Utah National Parks Council responds a day after LDS Church announced severing of ties with BSA
In April of 1977, 41 years ago, Arch Monson, then-president of the National Boy Scouts of America, bestowed Spencer W. Kimball, then-president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with the Silver World Award, Scouting’s highest service honor.
At that time, Monson said, “Scouting helps the (LDS) church achieve its aims.”
That firm relationship tightened and was touted in the LDS General Conference of October 1982 when then-Elder Thomas S. Monson gave his memorable Scouting speech, entitled “Run, Boy, Run!”
In the generation or two since that statement, it appears the LDS Church’s aims and goals will be achieved without help from Scouting.
In response to the church announcement Tuesday, the National Parks Council, the largest council in BSA, headquartered in Orem, released the following statement:
“In the Utah National Parks Council, this will impact us significantly. We are fully committed to the tens of thousands of Scout leaders who have served and continue to serve in church-sponsored Scouting units,” said Melany Gardner, council spokeswoman, via a press statement. “In the transition through 2020, the BSA has already committed to dedicating resources and support to help ensure Scouting programs continue to help young people learn leadership, develop character, and grow closer to God.”
The statement continues, “We also look forward to our future opportunities to work with community partners to further the mission of the Boy Scouts of America in Utah. For those LDS and non-LDS youth currently registered in Church-sponsored units who wish to continue in the program, we will ensure a smooth transition into community-sponsored units in 2020.”
Gardner said, “For the past several years, we have made our camps more available to youth in the area who are not involved in traditional year-round Scouting units. This has given more youth than ever, including young women, the opportunity to have meaningful experiences in the outdoors. Our camps will continue to be available for use by LDS youth groups who wish to take advantage of our facilities for their future outdoor program needs.”
There are 84,000 boys in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in the National Parks Council, with approximately 44,000 adult leaders, according to council demographics. It also owns 13 Scout camps throughout Utah.
In that council, there are 19 individual districts. Nine of them are in Utah County.
According to Dave Pack with the National Parks Council, there are approximately 60 employees that work at the council’s Orem headquarters, with 500 summer employees that work at the Scout camps in the council area.
Much has happened in the world of Scouting within the past five years. In May 2013, the BSA voted to allow gay Scouts. In January 2017, it was announced transgender boys would be allowed to join.
In May 2017, the LDS Church announced boys ages 14-18 would no longer participate in the Venture and Varsity Scouting programs. In October 2017, BSA announced that girls would be allowed in Scouting, bringing the ire of the Girl Scouts of America.
On May 2, the BSA announced it would change its name to be more inclusive and would be called Scouts BSA.
With each change, the LDS Church released statements of support for the BSA and its programs and that “for now” there would be no changes in their relationship.
In 1913, the LDS Church became the first major group to join in partnership with the BSA in the United States.
In a church statement Tuesday it said, “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.”
The BSA and church leaders, including Thomas Monson, have taught over the years that Scouting prepares boys for life. Church statements indicate the church’s new direction intends to prepare boys and girls on a more global and religious-based footing.
“This new approach is intended 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 LDS Church statement said.
Brandt Gibson, of Lehi, has been involved with Scouting for more than 21 years. He currently serves as the Scoutmaster in his LDS-based troop. He has a 12-year-old son in his troop and 10-year-old son that was preparing for Scouting in a few short years. That may not happen now.
“I saw this coming,” Gibson said. “Ultimately the church has to look at what’s best for our boys. I will probably not continue my boys in a troop.”
Gibson hopes the church will continue at least one part of Scouting — the campouts.
“You can teach a boy around a campfire things you couldn’t teach in a classroom. I feel like we are going to lose some of that,” he said. “God took Moses to Sinai, Joseph Smith to a grove of trees, Abraham to the wilderness and the Savior 40 days into the wilderness. We have an opportunity to train everybody. I’ll be surprised if camping is not a part of this (new program).”
Gibson is the father to three boys and eight girls. He said he expects his daughters to live like they have an Eagle Scout Award. They have learned how to do hard things.
Longtime Scout Matt Hargreaves, of Spanish Fork, has mixed feelings about the church severing ties with the BSA.
“I’m a little saddened, but not very surprised, by the decision to move from Scouting,” Hargraves said. “I look forward to the experiences the new LDS youth program will bring, but it’s hard to see the end of an era. I have many fond memories of participating with Scouting as a youth, and adult leader.”
Hargraves noted and said, “There were many changes taking place nationally with Scouts that were hard to align with the reasons the LDS Church was involved in Scouting, as well as the challenge of providing experiences and opportunities in a worldwide church that cross cultural boundaries. I would say I’m a little sad but still optimistic with the new program the church is unveiling.”
Kevin Mollett, of Orem, said in an email, “I have mixed feelings on the church leaving the BSA. I grew up in the Scouts. I learned a lot from the program. I am sad that a program that has remained intact for a century has had to change on a fundamental level.”
Mollett continued and wrote, “I am behind a change that allows the church to preserve its standards and have the final say in how things are run. I am optimistic that there will be fun times and opportunities for this generation’s youth. I hope that they can look back and have the same fond memories for the church’s new programs that I had for the BSA in my youth.”
The church is encouraging chartered troops to continue forward helping boys in BSA programs to obtain Eagle Scout awards, other badges and more.
Wednesday afternoon, the Boy Scouts of America released the following statement.
“The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) deeply appreciates the long-standing relationship we’ve had with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a chartered organization. While Scouting remains a beloved program for many LDS families, the Church has decided to pursue programming that helps it meet the needs of their increasingly global membership and will no longer charter units after December 31, 2019. We jointly express our gratitude to the thousands of Scout leaders who have selflessly served over the years in Church-sponsored Scouting units and wish the Church all the best as it prepares to introduce the new program in 2020.
“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. For LDS families who want to continue the tradition of Scouting beyond 2019, the BSA will ensure a smooth transition to community-sponsored units that will welcome youth previously served by LDS-sponsored units.
“At the same time, the Boy Scouts of America is excited about our future and the opportunity to grow by providing families more options for their children to benefit from the incredible character-building experiences we provide.”
According to the BSA there are about 425,000 youth in the LDS Church that are served by the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.
Most of the 266 BSA councils have some LDS membership. This decision affects approximately 28 councils (about 10 percent of total councils) that have LDS membership of 35 percent or greater. For those councils, many of which are in the western region, the National Council will dedicate resources and support to help them transition so they can operate in a sustainable manner.