The Connection Between The Boy Scouts Of America And The Mormon Church Explained

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a historic institution that has given generations of children and teenagers across the country the chance to try their hand at various skills. The organization came to the U.S. in 1910 thanks to the efforts of the newspaperman W. D. Boyce. Legend has it that Boyce had recently visited Britain, where he was helped by a British boy scout after getting lost in the London fog (via Scouting Magazine). Impressed by the boy's act of service, Boyce went to meet General Robert Baden-Powell, the British military leader who first conceived the idea of a scouting fraternity to instill ability and morality among Britain's youth. Under Baden-Powell's influence, Boyce brought the concept of scouting to America, where it quickly became a phenomenon, with former president Theodore Roosevelt becoming the honorary Vice President of the organization in 1911 and contributing to its recruitment materials, per the Library of Congress.

During World War I, the BSA served a vital role on the home front, lobbying for Americans to buy war bonds and raising huge sums. In the years that followed, the BSA's popularity continued to grow, and part of its success was thanks to a major partnership with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes referred to as the Mormon Church.

Vital sponsors

Senior Mormons quickly saw the benefit of scouting as a focus for young boys within the church, particularly in its emphasis on morality and the promotion of Christian values. As such, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became one of the BSA's major early sponsors, actively encouraging boys within the church to become scouts, and fostering scouting chapters attached to Mormon churches throughout the country. According to The Washington Post, the church and the BSA became so well connected that nearly one in five American scouts came from a Mormon background.

The partnership between the two institutions remained firm for a century before coming to an end. The changing face of Boys Scouts of America hit the headlines in 2015 when the organization announced a major policy shift that would prove divisive among a certain section of its members. As reported in The New York Times, the Scouts announced that, for the first time, gay men were now allowed to be scout leaders, overturning over a century of heteronormative policy.

The end of a hundred year partnership

Not that the move should have come as a surprise to the Church of Latter Day Saints, which had been involved in discussions regarding the Boy Scouts' changing recruitment policies. As The New York Times also reports, the new stance even included a compromise for Mormon chapters to retain the right to allow only heterosexual scout leaders. Nevertheless, it was around this time that the separation between the Mormon Church and the Scouts began.

Further changes within scouting were announced in 2017 with the announcement that the scouts were to welcome transgender members for the first time, while in 2018 the organization revealed that Boy Scouts of America was going to receive a rebrand, along with a new name: Scouts BSA. The change reflected another major policy overhaul in that, for the first time, girls would also be allowed to join the once single-sex Scouts. As well as being a reflection of changing attitudes toward gender, the move was seen as being a pragmatic attempt to stem the shortage of members that the organization has dealt with in recent years. Weeks after the change, the Church of Latter Day Saints announced that it was severing its ties with the Scouts as of December 2019 to pursue its own youth development program, leaving many Mormon scouts clamoring to complete their badges before the partnership ended.