The Boy Scouts of America has found itself at the center of shifting American mores over the last few years, and it has responded in kind. In 2013 the organization announced it would allow openly gay boys into its membership. In 2015 it allowed gay men to be scout leaders.
Late last year the BSA announced it would start allowing girls to join the organization, and earlier this month it announced it would change its name to Scouts BSA, to reflect that it now includes boys and girls.
And on Tuesday The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it will break with the BSA organization as of January 1, 2020.
The break seemed inevitable. For one, the quality and skill-level of BSA troops organized and led on a ward level often lacked the requisite training for outdoor high adventure expeditions.
There’s nothing like sending your son on a week-long trip to a dangerous wilderness area led by the attorney down the street whose last mountaineering activity was when he was 16 and got bit by a snake on a campout.
Some church-based, and often less-experienced, scout leaders also lack the appropriate amount of respect or appreciate for the wilderness they’re climbing through. The leaders who knocked over ancient rock formations in Goblin Valley State Park in 2013 are painful reminders.
Its easy to conclude that the church made its decision based on the BSA’s controversial, and increasingly liberal, decisions over the last few years. The church, though, said that the break has been in the works for a few years as they developed an alternative, world-wide program for both male and female youth.
Church representatives said the church realized that its increasingly global membership meant that resources spent on BSA programs were unnecessarily exclusive.
And they were. Time and money spent on coordinated BSA and LDS activities were exclusive to American boys only. Girls in church congregations, and Mormon youth outside the country, did not get a comparable level of money for activities or enrichment.
A typical girls activity might include baking cookies for widows in the congregation while boys attended expensive adventure camps.
Speaking of those camps, it will become important as the church moves forward with this split to deal fairly regarding both the land and the facilities of the many scout camps.
It’s important that the remaining boy (and girl) scouts in Utah get to keep using these facilities, and the LDS church should ensure that that happens.