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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Boy Scouts in Spokane feel the split as Mormon Church announces separation

Boys Scouts and Cub Scouts from Troop and Pack 464, salute veterans as they arrive from Washington D. C. with the Inland Northwest Honor Flight, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, at Spokane International Airport. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Boys Scouts and Cub Scouts from Troop and Pack 464, salute veterans as they arrive from Washington D. C. with the Inland Northwest Honor Flight, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, at Spokane International Airport. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Out of the 25 Boy Scouts in Scout Leader Chris Grimes’ troop, all but one are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They are among the 2,701 Boy Scouts in Spokane who belong to the Mormon church. Grimes, too, is a member of the LDS Church. He’s served in the Boy Scouts since 1989, but after 2019, he’s not sure if he’ll stay.

“I don’t know if there will still be a calling,” he said.

On Tuesday, the church and the Boy Scouts of America announced they are severing ties at the end of next year, ending a bond between the groups that has lasted more than a century. The church said this week that the split is occurring because the Mormon church needs a global program for its members overseas that the Boy Scouts don’t offer.

It is equally true, however, that the Scouts and the church have clashed in recent years. The two groups disagreed regarding the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow openly gay troop leaders, and the announcement of the split came just a week after the Scouts said they would begin to welcome girls into their ranks.

The single Boy Scout in Grimes’ troop not associated with the church is earning his Eagle Scout before the split. The rest will decide whether to stay with the scouts, or transition to the LDS’ alternative, global version of the organization, which was announced this week.

Grimes, 58, said the new program, in development now, is similar to the Boy Scouts. “It focuses on character, healthy relationships and supporting a community,” he said.

But the Boy Scouts will feel a big loss.

In Inland Northwest, 42 percent of Boy Scouts belong to the LDS Church, according Karen Meier, Scout executive of the Inland Northwest Council for the Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts in Eastern Washington and North Idaho ended last year with 8,622 members, but the number fluctuates by month, according to Ty Page, the field services director.

Meier said she doesn’t expect all of the LDS members to leave the Boy Scouts. She said she expects about 15 percent of legacy members to stay.

“I firmly believe you can’t just take off that Scouting hat. Those values will be with you forever,” Meier said.

In the meantime, the Boy Scouts will help its LDS members with the transition however it can, Meier said.

But the Boy Scouts are looking to reorganize with a new business plan that’s centered around retention and inclusivity, summed up in its new slogan, “Scout Me In.” The BSA will allow girls, gay and transgender individuals into the program.

Meier said she’s excited for the future of the BSA and the new “Scout Me In” direction of the Scouts, which still includes members of the LDS.

“You can’t categorize it as a good thing or a bad thing,” Meier said. “We still have a strong partnership that will continue on.”

Grimes, who owns a law firm in Spokane, is OK with the split, but he’s also OK with the inclusivity of the Boy Scouts. “I feel like inclusiveness is a good thing,” he said. “That hasn’t bothered me.”

He said he’ll follow the church and he’s excited about the new program that it’s creating, but he hasn’t decided if he’ll leave the Boy Scouts.

“Honestly,” he said, “I’m not sure.”

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