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SALT LAKE CITY — The Boy Scouts of America is currently adjusting to one major change and preparing for another that will take effect at the end of the year.
As of Feb. 1, girls are permitted to participate in the Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA programs of the Boy Scouts of America. At the end of this year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has had a long-standing partnership with Boy Scouts of America, will branch off and create its own youth program.
Scouts BSA was formerly called Boy Scouts, according to Mark Griffin, Scout Executive for the Boy Scouts of America Great Salt Lake Council.
Since the first of this month, 25 girls in five Scouts BSA troops have joined in Utah, Griffin said. In Cub Scouts, there are 23 Utah troops with 127 girls, he said.
A handful of other troops in both programs are currently being organized, Griffin said.
“It’s a good start,” Griffin said. “Our goal is character, personal fitness, and service and leadership."
People are drawn to the program because of its teaching methods and the opportunities it offers for individual growth, he said.
"I think some of the ways that we teach it — some of the leadership skills, some of the character development — I think that’s what they’re looking for.”
Nationally, more than 70,000 girls have joined the Cub Scouts as of Feb. 1, according to Griffin. About 600 Scouts BSA girls troops have formed nationally, including about 4,000 girls, he added.
Boy Scouts of America offers a slightly different experience than the Girl Scouts, Griffin said.
“The Girl Scouts program is a great program and is very good for a lot of girls, but there’s some things that we do differently,” Griffin said. “A lot of girls, especially those who had brothers in the Boy Scouts of America, wanted to do the same things their brothers did. A couple years ago we started working to make that happen.”
None of the groups in Scouts BSA and Cub Scouts are co-ed. There are separate boy and girl dens in Cub Scouts, and separate all-girl and all-boy troops in Scouts BSA, according to Griffin.
However, the teenage program of Boy Scouts of America has been co-ed since the late 1960s, he said. It’s now known as the Venturing program and is available for boys and girls ages 14-20.
Scouts BSA and Cub Scouts are administered to girls in the exact same way as they are to boys, Griffin said.
“They’re under their own leadership,” he said. “The programs are exactly the same. They do the same things.”
Allowing girls in Boy Scouts will make things easier for families who have both boys and girls who want to get involved, Griffin said. Busy parents will need only to take their kids to one place, instead of multiple meetings for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, he said.
They’ll also be able to have common conversations about their shared experiences at home, he said.
“Girls ought to have that opportunity too,” Griffin said.
The Great Salt Lake Council has been the second-largest Boy Scouts of America group in the country, but with the LDS Church ending its relationship, Griffin said he expects the numbers to go down.
However, the Boy Scouts of America respects the church’s decision, and the two organizations will continue to have a friendly relationship, Griffin said.
“We understand it, we completely accept it,” Griffin said of the church’s decision. “The church has been extremely cooperative. The folks downtown have done everything they can to support us. … We celebrate a great partnership that we’ve had.”
The Boy Scouts will be there for church members who still want to participate in addition to church programs and activities, Griffin added.
The Boy Scouts also will still be working with the church to share facilities that are needed for the church’s youth program, Griffin said.
“We just don’t have the formal partnership anymore, and that’s really the difference,” Griffin said. “We’re just looking forward to good things and serving kids and families, and figuring out ways that we can help young people develop and be good citizens of our communities. And that’s what we do.”