The Boy Scouts of America have a Mormon problem. Before you get all feisty, I should make it clear that in general I’m a big fan of Mormons. They make for generally great people, are pretty fun to hang with out, and are usually pretty smart. However, the BSA has a big Mormo
n problem and it is a root for the organizations biggest threat of extinction. The problem is two fold.
Scouting “Mormon” Style: All Mormon young men are registered with the Boy Scouts. This is great because it brings more boys into the program right? Well, I said registered. You see the LDS church uses the Ward system and each Ward has a Troop, Team and Venture Crew. Boys shift based on age. The big problem is that only a few boys actually participate so while the number look good, the Units are in fact woefully underpopulated. The BSA doesn’t say anything because the LDS Church pays for each registered boy not each active boy. The Mormon Scouts are robbed of the real boy/boy leadership skills and exposure to different points of view. In addition, the LDS Church bastardizes the Scouting program for its own purposes. Boys who should be learning to camp aren’t because they don’t have the Priesthood, and Adult Leadership is chosen by the Bishop rather than based on who wants and is most capable to lead. The adults get a call “You have been called to be a Scoutmaster” and often the response is “A Scoutwhat?” Assignments only last a few years and then new blood is plucked out of nowhere to fill the hole. (The above is not going on in every LDS Ward, but more often than not). To be honest, all the above isn’t too bad. A chartering partner should have some control over how their program is run (although it should be within the traditional parameters set out by the BSA). My big problem is when the LDS version of the program bleeds into other units. Example? Camporees ending on Saturday afternoon, Summer Camp cut short, etc. I understand if the Unit wants to leave early but when a member of the LDS Church is put in charge of District or Council events, the events should maintain their traditional program. I’ve heard that the further away a Troop is from Salt Lake City the less severe this problem is, however, the second prong is a nationwide problem.
Scouting Held Hostage: The more severe problem is the Mormon influence on National BSA policies. Particularly on the issue of permitting gays to be members. Back during the whole BSA v. Dale (extended post on this tomorrow) excursion, the LDS Church made it very clear that if the BSA was forced to allowed homosexual members, it was going to leave. So, the BSA fought tooth and nail to win the lawsuit. The incentive of course was the inflated membership and money flowing in from the LDS Church. Many councils, especially those in the West rely heavily on the member income from the Mormon Church. If the Church bolted, membership would immediately dramatically drop, budgets would be cut, etc. If the BSA is to move into the 21st Century, it might have to without the LDS Church. One of the reasons the Councils, including my old Council the Nevada Are Council, allow the LDS to shift the program to their needs is the cash that comes from membership (membership that is grossly inflated). the LDS are allowed to play by their own rules while all the Units and Religious Organizations are forced to follow the LDS moral policies.
I’m not saying the problem with Scouting is the Mormons are involved (in fact I would like it very much if the BSA could keep the Mormon Church involved), I’m saying one of the greatest difficulties for the BSA moving forward is how more socially evolved the program can be than one of its biggest participants. If the BSA is anchored to match the Mormon social culture of today, I fear the BSA won’t make it for the next hundred years.