Monday, August 3, 2015

That Blunt Response to the BSA's Announcement . . .

When the news dropped that the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board had voted to change BSA policy to end its ban on gay leadership and leave leadership decisions up to chartering organizations, I was out of the news loop.

At scout camp.

Yet not out of the news loop, due to a few fathers bringing their cell phones and hearing the news.
The news didn’t cause a ripple among the boys. Outside of a brief discussion among our troop’s leaders/dads at camp, I didn’t hear a whisper about it.

But doubtless we’ll hear more about it in the future.

The BSA’s National Executive Board’s decision is not surprising, nor, to me, is it distressing. What the board decided is in line with what BSA President Robert Gates discussed earlier this year, in seizing the initiative to decide which direction to take the BSA as a national organization before courts decided the direction that should be taken.

What surprised us was the bluntness of the LDS Church’s announcement on the news.

The church said, in part:

When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.

As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.

I fear greatly that the LDS Church’s affiliation with the Boy Scouts of America is nearing an end, and that out session at Island Park Scout Camp this July will be our last there.

And I have to ask why.

I’m confused by the portion of the statement that says “the admission of gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church,” for if I’m reading the Handbook of Instructions properly, homosexual individuals who obey the Law of Chastity are entitle to temple recommends and church callings. I don’t see why a Scout calling would be excluded. I’ll be interested to see further clarification from the church on that point in particular.

I understand the concern that Scouting is not serving all church members. Scouting’s near ubiquity worldwide seems to make this an LDS Church issue, not a Scouting issue. But I can be further educated on that, as I don’t know everything there is to know about Scouting.

Is Scouting good for boys? Look at the benefits they receive: A rather shy boy in my troop found himself rather popular at camp this week when he revealed his rather startling wood carving skills when he made tow wooden knives in camp in about the span of twenty minutes. Look at three boys in my troop who started the week off on the wrong foot by wandering out of our campsite after curfew only to turn that to their advantage to earn the Astronomy merit badge. And look at all the boys working hard on their rank advancements and wanting to progress.

There are similar programs offered by the Seventh-day Adventist church, a non-denominational Christian group, and the new Trail LifeUSA program created in reaction to the 2013 decision by the BSA to allow gay boys to become Scouts. Their like-for-likeness I cannot determine. Direct association by the LDS Church with any of these groups seems unlikely, particularly with the latter as the LDS Church did not oppose allowing gay Scouts.

If the LDS Church were to establish its own program, it would indeed have enormous, Sideshow Bob-like shoes to fill. Duty to God is a good spiritual program, but it’s no replacement for the Boy Scouts. A program without equivalent rank advancement and skill assessment such as merit badges will fall short, in my opinion, an LDS program is going to have to be like-for-like.

And, if we’re going that far, it should involve both genders, not just the boys. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who is counting the days to her fourteenth birthday so she can join Venture scouting. Leadership and outdoor skills that are good for the boys are just as good for the girls in my book.

However, I hope the status quo is maintained. There is too much good in Scouting to just walk away from it. Perhaps if the LDS Church does walk, we’ll look for community-chartered Scouting organizations to continue the benefits our children see in the program.

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