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5 Reasons the Mormon Church Cut Ties With Boy Scouts After 105 Years

On Tuesday, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly known as the Mormon Church) and the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that they would officially part ways on the last day of 2019, bringing their relationship to an end after 106 years. The break-up had been a long time coming, as the BSA drifted into a more socially liberal direction and as the Mormon Church grew — especially outside the U.S.

While the divorce may have been predictable, it will have a tremendous impact on both organizations. The LDS Church is the biggest participant in the BSA, with approximately 425,000 Mormon youths in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Mormons account for about 19 percent of the BSA's membership, which totals about 2.3 million.

There are five aspects that help explain this historic break-up.

1. History.

The LDS Church formally partnered with the Boy Scouts of America on May 21, 1913. The church had long been exploring ways to get their boys more involved in various outdoor activities, and by January 1913, approximately 20,000 Mormon young men were involved in the BSA.

The partnership made sense for the Mormon Church on another level, however. Beginning in 1849, Mormons in Utah petitioned the federal government for statehood. The process lasted almost fifty years, partially because non-Mormons distrusted latter-day saints and firmly opposed polygamy. (The Republican Party's first presidential platform in 1854 opposed the "twin relics of barbarism," slavery and polygamy.)

In 1890, the LDS Church finally issued the Woodruff Manifesto, officially advising against polygamy. This move opened the doors for statehood, achieved in 1896. Even after statehood, Mormons remained distrusted, however.

The Boy Scouts of America rose to prominence very quickly. The BSA National Office opened in New York City in June 1910. By autumn, the organization had 2,500 leader applications from 44 states and more than 150,000 youth inquiries. By February 1911, the BSA was holding meetings at the White House, and decided to make the U.S. president the honorary BSA president.

Indeed, the Boy Scouts of America reached such a level of prominence that various scandals flared up, involving labor unions, Roman Catholics, and the inclusion of African-Americans.

Mormons proved their American patriotism — and gained visibility and respect — by joining the BSA.

Modern Americans may mock the LDS Church and its teachings, but by and large Mormons are today respected as moral and upstanding citizens. While some mistrust lingers, a Mormon candidate — former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney — came rather close to becoming president of the United States. If the LDS Church needed the BSA to overcome distrust, it no longer does.