The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (more commonly known as the Mormon Church) announced on May 1, it was breaking with the Boy Scouts of America to create its own youth program. As shocking as this announcement seems to be, its been a long time coming.

As the Mormon Church continues it's exponential growth across the world, it's facing a new challenge that really is a single question. How do you meet the needs of a massive influx of first-time members from non-Western countries with vastly different cultures?

The Mormon Church is a unique study because it's making the transition from a US-based religion to a global faith in our modern world.

But it is being viewed under the microscope of the 21st century, and that is leading to misunderstanding.

Lacking understanding

Ever since the Mormon Church was founded in 1830, misunderstanding, scandals, and mistrust of the new faith have been a consistent issue. The Mormon Church bears the dubious distinction of being the only religion in US history to have undergone a government-sanctioned persecution order. Enacted in 1838 in Missouri, over 5,000 Mormons were forced into freezing conditions from their homes.

Yes, we are different from normal society. We uphold traditions that state we don't drink coffee, alcohol, have pre-marital sex, etc. The church does lean towards the conservative end of social matters like how it considers any sex outside of traditional marriage to be a sin (the Catholic Church does too).

I could fill up this article with examples considered to be 'controversial'. I could do that to almost every other faith or sect if I wanted to.

It seems to be through the lens of social issues that any change that the Mormon Church makes is interpreted. This major change has proven to be no exception. Various articles and videos have graced the covers of national newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and right-wing websites like the Conservative Times.

These titles often lead with headlines like "Mormon Church retreats from scouting-and reality" and "Boy Scouts lose 425,000 scouts a week after a national change." Is this really due to the Boy Scouts recent move to include those of the LGBTQ community and girls?

Some writers have cited some of the following events and reasons as evidence that is why the church is withdrawing.

As the Scouts extended membership to gays and transgenders, Church leaders greeted the moves with caution and even issued a press statement to that effect. And last year, the church announced that it was ending the implementation of the Venturing program, while leaving Scouting (12-14) in place.

Other actions of the LDS Church suggest otherwise. Despite the increasing gulf between Scouting standards and those of the Mormon Church, the church didn't unilaterally cut ties when these decisions were made. Since these decisions were made starting in 2013, some 425,000 LDS Scouts have continued to benefit from the Scouting program.

As for the Venturing program, the Mormon Church noted in a press release that it was too hard to implement effectively.

As an Eagle Scout and former participant in an LDS troop, I can testify to this fact. Scout leaders within the church are assigned carefully, not employed, or are fully trained volunteers. This coupled with what teenage boys do, makes it difficult to do these activities effectively.

The changes announced won't take place until January 2020. The decision to include girls won't happen until February of 2019. On this particular issue, the fact-checking website Snopes.com noted, "So if the church....was objecting to the increased integration of girls, it does not appear to have been sufficiently bothered by it to prevent those 11 months of overlap."

Worldwide faith

Every year, around 200,000 converts are brought into the church from across the world.

The majority of membership now resides in countries other than North America and Europe. Most growth is happening in Latin America, Africa, and Asia at a pace that is keeping the Mormon Church on its heels.

Scouting isn't available in many of these countries. What about the LDS youth in China, Vietnam, Cambodia, or the Congo region of Africa? Is it fair that LDS youth in North America and Europe have access to an excellent leadership program that most of these converts have never heard of and don't have access to? Is that 'true equality?' Should we treat them any differently from US-born members and converts?

I would like to propose that the answer is no. These disadvantaged LDS youth and others should be offered this opportunity as well. Not much is known about the new program yet, but the announcement states that the new program will, "discover their eternal identity, build character and resilience, develop life skills and fulfill their divine roles as daughters and sons of God.”

The jury cannot be convened on what the new youth Scouting-like program will look like, but what if it turns out to be just that?

Not just covering the spiritual aspect, but to develop "build character and resilience" as well. Shouldn't these disadvantaged members of humanity have that type of program available to them as well?

What is often lost in the rampant media coverage is that this is a complete overhaul of the youth program. Both boys and girls will be beneficiaries of this new program. Isn't this something we should be celebrating?

Let's for once put away the poisonous partisan lens of social issues. Lament the loss of a 105-year partnership, but celebrate the opportunities that will be extended to hundreds of thousands of youth around the world.

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