The Mormon church is ending its 105-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America at the end of next year.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and BSA announced their intention to part ways on Dec. 31, 2019, in a joint statement released Tuesday night.
The LDS Church said it has grown from a “U.S.-centered institution” to an international organization whose members mostly live outside of America’s borders. Therefore, it said it needs to start its own youth program that “serves its members globally.”
Although the statement did not address it, the announcement comes less than a week after the Scouts announced the organization will drop the word “boy” and change its name to Scouts BSA.
Until the end of 2019, the church said it will remain a “fully engaged partner” in the BSA’s program for boys 8-13. Despite the pending separation, the church said it “continues to support the goals and values reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law and expresses its profound desire for Scouting’s continuing and growing success in the years ahead.”
The church plans to “replace all existing activity programs for girls and boys, young women and young men in 2020.”
“For years, Church leaders have been preparing a new initiative to teach and provide leadership and development opportunities to all children and youth, to support families, and to strengthen youth everywhere as they develop faith in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” the church said in a statement to its members Wednesday. “This new approach is intended to help all girls and boys, young women and young men discover their eternal identity, build character and resilience, develop life skills, and fulfill their divine roles as daughters and sons of God.”
The BSA and LDS have enjoyed a long, symbiotic relationship. Ties with the Scouts helped the Mormon church in its effort to “mainstream” its image during the 20th century, and “Mormon troops were a backbone component for Scouting,” the Deseret News reported.
Mormon teenagers ages 14-18 were already not participating in the BSA as of Jan .1, 2018 when a decision to pull the older boys out of scouting that was approved the year before took effect. According to the Deseret News, that change dropped the number of Mormon boys in the Scouts from 470,000 to about 280,000.
The church said the decision was not in response to the Boy Scouts policy change in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders. At the time that sparked a monthlong debate within the church, but LDS leaders decided to stay because the BSA said religious groups could pick troop leaders in line with their faith.