The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been closely affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America for more than 100 years.
But the Mormon church announced Tuesday it is severing ties with the scouting organization as of Dec. 31, 2019.
In a statement, the church said it’s making the change in order to implement its own gospel-focused activity group for its young members.
“As a global church with millions of children and youth, we need to address diverse needs and fortify all children and youth with gospel-centered growth and learning experiences now more than ever,” the church said in a joint statement with the Boy Scouts of America.
“We jointly express our gratitude to the thousands of Scout leaders and volunteers who have selflessly served over the years in Church-sponsored Scouting units, including local BSA districts and councils,” the statement added.
Specifics of church’s new youth program have yet to be released, but the church says it will be designed to “help all girls and boys, young women and young men discover their eternal identity, build character and resilience, develop life skills and fulfill their divine roles as daughters and sons of God.”
The Church has announced a new approach to replace all existing activity programs for girls and boys, young women, and young men, beginning in January 2020. https://t.co/kc008dfoue pic.twitter.com/F9oR8MsdGa
— The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (@Ch_JesusChrist) May 9, 2018
The curriculum will be designed to help youths set and achieve goals so they grow “spiritually, socially, physically, and intellectually as they seek to follow Jesus Christ.”
The new program will launch in January 2020.
The relationship between the Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church began more than 100 years ago. Almost every boy who is part of a Mormon congregation becomes a member of the Boy Scouts.
The LDS Church is the biggest participant in American Scouting, according to the Salt Lake City Tribune, with approximately 425,000 LDS youths in Cub and Boy Scout programs. Mormons account for about 19 percent of the BSA’s membership, which totals about 2.3 million, according to the Boy Scouts.
The church’s statement about leaving the BSA does not mention some of the significant changes made recently by the scout organization, but it almost certainly played a part in the church’s decision.
In 2015, the BSA announced it would allow gay troop leaders, a move the church said it was “deeply troubled” by. Last year, it was announced that girls could join BSA troops, and last week the organization said it was removing any reference to “boys” in its name, saying it would become known as Scouts BSA next year.
The Mormon church has traditionally had separate youth programs for boys and girls.
The church began scaling back its participation with the Scouts last year, when it announced it would be cutting ties with teen programs for boys ages 14-18.
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Effie Delimarkos, a spokeswoman for Boy Scouts of America, told The Washington Post last year that the move was tied to the church’s desire for a youth program that focused more on preparing teenage Mormon boys to go on church missions. “We’re sad to see that decision, but we understand,” Delimarkos said. “We’re just not kind of aligning with what the church needs men to focus on.”
While the church is cutting its ties with the Scouts, Mormon boys will still be able to join Boy Scout troops independent of their churches.
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