For the second time in as many years, those of us involved in the Boy Scouts of America and the LDS Church are waiting to see just what “wait and see” means.
Yesterday, the BSA announced a change in policy that allows transgender boys to join the organization.
Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded:
The Church is studying the announcement made yesterday by Boy Scouts of America. Boy Scouts has assured its religious chartering organizations that, as in the past, they will be able to organize their troops in a way fully consistent with their religious beliefs. In recent years the Church has made several changes to its programs for youth and continues to look for ways to better serve its families and young people worldwide.
Going by past experience, I don’t see the church leaving the BSA. The church adopted a wait and see attitude when the BSA announced gay boys could join the organization, and wait and saw when the BSA announced in 2015 the end of a ban on gay leaders. Both of those announcements saw the wait and see result in the church sticking with scouting.
That the BSA is leaving decisions up to local chartering organizations gives me a good indication on which way the wind will blow. I predict, however, an added decrease in support for Friends of Scouting, the annual fundraising drive meant to provide operating funds for local councils, similar to the dip observed with past announcements. One has to wonder how much the church will allow support of the organization to erode before pulling the plug.
I’ve been scoutmaster in our ward for coming up on 3 ½ years, weathering both announcements. None really affected our troop (which at the time of the 2015 announcement was a mix of Mormon boys and boys of other faiths, and one boy who left the church, but stuck with Scouting.
There are those inside the church who look at the Duty to God program as a replacement for Scouting. As good as Duty to God is, it’s not a mirror of Scouting, but, rather, is a supplement to it. Boys who complete the Duty to God program can earn their Scouting religious knot. That’s only a small part of the Scouting program. Were the church to abandon Scouting, it would take a good year for a replacement program to ramp up, no matter how detailed Duty to God is.
Personally – and here I emphasize I speak only for myself –the only problem with the latest announcement that I can see would come with accommodations on campouts and at times when swimming or other similar activities might be involved. We might have to erect “walls of Jericho” or some such, if we were to have a transgendered person wish to join the troop. And that day may come; you never know. I still see Scouting as instilling good values in boys, no matter their individual identities.