Poll: The Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts of America

Posted by on February 10, 2013 in Mormon Life | 32 comments

bsaFor the past couple weeks, you may have seen news coverage about the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) considering whether to lift its ban on homosexual leaders and scouts. (Right now, one cannot be an adult leader or a boy scout if they identify as gay or lesbian.) They’re proposing to allow individual troops to decide for themselves whether or not they will allow homosexuals to participate. (This Washington Post makes a compelling case as to why the BSA should make their decision at a national level rather than leaving it up to troops, but that isn’t up for debate at this time.)

On the Church’s website, mormonandgays.org, it states, “With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.” The LDS Church has had its Scouting charter since since 1913 with 420,977 youths in 37,882 Scouting units (1). The BSA currently has 2.7 million youths participating in the scouting program; Mormons represent the largest number of Scouting units (2, 3).

Our church has the numbers to make a difference in the BSA’s decision. And, we have the unique opportunity to show love to members of the LGBTQ community as well as benefiting from their talents and giving our young men more positive role models.

NPR did a piece this week on Scouts for Equality, an organization working to lift the band that has some big names, like Mitt Romney. I find them to be level-headed and appreciate their updates.

Also, if you support the Boy Scouts of America getting rid of the gay ban on its leaders and scouts, now is the time to contact them. They will be deliberating until May about whether this ban will continue it or not.

Email them at  [email protected] (Subject line: Opinion on Sexual Orientation Policy)
Call them at 972-580-2000 (Say you are calling to have your opinion be recorded regarding the ban on their Sexual Orientation Policy)

1. Letters should be short and respectful and positive.
2. Clearly state that you support them removing the official ban.
3. Include your experience with scouting (former scout, eagle scout, parent of eagle scout, etc.)
4. If you feel comfortable, sign Mormons Building Bridges, or Mormon, after your name

Footnotes:
(1) “Boy Scouts May Mirror Mormon Policy and Let in Gays,” Salt Lake Tribune
(2) “Boy Scouting (Boy Scouts of America),” Wikepedia
(3) “The Boy Scouts and the Mormon Church,” Albion Monitor

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32 Comments

  1. I have mixed feelings about scouting. I believe that Boy Scouts does a lot of good. However, I would see a break with scouts as a step in the right direction for the church if it came about for any of these reasons:

    –Because the Boy Scouts program results in a disproportionate allocation of resources toward boys and away from girls in the church.

    –Because the Boy Scouts program is not culturally appropriate or feasible in many countries of the world, and the church would like to focus its efforts on worldwide programs.

    –Because the Boy Scouts program, while valuable, does not directly relate to the primary religious mission of the church.

    However, I would be horrified if a break came about in protest of the Boy Scouts choosing to be accepting and tolerant of people of diverse sexual orientations.

    • Great points, April. I agree with every one.

  2. I know this is limited to the BSA, but it has international applications.

    Scouts Australia is open to openly gay and lesbian leaders, and males and females. The church formally disassociated itself from the Australian Scouts when many of these changes firs happened in the mid 1980′s. If this change is accepted in the American Scout movement, there are bigger questions in regard to the international scout program.

    Does each general authority of a specific country then decide if the church members in the country can participate in scouting, if they so choose to do so on a ward to ward basis? i.e. do we adapt the entire youth program by country?

    This is already somewhat in place in countries where the church has seperated itself from the scout program, and I don’t mind it. I suspect that whilst the majority of church members in the US are only thinking of the church withing that scope, the truth is, there are international implications at hand. The next question seems to me is: will the church lift its ban in countries that allow girls and women to participate in LDS troops? i.e. will the church outside the US then become more progressive than the church inside the US? I think this is already the case in some ways, but this newest scout development does have an international impact on the international church, and I think that is a good thing.

    • Spunky, I am a little confused. Are you saying that although the church as a whole does not sponsor Scouts Australia, some individual wards or stakes do sponsor their own local troops? And when you say Scouts Australia is open to males and females, do you mean that Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are merged into coeducational troops? And when you say that local GAs determine whether church members may participate in scouting, do you mean that local GAs are saying, “Mormon kids should/should not join scouts” or that they are saying “Mormon congregations should/should not sponsor troops”? Forgive my illiteracy about all of this, but I would like to understand better.

      • Hey, April!

        Sorry- I was typing that in a flurry, so made a bit of a mess for understanding.

        Scouts Australia is open to males and females, regardless of sexual orientation. The organization that would be considered equivalent to American Girl Scouts is called Girl Guides- I believe this to be of the entire Commonwealth, i.e. UK, Canada, South Africa, India, etc.

        The church is wholly unaffiliated with Scouts Australia (though the RLDS are affiliated with Scouts Australia). The church does not encourage members to not be scouts. That being said, in my experience, most youth activities seem to happen on the same nights as scouts, and many scout activities are often on Sundays, for the purpose of not being in competition with youth sporting events on Saturdays, which are an important part of Australian culture.

        The rest is what I think could happen if and when suddenly the American Mormon church opens, or allows itself to be partnered with Scouts, should Scouts become open regardless of sexual orientation. i.e. I am just thinking about the external implications should the change occur.

        For countries like Australia, where the church is disassociated with scouting- does the local leadership make a new decision that allows for the churches to organize troops? If so, the church will have to invite the YW into the scout program, as per policy of Scouts Australia. (co-ed overnight camps would be required, problematic for conservative thinking). Will this be decided on a country-by country basis, meaning therefore that each country in the world has a nationalistically tailored LDS youth program (because BS is a nationalistic machine, per Rosenthal’s Character Factory)? As is, the church nixes scouts outside of the US based on the program’s adaptations in the local country (again, in Australia, because girls and GBLTs are welcomed). If the BSA opens itself to gay scouts and leaders, the question becomes, for example, if the church in Australia will re-open the LDS scout program, because it originally ceased as a result of the pro-GBLT, pro-female membership issue?

        In short, my question isn’t about necessarily the inclusion or exclusion of GBLT scouts in the US, it is about the scout programs outside of the US that have ceased because they allow GBLT– i.e. how much does the church want, or should the international church invest in an international scout program, if at all? (what effect will this have OUTSIDE of the church in the US?)

        Clear as mud?

        An interesting side thought has to to with German LDS scout troops. Scouting was adapted by Hitler to become the Hitler Youth (Prior to Hitler, who was himself a German Boy Scout, before going into politics and adapting the scouts to the Hitler Youth program, the swastika was the Boy Scout symbol for friendship.) I don’t know if the church in Germany is associated with scouting, but therein lies the issue– as a nationalistic organization sponsored by a church, does one follow the policies of the church or the nationalistic organization when in doubt?

        Sarah Barringer Gordon’s concept of competing sovereignties comes to mind when i think of this, yet on a global scale, rather than as an American nationalistic concept. So- if I am making myself clear– at this time, BSA has a large investment in the church (or so I have heard), and vice-versa. Therefore the church in the US has some influence on the policy of the BSA. If the policy changes, but the church remains affiliated with the BSA, then does the church outside of the US follow this example and re-affiliate? Or does, for example, Australia scouts still remain unaffiliated, because they also allow girls as scouts?

        I was trying to point out that the echo of the choice made in the American church regarding its BS policy has a more expensive, expansive and policy-changing effect than *just* the GBLT members and sympathisers in the US. I think this is a good thing, but it is a major thing to consider based on the policy choices of the church in the past.

  3. The Church’s official position is that any man in good standing, gay or straight, can hold the Priesthood. The Church has called the BSA the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. Why then should a homosexual teenager who holds the Aaronic Priesthood be prohibited from participating in Boy Scouts? The Church’s only logical position here is to support lifting the ban.

    • From personal experience in the scouting organization in my ward: A gay teenager who worthily holds the Aaronic Priesthood and maintains LDS standards of conduct is not prohibited from participating in and earning recognition in LDS troops.

      • Your comment is correct. This does happen. However BSA policy does not allow the boy to earn awards or participate.
        In other words I would expect the church to support the policy change to let the bishop decide if the youth can participate and not violate their charter agreement.

      • I just wanted to add. This is where there have been many issues over the years. A scout works for years in his unit and the committee that reviews them give him the awards knowing their sexual orientation.
        Then he does all his work for his eagle badge and has to go to an entire different group. Makes a statement that they are gay, and are refused the badge, or makes the statement somewhere before that.
        Or other parents complain, and he is removed. The choice is then to do scouting without the youth, that needs love and support, or not do scouting with them.
        Bishops should be able to decide who their leaders are, and who can participate.

    • The churches moral code is: sexual relations can occur only between a legally married man and woman.therefore,gay or straight single individuals who are not sexually active can hold a church position. this would include single, divorced, or widowed individuals. and any of the aforementioned individuals who are sexually active would be temporary prohibited from holding hey Church position.my personal opinion is that the church should make an economical arrangement with the BSA organization to copy and use their program including books badges et cetera. the church should then create a sub organization using a BSA name with some sort of an addendum attached. E.G. LDS BSA or some things similar. Thereafter, the church should hold their own BSA camps, outings, etcetera utilizing Church properties throughout the United States. because of the church is organizational structure, I.e. mostly the Bishopric, the moral character of Scouts and potential Scout leaders can be easily controlled. this is not the case with most other religious organizations, there for sexually active single individuals would usually be undetected. my attitude is not the point of prejudice. a sexually active single person, gay or straight, is being sinful. on the other hand, A single person who is not sexually active, gay or straight, is not committing a sin. this is the moral standards of the LDS, Mormon, Church, and I believe we should keep ourselves separate from other organizations who have different politically correct positions.

  4. Is it wrong for me to hope BSA chooses to ban gays just so that the Church will pull out of it?

    Okay, I know it is, but I really want scouting to disappear from the Church before my sons turn 8. I have no desire for them to participate, or more specifically, to push them to do so. I don’t know how I will explain that to a ward that pushes strongly for Eagle scouts. (FYI, I also don’t particularly care if my (hypothetical at this point) daughters complete Personal Progress.)

    • I certainly don’t agree with your point of view, however there are many within the church who holds similar feelings. This is a world where free agency prevails. But so does the law of consequences. So whatever decision you may make will fall under these 2 rules, both for you and your children.

      • I agree with most of what Liz Busby has said. I don’t agree with RW. What consequences are you referring to. There is no punishment for not participating in scouting and it is because of this rampant mindset amongst many church members and scout leaders that this organization must go. Nothing came closer to hurting my testimony than scouting did. I never even touched Duty to God because there was such a strong push towards scouting. I truly wish I had had the chance to do so. The Boy Scouts is an overly large and complex piece of machinery. As a former scout leader I can tell you that the ceremonies, rules, and other policies take away from the wonderful message the gospel provides. The church could do better. The young women have an excellent youth program and our boys are missing out. The time, money, and resources put towards scouting could be put to much better youth if the church could run its own program.

      • In this case I have to disagree with Chris. I have been in scouts for a number of years and never had many issues.

        The stake decided one year to forgo all scout camps and run a camp like the young women. It turned out to be a miserable failure. Flash to everyone, Young Women and Young Men are different, often their interests lie in separate areas. (I know that is a blanket statement that is not always true). To be honest most young women grow up sooner. They want to have in depth discussions. It seems to take the young men a few more years, or after they have wore themselves out before they get the same discussions. The boys wanted to be in the mud, chasing each other with sticks, and other stupid things.

        The hard part of replacing scouting is training. Scouts supply a number of trainings that should be taken before those activities are done safely. Scout camps (week long camps) are inspected annually to make sure the safety end of things are taken care of. I really think that most units would sit around and not do anything other than service projects and basketball in the wards if there was not an actual program.

      • Richard, I think you have a valid point here: I really think that most units would sit around and not do anything other than service projects and basketball in the wards if there was not an actual [Scouting] program.

        I think it should also be noted that in many church units, the Young Women do not do anything other than service projects and cross-stitching in the wards because there is no actual Scouting program for girls that is supported by the church.

      • Some young women’s programs do very well, others are very poor. I think it is similar to the young men in that regard. It really depends on the leaders.

        I intend to give my daughters the option of the Venture crew when they are old enough. I guess they will not have interest at that point. I spoke a few years ago with someone in the lds-bsa relations office. They told me that early on the church actually reviewed the girl scouts and considered joining them like the boys.

        However there is a basic different in the chartering/sponsorship documents. BSA the Unit selects the leader, and it is approved by the council after a back ground check (added in 2004 if I remember correctly). Where the girl scouts the unit “Suggest potential volunteers and refer their names to the Girl Scout council for possible selections, placement, and training.” While it seems small, the difference is huge.

        In the BSA the church joins as a partner. Using the BSA to help fulfill its goals, using the leaders and determining who can participate. The GSOA you sponsor their program, and ask for their approval. So the church backs away.

        I have heard of some Girl Scout Laurels chartered as a Venturing Crew. It is not common, and for a specific purpose. Access to a scout camp for an activity that the scouts paid for and could not follow through (Philmont primarily)

  5. I do not support the BSA’s ban on homosexual participation. I think it just encourages more bullying and ostracization. I also don’t like how the church makes participation in scouting easy and effortless for boys, but a huge hassle if you want the same for your girls. You can have a son in scouting without ever serving as a leader in that. But if you want a girl in girl scouts, the odds are good that you’ll wind up as leader at some point of your local troop, along with your church calling. That said, I really value my experience. I was a Campfire Girl, which is like scouts in many respects. It is coed, though my club never had any boys in it. I certainly plan to encourage my girls in scouting (if I ever have any). I got introduced to a lot of things that I would never have done otherwise, like camping, fire building, types of community service that the church does not necessarily introduce, trail skills etc. We also did the civic duty stuff, I remember touring the local juvenile detention center which scared the pants off me. We learned some cookery skills and all kinds of other things. I think the program has value, it just upsets me how lopsided church sponsorship is.

  6. Lord Baden Powell was asked,’How does religion come into Scouting?” He replied,”It doesn’t, it just is,” meaning that he does advocate the use of religion or religiosity to scouting the way it is currently being used. The Duty to God component in the scouting program can mean a great many things including an acknowledgement of God in nature. If a Buddhist(they don’t believe in God) can be a scout, why not LGBT.

    On another interesting note, in his autobiographic many believed that his long time friend was really his partner in life but he refused to acknowledge the relationship. Just something to consider.

    Also, since we are talking about other countries in the UK the scouting is not affiliated with the church. So, why is the church so entrenched in Scouting in the US. It seems to me that the church is sending out duplicitous messages. They are saying we are welcoming our brothers and sisters who are gay in one area but not in another and in doing so is telling our children that it is okay to hate and they are using the message of the Bible to help them do it

  7. There is a radical segment of the gay demogaphic that is extremely interested in transforming society. They want society to view that way of life as normal and good. Radical changes are on the way. In a Colorado University, a man is allowed to be in the female locker room because he believes he is female. Changing the definition of marriage for one group changes it for everybody. If they can infiltrate the Boys Scouts, this is their dream come true. Someone mentioned one time that if this is the case, they are going to demand that the Boy Scouts be required to watch drag queen shows. This doesn’t seem too far fetched based on what is happening in society. But people are just standing by in the name of political correctness and doing nothing. Once evil is entrenched, it’s very hard to root out.

    • Henry

      Are you equating Gay people with being intrinsically Evil? Church members say this all the time not only about gay people, but, people who have mental illness as well. The real evil is when people stand by and let comments such as yours go unchecked

      • Segment, Diane, segment. A part of. Get it?

      • Henry,

        Its not okay to label any segment within society as being evil just because you don’t believe the same as you so the question remains, Do you Get It? or do you still want to label people negatively

  8. I want the church to pull out of Boy Scouts anyway, and have for a long time. Either that, or change the Young Women’s program to be more comprehensive, incorporating more life skills outside of crafts and motherhood.
    I have found the fact that Boy Scouts is the Church’s program for our young men a lazy approach to policy. It gets the Church out of having to make a program for Young Men. The Church has held nothing back creating a Church- and Christ-centered program for the Young Women, unadulterated by the politics of the land, and for the Young Men they have just thrown them into scouting, thus avoiding having to create a similar program for them that is separate from the world.
    If scouting is so important, then the Young Women should be doing scouting, too. But, no. Young women in the Church must learn and be taught what The Church wants them to know- how to be a good wife and mother. No life skills regarding anything outside of those duties. The boy scouting program is much more comprehensive, teaching young men good things, but not necessarily “shaping” them to be a better husband and father. The Church needs to step up and create a Church-centered program for Young Men– and not be beholden to any worldly policy, allowing the Young Men and Young Women to develop similar approaches to Gospel service and roles.
    If the BSA lifts the ban, then this may be the start of a positive change for the Church, permitting it to focus on preparing young men for more Church service by creating a regimented, Gospel-centered program. For The Church, by The Church. Yes, scouting is faith-promoting and Christian, and, honestly, I enjoyed Girl Scouts, and learned more diverse skills while I was in it (and did fewer crafts and more fun stuff) than I did in Young Women’s, but the youth of the Church learn totally different life skills and perspectives of church service and life roles through the dichotomous scouting and Personal Progress programs. Either drop Boy Scouts and create a Young Men’s Program (more comprehensive and broad than the Duty to God), or have the Young Women adopt the Girl Scout Program.

  9. I believe the Church should break with BSA for the mere fact that the Church runs a watered down version of the scouting program. The Church needs to come up with their own Young Mens Program that equals the Young Womens Program.
    For me the question regarding gays/lesbians within scouting is just as Gov. Rick Perry states, “let’s leave sexuality out of scouting.” Of course he interprets that to mean to not allow gay and lesbians, I interpret that to mean that ones sexuality should not come into play at all. Just because one is gay/lesbian does not mean they are a pedophile and we shouldn’t be confusing the two.
    Christ has taught us through his example to love all, not to judge all.

  10. I am a former boyscout and love the scouting program. I think that the church needs to stick with the scouting program even though or in many ways because they’ll lift the ban.

    I would be very disappointed if they left the scouting program.

  11. All of these points are great, because they come from experience. Our experience has come down to liability. No one ever realizes how much liability they take on until an accident happens. In our surrounding neighborhoods, we have seen someone sell their boat because their insurance was sued by a boys family. We saw a man lose his house over a lawsuit. In my brother’s stake in colorado a man lost his home because he didnt hold enough car insurance, and someone died in. A car accident heading on a scouting trip. These activities are so fun, but intrinsically dangerous. No matter what your training, accidents still happen. We live in a sue happy society where insurances sue insurances, neighbors sue neighbors. It is unfortunate that so many members have to take on so much personal liability trying to do what they feel is their duty. Society is changing. I don’t care if they let gay people in. That is their business. But I hope that we can reevaluate the time and liability commitments required by the BSA, that we are putting upon the family, the single most important unit that is coming under attack from what feels like programs within.

  12. Most youth are not into stress-relieving activities because they find it really boring. They often conjure images of someone meditating for many hours, sitting with a lotus pose, or doing Tai Chi activities. These activities are suited for older individuals but for the youth, you can always do simple and fun activities that can relieve stress. Soon, you will feel better and you get to enjoy your teenage days.”

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  13. I am very disappointed in the Church concerning their standards with the BSA. Heres a couple of thoughts to think about.
    1. Didn’t President Hinckley teach the youth to “STAND FOR SOMETHING” . What happened to that?IF you don’t stand for what is right then your standing for what is evil. If we say its ok to be gay then what next.- TEMPLE GAY MARRIAGE. CAUSE THAT IS HOW SATAN WORKS BY ALLOWING ONE LITTLE THING TO BE OK TILL THEN IT IS A BIGGER THING THAT IS OK.
    2.Yes, as members of the church we should love our fellow being but it doesn’t mean we have to be best buddies with people who are serious sinners.
    3. Isn’t it true if one bad apple is thrown into the barrel of full apples they will eventually all become rotten.
    4. I believe Homosexuality was a big issue in why Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed. So that tells me God is not ok with that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    5. It is sad that our world has turned so evil that Gay issues are even around. I never knew anything about it when I was growing up but now it is everywhere.

    • I assume you’re being deliberately inflammatory for the sake of attention, as this comment is not at all in line with our comment policy. I would simply like to remind you that Christ was indeed “best buddies” with “serious sinners” and when he said “love thy neighbor as thyself” that was precisely what he had in mind.

      • EM I think you are wrong. I am also not here to get attention, but to try to educate people like you. Christ invited all, yes all, to COME UNTO HIM, and go and sin no more. He never said, “hey, you come unto me and continue sinning===it’s ok, I will still hang out with you.” He invited all to become free by abandoning their sinful ways, LIFESTYLES, and becoming a person who did not want to be associated with sinning anymore. Do you honestly think that Christ hangs out with Satan? If you rationale is correct, then Christ is “best buddies” with Satan. Your rationale does not make any sense, and you should re-examine the teachings of Christ. We ABSOLUTELY have to go to anyone of any belief or lifestyle or gay person, and say “come, join us, leave your sins and previous beliefs behind, stop your current sexual acts and tendencies, and be free with us.”

        The natural man is an enemy to God. In the language of President Benson, “The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.” 11—-Robert Millet, dean of religious education at Brigham Young University. Gay BLT or whatever they call themselves advocacy groups only seek to change our environment, not make us into any better human beings. They only seek our destruction and want everything on their terms. Our Mormon way of life and our invitation to all people should be is that we would like to help them change their human nature.

        Changing human nature means criminals, prostitutes, gays, lesbians, murderers, alcoholics, etc changing their human nature, forgetting about the past, and becoming disciples of Christ — NOT gay, lesbian, prostitute, alcoholic, pedophile like disciples of Christ. Just plain old disciples of Christ united under one moral attitude and belief. When we join the church or remain in the church we need to toss away our other person, and become a new person.

        We invite all people regardless of who they are to come unto us, join us, act and live like us. We want to include all people who wish to believe and LIVE our teachings. Christ never sat there and just hung out with sinners and unbelievers and accepted and tolerated their behavior. He reached out to them and called them AWAY from their current behavior. Remember, Peter sank in the water because he failed to grasp Christ’s hand. Christ didn’t have to automatically go out into the water and sink with him :) This is just my opinion, and I love all on this website and respect all of peoples opinions. Take care all!

      • Rob,

        “They only seek our destruction and want everything on their terms. Our Mormon way of life and our invitation to all people should be is that we would like to help them change their human nature”

        Your assumptions are wrong. “they” do not seek “our” destruction. It is clear that from your comments, YOU seek “their” destruction. Your attitude of judgement is not welcome here. Consider yourself warned.

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