The Mormon Church is closing its Boy Scouts of America groups for teenagers – partly in response to the Scouts now allowing LGBTI members.
The Church has the biggest group of Scout’s clubs – with 30,000 Mormon-affiliated Scout troops.
From 1 January 2018, the Latter-Day Saints are ceasing all participation of young men in the Boy Scout’s Varsity and Venturing programs. These are for older Boy Scouts, aged 14 and up.
In its stead, the Church will be offering young men activities which ‘focus on spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church’.
They will be ‘designed to be fun and meaningful and provide opportunities for personal growth and development’.
According to an official statement, the church will continue to use the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys between eight and 13.
Are the Boy Scouts ‘too LGBTI friendly’?
The Boy Scout’s growing LGBTI-friendliness may have been a major trigger for the move. But the Church has not formally admitted that.
‘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,’ they said in a statement.
‘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.’
But in the past they have been very critical of the Boy Scouts of America becoming more welcoming to gay and trans members.
In 2015, the Boy Scouts lifted the ban on openly gay boys joining the troop.
In response, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints – the Mormon’s official name – released a stern statement.
They said they were ‘deeply troubled’ by the development and would need to examine their long association with scouting.
Early this year, after a months-long battle, the Scouts also opened their ranks to transgender boys.
The LDS did not immediately reject this decision. Instead, they once again chose a ‘wait and see’ approach.
How important is the Mormon Church to the Scouts?
The Mormon Church is the largest single sponsor of the Scouts in the United States.
They sponsor 30,000 units across the United States, which amounts to nearly 13% of the BSA’s total membership.
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual members are admitted to the Church, but are expected to reject same-sex attractions and remain chaste.
The Church has not made public statements about trans members, but they believe gender to be part of a person’s god-given identity.
People who plan to undergo gender confirmation surgery are not baptized. Equally, already baptized members who choose gender confirmation surgery risk losing their membership.
GSN has contacted the Boy Scouts of America and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for comment.