OREM, Utah (ABC4 News) – The largest scouting district in the nation is working to fill a major void that will be left by the program’s largest charter organization, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In May 2018, the church announced it was cutting ties with the 109-year-old national organization, after enjoying more than a century as its primary sponsor. The announcement also came with news that the church would be creating a uniform youth activity program that would be more easily implemented worldwide.
Youth within the Latter-day Saints Church are not being discouraged from participating in scouting, however, the faith will no longer be involved.
“I was surprised,” said Boy Scout David Hendricksen of the split between his church and the scouting organization. “At the same time I sort of knew it was gonna happen,” he added.
The church and the Boy Scouts of America gradually began to dissolve their relationship beginning in 2017. Until then, every LDS Church President from Joseph F. Smith had actively encouraged young men of the church to participate in the program and to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
But there’s a scouting district based in Orem which has the largest concentrated number of Boy Scouts nationwide that is scrambling to find charter organizations that will be able to fill the void left behind by the church.
Utah’s National Parks Council has been working to get civic organizations, businesses and local government on board.
“Everything from trucking companies to tire companies to civic organizations, we’d love to work with them to provide this amazing program to the youth in our community,” said John Gailey, director of support services for the National Parks Council of the BSA.
Gailey said many Latter-day Saint families are choosing to stick with the scouting program because of the activities it provides for young people.
Still, he’s aware that the council’s numbers will dwindle.
“I think there will be a good percentage that will continue on, a smaller amount than we currently have but we believe they will be more engaged,” said Gailey, who added troops will likely be larger in the future since troops will no longer be organized per church congregation.
Hendricksen, who is one merit badge away from Eagle, said he’s sticking with the program and will continue to support the Boy Scouts throughout his life.
“You can meet tons of fun people from all around the world from doing Scouts,” he said.
The church’s charter of BSA will expire on Dec. 31 of this year, after which the church will begin implementing its own youth activity program worldwide.