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Mormon Church Pulling Older Teens From Boy Scouts

Mormon Church Pulling Older Teens From Boy Scouts
An 11-year-old boy looks over a Boy Scout-themed Norman Rockwell exhibition at the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

By    |   Thursday, 11 May 2017 09:05 PM

The Mormon Church said Thursday it would pull nearly 185,000 older youths out of the Boy Scouts beginning Jan. 1 to start its own programs for them.

"Young men from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints will no longer participate in the Varsity and Venturing programs offered by the Boy Scouts of America," church officials said in a statement.

"Instead, young men activities will focus on spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual outlined by the church," the statement said. "These activities are designed to be fun and meaningful and provide opportunities for personal growth and development."

Based in Salt Lake City, the Mormon Church is the largest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States, with its first being created in 1913. Thursday's move would only affect Scouts in the U.S. and Canada.

Church officials, however, denied the move resulted from the Boy Scouts' decision in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders, since Mormon-sponsored troops have remained free to exclude such adults on religious grounds.

They also said the decision was not based on the Boy Scouts considering admitting girls.

Boy Scouts of America spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organization was saddened by the church's decision but understands its desire to customize a program.

About 280,000 Mormon boys ages 8 to 13 will remain in the Scouts while the church develops its own program, church officials said. The church did not say when the younger boys will be withdrawn from the Boy Scouts.

The Mormon Church has 15.8 million members, nearly six in 10 of them outside the U.S. and Canada.

The decision will still leave about 2.3 million youths in the Boy Scouts of America.

But the Scouts has been grappling with declining membership for years and has enjoyed an unusually close bond with the Mormons for more than a century because of their shared values.

"In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14-18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the church," the Mormon announcement said.

"This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical, and intellectual development goals for young men."

Like other conservative faiths, the Mormon Church opposes gay marriage and teaches that being in a homosexual relationship is a sin.

The church initially said it was "deeply troubled" by the Boy Scouts' policy change on gays but remained with the organization after receiving assurances it could appoint troop leaders according to its own religious and moral values.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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The Mormon Church said Thursday it would pull nearly 185,000 older youths out of the Boy Scouts beginning Jan. 1 to start its own programs for them.
Mormon, church, Boy Scouts, youths
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2017-05-11
Thursday, 11 May 2017 09:05 PM
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