Slowly the Boy Scouts of America is turning its back on the core mission of raising up boys to be men, and slouching toward who knows what. Following after “no tolerance” policies of many state run schools, the Boy Scouts has banned water guns and balloons excepted for in designated areas at specific targets. They are treating them as dangerous weapons. Later there was a declaration by the BSA president Robert Gates that there should be gay scout leaders. This leadership requirements change will have to be come to a vote, but the signs are leaning toward passage. The organization is starting to morph into something that founder Baden-Powell and scouts of the past simply would not recognize or perhaps approve.
The response of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the main supporters of the BSA, has been silent on the water projectile issue. There really isn’t much of a moral component, but certainly there are intelligence flaws. Widespread ridicule by more conservative members has been scathing. In contrast, the few liberal news articles on the subject indicates they are supportive of the more official clarification. They quote the BSA at length on how it isn’t a new policy while mixing in quotes from ban supporters.
A different, but cautious, response was issued by the LDS Church toward the possible gay leadership acceptance:
We have noted the comments by Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates in relation to possible policy changes in the Boy Scouts of America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will, of course, examine any such changes very carefully to assess how they might impact our own century-long association with the BSA.
Assuming this does pass, there is a possibility the association could end. It is no secret that some members would welcome the severing of the relationship. Even a few in the BSA see the LDS Church leaving as a mutual benefit since they don’t consider how it runs scouts as proper. There are risks to both sides if such a split is to happen.
The most pressing issue is as always the case money. The LDS Church is a huge donor and participant in the BSA organization. They might not be the largest, but certainly the enthusiasm exists in abundance enough not to be ignored. Both sides would lose large amounts to infrastructure maintenance, although the LDS Church would come out the biggest loser. It is able to do exactly what it does precisely because of the relationship. The resources and land are in the hands of the well funded and organized BSA, putting into question how much The LDS Church could develop going alone.
Land used for camping is not owned by the LDS Church and a whole new system of such places would have to be procured. This is not an easy or cheap endeavor. Considering how the LDS Church acquired land for meeting houses and Temples, decades could pass before a sufficient amount of land is found and bought. This might be easier in the Intermountain West where the bulk of BSA participation is Mormons. They might be interested in selling to the LDS Church camps that would otherwise be hardly used, such as Little Lemhi. In return, the LDS Church could mutually agree to rent out space to the BSA in exchange for the sale.
Despite what others might suggest, there is no way that the LDS Church could join another similar organization. The most recognized “Trail Life” is a specific Christian organization that would not take kindly to what they consider false religions. And this brings up the little known, but visible to those who carefully observe, fact about the BSA that is causing the slow disintegration. Large and powerful as the BSA has been for many decades, it is a loose organization with competing factions mostly of religious sub-groups. They have been able to stick together first because BSA is an openly religious organization even if allowing for extreme diversity. When what many consider is moral breaches to the overall mission then the BSA will fracture. Evangelicals, mainline Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and so forth simply do not like each other. Meaning that the LDS Church would do well to carefully consider if they are part of a sinking ship.
Most of all, the priorities of the BSA and the LDS Church are not the same. This has, as stated above, been recognized by a few outsiders for some time. Criticism has been leveled at the way the leadership is picked and ease of giving out Eagle Scout awards. Giving in to those criticisms to do a complete overhaul with a more spiritual focus might be more favorable for Mormons. Considering that Scouting is supposed to be a tool of the Priesthood, much can be done to satisfy that purpose. It would be nice to cut back on survivalist outdoors activities (not elimination) and instead focus on job development. There could be a quasi-apprenticeship path where the scouts learn actual life skills that current merit badges only have a hint. Building a fire, putting up a tent, and singing kumbaya gets placed on a lower rung of activities. Above all, there could be an increased emphasis on the moral virtues of a mature Christian, mission prepared, well reasoned, skill taught, and humanitarian minded. Seperate girl “scouting” projects could be similarly developed. Tradition and hard work only stands in the way.