Mormons Sever Ties with Boy Scouts

The church sponsors 20 percent of the youth organization's membership.

WaPo (“Mormon Church breaks all ties with Boy Scouts, ending 100-year relationship“):

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Tuesday it will sever all ties with the Boy Scouts of America, ending a century-old tradition deeply ingrained in the religious life of Mormon boys.

The Mormon Church, as it is more commonly known, said in its announcement that it has “increasingly felt the need to create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally.” The two organizations “jointly determined” that as of Dec. 31, 2019, the church will no longer be a chartered partner of the Scouts, it said in a joint statement with the Boy Scouts.

The change will affect hundreds of thousands of Mormon boys in 30,500 congregations worldwide.

For 105 years, the relationship between the Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church has been important to both groups. Any boy who is part of a Mormon congregation automatically becomes part of the Boy Scouts. The Mormon Church has been the largest participant of the Boy Scouts in the United States, making up nearly 20 percent of all of the Boy Scouts’ 2.3 million youth members.

Church officials did not cite specific Scouts policy changes that spurred the split, but the two groups have increasingly clashed over values in recent years, particularly following the Boy Scouts’ move to include openly gay troop leaders. The announcement also came less than a week after the Boy Scouts announced it would be changing its flagship name to Scouts BSA, promoting its decision last year to welcome girls into the program for the first time.

While the Mormon Church did not publicly object when the Boy Scouts began admitting gay Scouts in 2013 and transgender Scouts last year, it said it was “deeply troubled” by the Boy Scouts’ decision to lift the ban on openly gay adult leaders in 2015. Mormon Church leaders considered parting ways with the organization. But the Scouts later said that while it would ban discrimination in hiring employees, it would leave it up to individual troops and councils to choose leaders who reflect their own values. Mormon Church officials decided to maintain ties to the group, though the relationship was not long-lived.

The church began scaling back its participation with the Scouts last year, when it announced it would be cutting ties with teen programs for high-school-age Scouts, while continuing to enroll 8- to 13-year-old boys in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. The church said the teen programs had been “historically difficult to implement within the Church,” and instead chose to create its own youth programs for teenage boys.

The move isn’t surprising, really. The Boy Scouts have long been dependent on churches for sponsoring its programs. That wasn’t much of a problem even 20 years ago, when the values of churches and American society with essentially aligned. Discrimination on the basis of religious belief, sexual orientation, and even gender identity has recently become anathema in polite society—if not illegal. The Boy Scouts have been forced by public outcry and lawsuits to adapt to modernization in a way that churches simply can’t do with the same speed.

FILED UNDER: Religion, Society
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    This fallout with the Scouts is simply history repeating itself. Such organizations dealt with exclusionary racial and religious minorities by overt exclusion, an appeal to the courts and eventually, as the old guard died off, with an acceptance of inclusivity.

  2. PJ says:

    The Mormon church moves with the speed of a glacier!

    From 1849 to 1978, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) had a policy which prohibited black men from being ordained to the priesthood, black men and women from taking part in ceremonies in LDS temples and black men and women from serving in certain church callings. During this time, church leaders gave several different race-based explanations for the ban. In 1978, the church’s First Presidency declared in a statement known as “Official Declaration 2” that the ban had been lifted as a result of a revelation from God. In December 2013, the LDS Church published an essay approved by the First Presidency that disavowed most race-based explanations for the past priesthood restriction and denounced racism.

    I guess they will all be busy celebrating the 40 year anniversary.

  3. James Pearce says:

    The move isn’t surprising, really.

    No, not really, considering nearly everyone else has also –and previously– severed ties with the Scouts.

    And that’s not really a knock on the Scouts. They just seem like an organization well into a decades long decline. There should be a generation of preppers and “primitive survivalists” minted by the BSA in the last decade or so, but that role has been left to Youtube.

  4. JKB says:

    It is good that there will more scouting type organizations. A controlling national org was not good for diversity. The BSA is a legacy from the monolithic organizations that rose and have now fallen from the early 20th century.

  5. Scott says:

    Mormon Scouts have always been a separate but equal organization. While a Boy Scout troop can be sponsored by a church or congregation, there was rarely any interaction except for providing a place for meetings and storage of equipment.

    Mormon congregations approve and assign the scoutmaster and are really somewhat insular from other scouting organizations.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    @James Pearce:

    There should be a generation of preppers and “primitive survivalists” minted by the BSA in the last decade or so, but that role has been left to Youtube.

    WTF do you think Scouting is?

  7. Neil Hudelson says:


    My understanding is that the Mormons plan to form a male youth service organization with elements of ‘scouting’ in it, but it will not at all be associated with “scouts.”

    If your comment means you think more scouting-like organizations are good (which I’m not disagreeing), that’s actually been the case for awhile. Key Club has been the largest youth service organization for awhile, and is growing at a rapid pace. There’s also Navigators USA, Trail Life, etc.

    If you mean that “scouting” needs more options, those options exist–sea scouts, venture scouting, etc. All nestled under “BSA.” Think of it as Comcast is to NBC, or News Corp to Fox. Related, but separately managed.

  8. James Pearce says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    WTF do you think Scouting is?

    My point, Neil, was that the prepper types are learning this stuff on the internet, not from misspending their youths in the BSA.

  9. Tyrell says:

    Many churches around here left the BSA some years ago and went to other scouting type organizations. This was the result of the BSA leadership lowering the standards.

  10. JKB says:

    @Neil Hudelson: If you mean that “scouting” needs more options

    I meant there needs to be a lot more scout organizations not affiliated with the BSA. One national/international org can be taken over by people for political reasons. A lot of smaller orgs can still offer options when the “institution” is seized and its basic premise is altered.

    I was just listening to a talk on what has happened to comics. Lefties got hired and have altered the characters beyond recognition to comics fans. They are killing the published versions even as Disney is keeping the movies true to the historical characters. Not something I care about, but the trend is the same.