Maybe Clarke Farrer is a James Cameron fan. Perhaps he’s a history buff. Either way, he hasn’t been able to help but see himself as the captain of the Titanic—headed for a tragic date with destiny.
The scouting executive for the Grand Teton Council of the Boy Scouts of America—covering eastern Idaho, western Wyoming, and parts of southwestern Montana—drew the analogy himself as he prepares for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to officially end its partnership with the group on Dec. 31, 2019.
The 105-year relationship between the Church and scouting has provided generations of young men the opportunity to involve themselves in scouting with the Church paying scouting membership fees for all of its members and encouraging the program in church activity.
“It’s going to be a significant change in how we’ve been doing business,” Farrer said. “We’ve been working very hard. Fortunately, the leadership of the LDS church gave us plenty of notice that this change would be taking place.”
It’s currently estimated that about 20 percent of active Boy Scouts nationwide are Latter-day Saints. That number is amplified drastically in areas with high Latter-day Saint populations.
In the region covered by the Grand Teton Council, about 80% of scouting members are part of the Church and about 90 percent of troops are sponsored by the Church.
Farrer said traditionally about one-third of the council’s funding has come from the Friends of Scouting program, run primarily through the Church of Jesus Christ. In the past 19 months since the Church’s announcement that it would dissociate itself with the scouts, Farrer’s staff at their Idaho Falls headquarters has been shrinking rapidly.
Farrer said he expects layoffs or pay-reductions to come again in the coming year, depending on the financial support the council is able to muster.
It was when the announcement was first made that Farrer first drew the Titanic comparison. Though, now, he tries to be a bit more hopeful.
“I’ve switched from my Titanic comparison to the ‘Carpathian model,’” Farrer said, referencing the ship that saved many of the survivors of the Titanic’s sinking. “The Grand Teton Council will survive. It may just be a fraction of what we were.”
In looking to the future of a council that in the past was among the largest in the country, Farrer expects the legacy of scouting will continue through past scouts who want to see the program continue in the local area.
That means local business, civic groups, and private entities will take the place of the Church to sponsor scouting units, though in a much more limited capacity. One of the largest struggles with the new sponsorships will be finding places for scouts to hold meetings, as Latter-day Saint churches will no longer be available for use.
“I have no doubt scouting will survive,” Farrer said, warning, “There will be challenges.”