is in the midst of a lawsuit turning on state nondiscrimination law, over its refusal to hire a gay person in some council office.

  34. My previous dentist who has been a bishop, counselor in a stake presidency, and a bishop again told me years ago about the American Family Association (, a Christian organization that shares many of our values. Although they obviously see the Bible as the only source of divine truth, their Evangelical Christian director endorsed Mitt Romney for president because of what Mormons and Christians do have in common. Just to give you a quick background about their website, which I check regularly. This is where you will find information about the Girl Scouts, for example: “The group (Girl Scouts) says on its website, “If the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.”
    afa comments: “This means girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as a normal lifestyle. Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young innocent girls at risk. Adults are willing to experiment on our kids – both the boys who are confused and the girls who will wonder why a boy in a dress is in the bathroom with them. The Girl Scouts of America has lost its moral compass and needs your encouragement to rescind this new policy. Since 2003, bad policies like this have resulted in GSA’s enrollment dropping by over one million girls, almost 27% of its membership.” I wonder when the Boys and Girls Clubs will be forced to change their politically incorrect name to “Children Club” or “Boys and Girls and Everything-In-Between-And-Gender-Identity-Questioning Children Club”. This is already a long post due to along quote, so I will stop. I am so grateful for the prophetic 1995 Proclamation on the Family, issued when DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) was the law, but prophets knew what was coming. I know from reading many of the comments on M* that WE are grateful for the Proclamation. It will come in handy (as it recently did in response to the Supreme Court ruling on homosexual “marriage”) when the Church makes a decision about the Boy Scouts of America.

  35. Why would the Church want to sponsor any activity where impressionable youth—our most precious resource—would be taught in intimate, private settings by men whose values expressly—and unapologetically—contradict our inestimably important doctrines of marriage and the family?

    Oh wait, I know. It’s because our sense of tolerance should trump our doctrine of the family and the values we should be inculcating in our youth

  36. Jim Cobabe: “You can be sure that most of the normal boys still snicker about this kind of deviance.”

    Not for long. In 12 years (less for states which had already legalized ssm, which was 2008? for MA) all high school graduates will have spent their entire education and media-watching lives being programmed so as not to be “homophobic”. IE, all boys of boy scout age.

    That means even less time until all boys at the _beginning_ age of Boy Scouts (12?) will be fully indoctrinated against homophobic snickering via programming at school and via entertainment media.

    So in 12 years (less for MA and CA, et. al), the peer pressure _against_ any “homophobic” snickering will be in place at all age levels of scouting. Even boys who want to snicker will be peer-pressured against it.

    As each state legalized ssm, that state’s school textbooks started to be rewritten to add/include a homosexual couple wherever there was a heterosexual couple, family, spouses, or just boyfriend/girlfriend. Sex ed class curiculum that includes homosexual practices even predates the passage of ssm in various states.

    I hardly ever watch broadcast tv any more, but a friend tells me that same sex couples are already appearing in nationally run tv ads since the recent sc ruling.

  37. As most, I thought the church’s statement was interesting and possibly telling. I am the mother of three boys. The oldest is 14 and basically just has his Eagle Project left. My husband is an Eagle Scout and was a very active scouter, but my brothers and father, while very active in the church, are not Eagle Scouts.
    I have also been a Webelos leader, now am counselor in primary over Cubs, and have a 16 year old daughter.
    BSA is undoubtedly a good program and has blessed the lives of many men and boys. It has provided some good council camps and some good training and framework for boys to interact with good adult leaders and be exposed to many different things.
    However, I would personally be glad to see us part ways with BSA at this point in time
    1. Boy Scouts and Cubs have been some of the most difficult callings to keep people in, or keep running the way guidelines say they should be run. And then we are often asking people to run these that don’t necessarily have an interest in scouting. We have had non members leave our troops because we are just not able (sometimes willing) to run things like those who choose scouting as their foremost extracurricular activity. All men and boys aren’t super interested in hiking and camping, but still have great things to offer as mentors and leaders to boys.
    2. It requires a lot of meetings and training to be official scout and cub leaders. Some is valuable, much seems like a lot of jumping through hoops. This takes adult leaders away from families and from more productive time spent with the boys.
    3. I think a split would make it much easier to have more equal programs for girls and boys. Some have talked up vamping up activity days to a cub level. I my opinion, meeting in the middle could have some benefits. Maybe a little more organization for girls and boys meeting a little less.
    4. It is very difficult to directly see the value of all the contributions we are asked to make to Friends of Scouting when it seems like all the scouting leaders outside the church do is to run meetings that many don’t like and from which it is difficult to see commensurate value.

    LDS troops have often been criticized for not putting enough in to scouting programs and not running them correctly. Often justly so. But, with an organization that has increasing rules and regulations (which seems unavoidable in the world we live in today) it is difficult to keep up – especially when running a program with both leaders and boys for whom scouting is not their primary extracurricular interest. I think there are many good extracurricular interests that don’t have to be heavy on camping and hiking. Perhaps a program with less regulations would better serve us as a worldwide church and to be able to better focus on girls.
    I will absolutely follow the Brethren wherever they take us in this BSA journey, but I won’t pretend I’m not a little hopeful that changes are ahead.

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