Mormons pulling 400,000 youths out of struggling Boy Scouts

For decades, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was one of Boy Scouts of America’s greatest allies and the largest sponsor of troops. But on Jan. 1, the Utah-based faith will deliver the latest blow to the struggling organization when it pulls out more than 400,000 young people and moves them into a new global program of its own.

Posted: Dec 17, 2019 5:58 PM

KAYSVILLE, Utah (AP) — For decades, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was one of Boy Scouts of America’s greatest allies and the largest sponsor of troops. But on Jan. 1, the Utah-based faith will deliver the latest blow to the struggling organization when it pulls out more than 400,000 young people and moves them into a new global program of its own.

The change brings excitement and some melancholy for members of the faith and may push the Boy Scouts closer to the brink of bankruptcy as it faces a new wave of sex abuse lawsuits.

Losing the church will mean about an 18% drop in Boy Scout youth membership compared with last year’s numbers and mark the first time since the World War II era that the figure will fall below 2 million. At its peak in the 1970s, more than 4 million boys were Scouts.

Wayne Perry, a church member who is a past president of Boy Scouts of America and a current member of its national board, said the end of the long-term alliance will sting and force many regional councils in the U.S. West to lay off employees and sell some camps.

However, Perry said he’s hopeful the Boy Scouts can eventually bring back at least 20% of the Latter-day Saints Scouts who liked the experience and want to keep pursuing merit badges in activities ranging from camping and lifesaving to citizenship.

The church’s new youth program will weave in camping and other outdoor activities in parts of the world where that’s feasible, but there won’t be uniforms or a chance to earn the coveted Eagle Scout rank — the highest in Scouting — that was long seen as a key milestone for teenage boys in the church. The focus will be squarely on religion and spiritual development, with youth working toward achievements that earn them rings, medallions and pendants inscribed with images of church temples.

Perry understands why the faith widely known as the Mormon church wants a program it can use worldwide because more than half its members live outside the U.S. and Canada, where the Boy Scouts isn’t available. But he predicts that a heavy emphasis on the gospel may leave some young church members who already go to two-hour church services each Sunday and other Bible studies longing for Boy Scouts.

“One of the advantages we always had with Scouting is that it wasn’t ‘churchy,’” Perry said. “They were getting the Scout oath and the Scout law, which are incredibly compatible with the church’s philosophies and views, but they weren’t reading out of the Book of Mormon.”

“I think there will be a boomerang effect as parents see that there is still a place for Scouting,” he added.

The split between the Boy Scouts and church ends a nearly century-old relationship between two organizations that were brought together by shared values but have diverged in recent years. Amid declining membership, the Boy Scouts of America opened its arms to openly gay youth members and adult volunteers as well as girls and transgender boys, while the church believes that same-sex intimacy is a sin.

“The reality there is we didn’t really leave them; they kind of left us,” high-ranking church leader M. Russell Ballard recently said about the split.

His comment upset Boy Scout officials, Perry said, because the organization went to great lengths to ensure the faith still had robust religious liberty protections after the Scouts welcomed openly gay troop members and leaders — even allowing the church to craft the language.

Perry said the organization will now focus on pitching the benefits of Boy Scouts in parts of the U.S. West with many church members, including Utah, Idaho and Arizona. Previously, every congregation had a Boy Scout troop and boys were automatically signed up.

“We’re going to have to earn our kids,” Perry said.

Church leader Ronald A. Rasband said in an October speech that the faith’s association with Boy Scouts will be an“an important legacy.”

That legacy runs deep in the Francis family in Utah, who are longtime members of the faith. Mark Francis, his two oldest sons, his brothers and his father all have been Eagle Scouts.

He and his wife, Nettie Francis, couldn’t imagine not giving their three youngest sons the same opportunity, so they launched a new Boy Scout troop earlier this year to carry on the tradition after the church alliance ends. Most of its 40 boys are church members and also will participate in the faith’s new youth program.

Nettie Francis said she’s not worried about juggling it all.

“This is like any other extracurricular activity: We make time for things that are important to us,” she said. “For our family, the skills and the leadership opportunities that Scouting offers are just tremendous.”

At a recent troop meeting on a cold, rainy night in Kaysville, Utah, the boys gathered in a barn behind the Francis family’s house and started with a prayer. They closed their eyes and folded their arms as is typical for Latter-day Saints. After belting out the Pledge of Allegiance and Scout oath, they prepared Dutch oven peach cobblers and then went to a nearby assisted living center to sing “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bells” and other Christmas carols.

Baden Francis, 12, said he’s happy he can keep going to camp, have fun with friends and hopefully one day become an Eagle Scout like his big brothers.

Mark Francis called the split a good move for both sides. The church gets the global youth program it long wanted, and the Boy Scouts of America gets rid of kids who didn’t like it.

“Scouting will be smaller, but stronger,” he said.

As of 2013, there were more than 430,000 Latter-day Saint boys in the Boy Scouts. The latest tally of the Scouts’ total youth membership was about 2.2 million last year, and its press office confirmed that the church exodus would push that number close to 1.8 million.

The Scouts declined to estimate the financial repercussions of the faith’s departure, saying the church paid a flat fee that varied from year to year, rather than paying based on individual membership fees.

Boy Scout membership has been declining steadily for several decades, due to a variety of factors, including the allure of video games and the proliferation of youth sports leagues. Even with the admission of 150,000 girls, and the extension of the Cub Scout program to kindergartners, there’s been no sign that the decline will end soon.

The split with the church comes at a challenging time for the Boy Scouts, which for years has been entangled in costly litigation with men accusing Scout leaders of abusing them as children. Hundreds of new lawsuits loom after New York, New Jersey, Arizona and California enacted laws making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to seek damages.

The organization, headquartered in Irving, Texas, says it’s exploring “all available options” to maintain its programs and has not ruled out the possibility of filing for bankruptcy.

Seeking to ease some of the financial pressure, the Scouts announced in October that the annual membership fee for its youth members will rise from $33 to $60, while the fee for adult volunteers will rise from $33 to $36. The news dismayed many local Scout leaders, who had already started registration for the coming year.

Last month, the Scouts confirmed it had mortgaged one of its most spectacular properties, the vast Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, to help secure a line of credit. The organization said it had no plans to sell and is using the land as collateral to help meet financial needs, including rising insurance costs related to sex abuse litigation.

The Scouts says similar liens are in place for its other national properties, including its headquarters in Texas and “high adventure” bases in Minnesota, Florida and West Virginia.

___

Crary reported from New York.

Terre Haute
Broken Clouds
47° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 41°
Robinson
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 44°
Indianapolis
Overcast
44° wxIcon
Hi: 50° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 37°
Rockville
Overcast
42° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 35°
Casey
Clear
47° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 41°
Brazil
Broken Clouds
47° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 41°
Marshall
Broken Clouds
47° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 41°
Cloudy and Cool!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

McDaniel Road bridge reopens after much-needed repair work

Image

All You Need to Know for Tuesday

Image

Porch pirates a concern as online shopping surges

Image

COVID-19 leading to an increase in hand eczema

Image

Daviess County schools move to remote learning

Image

COVID-19 Herd Immunity

Image

Home destroyed by early morning fire

Image

Tuesday: Mostly cloudy, becoming breezy. High: 52°

Image

Vincennes Rivet-Shoals

Image

Jaylen Minnet

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 664620

Reported Deaths: 12111
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook2842176339
DuPage41602748
Will35444530
Lake34539604
Kane29562445
Winnebago17480246
McHenry13125148
Madison13074217
St. Clair12087254
Champaign1015148
Sangamon923689
Peoria8239118
Rock Island8025120
Kankakee786396
McLean772949
Macon6015115
Tazewell598790
Kendall573941
LaSalle5608119
DeKalb462845
Adams439546
Boone356530
Whiteside346499
Vermilion345343
Williamson328477
Coles310057
Clinton298456
Ogle259826
Knox256156
Grundy248911
Jackson247234
Effingham246417
Henry234712
Stephenson228830
Marion223841
Randolph205223
Livingston203421
Morgan200434
Bureau194835
Macoupin191817
Monroe187544
Franklin186522
Christian174839
Lee169922
Jefferson168558
Woodford155326
Iroquois150624
McDonough149739
Logan147112
Fayette143428
Fulton127710
Douglas125416
Shelby121924
Jersey111823
Union111226
Montgomery105019
Saline104222
Crawford10159
Jo Daviess101016
Warren98818
Carroll98424
Perry96219
Pike95521
Bond91410
Hancock88710
Cass87919
Lawrence8739
Wayne82132
Moultrie81810
Greene76326
Clay74717
Clark72719
Piatt7055
Edgar69715
Mercer6749
Ford66321
Johnson6583
Richland65719
Mason63416
Washington5992
Jasper58211
De Witt57513
Cumberland56713
White5408
Massac4992
Wabash4738
Menard4131
Pulaski3792
Hamilton3633
Unassigned3530
Marshall3525
Brown2793
Henderson2580
Alexander2442
Schuyler2361
Putnam2280
Calhoun2170
Scott2120
Stark2103
Edwards2063
Gallatin1793
Hardin1270
Pope751
Out of IL100

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 300913

Reported Deaths: 5332
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41330845
Lake26364448
Allen17299290
Elkhart16665212
St. Joseph16319220
Hamilton12459164
Vanderburgh9428112
Tippecanoe826727
Porter791279
Johnson6139164
Hendricks5807154
Vigo574474
Monroe525247
Clark495374
Delaware4789103
Madison4760119
LaPorte446894
Kosciusko446139
Howard325575
Warrick316072
Floyd306177
Bartholomew303262
Wayne295261
Cass293431
Marshall289944
Grant258747
Noble246846
Hancock243749
Henry237136
Boone235154
Dubois230430
Dearborn208829
Jackson206033
Morgan200643
Knox178017
Gibson177022
Clinton174920
Shelby174554
Lawrence171646
DeKalb171229
Adams165219
Miami155114
Wabash153018
Daviess152243
Fayette145233
Steuben141113
Jasper138311
Harrison137624
LaGrange136629
Montgomery131226
Whitley129910
Ripley123714
Decatur123542
Huntington122310
Posey118913
Putnam118326
Wells118327
Randolph117819
White117421
Clay115621
Jefferson114214
Greene100253
Scott99818
Jay95012
Starke89221
Sullivan86615
Fulton81117
Perry80921
Jennings80514
Spencer8047
Fountain7378
Washington7176
Carroll66813
Franklin65925
Orange65728
Vermillion5832
Owen5816
Parke5416
Newton54012
Tipton53726
Rush5216
Blackford51211
Pike50218
Pulaski36810
Martin3485
Brown3263
Benton3251
Crawford2781
Union2621
Switzerland2473
Warren2352
Ohio2257
Unassigned0265