The Church cuts ties with scouts (but not really).

1241908The Mormon newsroom broke the news this morning that the church is ending its venture and varsity scout programs for boys 14-18 years old in the U.S. and Canada. I was particularly interested in this announcement not just because I was active in scouts when I was younger, but because until fairly recently I served in a young men calling that required me to serve as a scout leader, and I have two sons that will eventually be part of the program. Given President Monson’s personal attachment to scouting, I never thought the church would disengage from BSA during his lifetime. There was a first presidency letter sent out this morning announcing the change, included with the letter is a set of guidelines about the activities for priests and teachers, and there is a set of questions and answers on the newsroom about the change.

The basics:

  • The Cub Scout and Boy Scout program for boys 8-13 remains in place as the church’s official program. Basically this means that senior primary age boys are still cubs, and 11 year old scouts (used to be called Blazers back in the day), and deacons are still Boy Scouts.670f61889c044fd8fcc7a8515e411336
  • In addition to a Boy Scout Troop for 11-13 year old boys, the church used to ask wards to charter a Varsity Team  for 14-15 year olds, and a Venture Crew for 16-17 year old boys. The church will no longer charter these BSA programs for boys 14-18. Basically, this means that starting in 2018, teachers and priests will no longer be registered in these programs.
  • Instead of scouting, the church is asking young men programs in wards to have quorum-based activities. There are a few guidelines for these activities:
    • Activities should balance spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual development.
    • Combined activities with young women are encouraged, and can be more than monthly.
    • There should be one multi-day youth conference or high adventure each year, and 2-3 overnight trips are encouraged.
    • Activities do not have to be held each week.
    • Activities should provide opportunities to do the Duty to God program.
  • None of these guidelines are exactly new (the guidelines make a point of citing to the handbook, and the questions and answers point this out specifically about the fact that activities don’t have to be each week), but the guidelines give these specific points renewed emphasis.

So if my son doesn’t get his eagle before his 14th birthday, but wants to, does that mean he’s on his own and has to find a non-LDS troop?

I don’t think so. The first presidency letter says “Young men over the age of 14 who desire to continue to work toward the rank of Eagle Scout or Queen Scout should be encouraged and supported in their efforts and should properly be registered as Scouts.”

lg15_ezra-taft-benson-in-uniform-with-scouts-580295This is maybe a little vague, but I think what it means is that teachers and priests who want to continue earning merit badges and rank advancements can continue to register as members of the Boy Scout troop that the ward will continue to charter. LDS Boy Scout troops, for the past several years anyway, have been limited in practice to 12-13 year olds, but there is nothing in the scout program that limits Boy Scout troops to 12-13 year olds, other than the practical fact that in LDS wards, boys older than 13 were automatically enrolled in the Venture and Varsity programs. I think what this change does is open the Boy Scout troop back up to boys over 14, if they want to be involved.

So boys over 14 can continue to participate in scout activities with the 12-13 year old scouts if they want to, but (1) they will no longer be automatically registered and (2) they will not have official scout activities planned with boys their own age, except to the extent that other boys their own age are participating in the Boy Scout troop. Depending on how the scout program is run in your ward, this could either be a significant change, or not much of a change at all. In many places, most boys lose interest in scouts around the age of 14 or 15, and in practice, their weekly mutual activities don’t revolve around scouts all that much anyway.

In a nutshell, the church is not separating from scouts, it is ending two programs that were mostly LDS-specific anyway, and making scouts optional after age 13, rather than mandatory.

Is this a sign of the times? Does the church have to do this because the BSA is becoming a evil liberal organization that allows teh gayz and teh gurlz to join?

The church says no:

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.

And:

Is this due to changes in Scout policy in the past few years to allow gay and transgender Scouts and leaders?

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.

What will this mean in practice?

How these changes will play out remains to be seen, of course, but whether it will be a major substantive change or a minor pro forma change depends a lot on how the scout program runs in your local ward–and that it no uniform throughout the church.

One of the challenges that our ward ran up against in trying to run venture and varsity gay_mormon_boy_scouts_650programs is that scouts works best when you have a critical mass of boys (and parents) that are actively interested in scouts. When you take the core group and divide it by three, you’re already at a 1/3 disadvantage, and that disadvantage only increases as boys get older and lose interest in scouts. And the worse the program is, the easier it is for boys to lose interest, so it kind of becomes self-perpetuating.

So paradoxically, in some ways, this change might actually bring LDS Boy Scout troops slightly more into the mainstream of non-LDS scouting. Outside of the church, boys don’t join scouts unless either they want to, or they have parents who want them to, or both. But in many places, as boys and parents both lose interest, it is not unheard of for LDS scout programs for 14-18 year olds to be made up of a majority of boys with minimal interest, whose parents may also be minimally interested.

Add to that the fact that these Venture and Varsity units had to be chartered separately, requiring three times the chartering fees. This gets into the young men/young women funding disparity issue, which the church acknowledges as a concern:

Will the disparity of funding and activities that exists between the Church’s Young Men and Young Women programs be addressed as part of this change?

Church leaders have long been aware of this concern. This new program brings the spending into balance for youth ages 14 through 18. This will continue to be a factor in the ongoing exploration and creation of a worldwide youth program.

I was released from my scout calling last year, but before I was released, our ward had been toying with the idea of not chartering the Venture and Varsity units, and just having a Scout Patrol, Venture Patrol and a Varsity Patrol, within a single Boy Scout Troop, to address these very issues. The idea was that we could meet as a troop more often in order to maintain the critical mass, and save on chartering fees, and still comply with the church’s direction that we have Venture and Varsity programs. In practice, this change seems to accomplish basically the same thing, but it goes further because now boys over 14 will not be automatically registered, so boys over 14 will only be part of the troop if they (or their parents) want them to. It streamlines and simplifies things.

So in some ways this will be just an official acknowledgement of the reality in most places that most boys lose interest in scouts by the time they are 14 or 15 anyway. You’ll still have a few boys that have a desire (or parental pressure) to be actively involved, the majority of mutual activities will be non-scouting related, and they boys will still go camping a few times a year, but just not under the scouting umbrella. So basically, it’s not all that different in practice, but we’re not going to make you feel guilty anymore for not advancing in scouts after you’re no longer a deacon.

On the whole, I think these are positive changes. I have a few questions about how things will play out:

  • Will optional really mean optional? If scouts is optional after age 13, will there be a social stigma from the ward against boys (and their parents) who don’t choose to participate? Conversely, will there be a social stigma from their peers against boys who do choose to continue in scouts? Will staying in scouts with the younger boys be seen as an immature choice?
  • How will scout camps will be affected? Each ward will likely be sending fewer boys to scout camp (again, this could relate to the finding disparity issue). In my experience in the Northeast, the LDS troops at scout camp are already smaller, and present a sort of scrappy, rag-tag appearance in contrast to the larger, more organized troops (we are basically the sports team that has no chance, but wins the big game at the end of the movie–only the end of the movie never seems to arrive). Will wards combine to send a stake contingent to scout camps?
  • What about other camps? The guidelines talk about one yearly multiday youth conference or high adventure trip. (Personally, I favor the high adventure idea. Youth conferences were usually a bad experience for me as a youth, or at best, a forgettable experience. But a multi-day backpacking trip and a week-long bike trip were the highlights of my youth experience.) Will church-owned girls camps open up to teacher and priest camps? Will stake YM presidencies develop a boys camp program?
  • Will ward and stake leaders take seriously the suggestion to do mixed gender activities more than once a month? I think this could go far for social development of both boys and girls in the church. Will that potential be realized or ignored?

Comments

  1. Marcie Allen says:

    Yes! Finally! Dancing! Made my day!

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    Thank you for the very clear explanations of this new policy. (I immediately had the Eagle question, and your answer made good sense to me.)

  3. Now is prime time for me to get my calling in YM back and replace the Scout Manual with a curriculum based on Che Guevara’s “Guerrilla Warfare.”

  4. For wards with limited leadership like mine, we have never been able to staff a venture or varsity group. So older boys who remained interested in scouting and who wanted to pursue Eagle were registered in BSA and placed into an older boys “patrol” to keep them separate from the 11-year old patrol and the “deacon” patrol. It works pretty well. Older boys can still progress, but their patrol activities are more geared towards high adventure and non-traditional scouting things that appeal to more of the older youth.

  5. Never thought I would live to see the day! Or, more specifically, never thought Monson would live to see the day.

  6. east of the mississippi says:

    Hallelujah… too bad I just got released as YM President…

  7. Dave, I think that’s probably how it works in practice in most non-Mormon-corridor places.

  8. I’m kind of hoping that the Church might be priming the pump for a full exit. Who knows? Also, I just invented that phrase, “priming the pump.”

  9. Thank you. I thought I knew what was going on (and no, my suppositions didn’t have to do with the “gays and girls” issues), but I come to learn that things have changed a lot since my sons aged out 15-16-17 years ago. I’ve now replaced my out-of-date notions and can say that everything I know about scouting and the church is this OP.

  10. The boys still get to do more stuff than the girls. In my ward at least, the boys have TWO multi night campouts in the summer (one under the guise of scouts and one under the guise of “priesthood” – don’t even get me started about that) PLUS overnight trips scattered throughout the school year. Of course they have to hold a huge fundraiser every year, whereas (in my ward at least) girls are not allowed to handle money.

    I’m skeptical, at best. Bear in mind that whatever program we use to replace the BSA, there will be no outside organization telling is we can’t exclude gay and transgender youth.

  11. As for predictions, here are my 2-cents:

    Short-term: nothing much changes, but there is a lot of confusion from members who mistakenly think the church ended BSA or don’t know the difference between troops, crews, and teams.

    Medium-term: lots of tension within units and stakes over the ‘optional’ aspect of scouting. The church is supposed to be uniform (look at recent curriculum changes), but this move will create significant differences. Some units that have a strong scouting tradition will continue to encourage older boys to participate and continue to accommodate older boys with no interest. But if a unit lacks a strong tradition (or has a pause due to leadership change), the pressure will be to not involve older boys in BSA and rather allow scouting families to go to troops outside the ward. That’s a mixed blessing in my area because the non-LDS troops are stronger, but having my boys there creates even more scheduling/over-burden problems (e.g., some families could choose to go to the local troop rather than mutual; big loss for the ward). There’s also stake-level tension because some of the units will do scouting and others not. My stake combines for camp and high adventure. What do we do if only half our units are involved with BSA?

    Long-term: Unfortunately, I see this change as leading to an eventual split with BSA. The medium-term tensions (above) are real. So too is the inevitable loss of enthusiasm for many 11-13 year old boys (and their families) who will enter scouting not knowing how much support they will have once the boy turns 14.

  12. Angela C says:

    I’m in the non-skeptical camp. This is a positive step, IMO, toward creating gender parity for funding while dumping some of the crap associated with scouting: 1) it’s a huge racket, very expensive, 2) it’s basically a fake military which is not something I find appealing, and 3) some of these Arrow of Light ceremonies are straight up racist embarrassments. Sheesh.

    I do love camping and high adventure, but for both boys & girls. Seeing the boys go to Havasu Falls and canoeing down the Colorado River was great, but I have always thought how much I would have loved to do those kinds of things when I was in YW.

    I also don’t see why boys & girls can’t both go on high adventure trips together given that they currently do Trek reenactments together which are basically the same kind of thing (plus weird nonsense that I’d love to see us ditch like costumes and fake babies).

  13. Call me a cynic, but I have a hard time believing that the BSA now allowing gay scouts and leaders didn’t factor into this decision. It smells funny.

  14. I’d love to believe that this will lead to greater gender equity. But. There is no reason – doctrinal, budgetary, or otherwise – for male speakers to outnumber female speakers in GC nearly TEN to one, and yet it still happens.

    There’s always an excuse why the boys and men of the church get different (better) things than the girls and women. I don’t see that changing.

    One big difference I see is that the boys get to do things just for fun (High Adventure trips like whitewater rafting or 2 days riding roller coasters – yes, my ward did this) whereas the girls’ activities always have to have a Moral.

  15. IOW, when do the Cub Scouts (we still have Cub Scouts) get together and bake cupcakes to give to the sister missionaries and the Relief Society president?

  16. “One big difference I see is that the boys get to do things just for fun (High Adventure trips like whitewater rafting or 2 days riding roller coasters – yes, my ward did this) whereas the girls’ activities always have to have a Moral.”

    You know, I see that too, but I don’t see anything in the policies and programs that require a different standard. It just seems that YM leaders feel more free to do stuff just “for fun,” than YW leaders–or perhaps YM leaders more easily defer to the boys themselves to plan activities than YW leaders. There are plenty of exceptions, but that does seem to be the trend.

  17. For the vast majority of LDS units, this will result in very little or no change. As admitted by the church, Venture and Varsity programs have “been difficult to implement”, and haven’t worked in a long time. This is the case in virtually every unit I’ve been a part of over the past 20 years. In my ward, we have already been running the “new” program for 14-18 year old’s for years, as have most units.

    The church’s news release openly discusses the “ongoing exploration and creation of a worldwide youth program”, which at this point seems inevitable. I think the church is conducting this breakup gradually, so as not to decimate the BSA in one fell swoop (plus, we need the runway ourselves to get new programs in place).

    What will be interesting is to see how this change affects the near-term focus of scouting activities and goals. Is getting your Eagle Scout designation still going to be emphasized and encouraged? How will this “one foot in, one foot out” approach affect the 11-13 year old programs, which aren’t supposed to change? We’ll see.

    (I think Cub Scouts works great in most places, and the boys love it. Of course, there’s nothing equivalent for the girls, and I think that’s a problem. The church Q&A document says church leaders have been aware of this problem for a long time, and seemingly believe it to be a legitimate issue, thus the exploration of a new global youth program.)

  18. 20 years ym exp current ym pres.

    Reasons why…..

    Money…… Scouts is tremendously exp. I am personally spending 3k to send 5 boys to camp this year. Lds troops do not fundraise like the non lds units so only wealthy wards can really handle the program. The camping gear is super expensive. I guarantee millions and millions is flowing from slc to irving

    Older boys dislike scouts. The older units never work right. Many older boys will quit coming rather than do scout stuff.

    Leadership reqs. So many callings to fill.

    Ppwk. This is seriously out of control and time consuming.

    Social issues. Lots of lds folks dislike the national direction of bsa. I am not personally comfortable with liberal orgs and have no desire to support friends of scouting.

    I like the new program and am running coed events all the time anyway.

  19. Layne,

    I’m by nature quite cynical, but I don’t think this has anything to do with LGBT issues. BSA gave the church plenty of accommodations when it chose include gay youth and leaders. The church may have been disappointed to no longer have BSA on their “side” of the issue, but I don’t see the church really wanting to fight that culture war right now.

    What this is really about is retention of LDS youth. We’re losing most of our members between primary and college. I love scouting dearly, but it just doesn’t appeal enough to older boys’ interest, and therefore participation in non-Sunday activities. Add to that the narrowed window for mission prep due to the age change and it’s easy to see why the church would look to try something new. The cynical side of me thinks the new program will be no more successful than scouting was for older boys. But I can’t fault the church for trying. We’re getting our butts kicked right now.

  20. Well, theoretically activity days is supposed to be the equivalent. But it’s not really comparable.

  21. ‘I’m by nature quite cynical, but I don’t think this has anything to do with LGBT issues. BSA gave the church plenty of accommodations when it chose include gay youth and leaders. The church may have been disappointed to no longer have BSA on their “side” of the issue, but I don’t see the church really wanting to fight that culture war right now.’

    I think this is right, Dave.

  22. Also I wish that we would be less pc in slc. I do think its largely the money and the social issues. Lets just say what things are. Folks can read between the lines.

  23. So Bbell, you think the church is lying?

  24. I understand that BSA has become very strict about vetting leaders and two adult rules. Is that correct? Do the Church programs comply? Is this change going to affect the way adults are chosen and staffed?

  25. Lying is not the right word. I would say spinning pr wise.

  26. That’s true, Christian, but I don’t think that’s anything new. It was pretty well established when I came into scouts as a leader a good 3+ years ago, and it was pretty easy to get everyone up to speed on it. Our ward certainly complied. I don’t think two-deep leadership and mandatory youth protection training is driving this. We still have to comply for the 8-13 year olds anyway. Maybe eliminating Crews and Teams reduces the leadership burden a little, but in my experience, you usually have two YM leaders per quorum anyway, so I don’t think the BSA two-deep leadership adds that much of a burden.

  27. I dont think 2 deep is much of a problem either. Money is though. Scouts is terribly expensive.

  28. It is, and it’s not just the rechartering fees and camps, either. All those little badges add up.

  29. I welcome this change, but think this will have subtle, perhaps unintentional, effects here out in the hinterlands. For example, the 14+ boys tend to work on Scouting on their own now anyway, if they still want advancement, etc., but in a way that is explicitly minimizes interaction with the 12-13 y.o. Scouts. This seems to serve an “unwritten” church value that the boys in the various priesthood classes be separated for the bulk of their activities. For instance, its very rare for 14+ boys to attend camp with the Scouts, even if they are still working on Scout advancement themselves – there is a sort of stigma to that. They can do this because there is at least a thin layer of their own separate Varsity or Venture organization underwriting the individual scouting effort. Once that cover leaves, it opens the door to having the Scout troop include everyone up to age 18, which implies a lot more mixing of activities, etc. Also, more obviously, it is rare for a scout to achieve Eagle by age 14 in my neck of the woods. This seems to be an official endorsement to slough it off, which will meet a lot of cultural resistance for another generation or so, probably.

  30. “Once that cover leaves, it opens the door to having the Scout troop include everyone up to age 18, which implies a lot more mixing of activities, etc.”

    See, I think that’s a good thing. I think both the older and younger boys benefit from it.

  31. Maybe there is some PR spinning going on, but I’m going to assume that the church is acting good faith when it says that gay and transgender and mixed gender issues didn’t play a role in this decision. I will say this: this rollout was a lot smoother than the PR statements that came out in response to the BSA announcement about gay scouts and leaders–which suggests to me that there was better and more thorough vetting not only with public affairs, but with senior leadership as well.

  32. FormerYW says:

    The Personal Progress program can easily be adapted to the YM. There’s a small budget, minimal adult leadership and training, no committees or councils to staff, and very minimal recognition beyond an inexpensive necklace, certificate and handshake at the pulpit.

  33. Loursat says:

    Read the Q&A paragraph about the effect of BSA’s gay and transgender policies on church’s new policy. It’s an artful evasion; it does not deny that this is a factor in the decision:

    “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.”

  34. Loursat says:

    And I’d add that, as JKC points out, this whole thing is a much more elegantly handled PR exercise than what we’ve seen recently from the church regarding Scouting. That’s a good thing.

  35. That’s a fair point, Loursat.

  36. Last Lemming says:

    The Church should have started moving in this direction decades ago. In that light, I suspect that the social issues are not driving the decision but have made it easier for certain GAs to let go so that the divorce process could go forward.

  37. This is certainly the beginning of the end of the LDS/BSA marriage, and the full end is not far off. This is the separation that proceeds the divorce. Anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves. The church will announce the new worldwide youth program sometime between 2018 and 2020. At that time, all official ties to scouting will be severed. The reasons stated in these comments are the reasons — money, politics, (lack of youth) engagement, relevance — but my guess is the two main reasons are sex and money. Eventually the BSA will follow the Europe model and be a blended gender program. That may not be a bad thing for the program as a whole, but it flies in the face of the church’s gender essentialism and its strong desire to keep hormonal teens from having premarital sex. Meanwhile the costs of participation in scouts will continue to soar and make proper scouting programs prohibitive in many, many wards (not to mention the lack of any scouting program in the international wards). The decision really is not a close call for the church, save for the emotional and cultural ties to scouting for several members, particularly in Utah.

  38. “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.”

    Objection, non-responsive.

  39. Paul, you may be right that this is where things go, but this–

    ” Eventually the BSA will follow the Europe model and be a blended gender program. That may not be a bad thing for the program as a whole, but it flies in the face of the church’s gender essentialism and its strong desire to keep hormonal teens from having premarital sex.”

    –is cookoo. Mixed gender activities are not in any way incompatible with gender essentialism, and while mixed gender overnights are probably a bridge too far for the church, many, many hormonal teenagers all over the world in scouting programs and out are somehow able to avoid having sex during mixed gender activities, even on—gasp!—mixed gender overnight temple trips.

  40. Paul, lol–your second comment.

  41. I agree that the PR and lawyering of these responses is far superior than recent efforts, but make no mistake, those words are lawyer words designed to provide non answers and change the narrative. I am fine with the church doing that. They should do that. But no one should read the Q&A responses to mean that political changes at the BSA — gay issues, transgender issues, having girl and boys in the same troops (which will be the next change by BSA) — were not central to this decision. They were.

  42. JKC, I agree. But I think the church sees it very differently.

  43. John Mansfield says:

    The most recent policy seems worth mentioning: “Where Scouting is authorized by the Church, young men ages 12 to 15 should be registered. Young men ages 16 and 17 should be registered if they are pursuing rank advancements or if the stake president or bishop chooses to sponsor Scouting programs for young men of this age.”

    The new policy puts the teachers where the priests already were.

  44. “Maybe there is some PR spinning going on, but I’m going to assume that the church is acting good faith when it says that gay and transgender and mixed gender issues didn’t play a role in this decision.”

    If someone asks me a question about my motives with the intent to judge me based on my response, I have no problems spinning the answer in my favor. Because it’s clear when someone hopes to spin my answer against me.

    There is no reason for the church to come out and say it. There’s no reason for the church to invite bad press. There’s no reason why the church should “tell the truth” if the one asking for “the truth” is ultimately just trying to sell a story to make the church look bad. People are not entitled to an answer that sells papers and tv ads at the expense of the church.

    The church is leaving an organization and rather than throw bombs their justifying it in a way that helps both organizations to save face.

    That being said, about 2 years ago the church had this to say on the issue:
    “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. …When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined.”

    It should be pretty obvious that the church would not have said that 2 years ago if they were not planning the possibility of an exit. And absent any pressing need to exit immediately, it seems right within a typical timeline that an orderly plan to consider the exit and do so would take 2 years.

  45. Paul, I think some church leaders see it differently, but I don’t think there’s consensus on that. I could be wrong.

  46. FormerYW says:

    “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.”

    I would classify the statement as a ‘carefully worded denial.’ We’re pretty good at those.

  47. That is, I think the church sees the regularity of overnight and close-quarters activities that scouts fosters, mixed with the physical aspects of scouting, presents a far different level of opportunity/risk for premarital sexual activities than the occasional youth conference or temple trip activity, the latter of which at least has some screening mechanism associated with it, albeit a fairly weak one.

  48. I may be naïve, but I’m giving the church a little more credit than you guys are, I guess.

  49. tira, spot on.

  50. JKC, I suspect many in the church will share your interpretation, and it is as valid as mine. Others will be in a state of denial. All of this will lead to the medium term conflict that DaveK describes above.

  51. Patrick says:

    Under “The Basics,” you wrote: “In addition to a Boy Scout Troop for 12-13 year old boys, the church used to ask wards to charter a Venture Crew for 14-16 year olds, and a Varsity Team for 17-18 year old boys.”

    Actually, boys have been registered in units as follows:

    Ages 11-13: Scout Troop
    Ages 14-15: Varsity Team
    Ages 16-17: Venture Crew

    As a former Scoutmaster and committee chair, I have seen the issues firsthand with running the Varsity and Venturing programs. I always held out hope that we could somehow get them working as designed, but “the times, they are a-changin’.” Scouting just doesn’t fit in with the world our young people are growing up in, the way it did for us. It’s nice to see the Church addressing the issue. At the same time, I hope those young men who wish to remain active in Scouting will not have barriers placed in their way.

  52. Sex and money……. Paul is correct.

  53. I stand corrected. You’re right that 11 year olds are part of the troop, and that it is 16-17 for the older boys, not 17-18 (since once you’re 18, you’re out). And I never could remember which one was varsity and which was venture. Good thing I don’t have to anymore.

  54. I don’t disagree that the Church is uncomfortable with changes in scouting and that disaffiliation is in the cards. But I don’t buy it as the primary motivation for this particular change because removing the expensive and inefficient Varsity and Venture programs, while expanding the role of the main BSA program, doesn’t seem tailored to answer these challenges in any way.

  55. That’s where I am, dclorenzen. It doesn’t survive strict scrutiny.

  56. But there’s something that still interests me about this – there is some value seen as being served by keeping the 11 yo scouts as a separate entity in church units. This is, I think, a similar value that kept the different priesthood classes in separate scouting units (i.e., if a 14 yo tries to attend a scout meeting, he will be gently corrected out to his own group). I’m not calling this good or bad (its a value I’ve frequently disagreed with), but that the church seems willing to sacrifice this value, at least in the latter case, is the interesting story here.

  57. your food allergy is fake says:

    but mostly sex

  58. The 11/12 line was always a harder line than the 13/14 or 15/16 line. The church severely limits overnight activities to one per year for 11 year old scouts, even though the BSA had no such limit. But regular boy scouts (12-13 year olds) had no such limit. I imagine it has something to do with the fact that it corresponds to the line between primary and priesthood ordination, but I don’t know.

  59. your food allergy is fake says:

    that is to say the differences regarding teh gayz initiated, far too late, the conversation around coming up with our own young men’s program. This exercise then laid bare the fact that the issues we care about are not served well by scouting. So what the church says is basically accurate, but it was all precipitated by teh gayz.

  60. But the issues we care about apparently are well served by scouting at ages 8-13, and thereafter also if the boys want it.

  61. I’ve never understood the logic that it takes years and years and tons of effort to come up with a decent non-scouting YM program. Literally just take the Personal Progress manual and change the pronouns and give them a cheap tie tack instead of a cheap necklace. Seriously, there’s nothing in the PP program that wouldn’t work for boys. I don’t remember being required to knit a scarf using only my boobs or anything like that.

  62. There is a lot of truth to that, Joni.

  63. We could even take out a step further and have the 8-11 boys use the Activity Days manual.

    Oh, wait.

  64. Now that’s just crazy. Dogs and cats living together.

  65. Razorfish says:

    This announcement represents the beginning of the end of Scouting with LDS involvement. What’s interesting is the public feedback is overwhelmingly, “what took you so long.” Almost nobody is sad to see this partnership go. Scouting was the “uninvited mandate” that most young men (and by extension their families) never bought into. Turns out you can be active, develop a testimony, serve a mission, and still not give a rip about Scouting. The nice cultural change will be to stop falsely equating Scouting as an essential element of the Church. Parents will stop pushing “Eagle Scouts” on their kids, and buying into a program that is increasingly diverging from the values and tenants of the Church. Better equality between YM / YW programs and the funding of those programs will also occur. And this policy change will put an end to pretending to enjoy supporting a program that long outlived its usefulness. Time, money, and energy all can be better directed to meet the needs of the Church’s youth.

  66. Fifteen years ago, when the Duty to God program was being pushed and many thought it was going to supplant scouting in toto eventually, I was a YM president in a ward and thought that, with a few tweaks, it could be implemented as a global YM program fairly easily.

  67. This is WONDERFUL news. All that wasted time and effort with scouting can be channeled back to things that matter. I hope it doesn’t take long for the church to move away from the cub and boy scouts too. If I can find a wholesome Girl Scout troop for my daughter in the community then I can do the same for my son. Let families pick what works for them. Faith in God and Activity days can work for all senior Primary boys and girls.

  68. “Parents will stop pushing “Eagle Scouts” on their kids, and buying into a program that is increasingly diverging from the values and tenants of the Church.”

    I agree that letting up on the Eagle scout pressure is probably a good thing, but I don’t agree that the scouting program is increasingly diverging from the church’s values. It might be diverging now in different ways than it has in the past, but in other ways, it has come closer to the church’s values than it used to be, especially as it has increasingly emphasized low-impact and no-impact camping ethics, environmental stewardship, social development and career exploration, and de-emphasized drilling, uniforms, and other aspects of wannabe militarism.

    I also don’t think it should be taken for granted that allowing gay scouts and leaders diverges from the church’s values. The church has come around to what is now a pretty consistent consensus that orientation is not sin, even if we’re still trying to figure out how to implement that in practice, so I don’t see what the problem is with allowing a scout or leader who identifies as gay, but keeps the chastity standards of the church, to participate. Transgender is a closer call, and of course, the details matter whether we are talking about gay or transgender issues, but the BSA also has a long history of accommodating the church, and I just don’t think it’s accurate to say that the fact that BSA lifted the ban on gay scouts and leaders, and is thinking about being more open to transgender scouts, necessarily means that it is increasingly diverging from the church’s values. No doubt, these moves diverge from the cultural values of many of the church’s more conservative members, that that isn’t the same thing.

  69. Tiberius says:

    I generally agree with the “what took them so long” sentiment (as somebody who earned their Eagle and felt burned later when it really did mean exactly nil on a resume, conventional 1950s-era wisdom to the contrary).

    However, I’m worried that the resources that went into high adventure-type outings that really did represent high points of my youth will be channeled into sitting in classes and playing scripture chase. You learn more from a 50-miler where you underpacked on food than you ever will in most churchy settings where you hear the same soundbites for the umpteenth time. It would be awesome if the YW shifted to be more outdoors, hands-on activities to match what the YM were doing, but instead it looks like the YM are shifting down to the banal activities that my sisters and wife always complained about. We boys really did get to have all the fun because of scouts.

  70. marcella says:

    I find it interesting that several have mentioned the YW personal progress program adjusted for the YM to use….The YM already have a matching program – Duty to God. Plus they have scouting in the US and some other countries. As to the questions at the end – why should the boys need a summer camp added when they already have high adventure? It’s currently unfair to have scout camp plus that when the girls only have one summer camp. Removing scout camp would bring us closer to parity. As for the change, I don’t think any of our units in my stake have varsity or venturing anyway – they just have scouts.

    Someone up there mentioned paying for scout camp – I’ve never been in a stake or ward that pays for camp. That is always paid for by the family (or sometimes fund raising) but never ward budget. Is that common in some areas?

    I wish they’d just rip off the bandaid already and drop scouting. But then I’ve been in scouting Forever and have pretty much had it.

  71. Gilgamesh says:

    “Combined activities with young women are encouraged, and can be more than monthly.”

    This, for me, seems like the most important part. Young people aren’t dating and are marrying much later in life. My sons had no interest in dating, but more importantly, had no real interaction with the young women in the ward except for Sundays. If we are helping YM and YW eventually marry in the temple, we need to focus more on activities where they can get to know each other and befriend each other. When the YM program focuses on Scouts, interaction with the YW does not happen.

  72. Joni and formerYW are spot on re: using the personal progress program for the boys. If it isn’t good enough for them with a few changed pronouns, then it wasn’t good enough for the girls. The time honored tradition of boob knitting aside, of course.

  73. The way I read the handbook, camp is supposed to come from the ward budget, then if there isn’t enough, they can do fundraising (limited to one activity per year), and if it still isn’t enough, then the ward can ask families to pay for whatever is left. In practice, many wards ignore this.

  74. Raymond Walther says:

    I was surprised to see that the Deseret News reporter Tad Walch is already assuming this is the first step toward a full break with BSA. From his article:

    “The problem of creating a program for all of the church’s boys and young men around the world remains. The church’s Thursday statement alluded in multiple places to working toward programs that could replace Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. For example, it said the church is sticking with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs because they ‘currently meet the development program needs of boys from ages 8 through 13.’ The statement noted that ‘previous statements have indicated that the church wants a program that serves all young men around the world.’ It also noted that ‘the church continues to look for ways to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs of young men around the world.'”

    Is he reading too much into the announcement?

  75. Marcella, I was (mostly) being ironic in suggesting that the YM adopt Personal Progress. See, we have no problem giving the girls watered down versions of programs for boys (which is how we got Activity Days) but the idea of having boys participate in a program ‘for girls’ is unthinkable.

    Which brings up another question. How long will it take bishops to stop comparing the YW medallion to an Eagle Scout when she’s receiving it in front of the ward? (Will there ever come a time when the comparison is made the other way around?)

  76. This seems to be little more than a Rorschach Test – whatever you already believed about the church and scouting is somehow confirmed by this incremental move

  77. Raymond — Tad Walch is not assuming or reading too much from the announcement. Go look at the “Questions and Answers” on the church’s newsroom site. Twice, there is a reference to this change being a step on the path to developing a global youth program. (Let’s all remember that U.S. and Canadian youth have BSA opportunities that the rest of the world doesn’t receive, so there’s a fairness issue here. And of course, there’s the YM / YW resource imbalance, also referenced in the Q&A).

    I was at a leadership training meeting a few months ago with a member of the Q12. A question was asked about the future of the scouting program in the church, and this Q12 member said that in his opinion, the church would probably separate from the BSA at some point. He was also asked if units should continue to recommend that members receive special scouting training, like that found in the Woodbadge program. His answer: “no comment”. Got a big laugh from the room.

    It’s just a matter of time.

  78. Eric Russell says:

    In other news, the church is also dropping Sea Scouts.

  79. never forget says:

    ^Ha!

  80. Raymond says:

    Thanks, Jeff.

  81. “You learn more from a 50-miler where you underpacked on food than you ever will in most churchy settings where you hear the same soundbites for the umpteenth time.”

    This is true. Kids are softer today than in the past, and this a step in that direction, for whatever that’s worth. We can all assume that physical endurance in today’s world isn’t important, but it’s just hubris man vs nature like an old Jack London story.

    The world we live in is real. It’s hard. Even if things never fall apart, society should not bet our progeny that it will always be as comfortable as it is now.

    The church was behind scouting, in part, because it saw the value in teaching boys to do hard things.

    It’s understandable why scouting is starting to be severed. It’s good to see merit badge mentality gone. It’s terrible if all that is replaced with more phone, gamer, or class time.

    I can’t remember a single lesson from my time in church as a youth. I remember the difficult scouting activities right down to my very first overnight hike when I was probably 12 and didn’t pack enough food.

  82. Tira, it’s amazing any young women ever stayed active in the church by your reckoning!

  83. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    Does anyone even know an LDS scout that got their “Varsity Letter?” I think the 3 programs were too much–just like the too many brands GMC once had. Maybe in a big ward with enough scouts for 2 or 3 patrols per quorum it would work, but I have never been in a ward of that size. It was much more workable to keep all the YM from 11-17 in Boy Scouts rather than Venture Scouts and Explorer scouts and let their patrols, divided by age–if numbers allowed–direct their activity focus. I agree that it is harder to keep the older YM interested in scouts, but lopping off the 14-15 year group is catching most of the YM who are close to earning their Eagle, which is too soon, in my opinion.

    Oh well, I am a YM president and have worked hard without much support from counselors to make our small patrol have a good experience. I do not see any scouts in my patrol that can muster the self motivation to advance without very close mentoring, but we compete with sports and 4-H, and that’s ok. We also compete with electronic entertainment, which is less ok.

    I am disappointed that the BSA has done things that make LDS units less successful in advancement within the LDS program such as increasing campouts to make First Class and requiring the 20 Camping Merit Badge campouts to all be troop camping–only one of which can be a scout camp. It seems like they are directly punishing LDS units for not camping on Sunday, thus doubling the number actual overnight trips LDS scout leaders have to put in compared to their non-LDS counterparts who can camp on a Saturday and Sunday for each event.

    On the other hand, I am pleased that Scout Camps have created “Monday-start” weeks so LDS troops can go to scout camp on the first day rather than the second and miss out on the opening day chance events and early sign-ups for merit badges.

    Despite the messages that 8-13 year-old boys will still be in scouting, I also take this as the signal of the beginning of a future shift. Though the church doesn’t come out and say it is related to the changing social direction of BSA, that issue is probably the spur that has prompted the rethinking.

  84. Loursat says:

    Tying the church’s program for boys so closely to an independent, secular organization is not sustainable forever. It was inevitable that the needs of church and the needs of the Boy Scouts would eventually take different paths. Separating from Scouting is a natural development. In fact, our association with Scouting has probably been a drag on the church for a while now in two ways: as the Scouting program has become less relevant to the church’s needs, it has become a money pit for the church; and the inertia of the Scouting program has prevented us from thinking creatively about needed changes. We ought to embrace this cord-cutting as an opportunity and a blessing.

    My ideal is for the church to welcome gay and transgender people at least as much as the Scouting movement is doing. However, it seems clear to me that regardless of our attitude toward those changes, the Scouting movement just isn’t working as well as it used to for the church. We should be able to provide great, challenging experiences for our boys and girls without the heavy overlay of Scouting traditions that are less and less relevant to most of our youth.

  85. Left Field says:

    We have a Venturing Crew chartered in our ward, but it exists only on paper. None of the other units in my stake have a Crew. It’s been decades since I’ve heard tell of any other ward that even had a Varsity Team or a Venturing Crew, let alone one that was actually active. The idea assumed in this press release, of youth advancing from the Troop to the Team to the Crew as they age, is pure fantasy in my experience. You don’t have enough scouts at each age group to form a separate unit. But the idea that has been coming out of 50 E North Temple is that we are supposed to put the 1 or 2 11-year-olds in their own patrol, hobbled with arbitrary restrictions, register the 1 to 3 boys who are 12-13 years old in the Troop, the 1 to 3 boys 14-15 years old in a Team, and register the ward’s 1 to 3 boys that are 16-17 in a Crew. That’s nonsense. Nobody does that. You can take those 5-12 scouts and put them in the Troop for as long as they are doing scouting to any degree, and you’ll have a barely large enough unit to function. That’s what the new directive does. But that’s also what every ward and branch has been doing anyway.

    I am the scoutmaster in my ward, and boys join the troop at 11 and remain until they turn 18, though obviously their level of involvement varies. The “new” policy just recognizes the already existing reality. LDS scouts haven’t had Crews and Teams to age into and out of anyway. Nobody earned the awards and advancements associated with Varsity Scouts and Venturing. Nobody in LDS units knows anything about those programs. Literally, the only thing that will change in my ward is that we’ll have to let our nominal Venturing charter lapse. Scouts who turn 14 will continue to be registered in the Troop and work towards Eagle to whatever extent they will.

    I have often contemplated the idea of having every ward charter a coeducational Venturing Crew for both the young women and young men. Everybody I mention that to freaks out and thinks that means boys and girls sharing a tent. But the Venturing program isn’t that narrow. Crews are often specialized for specific interests. Some Crews might be formed for youth interested in STEM or in the arts, or sports, or law, or reading, or whatever. We would just use the BSA structure to form a Crew that specializes in LDS youth activities, and the YW/YM could adapt it to whatever they want to do. Just like the current YM/YW program is supposed to do.

    But obviously, they don’t listen to me.

  86. As mentioned there is a fantastic program already available for the YM: Duty to God. I would be interested in ditching Personal Progress altogether (and those silly values) and mashing together Duty to God and Personal Progress into a mostly gender neutral program that encompasses both YM and YW: much the same way the Faith in God program currently functions in Primary. They are the same for the boys and girls except for half a dozen priesthood related requirements at the end.

  87. Old Man says:

    ^^^ What Rachel said. ^^^
    I envision a program with goal setting, personal development in a variety of areas, mentoring by leaders and peers, outdoor activities, etc. I agree that more activities with both genders participating would be a plus.

  88. Mike W. says:

    as usual you guys miss the point. the announcement is an admission of failure. that the current YM’s program is failing. that there are metrics pointing to failure and some kind of change was thought necessary. the church will soon be out of scouting entirely.

  89. As usual you’re sort of a dork.

  90. “Will the disparity of funding and activities that exists between the Church’s Young Men and Young Women programs be addressed as part of this change?

    Church leaders have long been aware of this concern. This new program brings the spending into balance for youth ages 14 through 18. This will continue to be a factor in the ongoing exploration and creation of a worldwide youth program.”

    Long been aware.
    Long been aware.

    Acknowledgement without apology stings.
    25 years ago I entered the YW program as a Beehive and the disparity was glaring even then. It caused me cognitive dissonance, anger, and frustration at a young age, and even had me questioning my worth in the sight of God.

    The fact that equitable funding is a by-product, and not driving force, for this change is painful, and a downer re: an announcement I would otherwise be excited about.

  91. FAQ on LDS.orf makes it very clear it’s a money issue too.

    Maybe tired of subsidizing $350K professional scoutmaster salaries when the President of the Church is only making $120K.

  92. The fact is that most congregations struggle just to fill the adult leadership roles required for a troop (scout masters, committee members, merit badge counselors etc.). Adding the multiple adults required for a varsity team is beyond the scope of most congregations. I’ve seen a successful varsity team in one mid-west ward, but it only worked because the Team leader worked his tail off to make it happen, without the requisite additional adult support. In that ward Venturing was out of the question.

    As to YW doing more outdoor adventuring, I’ve worked with YW for years. High adventure etc. is totally doable and easily incorporated into the YW program. I’ve seen it happen in an east coast ward and a southern ward that did a weeklong canoe trip and a Philmont hike respectively. The big problem is getting adult leaders to support such things. Until you can get ward and branch YW adult leaders to abandon the position of “my idea of camping is a hotel without room service”, it’s terrifiically hard to create high adventure for the young women. My experience is that the problem of insufficient high adventure for YW isn’t church policy or programs, it’s adult women in the ward or branch not being interested in facilitating it

  93. MB: “My experience is that the problem of insufficient high adventure for YW isn’t church policy or programs, it’s adult women in the ward or branch not being interested in facilitating it”

    Or maybe it’s the adult women not having access to childcare for the several days they’ll be gone, including husbands unwilling to take vacation to support it. Or getting pushback from the male bishops thanks to leadership roulette. Or lack of male priesthood members not interested in being the mandatory male chaperones or safety officials or whatever reason is given that they’ve got to tag along. Of parents more worried about the safety of their girls than they are of their boys. Or maybe the female adult leaders just don’t have it in them to tell the girls they can go to that really cool lake but can only get in the water if they’re wearing shorts and t-shirts over their swimsuits. Because as an adult leader it’s a bit demeaning to have to enforce that sort of stuff.

  94. Or maybe it’s that the adult female leaders never experienced high adventure themselves, so it’s out of their comfort zone and skill level.

  95. Loursat says:

    Ironically, high adventure for girls has been part of the Boy Scouts program for decades in the form of Venturing. BSA has included co-ed Venturing units since the 1960’s. Of course, no such co-ed units have been found in the LDS Church, because for Mormons, Scouts = Aaronic Priesthood = No Girls. Soon, I hope, we will have the opportunity and invitation to create youth activities that are conceived not as “priesthood” activities, but as truly inclusive events for both young women and young men. Visionary bishops, stake presidents, and YW leaders will be invaluable.

  96. Mike W. says:

    actually Steve I come here to see what the dorky faux-liberal Mormon nerds think. I’m rarely surprised. When the issues that really matter come up, it’s almost always a SWING AND MISS for BCC. Courage.

  97. As usual, Steve Evans, I struggled to imagine an appropriate response to Mike W.’s “as usual” while you seem to have found one effortlessly! Thanks for the laugh — but was I supposed to laugh?

    MB: Sometimes there appears to be a lack of YW leaders interested in the high adventure stuff, but, in addition to the reasons for that pointed out by Maybee, there is in some wards grossly disparate funding of YM and YW activities — an even bigger obstacle that YW leaders’ alleged lack of interest. My guess is that if equal funding were available and imagination encouraged, most wards could find extended activities that interested the YW and their adult leaders, whether or not those activities necessarily involved bugs, bad weather, and absence of sanitary facilities. In the meantime, the high adventure issue was solved for some girls in my ward by their fathers joining in taking them hiking, backpacking, whitewater rafting, rappelling, caving, swimming in lakes (without caring whether they wore anything over their swimsuits), etc. Why would it have to be the YW leaders doing it if it were true that they didn’t want to?

  98. Mike W. says:

    Put it this way, when the Deseret News has harder hitting analysis than BCC on this issue, you are a faux-liberal Mormon website.

  99. JR, it doesn’t have to be YW leaders doing it. Dads, grandpas, etc. are fine too. Fortunate are the YW (and YM) who have adults of either sex who are willing and able to make the time to do it. My point is, if it’s not happening, the blame is not on the institution, it’s in the mindset of the adult leaders and parents of the young women in question.

    I guess I’m just tired of adults complaining that opportunities are not available to YW when, in my experience, few of the complainers were willing or able to go the distance to make what they want to happen, happen. Complaining about what other people are not doing is easy. There is lots of that going on about both YM and YW programs. But I see far too few complainers involved in solution buildilng in their own congregations. And that is where the rubber meets the road.

  100. >>“my idea of camping is a hotel without room service”<<

    I assume this is meant derisively, which brings up a question I don't think anyone's asked yet:

    Why do we place so much moral weight on being 'outdoorsy'?

    While there are a lot of weird things we've got to do to gain admission into the Celestial Kingdom, the last time I checked, tying a bowline knot wasn't one of them.

  101. >>Or getting pushback from the male bishops thanks to leadership roulette.<<

    That's exactly how it is in my ward. The YW President proposed a pretty great High Adventure for the girls, planned how to budget it and everything. The bishopric, as they are allowed to, shot it down with a single word: No.

    The boys' High Adventure that year was *two days riding roller coasters at amusement parks.* (We were all supposed to support their fundraiser, IN ADDITION to Friends of Scouting, because this was such an expensive trip.) The Bishopric insisted 'til they were blue in the face that the girls didn't need anything like this because the girls get Girls Camp which is totally the same thing. I don't think a single female over the age of 12 actually bought it.

  102. Amen, MB. Why should YW only have women leading activities, and vice versa? Our obsession with gender appropriateness is tiresome. Women can run primary and be in charge of boys, but not contribute to the lives of YM in any way other than to serve them dinner?
    My kids of both genders here in Europe participate in (non LDS) scouting programmes. The scout leaders are primarily women. Boys and girls camp together. It’s a non-issue.
    Scrap LDS scouting in totality and just be done with it. Run joint YM and YW programmes, with a common “award”, if someone really feels that getting through teenage years in one piece needs an official award.

  103. Plus Joni, can I just adopt you as my new best friend? 😉

  104. MB: “My point is, if it’s not happening, the blame is not on the institution, it’s in the mindset of the adult leaders and parents of the young women in question.”

    I had missed the point you now articulate because you had said “it’s adult women in the ward or branch not being interested in facilitating it.” The new formulation referring to “adult leaders and parents,” includes the bishopric. That and the behavior of Joni’s bishopric, for example, make it also an institutional issue in practice whether or not bishoprics are required by the general handbook to behave that way. It is an institutional issue at least because the handbook also does not require bishoprics not to behave that way. I would still, however, add to your new formulation (adult leaders and parents) that it is also in the mindset of those donors who fund such activities for YM but do not for YW.

  105. “faux-liberal”? You think we’re conservatives posing as liberals? And, dude, this is a blog post, if you’re disappointed by the lack of “hard-hitting analysis,” get over yourself. And your reason for saying that this post was “hard-hitting” enough is what, that it didn’t say “LOOK EVERYBODY! THIS IS A HUGE DEAL! IT’S AN ADMISSION THAT OUR YOUTH PROGRAM ISN’T WORKING!”? I thought that was a pretty obvious point, hardly a complicated issue that requires “analysis.” Anyway, thanks for stopping by, bro.

  106. Joni, I’m with you. These so-called “high adventure” trips that are basically just a vacation paid for by the ward, with nothing that could reasonably be called adventure are totally stupid. Real high adventure trips are really great. When I was a youth, I remember two high adventure trips that were really worthwhile: One was a three-day backpacking trip in the Adirondack High Peaks. It was supposed to be a 5 day trip, but we got pummeled by a torrential thunderstorm and decided to cut it short. We changed our route and hiked down into the Johns Brook Valley where we were miraculously able to rent a 9-bunk cabin with a woodstove that we were all able to squeeze into and dry out. The other was a week long bike trip where we biked around several of the finger lakes. The bike trip was an official scout trip. The other was just a YM trip. On that one, our leaders prepared a full program of morning and evening devotionals that was really good. I really wish the YW would take advantage of similar opportunities. I think it would benefit the girls greatly. Whether our failure to do so is the fault of individual leaders or whether it is attributable to more structural issues is, I don’t think an either/or question, and regardless, I think we need to get over whatever hang-ups we have that are keeping us from providing experiences like that to YW.

  107. Kevin Barney says:

    I’m getting an oil change and this thing was just reported on the morning news.

  108. Did they say anything interesting, Kevin?

  109. John Mansfield says:

    Seconding Kevin Barney, my wife first heard about this yesterday during a brief news update segment broadcast by a classical music station in Baltimore. I guess that places it among the half dozen most interesting things that happened in America yesterday.

  110. “My point is, if it’s not happening, the blame is not on the institution, it’s in the mindset of the adult leaders and parents of the young women in question.”

    I’d argue the opposite. The YM don’t go on high adventures because the YM leaders really, really want to. The YM leaders do it because it is required as part of scouting (and now as part of this new letter which specifies high adventure and camping trips). The YW leaders are not required to do anything similar – an institutional choice. If the YM leaders had a choice, they wouldn’t do any of it either (I say that as the wife of a 20 years scout leader, who loves camping and the outdoors, but hates doing it with teenage boys of other people families).

  111. John Mansfield says:

    Ten years ago this summer, my niece hiked to the top of Wheeler Peak, the highest point in New Mexico at 13,161 feet. She did this with her stake YW, just as my wife did a couple decades before her, on a three-day backpacking trek. For YM or YW, it is hard to pull together desire and involvement from the various parties to do anything like this. I’ve tried, mostly unsuccessfully, in my ward for the past decade, and the interest isn’t there. Last summer I learned of a four-day 186-mile bike ride conducted every four years in the neighboring stake by the teachers and priests, and I wrangled an invitation for my 14-year-old son; my stake will never do anything like that.

  112. Left Field says:

    The scroll on MSNBC last night said the church is eliminating scouting for its teenage youth because of BSA’s gay policies. That’s called steamrolling over fact and nuance to convey alternate facts.

  113. your food allergy is fake says:

    That’s called non-faux, genuinely liberal hard-hitting analysis right there.

  114. It is on the front page of today’s LA Times. “A Mormon shift on Boy Scouts: Church will withdraw older teens, citing their waning interest”

  115. This is not good. It won’t solve the any problems except reducing costs and the angst of some reactionary members who cling to tradition. In my experience, LDS/BSA has been failing for the last 50 years because LDS troops/crews/teams fail to have two key things: parental involvement and youth leadership. In addition, LDS Scout leaders are the archetypal screw ups – an example of unprepared, poorly trained unreliable adult leaders. With such a bad track record it is not surprising the rank and file would not value the program as much as many of the leaders who had better experiences with the program. Ultimately, I think we will regret this decision and will probably recreate scouting at some level. The tragedy is Scouting is an opportunity for the LDS community to get outside of itself.

  116. OHC: “The tragedy is Scouting is an opportunity for the LDS community to get outside of itself.”

    That’s a very important point. My family lives in the proverbial “mission field.” Many of my sons’ best school friends were found through scouting council activities – camp, midways, etc. with non-member troops. Out here, scouting is a great way for our boys to find youth of similar standards.

    I’ll mention one more loss. Scouting positions are unique in the church structure in allowing for non-members to serve. My ward has lots of part member families. We’ve had success calling non-member spouses to serve as assistant scout masters and scouting committee members. Responsibilities help tie these good people to the ward in ways they otherwise couldn’t because they’re not members. While the current change doesn’t end this opportunity, a complete divorce from BSA would.

  117. Dave and OHC, that’s a good point. Around here, scouting has been a way for me and others in our ward and stake to be more involved with the community. But I’m not sure that eliminating venture and varsity really threatens that involvement, except to the extent that fewer LDS leaders will be involved in scouting (which has its own benefits, as our programs are often overstaffed for the number of boys in the program). Varsity and venture, at least in our area, were things that made us odd and separated us from the other scout troops. Varsity was invented by the church and even after it was officially adopted by the BSA, nobody else but LDS chartered organizations ever did it. Venture crews exist outside of the church, but around here nobody else does them, and even in places where venture programs exist, it is a co-ed program that is very different from the LDS-specific version. Eliminating these programs, having just a single troop as the chartered organization, may in some ways actually make it easier to interact with local non-LDS scouting.

  118. 116 comments in and not a single clip from Moonrise Kingdom or Canteen Boy posted? Weak sauce faux-liberals, weak sauce.

  119. “The tragedy is Scouting is an opportunity for the LDS community to get outside of itself.”

    I wonder though if part of the weak interest in scouting is because families are already doing this within the areas of interest of their own children. When I look at my ward, the LDS kid are all in sports teams, gymnastics, art, student government, school plays, 4H, Girl Scouts, Dance, Ice Skating, Music (I could go on and on). And where the kids are involved, so are the parents. My kids and I are great friends with the other families in our areas of interest. We don’t need scouting to provide this on an interpersonal area. And I’ll add that several times the groups we are involved in have used our church building for activities too. Kids (with supportive parents with money – let’s be clear) have so many opportunities, the Scouting doens’t add much.

  120. Kevin Barney says:

    They had the TV turned to the local Fox affiliate. I wasn’t paying attention and only noticed about halfway into the story (which was short) that they were talking about it. I couldn’t swear to it, but I think they said the Church was now “prohibiting” participation in varsity/venture, which struck me as the wrong nuance.

  121. “I think they said the Church was now “prohibiting” participation in varsity/venture, which struck me as the wrong nuance.”

    Yeah, that’s not correct at all. None of this has anything to do with what scouting programs individual boys (or girls, for that matter) are allowed to participate in; it’s just about what scouting units the church will ask wards to continue to charter.

  122. They are “venturing” crews not “venture” crews.

  123. Okay.

  124. “Why do we place so much moral weight on being ‘outdoorsy’?”

    As long as the dwelling you live in is grounded in a mortal world, you eat food that grows out of the dirt, deal with scarcity, death, unpredictable elements, potential for earthquakes, floods, etc. it’s good for many thousands of us to be able to make things happen with our bare hands and minimal tools.

    Practice at it, and moreover frequent implementation of the necessary skillset is a good thing.

    We should not always assume meat will come from the store and repairs will be done by the ​contractor. Maybe in most of our lifetimes it will.

    But within the last year I’ve dealt with tornados and power outages and storms and flooding. In situations I put myself in and had to deal with.

    “Outdoorsy” can be the difference between gritting your teeth and going to work in the elements or giving up and hoping someone else more prepared will rise to the occasion.

    Be prepared is a good motto. We don’t need formalized make work merit badges but we do need boys who grow up learning to do hard things.

    We shouldn’t overlook that reality even if it’s uncomfortable for what it means about​ some gender issues.

    Should go without saying I welcome strong women who want to do these things too, but by and large it falls on the men to most of these hard things. And clearly none of those men would exist without a woman first doing something harder.

  125. Kevin Barney says:

    On the train. I open my Chicago Tribune to see an article on page 14 of the main section by Brady McCombs (AP), 3 columns taking a quarter page. Info is consistent with the OP. Several quotes from Matt Bowman, to the effect that gays and girls probably were an influence, and Church is preparing for the day when the American church is even more of a minority than it is now.

  126. Since I’m not “outdoorsy” nor physically able to be, I’ll just keep my plans for curling in a ball and dying at the apocalypse.

    Or rapture, whichever comes first ;)

  127. Tira, it’s nice that being outdoorsy is part of your personal background and interests! Conflating it with the gospel or preparedness in general or “learning to do hard things” doesn’t make much sense to me though.

    The YM or YW who can normalize a database or can do their own taxes will also be prepared when life throws them curve balls, even if they’re not into camping. (And yes, I’m sure there are BSA merit badges for both of those things.)

  128. Tira, don’t underestimate the power of necessity and the craftiness of human beings in dire situations. From the beginning, there was division of labor, political wranglings, bartering, negotiating, selling services (including sex) to survive. A bullet kills an outdoorsy person just as it does an indoorsy one. As does a knife. Or a rock to the head. Sure, some basic survival skill is necessary, but will extreme survival skills really yield a much better existence in the chaos? If society descends into anarchy, the preppers will be in supreme jeopardy too. Indeed, they will be targets because of their storage.

    The jailhouse lawyer is the most protected person in prison. Survival of the fittest often means survival of the wiliest, the one who can leverage connections and build coalitions, and then turn on them when necessity dictates. I’m with Frank. Being at ground zero when the bomb goes off to start the apocalypse is probably the best place to be. Get it over with quick. No arrow of light skills will make the hellish existence more enjoyable. It will just prolong the anxiety and agony.

  129. Whether any of us ever need to be long-term survivalists — and that isn’t what Tira is suggesting — I think she’s right that there is value in maintaining, or reestablishing, contact with the natural world. Growing a couple of tomatoes and a zucchini won’t interfere with anybody’s normalizing a database, but it *might* remind someone of our place in the natural world and make someone grateful to God for rewarding our dependence on him. It won’t hurt most people to hike on dirt as well as jog on pavement, and something spiritual can be stirred when you sleep under the stars listening to the wind in the trees instead of sirens through your city window.

    Whether Scouting and its outdoorsy emphasis is the best, or only, or universal path go God, or whether the time and money and haphazard execution is worth anything, are other matters. But I don’t think there should be any pile-on on Tira for recognizing the practical skillsets or the moral (spiritual) benefits of being able to function in the natural world to some degree.

  130. Agree 100% with everything Ardis said. I am pretty much the exact opposite of anti-the outdoors.

    That didn’t make it any less weird for me as a kid when the “official activity arm of the priesthood” spent as much time every year on camping as they did on all other interests and activities put together.

  131. I’m personally interested in maintaining contact with the natural world and learning skills and competency in the wild. A little more Ardis’ version and a little less Tira’s version (that slants a bit too much survivalist for me).

    Two problems, however:

    1. I don’t see a gospel or Church-y reason to impose this preference on others. And I remember friends at ages 12-13-14 for whom such imposition through the scouting program was a wedge that kept them away.

    2. This isn’t what the BSA was about for me. I learned scouting (and I think there is pretty good history for this) as an expression of Muscular Christianity, a “philosophical movement that originated in England in the mid-19th century, characterised by a belief in patriotic duty, manliness, the moral and physical beauty of athleticism, teamwork, discipline, self-sacrifice, and ‘the expulsion of all that is effeminate, unEnglish and excessively intellectual'” (Wikipedia, quoting “Godliness and Good Learning”, London, 1961, p. 216). This is what I see in both the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) and the BSA as introduced in the United States in the early 20th century. The Church was the first big sponsor of the BSA, adopting the program in 1913. In other words, the BSA with oaths and signs, moral principles and requirements, ran like a shadow religion through my early teens. I can pick and choose the good parts, as I can with many other things, but I have always thought that there was a false priesthood sense in the Church sponsoring the BSA.

  132. Tira: Do we only need YM who can do hard things? If we need our YW to also be able to do hard things, how is it that the Church derived programme is good enough for them, but not for YM? Or should our YW not be doing hard things and preparing for impending disaster, but should be demurely cross-stitching and baking cookies iced in value colours?

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, being based outside the US, but the inequality of the current, and the new proposals seem glaring to me, mainly because we don’t have LDS sponsored scouting here and the sky hasn’t fallen on our heads as a result of it.

  133. Much like with handcart treks, I’m a little baffled by the argument of “we need to teach the youth that *they can do hard things.*” I know a LOT of teenagers, both in the church and out, and they already KNOW they can do ‘hard things.’ They don’t need arbitrary actually devised and imposed on them by well-meaning adult leaders. (And a lot of those ‘hard things’ actually take place INDOORS.)

    It gets even weirder when you delve into the Boer Wars and WHY Baden-Powell organized the scouts in the first place…

  134. Or as the great Bill Wattetson put it: ” Calvin, go do something you hate! Being miserable builds character!”

  135. Natalie says:

    I think this is a great change. However I am wondering why they started with the top groups rather than at the younger ages. If you are going to phase out a program (which the church state that will happen eventually) why not cut off the new scouts coming in? Let those who are in the program finish it out and start the new 8yr olds off with a new program (or just use the faith in God program like the girls use). I have 2 boys ages 9 and 10 and would like to finish cub scouts with them but I am not interested in continuing on with 11yr old scouts and scout troop if the whole thing is going to be replaced anyway.

  136. “They don’t need arbitrary actually devised and imposed on them by well-meaning adult leaders.”

    That is precisely the problem with Church run Scouts. Scouting is supposed to be a youth lead, planned, run program. The adults are only there to ensure it’s safe and fun. 13 year old leaders don’t have the maturity or vision. Outside the Church successful troops are lead by 14, 15 and 16 year old leaders. It’s amazing what an 11 or 12 year old will do if a 15 year asks him instead of a 50 year old. Of course, in the Church the 15 year old isn’t teaching or leading.

  137. My experience, back in the day in the non-LDS troops my brother and I were in, was that they, too, were primarily run by adults and that worked reasonably well. And more to the point of the original post, for most youth, by high school age other activities (the demands of school, sports, music, etc., etc.) exert a pull that scouting can’t compete with.

  138. Joni Of course not everyone needs scouting to learn to do hard things. And we know not every scout actually learns it. But that was part of the goal. It built character. Not just the hikes but the intellect too, I’m speaking of one aspect of a multifaceted program in a comment…

    All this poopooing survivorship is ridiculous. I said nothing of extreme prepper type activities, but I did point out power outages and floods and tornados which I’ve been through and in the circumstances had to prepare for and go to work the next day in the elements. It’s not the end of the world, it’s last year… And I was helping and working while others literally looked around and said, “I don’t know what to do.” to me.

    The more youth who can tie a knot and remember it to adulthood means more ability to help someone in need. When you drive by a car hanging off the side of a canyon or stuck in a snow bank do you have the capability to pull them out or wish someone more capable would come by? Also been there and done both.

    Do you need to be a scout? No. Will it help? Yep. More people who can help are better. Anyway, I’m not happy at all with how scouting has been implemented because it has a lot of junk built into it over the years and we’ve got lots of activities and limited time. People get too focused on checklists and requirements. It’s often too bureaucratic.

    But we’re likely to lose something important and undefinable if we simply leave scouting without a robust replacement. Many nations where the program isn’t implemented are lacking something. Many where it isn’t implemented have tougher boys, but could still benefit from many of scouting’s programs.

    BY: The riches of a kingdom or nation do not consist so much in the fulness of its treasury as in the fertility of its soil and the industry of its people.

    Scoutings goal was to help one aspect of that industry. To the extent it did so, it was very much gospel oriented. To the extent it was focused on bureaucratic requirements of checklists over learning and experiencing we were doing it wrong.

    School teaches hard things of a different sort. Missions as well. Church as well. But scouting principles shouldn’t be ignored because we don’t get what’s the deal with outdoorsy.

  139. Tira, that brings up a complementary question – if these skills are so necessary and great, why do we only want boys to learn them?

  140. Umm, really interested to know what the “something” is that our boys here in Europe are lacking? I for one am grateful that at least here in Europe there is less inequality in the budgets for YM and YW as a result of there being no scouting.
    There are also plenty of co-ed scouting troops available for those girls, boys and parents that feel that learning to do hard outdoorsy things needs to be learned through scouting.

  141. Mike W. says:

    I had the idea that because higher education often correlates with future church activity, that there ought to be some focus on academics in the YM and YW program. Especially with the kids that are at risk, with lack of family support. However, this is easier said than done. And the percent of youth for whom this kind of effort would make a difference is a small minority.

  142. Natalie has a good point about the uncertainty of when and how a further split with BSA will happen. But I think that pulling away from the venturing and varsity programs (youth ages 14-17) is quite rational. In the several wards I’ve been in during the last 10 years (California and Oregon) the the young men’s activities are already largely being operated as the new directive suggests, customized to the particular young men. So it it makes perfect sense to stop “pretending” to be under the BSA umbrella.

    I do think the “traditional BSA” program (11-13 year olds in current LDS implementation) benefits a significant fraction of youth, and it benefited me 20+ years ago. I would love to see scouting become an optional activity where stakes sponsor one or more troops (depending on demographics and geography). Wards would hold separate youth activities. In that case scouting would more directly compete with sports and other extracurriculars, but there would be a scouting option available for those who really want it (including no Sunday camping, the biggest hang-up with participating in non-LDS troops). By organizing troops at a stake level hopefully it would be easier to get more qualified, enthusiastic, and longer-serving adult leaders, and it would help achieve a good critical mass of youth in places like where I’ve lived.

  143. Aussie Mormon says:

    @M nah clearly it’s just that the kids in Europe, Australia, and many other places are already more skilled and don’t need the extra help that scouting offers :p

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