Written by Don Gilman with Dan Mabbutt
In an announcement on Wednesday, Aug. 26, the Mormon Church announced that it would not sever its ties with the Boy Scouts of America. There had been speculation that the Church would cut its official ties after the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would no longer bar gay men and women from becoming scout leaders. Wednesday’s announcement was handed down from the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
From the official LDS website: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appreciates the positive contributions Scouting has made over the years to thousands of its young men and boys and to thousands of other youth. As leaders of the Church, we want the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to succeed in its historic mission to instill leadership skills and high moral standards in youth of all faiths and circumstances, thereby equipping them for greater success in life and valuable service to their country.
In the resolution adopted on July 27, 2015, and in subsequent verbal assurances to us, BSA has reiterated that it expects those who sponsor Scouting units (such as the Church) to appoint Scout leaders according to their religious and moral values ‘in word and deed and who will best inculcate the organization’s values through the Scouting program.’ At this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go forward as a chartering organization of BSA, and as in the past, will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify Church doctrine, values, and standards.
With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the Church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs.”
There has been speculation for several years that the Mormon Church might break away from the Boy Scouts of America and form their own version of the scouts. That discussing intensified when the Boy Scouts of America made the announcement in 2014 that they would begin allowing gay scouts and then more recently, scout leaders.
On July 27, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board voted 45-12 to end the organization’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders. Immediately following the announcement, the LDS Church released the following statement: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote … the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
The Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts of America have had a longstanding relationship, with over 400,000 LDS scouts in nearly 38,000 troops, making up nearly 1/5 of the worldwide scouting population. In fact, Mormons make up the largest percentage of Scouts in the U.S.
Allan Staker, a member of the Springdale Ward Bishopric provided a local perspective on the Church announcement. Staker said he is a boy scout and received his Eagle Scout award fifty years ago.
“I believe in the scouting program and I’m glad that the church is going to continue their relationship with the Boy Scouts,” Staker said. “There are a lot of good things that come out of scouting. I have a grandson who is in the Boy Scouts and he has a number of merit badges already. The Springdale Ward supports a scout troop with about eight members, including three close to getting their Eagle Scout award.”
Staker said that there were questions about which direction the Church would go but he didn’t believe that there was ever concern that the Church would actually sever the relationship. Staker also said that although he is a member of the Springdale Ward Bishopric, his statement was his personal opinions and not an official position of the Bishopric or the Church.