LDS leaders get a first look at what will replace Scouting

Latter-day Saint leaders got a sneak peek this week at the faith’s sweeping new global program that will replace its Boy Scout and Young Women curriculum by year’s end.

The new plan was laid out in a letter dated July 15, sent to the church’s general authorities, general officers, area presidencies, bishops and stake presidents (the faith’s mostly male lay clergy).

It is long on values to instill — gospel learning, service and activities, and personal development — and short on specifics.

And that is on purpose, the letter said, built on the assumption that members in each area and family will adapt their approach to individual and local needs.

“The principles taught in this effort for children and youth represent a higher, holier way to encourage the rising generation to follow Jesus Christ and apply his gospel in all areas of their lives,” read the letter signed by the governing First Presidency — President Russell M. Nelson, and his two counselors, Dallin H. Oaks and Henry B. Eyring. “This major effort will include gospel learning, the privilege of service, personal development, and exciting activities.”

The new program, under the umbrella name Children and Youth, “starts at home,” where parents have “a sacred responsibility to teach their children in light and truth,” the letter continued. Latter-day Saint leaders will offer “valuable support and guidance to children, youth, and their families …[and encourage them] to use ‘Come, Follow Me — For Individuals and Families’ [the church’s scripture-based manual] and the words of living prophets to study the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Instead of dictating a one-size-fits-all program, these top officials recognize that “each individual, family, and congregation is unique. What works best for one may not work for another. Do what works for your family, class, quorum, or ward. Talk about your opportunities and concerns, and seek revelation for how to tailor this initiative to help individual children and youth reach their divine potential.”

The worldwide program will serve millions of young Latter-day Saints, replacing the Boy Scouts of America, Personal Progress, Duty to God and Faith in God — all of which have been longtime church staples.

Some who want to finish what they started under previous programs have until Jan. 20 to do so.

“If children or youth need additional time,” the letter said, “the awards will be available to order until March 1, 2020.”

The church will host a special satellite broadcast featuring a presentation by M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, on Sept. 29. At that time, the church will send out “additional information on uniformity and adaptation and name changes for activities and meetings.”

Two months later, on Nov. 17, apostle Gerrit W. Gong will speak at a live, face-to-face event beamed to members everywhere, answering frequently asked questions.

By that time, the website ChildrenandYouth.ChurchofJesusChrist.org will be up, and running and printed copies of the program will be shipped to congregations.

The faith announced last May that it was severing its more-than-century-old ties with the Boy Scouts of America in favor of creating its own program, a move it had been working on for a number of years.

The pending change comes on the heels of the faith’s switch to a home-centered, church-supported approach to gospel learning, unveiled when it reduced Sunday services from three hours to two hours.