On its website, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it would discontinue its Varsity and Venturing Scouting programs for boys ages 14 to 18, beginning Jan. 1, 2018. Church officials said they would replace the Scouting program with a new activities program.
The announcement will affect as many as 185,000 older youths from the organization, said church officials, who told CBS News that the move was not triggered by the Boy Scouts' decision in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders.
But at least one leading Mormon scholar said that the Boy Scouts and the church have been differing on values in recent years and that the policy on gays was probably a contributing factor in the split, CBS News reported.
Matthew Bowman, a Mormon scholar and history professor at Henderson State University, said the split reflects the two organizations' diverging values.
"The church is wedded very much to traditional gender roles and they see the Boy Scouts of America increasingly move away from that," Bowman told CBS News. "That means that they have come to see it as less of a hospitable place.”
KUTV reported that the church did not believe boys between 14 and 18 are “being served well” by the Varsity or Venturing programs.
The Mormon church has been involved in scouting for more than a century.
Boy Scouts of America spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organization is saddened by the decision but understands the church's desire to customize a program, CBS News reported.
In a statement, the Boy Scouts of America said it “deeply appreciates” its relationship with the church.
“We recognize that not all programs are a perfect fit for all partners," the statement said.
About 280,000 Mormon boys ages 8 to 13 will remain in the Scouts while the church develops its program, church officials said.
Jana Ockey has three boys who all got their Eagle Scout awards when they were 13 years old, KUTV reported. Two of them, Justin, 16, and John, 14 are now in the Varsity and Venturing program.
"I felt like there was a death. It was that strong for me," Ockey told KUTV. "I've been in the scouting program for so long and when I saw what the venturing program could do for the boys I thought it was amazing. The frustration was, not everybody could see that."
For those boys who still wish to work toward an Eagle Scout badge, the church told KUTV they will be “registered, supported and encouraged.”
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The Mormon church said it is replacing Boy Scouts programs for youths ages 14 to 18 with its own activities.