Friday, May 24, 2013

Change in Membership Policy

As I'm sure everyone has heard by now, the BSA has voted to change its membership policy. For those interested in reading the official BSA statement, click here. Also useful is the BSA's "Points of Clarification" page regarding the membership resolution. Please note that this new policy goes into effect January 1, 2014.

For LDS scouters, and anyone else interested, please read the church's response, here.

I know this whole issue has disappointed a great many people. Some are disappointed that the change was made. (See this post as an example.)

I know of others who are disappointed that the LDS church will continue to sponsor Scouting. Some were hoping the church would drop the BSA. I know of at least one person who was hoping the BSA would change so that the church would drop Scouting. It doesn't look like that will happen.

Still others are disappointed that the policy change didn't go as far as they had hoped.

As for myself, I am okay with the decision. As stated in a previous post, I saw nothing in the resolution that contradicted church policy. In fact, it seemed to me that the resolution was similar in many respects to church policy.

The most important issue here (which is being ignored by almost everyone) is that of behavior. Attraction isn't the problem, behavior is. This concept is reaffirmed in the church's response to the vote. I am pleased that the BSA resolution identified this. All youth would be welcome despite their sexual orientation (i.e. attraction), but any kind of sexual activity (i.e. behavior) by youth of Scouting age is "contrary to the virtues" of Scouting (i.e. immoral). I see no problems with this.

For adults, the membership policy stays the same.
"The adult applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth. The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle, and abide by the Scout Oath or Promise, and the Scout Law.
While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA"
When you combine the distinction between attraction and behavior in the new policy, the prohibition on any sexual behavior by youth, and the maintenance of the adult policy excluding open or avowed homosexuals, it seems clear to me that what the new policy does is specifically define homosexual behavior as immoral.

I know others will disagree. Some will say it was simply a compromise to try to appease both sides. Others will say it is "a step in the right direction" or the opposite view that "it is a foot in the door." In reality, how this is interpreted and applied will largely depend on the individual views of the chartered organizations.

The only thing I'm worried about is that not everyone sees this resolution the way I do. That means the next time it comes up it will be about adults, which will translate into accepting the behavior. The debate is far from over.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Council blog

I recently got an email informing me of the creation of a blog for the Utah National Parks Council. It can be found at

Since it is new there isn't much there yet (nothing on the "Scouting How-To's" page), but be sure to check out the "Inspiring Stories" section, including posts about "Blackened Scrambled Pancakes" and "Spencer's Climb."

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Membership policy update

I haven't posted anything in a while regarding the BSA's proposed change to the membership policy. Part of that is because I haven't felt compelled to do so, like I have in the past. Before the BSA even announced the resolution to be voted on this month I had what I can only describe as a spiritual reassurance that everything was going to work out just fine. So I'm not really worried about it any more. But now that there is a specific resolution to be voted on I do want to make one final comment on the issue.

My previous posts regarding the proposed change were in reaction to what was being speculated--that the change would allow chartered organizations to make their own decisions regarding membership. Since that isn't the resolution that came out, many of my comments and concerns aren't relevant to the specific situation now.

The proposed resolution states: "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

However, for adult members: "The Boy Scouts of America will maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders of the Boy Scouts of America."

In other words, no openly gay adults will be allowed as leaders, but boys who identify themselves as gay will be allowed to be members.

Also in the resolution is this statement: "any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting."

The way I read all this is: The BSA will welcome with open arms any boy who wants to participate in Scouting. All youth will be expected to live a moral life, including total abstinence from any sexual activity (regardless of who they may feel attracted to). Adults must also agree to live "morally straight" and prohibits those who participate in homosexual activity from leadership. In effect, the resolution means that homosexual behavior is immoral.

At this point I need to say again that what appears on this blog are my own thoughts and opinions and are not official statements of the LDS church. I alone am responsible for what is put here.

With that out of the way, I think this proposed policy change could work for the LDS church. The reason I think it could work is because it makes a distinction between feelings and actions. In the church, we teach that having feelings of same-sex attraction is not, in and of itself, sinful. Acting on those feelings, however, is. (See this post, from someone who identifies himself as a gay Mormon.) This resolution seems to me to be consistent with LDS church policy. As stated in the church handbook of instructions:
"Homosexual behavior violates the commandments of God, is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality, and deprives people of the blessings that can be found in family life and in the saving ordinances of the gospel. Those who persist in such behavior or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline. Homosexual behavior can be forgiven through sincere repentance.
If members engage in homosexual behavior, Church leaders should help them have a clear understanding of faith in Jesus Christ, the process of repentance, and the purpose of life on earth.
While opposing homosexual behavior, the Church reaches out with understanding and respect to individuals who are attracted to those of the same gender.
If members feel same-gender attraction but do not engage in any homosexual behavior, leaders should support and encourage them in their resolve to live the law of chastity and to control unrighteous thoughts. These members may receive Church callings. If they are worthy and qualified in every other way, they may also hold temple recommends and receive temple ordinances." (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 21.4.6)
 So, I believe this policy could work for the LDS church. Again, that is my opinion, not official policy.

There very likely will be some unintended consequences should this resolution be adopted. There could still be challenges arise because of this. I also believe that this issue will be raised over and over again in relation to adult leaders, so we're not through here. However, I'm not worried about it. Whatever happens, we'll be okay. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Last minute Eagle

On Sunday I conducted an Eagle court of honor for one of the boys in my ward. He is a great young man and his court of honor was really nice. I am really glad he finally got to work and earned his Eagle. The problem is, he'll never get to wear it.

He turned 18 last fall. He had his project done on-time and his paperwork in at the last minute. I don't know exactly why, but his board of review wasn't held until February.

He graduates from High School at the end of May. Five days later he reports to the Missionary Training Center to begin his LDS mission.

Like I said, he is a great young man and I believe he's headed in the right direction in life. I just wish he hadn't waited until the last minute to earn his Eagle.

He will never wear his patch on his uniform. He probably will never wear his uniform again. None of the younger boys will see that symbol worn on his chest and be inspired by it. Getting it done this late in the game means it was more of an item on a checklist than anything else.

I wish all 13-15 year old Scouts could see it from this perspective.