Could LDS Church involvement in Boy Scouts be coming to an end?

It now appears that at least one board member of the Boy Scouts of America is thinking of overturning the organization’s traditional policy of barring gays and lesbians from admission either as leaders or as scouts. James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, has said he is working to “encourage dialogue” on the issue. The issue of revisiting this policy came to a head when Jennifer Tyrell, a lesbian mother, was ousted as a den leader in April 2012. Seeking to change the policy, she launched an online petition directed to Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, who is also on the board of the BSA. Speaking for AT&T, Stephenson implied that the corporation did not agree with the policy, but he argued “that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable.”

From near the beginning, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a proud sponsor of BSA, and remains the largest single sponsor of scouting units. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court case BSA v. Dale upheld the First Amendment right of the BSA, as a private organization, to discriminate against homosexuals. During that case, the LDS Church led a small group of other churches in submitting an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in support of the right to ban gays and lesbians. This brief, written by Von G. Keetch, a Salt Lake City attorney the church has hired on other occasions, suggested that the churches might “part company with Scouting altogether” (p. 25) if sexual orientation became an impermissible basis for discrimination by BSA. In a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune, Keetch suggested more positively that the LDS Church would withdraw from Scouting in those circumstances. Keetch, of course, is not part of the LDS hierarchy, and that would not be his decision to make.

But that was the year 2000. Since then, the LDS Church has softened its policy toward LGBT people, and allows gay and lesbian Mormons to function in positions within the LDS Church, so long as they remain celibate. I have heard rumors that certain local church leaders have barred gay men from positions that deal with children or youth, although I cannot find reference to any church-wide polity to that effect. Such a policy, if it exists, would be highly controversial, because it feeds into a stereotype that LGBT people are pedophiles, or that they have an agenda to convert children to their “cause.” For the most part, Americans have increasingly been willing to accept LGBT people within positions of influence with their children, without cause for alarm. For example, according to polls, most modern Americans believe schools should not have the right to fire gay or lesbian teachers. But Mormon attitudes tend to change more slowly than American attitudes in general.

Of course, if the LDS Church were to pull out of Scouting, the only opinion that really matters is the sometimes-unpredictable opinion of church’s leaders. The LDS Church has had a long history with Scouting, but the loss of Scouting would not be catastrophic. Long before Scouting was even invented, the LDS Church had created a Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association (YMMIA). When the BSA came alone in the early 20th century, the YMMIA essentially merged with the Scouting program and became an arm of the BSA. For reasons that have never been clearly articulated, the church’s complementary girls’ program did not merge with the Girl Scouts, and the LDS Church has never supported Girl Scouting, even though it maintains a Young Women organization that serves many of the same purposes.

It would not be far-fetched to expect that if the BSA decided to admit gays and lesbians, that the LDS Church would dissassociate itself with the organization and revert to the YMMIA model. That would not be a huge change, because the church already operates what it calls its “Young Men” organization for boys 12 and older, independently of Scouting. Unlike Scouting, however, the Young Men organization is designed for the spiritual needs of boys, while Scouting is designed more for recreation and to train boys in leadership and self-confidence. If the LDS Church left Scouting, the Young Men organization would have to serve dual roles, as does the present Young Women organization. What would change? Probably not much, except that the young men would no longer be wearing uniforms and badges.

I think it is inevitable that BSA will at some point reverse its policy of discrimination. But as an Eagle Scout with fond memories of scouting, I would hope that that the LDS Church would not pull out of Scouting for that reason. Realistically, any BSA policy change is not going to change how Scouting operates on a local LDS Church level. As far as I know, BSA has never required that local units appoint leaders, or admit scouts, in a way that contradicts the religious values of the sponsoring organization. All that would likely change is that Scouting units would be free to admit gays and lesbians if they chose to do so. So in some non-LDS Scouting units, there would be leaders and scouts who are openly gay or lesbian. That would not affect Scouting in the LDS Church.

Perhaps the LDS Church mighth even see a change by BSA as a positive outcome. There are undoubtedly active Mormon gays and lesbians whose skills would make them ideal leaders of local LDS Scouting units. But BSA policy currently prohibits these men and women from participation. A policy change would give the LDS Church more flexibility to appoint gay and lesbian leaders on a local level. It would also allow openly gay Mormon youth the opportunity to participate in Scouting, which could be a positive influence on their lives.


9 thoughts on “Could LDS Church involvement in Boy Scouts be coming to an end?

  1. This whole issue is about the definition of truth.God has warned us not to practice sexual perversion,and if we disobey and refuse to come to our senses ,things will go very badly for us .Read any translation if the First Chapter of Romans verses 19-31 and see for yourself

  2. The LDS church already has the Duty to God program in place for those units where Boy Scouts does not exist. According to the statement cited here from last year just before the Supreme Court decision by Mr. Keetch “should the Court agree that the Scouts must admit gays, the LDS Church will withdraw from Scouting.” How can church leaders “raise the bar” for missionaries and issue the Proclamation on the Family while closing their eyes to practicing homosexual conduct by those in their troops? Define Morally Straight? What moral conduct will be unacceptable if homosexual practices are ignored as acceptable?

    • LDS Church policy has recently shifted on homosexuality. Gay boys are now fully accepted into church fellowship, as long as they are celibate. They can pass the Sacrament and do everything, and when they turn 18 they can go on a mission. So based on what I know about current church policy, I don’t think the church will pull out of Scouting if the only change made by BSA is to prohibit discrimination against boys on the basis of sexual orientation–which seems to be the direction BSA is now headed.

      • If the Boy Scouts opens the door to hordes of sexual perverts it will be a disaster from a moral standpoint.I was a Scout and proud of it.I knew exactly what was expected of me as far as my personal conduct.The Holy Scriptures are very clear on this subject,and we cannot violate God’s moral laws without dire consequences.If the Boy Scouts crosses this moral line I will pull my grandsons out the program without hesitation.I will not under any circumstance give support to an organization that shakes its fist in the face of God and gives acceptance to behavior that a common dog would not engage in .NO, NO, AND NO!

      • I guess that depend in the dog, doesn’t it? I was an Eagle Scout myself, and I took to heart the idea that “a Scout is kind.” I don’t see that ethic reflected in your comments.

  3. The founders of Boy Scouts would weep if they knew what sort of ungodly mischief and false doctrine was being pushed on the vision thay had for young men,and the moral virtues that they embraced when the Scouts first began.We may as well send an open invitation to all fornicators,adulters, theives, and liars to join the ranks, and stink up the place with their unholy conversation and foul deeds.We cannot serve two masters.We will either serve the God of our fathers and live or we will listen to every evil and utterly damned lying spirit from the pit of hell, which would have us believe that there is not a most terrible day of reconing coming to those who support such wicked nonsense.

  4. I am LDS I am the 11 year old scout master the assistant scout master in our ward’s troop I had the moral mindset that I was brought up on and it has never waivered not once that being as follows: Homosexuality is a sin against nature and God and unacceptable in the sight of God since the distruction of Sadam and Gahomorrah and since the creation of Adam and Eve this was the presidence of marrage between one man and one woman anything else is not acceptable.
    I have enstilled this in my two sons as well to have a spiritual morla ethic about them stand for it and protect it they are 11 and 9. I think that the LDS church’s stance on the issue and recent vote of the Gays in the boys scouts is not acceptable. Dan Burress the line has been crossed get your kids out of the BSA. I let my leaders in my ward know how I felt and my stance on Homosexuality and that I have my own personal morale values and standards, I feel as this if you bend your moral values to accept something you do not believe in then you weakened yourself and you are not being true to yourself and to others.
    Someone asked to explain what are the morales of scouting while that ranges into a vast open field of thinking and opinion you have to since it was founded upon the foundation of God being the center point and key stone of Scouting goes back to the scout law morales in scouting is as described: Loyal, Trustworthy, chaste, benevolant, kind, considerate, reverent, clean, thrifty, helpful,cheerful,Obediant,brave,courtious, and is morally clean meaning of no wrong doing and spiritually moral oe following the word of God which includes sexual conduct as described in the bible also being celibate untill marrage today so many have come to the acceptance of immorale dating with sexual transgression that it is widely accepted to the “world”, in the LDS church it is unacceptable for a young man or woman who is “dating” age 16 or older who is unwed to have sex and it is a harsh penalty to pay infact it is diciplined by dis fellowshipment to the church and can lead to excommunication in some cases However Homosexuality is not so much frowned upon any longer by the church which as long as I can remember untill recently was known as a sin. How can it be for a straight boy and girl not to have sex or else but for a homosexual to be allowed into full fellowship and known to be homosexual and nothing be wrong with it I don’t understan the thinking there I was raised in a time where you fear God and not mock him and now a days mocking God is every where even in the LDS church. I never thought I would see they day that mocking God would be the normal.
    I think if you sit back and look you will see Satan in all facets of life and when the morales of money greed and power play into the hands of the wrong person Satan can truely be any where any time.

    • I agree with much of what you have said. Prehaps our church leaders feel that if a child is troubled by same gender attraction the best place to put them is with others who do not struggle with this issue rather than isolating them and making them feel unloved and rejected. The Church still teaches that this life style is morally unacceptable, but at the same time they also understand that we cannot throw people away because they are confused.
      There is a satanic assault on human sexuality as designed by God which is wholesome and good if it is confined to marriage between one male and female. I do not believe the Church will ever depart from this standard. As the morals of our age become more hostile to good doctrine regarding the family, we will be under pressure to raise the white flag and compromise our message, and we will not bend , not ever! Our nation is getting its moral nutrition from the contents of an un-flushed spiritual toilet,and then expects to court the twin sisters of virtue and Godliness and receive a goodnight kiss! We may choose one or the other but can not have both. May God help us.

  5. Sorry about the late post. While I can appreciate kindness and tolerance of homosexuals, homosexuality is not a civil right. YET.
    In my opinion, now that BSA has caved in and admits homosexuals, it’s just a matter of time before homosexual lifestyle activists bring suit after suit against BSA for alleged wrongdoings. Each won suit will be used as a base of leverage for the next suit. In time, the BSA as we know it will either cease to exist, or be taken over by the same kind of people who now control the direction of the Girl Scouts.

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