As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter referred to as The Church or The Church of Jesus Christ), I have been watching the process the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been going through the past few weeks. The Church has a century-long relationship with the BSA and how they voted could affect that relationship. As a strong conservative who is actively involved in politics, I have been concerned about the pressure that has been placed on the BSA, and other organizations, to violate their religiously-protected freedoms to endorse a way of life not consistent with their beliefs.
The Boy Scouts issued the following statement:
“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.
“Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization’s long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.
“Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.
“This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.
“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.
“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”
What I read as I reviewed this message was that 1) boys are better when Scouting and 2) the behavior of scouts will remain the same.
The Church of Jesus Christ released a statement regarding the changes of the BSA:
For the past 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong relationship with Boy Scouts of America, based on our mutual interest in helping boys and young men understand and live their duty to God and develop upright moral behavior. As the Church moves forward in its association with the Boy Scouts of America, Church leaders will continue to seek the most effective ways to address the diverse needs of young people in the United States and throughout the world.
The Church’s long-established policy for participation in activities is stated in the basic instructional handbook used by lay leaders of the Church: “young men … who agree to abide by Church standards” are “welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate” (Handbook 2: Administering the Church , 8.17.3). This policy applies to Church-sponsored Scout units. Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest.
These standards are outlined in the booklet For the Strength of Youth and include abstinence from sexual relationships. We remain firmly committed to upholding these standards and to protecting and strengthening boys and young men.
The Church appreciates BSA’s reaffirmation of its commitment to “duty to God,” which includes service to others and moral behavior—central principles of our teaching to young men. As in the past, the Church will work with BSA to harmonize what Scouting has to offer with the varying needs of our young men. We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.
Many have expressed concern over this decision. Others have expressed disbelief that the Church of Jesus Christ would support the BSA – saying it has lost its way or is pandering. I would argue that neither of these is the case. As a church, “‘young men … who agree to abide by Church standards’ are ‘welcomed warmly and encouraged to participate.'” It sounds as though the Boy Scouts’ policy change is actually more in line with the existing policy of the Church.
The doctrines of the Church help us to understand that we have a Heavenly Father who is concerned for the welfare of His children. He wants us all to have an opportunity to make it back to His presence. During His ministry, the Lord was clear during His time on earth in telling all to “come unto me.” When I separate politics from religion, I understand this decision.
Politically, however, it makes me nervous. I know that gay rights activists are likely cheering this decision and find it as a win. I believe the BSA entered into this decision-making process from outside pressure it was receiving. While I believe each private organization has a right and obligation to set the terms of its membership, it does concern me that that this process appeared to be made under pressure. But just because a process begins under pressure does not mean the outcome is made by that same pressure. The BSA had to evaluate their value system and assess if their policies reflected that. By making the decision they did, I believe they are saying they want all young men to have an opportunity for growth is a value-rich environment. Young men (and women) make powerful decisions that will affect the rest of their lives starting at an early age. By allowing young men to participate in uplifting activities where their confidence is strengthened and positive virtues are reinforced, it increases positive decision-making down the road.
Moving forward, the Boy Scouts have a lot of decisions they will need to make as a result of this decision. This includes if they choose to make changes to the requirements and activities. They will also likely be reevaluating their decision regarding gay leadership. The GLAAD spokesman stated, “Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end.” The Boy Scouts organization will have to evaluate that as well.
Sometimes, political decisions have an all-or-nothing flavor to them. You don’t want to give an inch lest the other side take a mile or seven. In this case, a private organization has made a decision to redefine its membership. While there was political pressure to do so, this decision was made by the BSA. This process is challenging the beliefs of many strong, valiant Christians who are striving to make decisions, personally and politically, that uphold their value system. Each individual will need to evaluate if their personal value system, not just political beliefs, allow them to continue in their membership or affiliation with the Boy Scouts.
**Please note, the views expressed in this article belong to this author alone and may not necessarily reflect those of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I do not speak for the Church. Click here for more information on the Church’s stance.**
– Rebecca @ Americaisconservative.org