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SALT LAKE CITY —The Mormon church, the biggest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States, announced Thursday it is pulling as many as 185,000 older youths from the organization as part of an effort to start its own scouting-like program.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said the move wasn’t triggered by the Boy Scouts’ decision in 2015 to allow gay troop leaders, since Mormon-sponsored troops have remained free to

exclude such adults on religious grounds.

But at least one leading Mormon scholar said that the Boy Scouts and the church have been diverging on values in recent years and that the policy on gays was probably a contributing factor.

Saying it wants a simplified program of its own that is more closely tail-ored to Mormon teens, the church announced that boys ages 14 to 18 will no longer participate in the Boy Scouts starting next year. The church said the decision will affect 185,000 teens; the Boy Scouts put the number at 130,000.

About 280,000 Mormon boys ages 8 to 13 will

remain in the Boy Scouts while the church develops its program, the Mormons said, without elaborating when younger boys will be withdrawn.

Mormon teens who want to continue working toward the Eagle Scout rank will be able to do that on their own while also participating in the new program, a church spokesman said.

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