The BSA’s Mormon Problem

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

Temple Square

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.

54 thoughts on “The BSA’s Mormon Problem

  1. It appears to me that BSA made the mistake of allowing religious organizations to join as a chartered body. Who would have thought, 100 years later, BSA could make decisions based upon which chartered organizations belong and follow suit with the media of today… It will be sad to see drastic changes to BSA because they aren’t willing to comfortably make a decision, rather they are willing to succumb to pressure. Just think, in several months to years from now, we will not be discussing this anymore because BSA will have made a decision to either protect its chartered organizations, or follow suit, like many organizations, to the ideals of the 21st century. I would like them to make a decision, regardless of which, stick to that decision and be proud of the decision they make. This we see no more of in the 21st century.

    Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.
    Abraham Lincoln

  2. As a side note on the gay issue, the LDS Church is already more progressive than the Scouts. Openly gay youth or leaders have been permitted to participate in the Church’s Young Men’s Program for quite some time, as long as they remain celibate. There is no policy against gay leaders or youth in the LDS church.

  3. I am LDS and find this article rather, what’s the word, ignorant. I have been a part of young men programs as a leader now for 10 years, I am 34. I am extremely experienced and have had opportunities to be a Scout Master, Varsity Coach, Venture Advisor and Unit Commissioner. It is my experience that so called unqulified individuals who don’t have a clue about scouting are rarely asked to serve in the young men organization. If they are though they have others in the program with experience to teach them and lead them. Currently all advisors in our organization are Eagle Scouts or have many years of scouting experience. Are they perfect scouting leaders, absolutely not, but they do the best they know how.
    It is true, LDS Boy Scouts do get a different experience than other troops I am sure, but this is not a problem. I am sorry that the LDS Scouting experience has soiled your perception of what scouting should be but let’s be honest, your unit receives significant benefits from LDS participation. Nowhere in your article do you give credit for the significant upside of LDS participation which I find sad.
    My troops have always had non-LDS boys involved. We reach out to every young man scouting age to participate. We love all young men and we want the best for them. I don’t care if they are LDS, Catholic, Jewish, black, white, yellow, or blue with pink stripes, I want them in my troop. I don’t care if they are gay, as long as their behavior and choices meet the “BSA’s” established standards.
    Lastly, to blame the “BSA’s” morality solely on the LDS Church is nothing less than unfair. It’s clear that you have tunnel vision in your opinion. Its not just the LDS Church that supports the standards of the BSA, Baptists, Methodist, and Catholics organizations also fought along side of the LDS Church, amongst MANY others. Singling out the LDS Church simply shows your bias and narrow experience to justify your frustration of what you perceive to be confining.

  4. I’d have to agree with this entire blog. We’re a traditional pack and troop, in a primarily Mormon community, so we’re surrounded by Mormon troops. I’ve seen the BSA program bastardized. The boys really aren’t leading their troops; the adults are. When there are merit badge clinics, our boys look great in their class A’s. Much of the Mormon troops show up unorganized, board shorts flip flops. Our boys definitely notice the difference. It must be hard for a seasoned old man to see the lack of pride of scouting and failure to follow rules and traditions that were once important, and not just going through the motions. Also, the majority of Mormon troops here push boys to earn their Eagle rank by 14, which is quite unreasonable, and technically questionable. Why exactly are so many doing a “scouting for food” Eagle projects? That shouldn’t qualify as a real Eagle project since they already do that annually. Another traditional scout leader equated Mormon scouting to that of a college mill, calling it an “Eagle or Merit Badge Mill”. Where the qualifications were pushed through with little significance, and the journey was list. It should count for something, nor just be another checkbox on the list of things to do. Often though, that’s exactly what I’ve seen happen. Also, with church ran scouting, diversity ends up being on the bottom of the list and I don’t believe that church ran scoring has BSA best interests, intentions, or traditions in mind.

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