The Mormon church announced it will end its centurylong relationship with the Boy Scouts, an organization the church has supported as its largest sponsor in the United States.
In a joint statement with the Boy Scouts of America, the church said on Tuesday that it would end its relationship with the Scouts in December 2019 and work toward developing its own “youth leadership and development” program. Until then, it would “remain a fully engaged partner” and encourage Mormon boys ages 8 to 13 to participate in the programs and members of the church to continue to support the programs financially.
The church did not say exactly why it was cutting ties with the Boy Scouts, other than the international growth of the church:
In this century of shared experience, the Church has grown from a U.S.-centered institution to a worldwide organization, with a majority of its membership living outside the United States. That trend is accelerating. The Church has increasingly felt the need to create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally. In so doing, it will be necessary for the Church to discontinue its role as a chartered partner with BSA.
According to a church statement about the proposed replacement program, the church has been making plans for years to build a youth initiative for boys and girls—though it’s unclear if they are to be separated by gender or not—to “discover their eternal identity, build character and resilience, develop life skills, and fulfill their divine roles as daughters and sons of God.”
According to the Associated Press, the Mormon church already pulled the 185,000 boys from age 14 to 18 in the Boy Scouts last year, signaling the partnership’s end to come. The 425,000 younger boys who remained represented around 18 percent of the program’s members, according to the AP.
While the church did not cite changes in the Boy Scouts in explaining its decision, the announcement comes just a week after the organization said it will change the name of its flagship program to Scouts BSA due to the integration of female members. The organization announced it would open the program to girls in October last year. Girls have already begun entering the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts’ program for younger children.
The church expressed concern with the Boy Scouts in 2015 when the organization announced it was allowing gay troop leaders. It chose to remain affiliated with the organization when it was told it would not have to allow gay troop leaders in its affiliated programs.
In a statement, the Boy Scouts said it would continue to welcome any Mormon scouts who wished to remain in the program: “There are many religiously-affiliated programs that are offered alongside Scouting, and as such, we are confident that many LDS Scouting families will go on to enjoy Scouting for years to come—continuing the legacy of LDS youth who have become Eagle Scouts and community leaders.”