SALT LAKE CITY — On Thursday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that it will no longer sponsor Varsity and Venturing Scouting programs for young men ages 14-18. The church will continue with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys between the ages of 8 and 13.
During the past five years, the Boy Scouts of America has made significant changes dealing with LGBT issues. In a prepared statement regarding Thursday's announcement, the LDS Church's Public Affairs department addressed directly the question of whether LGBT issues influenced the church's decision to discontinue Scouting for older young men.
"The BSA has always allowed the church to operate its programs in ways that are consistent with our standards and beliefs, and they have been very supportive," the statement reads. "This change is to address the needs of young men ages 14 to 18. The church is always evaluating what is best for our youth and families, and will continue to do so."
Below is a history of changes that have been made in the BSA regarding LGBT issues and how the church responded in each instance.
2013 — The BSA voted to open membership to all boys regardless of sexual orientation. In response to the policy change, the LDS Church issued a statement:
“The church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the church: 'Young men … who agree to abide by church standards' are 'welcome warmly and encouraged to participate,'” the statement read. “This policy applies to church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been — and is not now — a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.”
The policy change did not lead to a mass departure, according to the Associated Press.
2015 — The Boy Scouts ended its ban on gay adult leaders while still allowing church-sponsored Scout units the right to exclusion for religious reasons.
That decision came after Disney cut its Boy Scout funding in support of allowing gay leaders.
At the time, Utah Scouting councils were also dealing with a decline in Friends of Scouting donations.
An LDS Church statement said it was “deeply troubled” by the vote and said it would examine its century-long association with the Boy Scouts.
A month later, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued a statement announcing it would continue to sponsor the Boy Scouts.
"At this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will go forward as a chartering organization of BSA, and as in past, will appoint Scout leaders and volunteers who uphold and exemplify church doctrine, values and standards,” the statement read. “With equal concern for the substantial number of youth who live outside the United States and Canada, the church will continue to evaluate and refine program options that better meet its global needs.”
2017 — The Boy Scouts announced it would begin accepting transgender boys in boys-only programs.
Once again, the LDS Church responded with a statement that it would take some time to study the announcement.
“Boy Scouts has assured its religious chartering organizations that, as in the past, they will be able to organize their troops in a way fully consistent with their religious beliefs. In recent years the church has made several changes to its programs for youth, and it continues to look for ways to better serve its families and young people worldwide,” the statement says.
A month later, the National Organization for Women called for the BSA to allow girls to join its ranks. So far, the Boy Scouts have not changed that policy.
Thursday's announcement from the church addressed this issue: “Church leaders learned just recently about the BSA’s intent to consider including girls and young women in Scouting. Our decision to end our participation in the Varsity and Venturing programs was made independent of this possibility and before that time. We anticipate our Cub Scout and Boy Scout units will continue as they are at present.”