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Charles W. Dahlquist II, who is one of the nation's top three Boy Scout leaders and the former Young Men general president of the LDS Church, says he's unsure if the two groups he loves will continue as partners far into the future.
"I really don't know," he said Thursday after the church announced it is dropping Varsity and Venturing programs for youths ages 14 to 18 and hinted other programs for younger boys may eventually be replaced by a global church program.
"I hope that they stay with it," he said. "There's a great benefit, particularly in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout ranks" to Mormons younger than 14.
"They are building character. They are giving youth camping experience," Dahlquist explained. "They are going through the merit-badge experience, which is not all about merit badges; it's all about character development and building self-esteem."
Dahlquist is the national commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America, one of its top three positions along with the chief scout executive and its president. "The bylaws call the national commissioner the chief morale officer," he said, noting he is the volunteer who is constantly on the road visiting local Scouting units.
The Salt Lake City lawyer also was the former general president of the church's Young Men organization, was head of the faith's general Scouting committee, and served as a mission president in Germany.
From his involvement in both groups, Dahlquist sees the change announced Thursday as something that will benefit young Mormons and not hurt national Scouting.
He said the church's new non-Scouting program is a "great opportunity" for older boys "to develop them physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially and intellectually" as they "prepare for missions, education and for life. I am hopeful this would be a wonderful step forward for these youth."
But he hopes the church will stick with Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts for younger boys because they "set a great foundation for what they are now putting together for the 14- to 18-year-old boys."
Dahlquist said the Varsity and Venturing programs that the church is dropping were effective.
He disagrees with church statements saying they had proved to be difficult to implement.
He oversaw a recent revision of Venturing. "So I understand that program. But it's been optional in the LDS Church for decades, and its implementation has only been spotty."
Dahlquist said inadequate training may have been a problem.
"Somebody once said that if a leader isn't trained in the Scouting program, they default to the program of their youth. There's some truth to that. We've seen as leaders get trained, they all of a sudden catch a vision for this," he said.
"The Venturing program particularly is not a difficult program to implement, but it does take some flexibility. It's built to have great adventures, have leadership, to provide service and also personal development."
About half the boys in Venturing nationally are Mormons.
"Outside the LDS Church, we have Venture crews that are very effective. They are very different because the Venture crew is based on the needs and the desires of these youth at that age. These youth are very engaged. As an adult leader a number of years ago, I found it to be fine."
With the change, national Scouting could lose about 6 percent of its youths. But Dahlquist said, "I don't worry about that. Scouting is growing in a number of different areas" and will absorb the loss.
For example, he said, it is especially growing among Latinos, Asians and refugees and "there are a number of pockets, huge pockets, that are yet untapped."
He said such groups are just discovering that "as they go through the ranks of Scouting, they see they can have dreams, they can become professional people, they can become teachers, technical experts, doctors, college professors."