SALT LAKE CITY — Don't worry, all you outdoorsy types, just because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is eliminating Boy Scouts doesn't mean camping will disappear as it overhauls its youth programs for both young men and young women.
In May the church, commonly referred to by the term Mormon, announced it would end its 105-year relationship with the Boy Scouts of America at the end of 2019, and it is expected the Young Women's program will undergo major changes, too. The decisions are part of a broader restructuring of the church's programs for all Latter-day Saint children and youth due to begin in 2020.
Since then, some have wondered what would happen to the strong traditions of Boy Scout camps and camps for the church's young women.
On Friday, church leaders released two short statements about what its revamped "children and youth development initiative" will look like and made it clear that camping will play a central role.
"Camps and other outdoor activities have always been and will continue to be a prominent part of gospel learning, building relationships, and strengthening faith in Jesus Christ," the first statement said. "Children and youth may participate in Primary day camps, Young Women camps, Young Men camps and high adventure activities. Local leaders, youth and parents will identify and provide outdoor activities that invite spiritual experiences and meet the needs of their children and youth."
Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles responded to the news on his Facebook page.
"As an Eagle Scout whose faith was strengthened by hearing the testimonies of inspired leaders around a campfire," he said, "I am thrilled that the new resources for older girls and boys, young women and young men coming in 2020 will continue to feature camps and other outdoor activities as an important part of gospel learning, building relationships and strengthening faith in Jesus Christ."
The second statement released Friday by the church addressed other types of activities that will be part of the new programs.
"Activities will be based on needs rather than requirements," it said. "Weekday activities, outdoor adventures and youth conferences will continue as a vital part of helping children and youth learn, develop friendships, serve and strengthen faith in Jesus Christ."
The church's Young Women general president, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon, wrote about the announcements on Facebook, too.
"As I’ve talked to youth leaders around the church, I’ve been asked so many questions about the new youth initiative the church is developing," she said. "Will camps still be a part of it? Will outdoor activities still exist? Will youth still have fun? The answer is a resounding yes! As we work on this new initiative, we want you to feel confident that the youth of the church will continue to have the resources and experiences that they need to develop life skills, build character, fulfill their roles as God’s children, and, of course, have fun."47 comments on this story
Friday's two statements have been added to the Frequently Asked Questions section of childrenandyouth.LDS.org, which has information about the changes coming in 2020 for all programs for children 8 to 18. They were included in an email sent Friday to stake and district presidents, bishops and branch presidents and Young Men, Young Women and Primary presidencies.
The church also released a statement by President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
"We have been considering for many years how we can best meet the needs of a worldwide church," President Ballard said. "Our children and youth in every part of the world are so precious to us. We have a deep desire to help them strengthen faith in the Savior Jesus Christ and feel of His love."