Young men will no longer participate in most Boy Scout programs

The Church announced today that starting Jan. 1, 2018, the Young Men would no longer participate in the Boy Scouts for ages 14-18.   Ages 8-13 will still participate in the scouts, and boys who want to get an Eagle can get their merit badges separately.  Please see the below from the Church for more information:

What exactly is changing?

  • Beginning January 1, 2018, young men from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will no longer participate in the Varsity and Venturing programs offered by the Boy Scouts of America.
  • Instead, Young Men activities will focus on spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church. These activities are designed to be fun and meaningful and provide opportunities for personal growth and development.

Why is this change occurring?

  • In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14–18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church. This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.

Does this mean the Church is completely separating from the BSA?

  • The Church continues to look for ways to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs of young men around the world. The current decision is consistent with those efforts. The Church will continue to use the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.

Previous statements have indicated that the Church wants a program that serves all young men around the world. Is this it?

  • No, this is not the global program, but an important step that addresses an immediate need. Varsity and Venturing programs have been difficult to run effectively on a local level. The Church continues to work toward developing a program for young men and young women globally.

Why is the Church remaining with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout program?

  • These programs currently meet the development program needs of boys from ages 8 through 13.

Why is this change only for the United States and Canada?

  • Varsity and Venturing programs are used only in Church congregations in the United States and Canada.

What has been the reaction of the BSA leadership to this decision?

  • In every discussion with the Boy Scouts of America, they have expressed a shared desire to do what is best for young men. We are grateful for their continued support with this new change and look forward to continuing our strong relationship in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.

How does this impact the financial and property connections of the Church to the BSA?

  • Though important, financial and property obligations are not the primary concern. Instead, we are driven by our desire to serve the spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual needs of young men.
  • Most of these legal associations are in connection with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.
  • The Church will continue to make the same payment to the BSA for registration of its young men through 2018, so there should be a minimal financial impact to Scouting.

What is the schedule for this announcement and rollout?

  • The announcement was shared on May 11, 2017. However, the discontinuation of the Varsity and Venturing programs will not occur until January 1, 2018. We encourage local units to continue with their planned activities as they review and determine how they will implement the new activity guidelines.

Can young men in these age groups continue to earn the Eagle Scout award?

  • Yes. Young men who desire to continue toward the rank of Eagle will be registered, supported and encouraged. It is important to remember that only those young men who are properly registered are eligible to be awarded merit badges and rank advancements.

What would you say to Church members about participation in the Friends of Scouting fundraising drive?

  • The Church will continue to be involved in Friends of Scouting as part of its relationship with the BSA and the Scouting programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.

Is this due to changes in Scout policy in the past few years to allow gay and transgender Scouts and leaders?

  • 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. 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.
  • The activities referenced on and have been in place since 2013 as a resource for youth and their leaders around the world. When followed, these activities can provide better opportunities for spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual growth.

Is the guideline that Young Men aren’t required to meet weekly a new directive?

  • No. This guideline (for both Young Men and Young Women) has existed in the Church’s handbook for many years.

Will the disparity of funding and activities that exists between the Church’s Young Men and Young Women programs be addressed as part of this change?

  • Church leaders have long been aware of this concern. This new program brings the spending into balance for youth ages 14 through 18. This will continue to be a factor in the ongoing exploration and creation of a worldwide youth program.
  • In each congregation, the ward council is encouraged to consider equally the needs of Young Women and Young Men and their families when planning activities and determining budgets.

Is this a reaction to the news that the Boy Scouts of America is considering the inclusion of girls and young women in its programs?

  • Church leaders learned just recently about the BSA’s intent to consider including girls and young women in Scouting. Our decision to end our participation in the Varsity and Venturing programs was made independent of this possibility and before that time. We anticipate our Cub Scout and Boy Scout units will continue as they are at present.



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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.

18 thoughts on “Young men will no longer participate in most Boy Scout programs

  1. My wife and I were discussing this, and I think that for young men in my ward very little will change. Our ward does very little with the national and regional scout organizations except use some scout facilities. I am guessing that each ward will have an Eagle Scout advisor who works with the young men to help them get their Eagles. Our ward already has a separate Scout Camp only for LDS youth. For wards that participate in Jamborees and other national events (which we don’t), yes, this is a big change.

  2. This is such a positive move. I am encouraged. The Varsity and Venture scouting programs were rarely implemented anyways. It is time to discard what was not working.

    Particularly wonderful was the statement that an effort would be made to equalize the money spent on young women and young men programs.

  3. It’s interesting to me. I grew up in a Scouting family. Dad always was frustrated that the Varsity and Venture programs were not done well. I feel bad though, now there will be an even more insane push to have these boys to get their Eagles by 13. Dad always said, too that the whole point was to work on the Eagle all thru the teen years. Anyway….I’m sure this is just the firs step in the separation. Surprisingly I’m feeling a bit mixed about that possibility. Scouts drives me nuts, but my boys like it. Do I rejoice or mourn?

  4. As someone who currently serves in a bishopric, I see this as a positive and a good thing for the young men of our church. Not only are varsity programs hard to implement, most boys lose an interest in scouting by the ages of 14 or 15 and would rather be doing other things. I think this is a great opportunity to have a program that will serve them. I look forward to learning more about this program and hope it will be a positive experience for the youth.

  5. Oops, misleading headline. Since most of the scouting the church currently does is for the boys 11-13 (and don’t forget cub scouts), the church is dropping the part of scouts that is a smaller part of the LDS young men’s program. Boys 14-17 are less likely to go to BSA Scout Camps, have fewer planned scouting campouts with their quorums, and have fewer regular Wednesday scouting activities with their quorums, and less likely to participate in weekly YM activities that are scout oriented. You might want to add the age of the drop in your headline. Boys 14-17 will no longer participate in Varsity and Venture programs. However, boys 14-17 who want to keep working on Scouts and earn Eagle Scout can still be a part of the troop and have scout leaders to help them progress. It is actually close to what is in practice in many wards right now.

  6. This is a very good thing. Besides the great insights in today’s Deseret News article, I think the following:

    1. Yes, Scouting has been ineffective for older boys. The last time I was a Scout leader, it was with Venturing, and it didn’t work. Boys that age are either Eagles (or close), or have checked out completely. I was taught at multiple trainings that unless a boy was almost done, to stop hounding him on it and move on to whatever their actual needs and interests were–I spent most of my time in that calling focusing on other things, personalized for the boys we had. This advice now seems to be spreading institutionally.

    2. I’ve long been concerned that Scouting has become something of a cult in part of the Church–some people are so obsessed with it that the rituals, uniforms, emblems, etc. of Scouting have become a false priesthood. Really. That alienates a lot of boys, and distracts others. A focus on actual saving ordinances is good. The activities of Scouting–camping, fishing, hiking, etc.–are awesome and need to stay, but the activity arm of the auxiliary needs to be in better perspective. I once served with a bishop who said that Duty to God was more important than Scouting, and he was widely ignored.

    3. Let’s be honest, a lot of this is Robert Conquest’s second law in action–“Any organization not explicitly right-wing, sooner or later becomes left-wing.” Scouting is trying to kill itself and our efforts to intervene have been unsuccessful. Today’s announcement is not the end of this for the Church or for Scouting. They will keep getting worse, and we will have to keep pulling further away.

  7. Please note the following from the Des News article:

    “The church will continue to sponsor Cub Scouts for boys 8 to 10 and Boy Scout programs for those 11 through 13 in those two countries, but statements released by the church about the announcement signaled that it may drop those programs in the future, too”

  8. Not only can young men begin dating at 16, they can also begin working. Now that the mission age is 18, I suspect that at least part of the reason the boys are no longer as interested in scouting is that they are trying to earn funds for their missions & for college, in 2 years instead of what had been 3.

  9. As one who does not live in Utah or the surrounds, Venturing has been dead out here for years already. There either aren’t enough boys, or not enough interest. I always wondered if there was some value in implementing venturing co-ed as a combined activity thing (as BSA venturing has co-ed activity baked in), but the cultural change that would require seemed too daunting. Ultimately, in places where the population of boys in wards is too small to justify a troop in the first place, dropping venturing is just putting an official stamp on an act that happened unofficially a decade or more ago.

  10. It is sad that most ward Young Men presidents and almost all stake Young Men presidents (perception, no data) refused to endorse Scouting, so it is natural that it failed. And yes, there were some structural difficulties. But I don’t see any change for good — where mediocrity existed before (most wards?), it will continue to exist.

    One good thing about Scouting: It gets Latter-day Saints, youth and adults, out of the building and into the community — it helps us avoid a “clannish” label.

    I wish more people would care about the young men of the Church. It takes effort.

  11. I’m a female and my only living descendants are female.

    I am aware of frustration others have voiced about the focus on scouting inasmuch as it crowded out a commensurate focus on other populations (e.g. young women and girls).

    At any rate, this is more carefully done than the abrupt withdrawal from all things scouting that was predicted when the BSA changed certain policies.

  12. This is wonderful and so, so overdue. It seems wise to do it incrementally to avoid abruptly decimating the BSA and give some opportunity for LDS units to adjust.

  13. I’ve never seen a ward where the Venture and Varsity Scout programs were ever actually implemented. This isn’t really much of a change.

  14. A few years back I was called as a YM presidency counselor and varsity coach. I was told the program was never implemented in our Ward and they wanted me to try to start it.

    They got their varsity letter that first year. In the first year we shot clay pigeons, went camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, chopped firewood for elderly, pulled weeds, put up and took down flags, repaired community centers etc.

    We fizzled out on the varsity program in the second year.

    They were all excited to plan a high adventure, but kept rescheduling it because of their busy schedules so it never happened. This increasingly happened with other activities as well.

    In general, kids (and adults) are too busy. We’ve filled up our lives with too much stuff and what’s breaking under pressure isn’t just our social institutions but many of our lives.

    Rather than be content to focus on a few things we try to have it all and do it all and suffer in the process.

    I’m a big fan of free enterprise and entrepreneurship, but if I had to blame something for the downfall of our social institutions and the struggles many people now deal with I think I’d attribute it to rampant consumerism.

    We usually think of the isms of communism, racism, racism, etc. as being bad but we’ve filled our lives and houses with so much rubbish with consumerism that the family and our institutions are being lost instead.

  15. I really don’t foresee many 14+ young men staying with Scouting. Young men already leave Scouting mentally at age 14. Now that they have to self-identify as wanting to stay with the younger guys, the break will become a rite of passage.

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