What Is the New LDS Youth Initiative? Mormon Church Severs Ties With Boy Scouts, Starts Own Organization

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known more commonly as the Mormon Church, announced Tuesday that it would be cutting ties with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) after a partnership that has lasted more than 100 years.

The partnership will finish at the end of 2019, when the Mormon Church will begin a new initiative for young members and stop chartering BSA troops. The BSA was an official youth group for young men in the LDS Church, and it is unclear what exactly the new program will look like.

In a joint statement with BSA, the Church said it wanted to "fortify all children and youth with gospel-centered growth and learning experiences." The new program appears to have more of an emphasis on religious teaching and guidance put out by the church.

"The Church has increasingly felt the need to create and implement a uniform youth leadership and development program that serves its members globally," the statement continued.

A spokesperson for the LDS acknowledged to Newsweek that the details of the new initiative are not yet fully fleshed out, but would not comment beyond the press releases.

BSA is a nonprofit group, and while faith is in the ethos of the group, it is not a religious organization. Many individual troops are chartered by faith-based organizations, however, and Mormons make up around 20 percent of its membership, according to The Washington Post.

The BSA told Newsweek that Mormon children would be welcome to continue to participate in scouting alongside the LDS Church's new initiative. The church won't charter BSA troops, but children can join troops sponsored by communities or other groups.

"We are confident that many LDS Scouting families will go on to enjoy Scouting for years to come – continuing the legacy of LDS youth who have become Eagle Scouts and community leaders," the BSA said in a statement to Newsweek. "For LDS families who want to continue the tradition of Scouting beyond 2019, the BSA will ensure a smooth transition to community-sponsored units that will welcome youth previously served by LDS-sponsored units."

The church did not cite any changes in scouting policy as motivating factors to end the relationship, but the Scouts, founded in 1910, are ever-evolving. The organization, which was originally just for boys, recently announced it would change the name of some of its programs as it begins to allow young women into its ranks.

In 2015, the organization announced it would allow troops to have openly gay leaders if individual troops so wished. The move caused the LDS Church to consider splitting from the BSA at the time—the church does not allow openly gay members to hold leadership positions. The BSA began admitting openly gay scouts in 2013 and transgender scouts in 2017.