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The Real Reason The Mormons And The Scouts Are Getting Divorced (As Told By A Guy Who Has No Idea What He’s Talking About)

May 11, 2018

It’s not what you think. At least I don’t think it is.

Much has been made of how much the Boy Scouts of America have been alienating their largest sponsor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, or LDS church. The Church had nearly half a million young men in the BSA program and about 100,000 leaders.

Last week, the church announced it was going to abandon Scouting at the end of 2019. This after they just this year pulled over a quarter million boys out of the Scouting program.

Critics of the BSA point out that it’s hardly surprising. Over the past several years the BSA has implemented changes that are more and more at odds with the Church.

Here’s a brief list of the changes the Scouts made that were inconsistent with the LDS Church

  • 5/23/2013 – BSA agreed to allow gay boys. (A position the Church said was not inconsistent, but most people consider the Church as hostile to the LGBTQ community)
  • 7/10/2015 – BSA rescinds ban on gay leaders
  • 10/11/2017 – BSA announces that girls can now join Boy Scouts and cub scouts
  • 1/30/2017 – BSA announces that it will no longer ban transgendered boys
  • 5/2018 – BSA announces name change from Boy Scouts of America to Scouts BSA

When the church recently announced it was leaving the Scouts, many peoople looked at the list of changes above, shook their head and said,

What did they think would happen? The Scouts did it to themselves.

And I have to admit many of those changes are directly, or indirectly at odds with the LDS standards for their youth organization.

However, I don’t blame the Scouts. Not a bit. In fact, I don’t think it’s their fault at all.

I think rather than the above changes being the cause of the LDS Church leaving, I think the LDS Church leaving is what caused the above changes.

As early as 2015 the LDS Church publically admitted that the Boy Scouts did not meet the needs of most of their international young men.

The Church is a very conservative organization. I worked for the Church’s IT department several years ago. When the different departments put their budgets together, the entire next year’s budget was allocated at the beginning of the year and placed in an escrow account.

When the Church builds a new chapel or a temple, all of the cost of construction is allocated at the beginning of the project.

A senior church official spoke to the IT department at one point and acknowledged that they were reluctant to adopt cutting edge technology. They were happy to let a technology become more mature before adopting it.

I think the Church did the same thing with its youth program. I think the decision was made as much as a decade ago that Scouting was not going to meet the needs of the Church. However, the Church was also interested in making sure that the BSA continued as a viable organization. If the Church were to suddenly pull out of Scouting, it would be devastaing to the BSA budget. I think the Church approached the BSA sometime around the centinial celebration in 2010 and told them that they had 10 years left.

The BSA then looked at its membership which at the time was 1/6 LDS. They had to figure out how to replace at least a portion of those scouts. That’s why they started loosening the membership requirements. The two organizations had a delicate balance. The BSA had to expand its membership, but do it in such a way that didn’t alienate the church too much during the transition period.

One reason this theory has some strength is the announcement last year that the church was taking the older boys (14-17 year olds) out of the scouting program, but leaving the younger boys and cub scouts.

If the Church had decided the BSA beliefs were inconsistent with the Church beliefs, they would have pulled all the boys out. And this year (2018) the Church is making the same lump sum payment to the BSA as it made in 2017. This despite the fact that the membership dropped from 470,000 to 280,000. Why? Because the BSA was not through the transition yet.

Remember that it was June 23, 2000 when the Boy Scouts fought and won a Supreme Court case to exclude gays. What changed between June of 2000 and May 2013 when they voted to allow gays? For one thing, the Scouts lost a lot of non-Church sponsorships. But, I’m suggesting it was also during that period that the LDS Church let them know it was developing its own program.

Thomas Monson is the past president of the LDS Church. He passed away January 2, 2018. He was a lifetime member of the BSA national board. He was, by far the longest serving member in BSA history, actively attending board meetings from 1969-2011. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the church announced it was leaving Scouting shortly after his death.

So, rather than the BSA driving the Mormons away, I think the Mormons announced they were leaving anyway and the Scouts started making changes to have a leaner organization, but one that also included a broader range of American youth.

Is any of this accurate? Did the Mormons ask for a divorce first? I doubt I’ll ever know. But, I think the timeline I’ve laid out here makes more sense than the idea that the Scouts decided to accept gays despite the objection of their largest sponsor and the Mormons decided to leave in a huff.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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