By Nettie H. Francis
For Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY– On May 8, 2018, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the discontinuation of Church-sponsored Scouting units beginning in 2020. The looming end of the legendary 105-year LDS-BSA partnership has sparked conversations and debate about the Boy Scouts of America across the nation, and in Iron County the questions are no different.
What is happening with Scouting in our community? And what should Scouts and parents expect in the coming months?
“The Scout Motto, ‘Be Prepared’ is a great mantra right now,” commented Mark Francis, LDS-BSA Relationships Director. “The LDS Church has made it clear that they aren’t disavowing any of the values of Scouting, they simply need a worldwide Church youth program.”
In Iron County, Scout youth are part of the Utah National Parks Council, with headquarters in Orem. As expected, the majority of those Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs are currently chartered through the LDS Church.
According to Dave Pack, Utah National Parks Council Scout Executive, “Southern Utah has the highest density of all Scouting alumni in the entire Boy Scouts of America across the nation. That means more Eagle Scouts, more Wood Badge-trained leaders, and more generational families that have a legacy of Scouting.”
In fact, of the 2,764 boys in Iron County that are registered in Scouting, 2,756 of them are in the 68 Cub Scout packs and 68 Boy Scout troops chartered by the Church. One other troop, sponsored by the Elks Lodge, has 8 boys. That’s a hefty 99.7 percent.
The BSA strongly encourages—as the LDS Church has asked—that boys and families remain fully engaged in their existing Scouting programs through the end of 2019.
The BSA council is already working with partners to organize new Scouting units for youth and families who wish to join—or continue in—Scouting when their ward units end. Even though some youth are racing to earn advancements—such as their Eagle Scout Award—before the end of December 2019, the BSA wants these boys to know it will still be possible to join another Scout pack, troop, or crew and continue beyond that date.
“In 2020 families will continue to have Scouting available to them,” Pack explained. “They will still have opportunities to continue great leadership, citizenship, and personal fitness through the Scouting programs. We believe that the new Scout troops and Cub Scout packs that are formed will be larger and even more active in Scouting activities. Many will be lead by some of the same great leaders that lead Scouting in our community today.”
The BSA also made recent changes to expand their youth leadership programs. While young women have been part of the BSA’s Explorer posts and Venturing crews since the 1970s, the BSA’s new “Family Scouting” initiative allows girls to also join Cub Scout packs right now, and Scout troops in 2019. (Groups will be either male or female, and are not co-ed.)
“Iron County will continue to be a great place for Scouting,” concluded Pack. “With beautiful camping facilities close by and families with multiple generations of Scouts, youth can still be involved and make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Did the Boy Scouts of America change its name?
No. There have always been several character development programs under the BSA’s umbrella including: Venturing, Sea Scouts, Exploring, Scoutreach, Learning for Life, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and STEM Scouts. Beginning in 2019 the Boy Scout division will become Scouts BSA. The overall organization will still be the Boy Scouts of America.