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Courtesy of Nettie Francis
BSA-LDS Relations director Marc Francis conducts a training session during the recent 2014 Philmont priesthood leadership conference.

SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church is discontinuing its annual Scouting-focused priesthood leadership training conferences hosted at the Philmont Scout Ranch in northeastern New Mexico.

The announcement comes in a letter Friday from the First Presidency sent to Area Seventies and stake and district presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the United States.

“As part of an ongoing effort to reduce demands made upon leaders and simplify the programs of the church, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve have determined it appropriate to discontinue the annual Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting held at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico,” the letter reads.

“The instruction provided at Philmont has previously been available to only a limited number of stake leaders who are able to attend the conference. This instruction is available through regular priesthood channels and at APtraining.lds.org. This adjustment will also eliminate church costs and personal travel associated with attendance at the Philmont Scout Ranch.”

A national training center for the Boy Scouts of America since 1950, the Philmont Scout Ranch is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and provides summertime conference sessions for unit, district and council volunteers and Scouting professionals, along with family programs.

The LDS Scouting Leadership Conference is an invitation-only, weeklong conference for LDS stake presidencies and select stake leaders, focusing on how to implement the Scouting program within the church programs.

A page detailing the Philmont sessions on the church’s website shows that the conferences were under the direction of the church’s Young Men general presidency and general Scouting committee. Selected from the general presidencies and boards of the Young Men and Primary auxiliaries, the conference faculty “provided training in the programs and administration of Scouting as a supporting activity of the Aaronic Priesthood and Primary.”

Information on the previously scheduled and now-discontinued 2018 Priesthood Leadership Conference on Scouting sessions can be found at ldsbsa.org, a website of BSA’s LDS Relationships Office. There were two week-long sessions planned for 2018 — June 23-29 and June 30-July 6, which were identical to the end-of-June and first-of-July slots of 2017.

Invitations and information to attend Philmont training previously were sent from the LDS Church’s Young Men general president to all U.S. stake presidents, with priority registration given to stake presidents, their counselors, the stake Young Men president and stake high councilors over the Primary and Scouting programs.

Stakes could be represented by more than one individual, with the preference being to have all or as many as possible of those invited to attend. However, an individual was allowed to participate in the Philmont conference only once every three years, giving others the chance to attend.

Conference participants were also allowed to bring immediate family members to join in other programs and activities offered at Philmont.

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The website displays the projected fees (which including food, lodging, leadership and possible nursery care, with additional costs for crafts and special tours) for the 2018 conference sessions: $550 for conference participants, $390 for a non-conference adult, and $105 to $430 for children, depending on age and activities.

Earlier this year, the LDS Church opted to drop the Venturing and Varsity programs for older teens. And this fall, when the Boy Scouts of America announced it was opening its Cub Scout program to young girls next year and its regular Scouting program to girls within the next two years, the LDS Church said the decisions wouldn’t impact its existing Cub, Scout, Primary and Young Women programs.