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The Mormon church is pulling older teens from Boy Scouts’ programs

A Boy Scout salutes the American flag at camp Maple Dell on July 31, 2015 outside Payson, Utah. The Mormon Church is considering pulling out of its 102 year old relationship with the Boy Scouts after the Boy Scouts changed it's policy on allowing gay leaders in the organization. Over 99% of the Boy Scout troops in Utah are sponsored by the Mormon Church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

The Mormon church says older teens in the US and Canada will no longer take part in Boy Scouts programs, starting next year.

The announcement, made Thursday, is a significant one. The church and the Boy Scouts of America have had a relationship for more than a century. It was the first partner to sponsor Scouting in the US and to this day, remains the nation’s largest sponsor.

Approximately 330,000 Mormon youths are served by the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts program today.

No specific reason cited

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn’t give a reason why it will withdraw boys, ages 14 to 18, from two key Boy Scouts programs next year.

They are the Varsity and Venturing programs, both of which aims to prepare teens for adulthood.

The church said the move was meant to shift focus to “spiritual, social, physical and intellectual goals outlined by the Church.”

But it comes at a time the church has expressed reservations about the Boy Scouts’ decision to allow gay and transgender troop leaders.

Two years ago, when the Boy Scouts of America voted to remove its national restriction on openly gay leaders and employees, the LDS Church said it was “deeply troubled” by the decision. It called the admission of openly gay leaders “inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church.”

Still, the church remained affiliated after the Boy Scouts gave it written and verbal assurances that the church could choose its own troop leaders according to its own religious and moral values.

The Scouts response

Responding to Thursday’s announcement, the Boy Scouts of America said it “deeply appreciates” its relationship with the church.

“We recognize that not all programs are a perfect fit for all partners,” it said.

The Thursday announcement does not impact Mormon churches worldwide, just ones in the US and Canada.

And the Utah-based church will continue to partner with the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs for boys and young men ages 8 through 13.

The change goes into effect January 1.