On Tuesday, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church or the Mormon Church) announced that it will officially part ways with its scouting affiliates at the end of next year, replacing all scouting programs with an all-new youth initiative. This comes after years of speculation and growing controversy over the integrity of the Boy Scouts of America organization.
As a lifelong Mormon and an Eagle Scout of ten years (one of five Eagles in my family), I’m thrilled by this decision.
That said, since there has been no shortage of editorials arguing one way or another concerning recent BSA policy amendments, I feel no need to rehash those here. Instead, I’d like to focus on the autonomy of the LDS Church and the advantage of customizing its youth programs to align more neatly with its own developmental goals.
In fact, the LDS Church has been tailoring BSA policies to fit Church standards for many years. One might even say that the Church split from the Boy Scouts of America years ago.
When BSA announced the possible inclusion of girls last fall, the LDS Church insisted that it would not allow girls into its scout troops (the LDS Church already offers multiple youth programs exclusively designed for young women and girls).
When BSA decided that gay leaders would be fully accepted and permitted to chaperone campouts with young Boy Scouts, the LDS Church responded that it would continue its practice of requiring moral worthiness in determining service assignments and that no accommodations would be made in compliance with this new policy.
I’ve heard many parents express concern over the political indoctrination of the Boy Scouts with dubious global warming fear mongering. However, I received my Environmental Science merit badge just two years after Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth won the Oscar for Best Documentary, and there was no inkling of climate alarmism whatsoever in my tutelage.
Instead, I was taught valuable skills and spiritual lessons by the same youth leaders who taught me in Sunday School. Our campouts included prayers, hymns, and gospel discussions, in addition to the more typical and adventurous hiking, snorkeling, cycling, first aid, spearfishing, playacting, cooking, auto repairs, and, of course, knot tying. Every life skill had a life lesson applied to it. Every exercise fostered growth, both physical and spiritual.
This sounds like a totally separate unit from the Boy Scouts of even ten years ago, and that’s precisely the point. How much longer would the BSA-LDS partnership have lasted anyway with as many policy rejections and customized teaching methods as the LDS Church presented? If not for the official secession, the two groups would’ve become foreign entities de facto in probably the same amount of time. This move simply provides closure.
There’s nothing wrong with secular groups designed to build the best in our youth — I learned plenty of vital lessons playing high school football, for instance. But for a church, any youth program it sponsors is most logically and thoroughly maximized if the church remains in total control of its curriculum. Churches have the benefit of foundational constancy that BSA, an organization prone to any wind of political correctness, does not.
For this reason, the LDS Church — and other religious youth groups — will continue to prosper, independent of private affiliates. The only ones who stand to suffer are the Boy Scouts of America, who are about to lose almost 20% of their current membership and one of their biggest national sponsors. And if I know anything about the Left, it’s that no amount of concessions is good enough for them — if you falter once you’ve started down that road, they will not hesitate to eat one of their own.
So good luck, Boy Scouts. I hope you’re prepared for what comes next.