Latter-day Saints reflect on their experiences as Boy Scouts before split from the Church

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Jake May
Effective December 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be discontinuing its 105-year partnership with the Boy Scouts of America in favor of a new youth initiative program to better suit a global Church audience. Despite the spilt, some Latter-day Saints still see Scouts as a positive program for youth. (Jake May/The Flint Journal)

Some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints still encourage and believe the Boy Scouts of America is beneficial to youth despite the Church’s separation from scouting starting in 2020.

The Church has a long history with the scouts and is the longest chartered member, with its association dating back to 1913. Approximately 20% of the Boy Scouts’ membership is affiliated with the Church.

John Gailey, director of support services for the Utah National Parks Council, has been working closely with the scouting organization for the last 15 years and has held positions varying from scoutmaster to den leader. 

“I grew up a member of the Church and being involved with the Boy Scouts of America,” Gailey said.

According to Gailey, the announcement of the Church’s separation came as no surprise. “The Church has been saying for many years it wanted a program that would work worldwide,” he said.

Despite the separation, Church youth will still be able to participate in scouting. The only difference is the enrollment process will be more independent and will require parents to actively enroll their children instead of them being automatically enrolled through their designated wards.

Gailey said he admires the scouting program and hopes youth continue participating in the coming years.

“We think the scouting program is a great program to assist our youth in becoming great leaders for the community in the future,” Gailey said.

Paul Miller — a former Boy Scout, scoutmaster and varsity scout coach — said he has seen the lasting effects of the scouting program on the youth he has personally worked with over the years.

“I felt like the scouting program taught boys to grow into men,” Miller said.

However, Miller said he is interested to see how the Boy Scouts of America will stand on its own without the social and financial support the Church offered it for so many years.

He is not, however, as concerned with the route the Church will take moving forward. “I don’t think the Church will falter. It will be new, but it will be successful,” Miller said.

Daniel McDevitt from West Valley City has been a scouting member since he was a Cub Scout as an 8-year-old. He said the scouting program helped him and his friends who are not affiliated with the Church find meaning, develop skills and prepare for the future.

“It felt great knowing that I did all these merit badges and put the work into it and never gave up,” McDevitt said.

Although McDevitt had until he turned 18 to complete the requirements to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, he said he completed it a year ago as a 15-year-old because of his mom’s consistent push for him to finish it.

He expressed feeling that despite the separation from the Church, there would still be opportunities for both members of the Church and non-members to have similar experiences.

“I think you’d get the same experience out of it because you’re still gaining all of the knowledge of learning how to do those skills, but with the Church being part of it, it’s just adding how all of that connects with God and what this life is really meant for,” McDevitt said.

McDevitt said he still thinks kids should pursue scouting even if the Church is no longer affiliated with the organization because of all the valuable life skills one can gain from the program.

“Knowing all the benefits and things I learned, I think I would regret not doing Boy Scouts because it really just helps you,” he said.

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