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

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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.

64 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.

  5. I know this post is old, but it is still up so people are still hitting it I’d guess.
    I disagree with the posters here. I am a Mormon who has refused to assist with the boyscoutss. BSA has created another new/revised health check sheet with a long list conditions (almost none of which have any bearing on scouts’s safety), and then the form demands, and I quote: “List all other medical information.” ALL!
    I am a physician and i am outraged. We are not “brave” if we support this. We are not trustworthy if we let people think we approve of this. Mormons were once brave, honest and smart, and well…clean.
    The True church is true. It does not lie. It does not condone or enforce the stripping away of the body’s coverings. It does not engage in the moronic and insulting public ridicule of children and mothers done by the likes of “Bobwhite Blather” and “Fmaynard” who claim that people who don’t approve of the BSA’s demands are simply nutjobs. (
    It does not force parents or children to expose themselves to the eyes of others, or lie about who they are for any reason. Least of all lie in order to
    join an organization whose primary claim to fame is honesty.
    If the Mormon Church is too timid to say “No.” Then it is neither the True Church nor a boyscout, for it is neither brave, nor honest.
    Are we so shallow, cowardly, and incompetent that we will give up honor just to go on a walk.
    Or is it that the boyscouts has purchased the Mormon Church by offering their boys the
    public decoration of eagle scout to those who are willing to go along with the subjugation of others.
    One has to ask, Where is Salt Lake City?

  6. As a lifelong Mormon scout, my perception of the above article is fairly conflicted.

    First, I can agree that, in some wards, the scouting experience is entirely cheapened. However, this is not so much a Mormon problem that the BSA has that is it the inverse. The scouting program is just absolutely AMAZING. If the Mormon Church truly desires to incorporate it as part of their young men program, then it MUST hold its scoutmasters to a higher standard.

    To be fair, I have known a great many LDS scoutmasters who do a great job for their troops. There are certain wards where the scoutmasters are second to none as far as dedication, commitment, and their level of service.

    However, in some wards and stakes, the scouting program is seen as an afterthought or, worse, an inconvenience. I have seen wards where the scoutmasters do not require the boys to be in uniform. I have seen others that justify 20 minutes of talking and two hours of playing ward basketball qualifies the scout for the law merit badge. I have seen wards where there are FAR too many “death bed eagles” with weak eagle projects. Likewise, I have seen some other wards elevating far too many 13-year olds to the rank of Eagle with far too minimal efforts or with very weak eagle projects.

    Again, the author’s commentary is well-taken. However, I just wanted to point out that this is a problem that the Mormon Church needs to recognize to hold certain scoutmasters more accountable. As the author states, far to many Mormon scouts are robbed of the overall experiences by scoutmasters who just aren’t “into it” at all.

    On the second point, I disagree with the author entirely. The BSA’s decision to not allow homosexual adults to be scoutmasters was largely determined by any number of the religious organizations affiliated with the BSA — including, but certainly far from limited to, the LDS Church. Even Cub Scouts learn that duty to God comes first and Mormonism is far from the only worldwide religion involved with the BSA that discourages its members from practicing homosexuality.

    That being said, I think your opinion on the second prong is fairly myopic. Moving forward, the BSA has already shown that it can and will progress into this new century. It has done so by reaching more broadly to members of other faiths — such as Judaism, Islam, Buddihsm, Hinduism, and Bahai faiths. Where once the BSA was largely seen largely as a Christian organization, I think it is now safe to say it is “religious.” However, the BSA is not (and never will be) “secular,” which to me and other life-long scouters does not seem to be a problem moving forward.

  7. to Jeff: I appreciate your comments and your willingness to agree that the LDS
    has indeed bastardized the boy scout program to suit ITS religious policies.

    We watched LDS scouts go off on a weekend outing and come home with merit badges that took our scouts a couple of months to work on….we learned that some of the requirements had been ”set up” for them to observe and check off.

    There has been in the pasta preponderance of 13 yr old LDS Eagles !!
    The standards in most other troops have leadership requirements that cannot
    possibly been done by age 13. Unfortunately that has led to the description of LDS Eagles to be ”paper Eagles only”.

    I understand that in LDS Scouting, a Sr. Patrol Leader must be a member of the
    Mormon Priesthood. That obviously excludes gay and non-LDS scouts from every serving in that leadership position and would likely prevent them from making Eagle. Far in the past, ”black” Scouts were seldom even allowed to join period.
    Being an LDS Eagle is nothing but one more accomplishment to add to the
    list of things that must be done to go to Mormon afterlife and live in the
    best of the best heavens.

    The BSA program is skewed to be USED for a different agenda.
    But the BSA is compelled to look away because of the LDS funding.

    ”Practicing homosexuality” is a term used by homophobes that implies their sexual identity is chosen. There are a decreasing number of knowledgable people who know that sexual identity is inborn. Duty to God?..homosexuals can and do practice their religions in a devout manner. And remember also that the “”Mormon God” is not the Christian God IF one reads and understands Mormon Doctrines…which I do.

    Some day folks like the LDS and Fundies, etc. might come to the truth that
    most pediophiles are heterosexuals !! That presents a significantly higher liklihood that abuse will be done by some married guy with two kids who sits in the front row every Sunday than a homosexual guy. The Scouts also enforce the 2-deep rule mandating that there are always at least 2 adults on any over-nighter.
    Do Mormon Youth outings have that rule as well? Are background checks done on the LDS men who are forced to be involved?

    I think the day will come when the no gay adult policy still stands to appease the
    homophobes….but the BSA will look away if a troop does accept a gay adult.

  8. We were just discussing it today where I watched a troop do an eagle project during the 4 Peaks clean up a few months ago.. If you review the requirements for Eagle, a scout tagging along on a clean up organized by Arizona Game and Fish, does not qualify as adequate. What I found out last week was that the panel that reviews Eagle in the Phoenix area, are predominately or completely mormon. So, boys tagging along on someone else’s planned project or merely doing a typical service hour Scouting for Food project, get a pass.

    Technically speaking, how does a boy earn his camping merit badge at 13 if he is LDS? 20 nights of camping. If you do the math, the amount of camping nights that LDS actually do doesn’t add up fast enough. My boy goes to almost all camping events, which are at least 8 times a year and doesn’t include summer camp. My boy could earn this badge in a little over a year. LDS would take twice as long, if not longer since they don’t camp on Saturdays, or near as often. Can you say, fudge the paperwork?

    When you’re a traditional troop surrounded by LDS troops; actions are noticeable. The logistics behind some merit badges that boys earn so quickly or, so many in such a short time, raises a serious eyebrow. Especially when so many in one group earn them at the same time. I see that realistically, very few merit badges are earned by a group of boys at the same time. Usually boys are finishing merit badges on their own. The fact that participation is significantly lower than registered numbers, leaves to question how so many LDS boys could possibly earn Eagle at such a young age. Merit badge mills come to mind. Not all LDS troops are slacking, but it’s safe to say that more are, rather than aren’t. I’m not anti-mormon. I have Mormon friends. I’m just calling it as I see it when it comes to poorly executed BSA programs.

    Our troop is going on 4 years old and our troop has consistently been awarded 1st place ribbons for many things at summer camp. It’s definitely about the leadership. We believe in keeping to the standard. Us parents want to be there. We volunteered to lead. We want them to do their best. We want them to learn and have pride. I favor this all deeply since I consider the scouting structure very similar to the military structure, and I served 13 years.

    Scouting to us is about tradition, honor, and service, not just a box to check off. As leaders, we expect our scouts to be scouts at all times, even when not in uniform. It’s actually part of a weekly meeting scoutmaster minute. A Scout is…..

    I would like to see more wards raise their standards back up to bsa standards. Maybe then, participatory numbers would increase rather just being registered. It would also be nice if LDS actually participated in the scouting fundraisers like traditional troops. LDS gets a pass. Why? Because they give money instead? I don’t know, but, it’s complete garbage. Fundraising by the scouts themselves serves a purpose, which is completely lost when LDS don’t participate in BSA fundraisers. There’s nothing worse than showing the public, a poorly presentable and unorganized troop.

    I’ve been in scouting going on 7 years, as has my son. He’ll earn his Life Scout next month and he’s turning 13 next week. He has had to work very hard, go to almost all outings, and make a personal effort to do extra service hours. To earn Eagle, he has a handful of major merit badges to earn, time in leadership, service hours, and find, plan, and coordinate his Eagle project. There is no way he could get all that done in 1 year, not with any credibility anyways. Besides, to do it right, I wouldn’t expect him to. Ideally, I’d like him to finish by 16 so he can move into the venturing crew or get a job, or consider staying and earning palms.

  9. First the LDS believe that all black people are from Cain, and that Cain was made black to separate himself from Adam who the LDS state waswhite. The LDS believe that all black people are cursed as a result of this. To see and hear that they have much influence on the BSA is more heart felt than anything. And it doesnt speak highly of the BSA

  10. I am not a Mormon, but I love the LDS Scoutmasters. They have given me lots of great advice for our own troop. I also think their boys truly uphold the Scouting spirit. I’ve never met a Mormon I don’t like! These guys truly live for Jesus! The LDS influence in BSA is nothing to complain about, if they left the Scouts, I’m pretty sure I would too!

  11. BSA may now have a new “Mormon” problem. Mass exodus. Say goodbye to the tens of thousands of dollars donated every year by the general LDS church population to Friends of Scouting. Good luck maintaining the overpriced salaries of the your executives without the LDS funds. But, on the other hand, you have solved the problem of “weak” LDS troops. We will say goodbye to BSA. You can say goodbye to our money.

  12. I am LDS and I have worked in the scouting programs for about the last 38 years. I have been a cub master, scoutmaster varsity coach, on numerous committees, district staff, and many other positions in scouting. I was an eagle scout, earned my duty to God award as a boy and on my honor award as a leader. I also have the scoutmaster award of merit and the district award of merit. I have been around a long time in the LDS scouting programs, in California, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho. I have to say that I would put up any LDS Eagle scout against any other Eagle scout in the program, no matter the age and you will find no difference in quality between one or the other and their scouting skill, especially in leadership. What you forget is that every boy goes before a board of review for every rank advancement, every eagle project is submitted an deamed worthy by the BSA, and approved before it can be accomplished. Training issues are not exclusive to the LDS. But the dedication to youth of any scoutmaster should not be questioned. When a scoutmaster for me it has been a 25 – 40 hour a week unpaid commitment. It seems many of the comments in this discussion are arm chair scoutmasters who think they have all he answers. The charter organization is in charge of training. I also must say that the patrol method is alive and well in LDS sponsored troops, boys lead, it is not true that they have to even be a member of the LDS faith to be a senior patrol leader. As scoutmaster I have worked with many boys in such positions in my own troops. Many forget that the Varsity scout program was created by the LDS community and then the BSA adopted it as one of their programs. Many troops outside of the LDS troops, have strict requirements on who can participate, dues that have to be paid or who they want to be part of their troop. The LDS sponsored troops have no due’s, but the troop or the sponsoring organization pay for all expenses, fee’s, registration or cost to allow all to participate, regardless of membership with their faith. I have been the scoutmaster of an at risk troop, who’s parents were declared by the courts to be unfit, or were in jail and most of them lived with grandparents. One of the responsibilities was to supply their own uniform, which in more recent years has been costly to say the least. (see who profits from such sales out of the scout shops, National BSA wages are directly part of these shops) As a result many could not be clad in total class A uniforms. To help we did fundraisers, uniform exchanges and other sponsors and donations to do the best we could with such issues. It seems a lot of people outside the scouting organizations looking in and criticizing the efforts of others, is what this blog and many of the responses is all about. The LDS community has done more for the BSA for longer than any other organization or sponsor in America. Their record speaks for itself. One last thing the LDS scouts in Salt Lake were recently recognized by state officials after a study of service was conducted. It was determined that if not for the many service projects and eagle projects by scouts, in our community, Salt lake city would be brought to its knees and would not be able to provided what the scouts do for our citys and county. The BSA in Salt Lake City do far more than all other service organizations combined, was the outcome of the study.

  13. It sounds to me like the author of this article has a very narrow view of the LDS involvement in scouting. It sounds like he has a problem with the Mormons and little understanding and probably little experience serving in the BSA as a leader. I have been envolved in scouting for more than 30 years as a volunteer, I am an eagle scout and as a boy was raised in California where I earned my eagle award. If anybody has bastardized the scouting values it is this new president of scouting because of public pressure. Baden Powell would have problems with the values and moral standing of the BSA today and its new policies. We all know it, but like this author who thinks he knows best will be the downfall of scouting. It is those like him that will see to it that scouting does not last for another 100 years, because he does not like the values, Morals and ideals that have always been what scouting has been.

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