Boy Scout numbers grow in Utah, defying national trend

Published: Thursday, May 22 2014 5:35 p.m. MDT

But Hancock said demand for a Christian youth program preceded the creation of Trail Life USA, which was partly catalyzed by the Boy Scouts' decision to include openly gay members.

"There were a lot of people who were hoping for better character and more traditional values," he said. "I think that Trail Life is something that has been needed for quite some time, but certainly the Boy Scout decision helped to boost that."

Utah is one of the few states that does not currently have a Trail Life USA troop, according to a map on the organization's website.

But the Trail Life USA's official statement of faith affirming belief in the doctrine of the Trinity would seem to preclude troops affiliated with the Utah-based LDS Church, a longtime and major sponsor of the Boy Scouts of America.

Following the vote to change the Boy Scout membership policy, the LDS Church released a statement affirming that sexual orientation does not disqualify boys from joining LDS-sponsored Scout troops.

"As in the past, the church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men," the statement read. "We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner."

In a survey conducted prior to the policy change by the Great Salt Lake Council, 70 percent of local Scouting leaders indicated they would either end or decrease their participation in Scouting if openly gay youths were allowed to participate.

But McCammon said that Utah Scouts and their leaders remain committed to the program and membership continues to grow.

When asked why the organization thrives in Utah while dwindling elsewhere, McCammon credited the LDS Church's leadership in affirming its support as well as a history of Scouting.

"We just have a great tradition of having Scouting in the state — a lot of great supporters and a lot of great leaders who love the program," he said.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com

Twitter: bjaminwood

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