15 May 2017

Mormons Withdrew Funds From Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts
The Mormon church, the biggest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States, announced last 11 May that it is pulling as many as 185,000 older youths from the organization as part of an effort to start its own scouting-like program.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints move was triggered by the Boy Scouts' decision in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders, despite Mormon-sponsored troops have remained free to exclude such adults on religious grounds.

One leading Mormon scholar said that the Boy Scouts and the church have been diverging on values in recent years and that the policy on gays was probably a contributing factor in the split.

Saying it wants a new, simplified program of its own that is more closely tailored to Mormon teenagers, the church announced that boys ages 14 to 18 will no longer participate in the Boy Scouts starting next year. The church said the decision will affect 185,000 teens; the Boy Scouts put the number at 130,000.

The loss is only a small portion of the 2.3 million youths in the Boy Scouts of America, but the organization has been grappling with declining membership for years and has enjoyed an unusually close bond with the Mormon church for more than a century because of their shared values. Joining the Boy Scouts is practically automatic among Mormon boys.

Boy Scouts of America spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organization is saddened by the decision but understands the church's desire to customize a program.

About 280,000 Mormon boys ages 8 to 13 will remain in the Scouts while the church develops its program, the Mormons said. The Boy Scouts estimated their number at 330,000. The church did not say when the younger boys will be withdrawn from the Boy Scouts.

Bryan Burton, a 26-year-old Mormon in Salt Lake City, said the decision makes sense. He likes the idea that the church is moving toward its own scouting program.

"We're trying to be an inclusive church worldwide," Burton said. "If our Boy Scouts is only for boys in America, what are we doing for the rest of the world?"

Like other conservative faiths, the Mormon church opposes gay marriage and teaches that being in a homosexual relationship is a sin. The church initially said it was "deeply troubled" by the Boy Scouts' policy change on gays but stayed with the organization after receiving assurances it could appoint troop leaders according to its own religious and moral values.

The Boy Scout movement has been entrenched in Mormon culture for as long as anyone can remember.

In 2013, the church put on an extravagant theatrical production inside its 21,000-seat auditorium in Salt Lake City to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the faith's alliance with the Boy Scouts.

A Boy Scout training complex in West Virginia is named after Mormon church President Thomas S. Monson, a longtime member of the Boy Scouts' executive board and a major supporter. Charles Dahlquist II, a Mormon, holds the top volunteer position with the Boy Scouts.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is an especially proud badge of honor within Mormon culture. Many Utah lawmakers list it on their resumes.