Some potential questions that may emerge from today's announcement about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dropping Scouting programs for young men ages 14 to 18. Much of this information is quoted from a question-and-answer news release from LDS Public Affairs:
What exactly is changing? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will no longer sponsor Scouting programs for young men between the ages of 14 and 18. This change affects the Varsity (ages 14-15) and Venturing (ages 16-18) programs offered by the Boy Scouts of America.
Who does this affect? Latter-day Saint young men in the United States and Canada between the ages of 14-18.
When will the change take place? Jan. 1, 2018
Is the church dropping the Scouting program entirely? No. Boys ages 8-10 will continue to participate in the Cub Scout program. Boys ages 11-13 will continue to participate in the Boy Scout program. According to LDS Public Affairs, “these programs currently meet the development program needs of boys from ages 8 through 13.”
Why is the change being made? According to LDS Public Affairs, LDS young men in the United States and Canada “are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the church. This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.” Also, Public Affairs added that “the Church continues to look for ways to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs of young men around the world. The current decision is consistent with those efforts.”
What will young men ages 14-18 do instead? According to LDS Public Affairs, these youths “will focus on spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the church. These activities are designed to be fun, meaningful and provide opportunities for personal growth and development.” Activity guidelines, which have been in place since 2013, can be found at lds.org/youth/activities and ymactivities.lds.org.
What is Varsity Scouts? LDS young men between the ages of 14 and 15 who participate in Scouting are part of Varsity “teams.” According to scouting.org, the program focuses on advancement, high adventure/sports, personal development, service, and special programs and events. The Varsity program is for older boys and “allows community organizations to design a program that fits its own needs.”
What is Venturing Scouts? LDS young men between the ages of 16-18 who participate in Scouting are part of Venturing “crews.” According to venturing.org, the program focuses on adventure, leadership, personal growth and service. Venturing crews can include both males and females between the ages of 14 and 21, though LDS-sponsored crews are limited to young men between 16 and 18.
How long has the LDS Church been associated with the BSA? In 1913, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became the first chartered organization of the Boy Scouts of America.
Is the church introducing a new global program? Not yet. LDS Public Affairs acknowledged that this change does not come with a new “global program” and that this was “an important step that addresses an immediate need” due to the difficulty of running Varsity and Venturing programs on the local level. “The church continues to work toward developing a program for young men and young women globally.”
What should we do if we have Varsity and Venturing activities planned? The church is encouraging local units to go forward with activities as planned through Jan. 1, 2018, while “determin(ing) how they will implement the new activity guidelines.”
What if my son is 14 or older and still wants to earn his Eagle Scout? According to LDS Public Affairs, any Latter-day Saint young man over the age of 14 who “desire(s) to continue toward the rank of Eagle will be registered, supported and encouraged.” These young men will need to be registered with the BSA in order to work toward the recognition.
Will local church units continue to participate in the Friends of Scouting drive? Yes. “The church will continue to be involved in Friends of Scouting as part of its relationship with the BSA and the Scouting programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13,” according to LDS Public Affairs.
Is the church addressing the differences in funding between young men and young women programs at local levels? LDS Public Affairs acknowledged that “church leaders have long been aware of this concern.” No longer participating in Varsity or Venturing Scouting will bring “spending into balance” for the youth between the ages of 14 and 18, according to Public Affairs. “This will continue to be a factor in the ongoing exploration and creation of a worldwide youth program.”
Was this in response to BSA policy changes to allow gay and transgender youths and leaders? LDS Public Affairs states that the change is not related to LGBT issues: “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. 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.”
There have been recent news stories about girls and young women wanting to be included in Boy Scouts. Did this affect the church’s decision? A Change.org petition is asking the Boy Scouts to “end discrimination against young women” and “and allow all children to participate in the Boy Scouts and earn the Eagle Rank.” According to LDS Public Affairs, “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.”