Utah scouting community optimistic about future after losing partnership with LDS Church

SALT LAKE CITY – Local scout leaders believe the scouting program can survive in Utah despite The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints parting ways with the Boy Scouts of America organization.

“We've had a great partnership with the church for 105 years and losing that membership is sad for us,” said Mark Griffin, scout executive for the Great Salt Lake Council.

It’s one of three councils in Utah with a significant number of LDS youth. When the LDS Church cuts ties with BSA at the end of 2019, and replaces it with its own gospel-based youth program, the council could lose almost half of its scouts, along with funding.

Historically, the LDS church has been the biggest sponsor of BSA in the country. In 2015, the church raised concerns over the BSA’s decision to lift its ban on openly gay troop leaders.

“They've said we're not leaving because we don't like Scouting, we're leaving because we need a similar worldwide program,” Griffin said of his understanding of the LDS Church's decision.

Griffin says they’ll spend the next 20 months transitioning kids who still want to be part of the program to other groups.

“Our area here is 50 percent not members of the church, so we're very, very sustainable," he said.

Stan Lockhart is the past president of the Utah National Parks Council. 99 percent of its troops are sponsored by the LDS church. He believes many will choose to stick with BSA.

“We're committed to those who choose to participate will still have an open experience. Scouting still has a place, it will just be different here in Utah,” Lockhart said.

Peter Brownstein, a Jewish scout leader, says he is happy with the decision and applauds the LDS Church.

“I may or may not agree 100 percent, but when you talk about religious liberty, and religious freedom, it's important that they are allowed to do what they do as long as it does not negatively impact others," he said.

Here is the statement from the Utah National Parks Council:

"Yesterday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America announced that beginning in 2020, the Church will no longer charter Scouting units because they will be launching a new program that meets the needs of their increasingly global membership. Both organizations have released statements regarding the change, expressing gratitude for the century-old partnership (see scoutingnewsroom.org and mormonnewsroom.org).

In the Utah National Parks Council, this will impact us significantly. We are fully committed to the tens of thousands of Scout leaders who have served and continue to serve in Church-sponsored Scouting units. In the transition through 2020, the BSA has already committed to dedicating resources and support to help ensure Scouting programs continue to help young people learn leadership, develop character, and grow closer to God.

We also look forward to our future opportunities to work with community partners to further the mission of the Boy Scouts of America in Utah. For those LDS and non-LDS youth currently registered in Church-sponsored units who wish to continue in the program, we will ensure a smooth transition into community-sponsored units in 2020.

For the past several years, we have made our camps more available to youth in the area who are not involved in traditional year-round Scouting units. This has given more youth than ever, including young women, the opportunity to have meaningful experiences in the outdoors. Our camps will continue to be available for use by LDS youth groups who wish to take advantage of our facilities for their future outdoor program needs."