When the Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910, it managed to gain the support and patronage of some prominent forces in the US, such as former President Theodore Roosevelt. The first whole organization that became a powerful charter holder of the BSA in its early years was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons.

For over a century they have been a steadfast partner in the development and spread of scouting in America. However, in present times that relationship has become rather strained. One sign of this is the recent announcement of the Mormon Church intending to remove older teenage boys from their sponsored Boy Scout programs.

Homegrown alternative programs

This major announcement was made by the Mormon Church leadership last Thursday, May 11. In it, the church explained that they had organized a brand new youth activities program directly tied to their organization, for boys aged 14 to 18.

They also broached certain difficulties in the local implementation of the BSA programs Varsity and Venturing. These Boy Scout levels are geared towards the preparation of teenagers for the adult world, with Varsity offering a “rugged high adventure” outdoor experience and Venturing being a co-ed scout program.

According to the Mormon Church, their alternative program shifts its focus more towards the "spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church." They hope to initiate the changeover by next year, meaning all older teen Mormon Boy Scouts in both the US and Canada will no longer continue to the BSA programs and instead change over.

This will cut into the 330,000 strong number of Mormon youth in the Cub Scout (7-11) and Boy Scout (11-18) programs.

Ulterior reasons?

While the reasoning of the Mormon Church in developing their own alternative youth program to scouting seems sound, there are also questions arising of the announcement’s timing. Some observers think this is a polite dissension of the church from the parent Boy Scouts of America Association and its recent decisions regarding the allowance of gay and transgender scout leaders, something that is “inconsistent” according to the Mormon leadership with their church doctrines.

While the BSA has given assurance to the Mormons’ scout units that the church shall be able to choose their unit leaders, there still appears to be some misgivings over this rising trend. The BSA organization, in turn, stated that they’re aware that not all their programs are suited to their charter organizations’ conventions, and reaffirmed their appreciation for the Mormon Church.

Both the Boys Scouts of America and the Mormons have had their fair share of being under scrutiny, both involving now-President Donald Trump.