Beginning January 1, 2018, young men from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will no longer participate in the Varsity and Venturing programs offered by the Boy Scouts of America.
Instead, Young Men activities will focus on spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church. These activities are designed to be fun and meaningful and provide opportunities for personal growth and development.
Why is this change occurring?
In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14–18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the Church. This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men.
Does this mean the Church is completely separating from the BSA?
The Church continues to look for ways to meet the spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs of young men around the world. The current decision is consistent with those efforts. The Church will continue to use the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.
Previous statements have indicated that the Church wants a program that serves all young men around the world. Is this it?
No, this is not the global program, but an important step that addresses an immediate need. Varsity and Venturing programs have been difficult to run effectively on a local level. The Church continues to work toward developing a program for young men and young women globally.
Why is the Church remaining with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout program?
These programs currently meet the development program needs of boys from ages 8 through 13.
Why is this change only for the United States and Canada?
Varsity and Venturing programs are used only in Church congregations in the United States and Canada.
What has been the reaction of the BSA leadership to this decision?
In every discussion with the Boy Scouts of America, they have expressed a shared desire to do what is best for young men. We are grateful for their continued support with this new change and look forward to continuing our strong relationship in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.
How does this impact the financial and property connections of the Church to the BSA?
Though important, financial and property obligations are not the primary concern. Instead, we are driven by our desire to serve the spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual needs of young men.
Most of these legal associations are in connection with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs.
The Church will continue to make the same payment to the BSA for registration of its young men through 2018, so there should be a minimal financial impact to Scouting.
What is the schedule for this announcement and rollout?
The announcement was shared on May 11, 2017. However, the discontinuation of the Varsity and Venturing programs will not occur until January 1, 2018. We encourage local units to continue with their planned activities as they review and determine how they will implement the new activity guidelines.
Can young men in these age groups continue to earn the Eagle Scout award?
Yes. Young men who desire to continue toward the rank of Eagle will be registered, supported and encouraged. It is important to remember that only those young men who are properly registered are eligible to be awarded merit badges and rank advancements.
What would you say to Church members about participation in the Friends of Scouting fundraising drive?
The Church will continue to be involved in Friends of Scouting as part of its relationship with the BSA and the Scouting programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.
Is this due to changes in Scout policy in the past few years to allow gay and transgender Scouts and leaders?
The BSA has always allowed the Church to operate its programs in ways that are consistent with our standards and beliefs, and they have been very supportive. This change is to address the needs of young men ages 14 to 18. The Church is always evaluating what is best for our youth and families, and will continue to do so.
The activities referenced on lds.org/youth/activities and ymactivities.lds.org have been in place since 2013 as a resource for youth and their leaders around the world. When followed, these activities can provide better opportunities for spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual growth.
Is the guideline that Young Men aren’t required to meet weekly a new directive?
No. This guideline (for both Young Men and Young Women) has existed in the Church’s handbook for many years.
Will the disparity of funding and activities that exists between the Church’s Young Men and Young Women programs be addressed as part of this change?
Church leaders have long been aware of this concern. This new program brings the spending into balance for youth ages 14 through 18. This will continue to be a factor in the ongoing exploration and creation of a worldwide youth program.
In each congregation, the ward council is encouraged to consider equally the needs of Young Women and Young Men and their families when planning activities and determining budgets.
Is this a reaction to the news that the Boy Scouts of America is considering the inclusion of girls and young women in its programs?
Church leaders learned just recently about the BSA’s intent to consider including girls and young women in Scouting. Our decision to end our participation in the Varsity and Venturing programs was made independent of this possibility and before that time. We anticipate our Cub Scout and Boy Scout units will continue as they are at present. For additional information go to: Aaronic Priesthood 14-18 Activities.
Summer is just around the corner, which means Church activities will be in full swing. Pioneer treks, youth conferences, Scouting and Young Women camps, and outdoor ward parties will be on the rise—and so will many health and safety concerns.
A letter to local leaders dated May 12 from the First Presidency states that “leaders should use good judgment and approve only those activities with a minimal risk for injury or illness. Stake and ward council meetings provide opportunities to prayerfully plan activities and to discuss safety guidelines and safe practices.”
The First Presidency letter refers leaders to the Church’s safety and health website: safety.lds.org, a helpful resource for learning and teaching safety principles that ensure safe Church-sponsored activities.
One concern is auto accidents resulting from drowsy driving and distracted driving. The Church recently added four short videos featuring common actions that contribute to distracted driving, such as eating, talking on the phone, listening to music, and putting on makeup. (See related story.)
Youth and leaders embarking on pioneer treks this summer are encouraged view the “Tracy’s Trek” videos. This lighthearted three-part series chronicles a teenager’s adventures in keeping safety in mind before and during a youth pioneer trek.
“We encourage leaders to better ‘know risk,’ not always say, ‘no risk,’” said Paul Rytting, director with the Church’s Risk Management Division. “That’s a key reason for creating these videos—to help leaders better understand what they can do to make activities safe.”
The First Presidency has announced dates for the open house, cultural celebration, and dedication of the Tucson Arizona Temple.
The free public open house begins Saturday, June 3, and continues through Saturday, June 24, 2017, except for Sundays. Make reservations now at templeopenhouse.lds.org.
The cultural celebration will be held Saturday, August 12, featuring music and dance performances by local youth. The temple will be dedicated the following day on Sunday, August 13, at 9:00 a.m., noon, and 3:00 p.m. The dedication will be broadcast to members of the Church in Arizona. The three-hour block of meetings will be cancelled for that Sunday for those congregations to enable members to participate and focus on this sacred event.
Contributed By Rachel Sterzer, Church News staff writer
The Church issued the following statement on Tuesday, May 23, regarding President Thomas S. Monson and his involvement in the daily operations of the Church:
“Because of limitations incident to his age, President Monson is no longer attending meetings at the Church offices on a regular basis. He communicates and confers with his counselors on matters as needed. President Monson is grateful that the work of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles continues without interruption. He appreciates the prayers and support of Church members.”
President Monson, who is 89, has been serving as the President of the Church since February 3, 2008, after serving as an Apostle since 1963, when he was ordained at 36 years old.
In recent years, President Monson has been feeling “the effects of advancing age.” In April of this year, he gave two short addresses during the priesthood and Sunday morning sessions of general conference. He was hospitalized for two days the Monday following but resumed his daily duties the Thursday after, according to Church spokesman Eric Hawkins.
A statement issued in October 2016 noted that President Monson “spoke at general conference and attended all the meetings. He comes to the office every day, attends First Presidency and committee meetings, leads the discussion, and makes decisions. The workload of the First Presidency is up to date.”
President Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, noted in an October 2014 conference address that the Lord Himself has instituted “a remarkable system of governance that provides redundancy and backup. That system provides for prophetic leadership even when the inevitable illnesses and incapacities may come with advancing age. Counterbalances and safeguards abound so that no one can ever lead the Church astray. Senior leaders are constantly being tutored such that one day they are ready to sit in the highest councils” (“Sustaining the Prophets”).
President Gordon B. Hinckley, who served as a counselor in the First Presidency to two ailing Church Presidents—President Spencer W. Kimball and President Ezra Taft Benson—explained in a 1994 conference address: “When the president is ill or not able to function fully in all of the duties of his office, his two counselors together comprise a Quorum of the First Presidency. They carry on with the day-to-day work of the Presidency. … But any major questions of policy, procedures, programs, or doctrine are considered deliberately and prayerfully by the First Presidency and the Twelve together” (“God Is at the Helm”).
In 2013, on reflecting on his five-year anniversary as President of the Church, President Monson said, “Age eventually takes its toll on all of us. … Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands.”
He continued, “Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm” (“Reach Out to Rescue”).