May 11 (UPI) -- The Mormon church announced Thursday it would remove scouting from its Young Men program, a major change for many Mormon teens who have been affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America since early childhood.
The change is effective for boys ages 14 to 18 in the United States and Canada starting next year. Boys younger than 14 will still participate in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, the Church of Latter Day Saints said in a news release.
The LDS Church has been a charter member of the Boy Scouts of America for more than a century and Mormon boys make up about 20 percent of all scouts.
The church said it would replace scouting with other programs at the parish level.
"In most congregations in the United States and Canada, young men ages 14-18 are not being served well by the Varsity or Venturing programs, which have historically been difficult to implement within the church," the statement said. "This change will allow youth and leaders to implement a simplified program that meets local needs while providing activities that balance spiritual, social, physical and intellectual development goals for young men."
Signs had been pointing toward the split for some time. Church elders had been faced with criticism for the amount of money spent on the BSA because there is no equivalent program for teenage girls. And while the LDS Church's Young Men program accepts openly gay teens, leaders balked when the Boy Scouts of America announced it would allow gay men to be troop leaders.
"The church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation," the church said in a statement in July 2015. "However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America."
The LDS announcement comes less than two weeks after the archbishop of Kansas City, Kan., said the Catholic diocese would cut ties with the Girl Scouts of America. Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann said the Girl Scouts had become too reflective of feminist doctrine, including support for Planned Parenthood and contraception.