By Jason Kofoed
Yesterday, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) issued a public statement on the Boy Scouts of America's latest proposal pertaining to admitting gays into the organization. Being a member of the church and knowing we have many readers who are LDS, I have been watching carefully for any and all statements that might indicate what the Church's position will be if the board votes in favor of these proposed changes. What I think has surprised many about the BSA's proposal is that is wasn't a cut and dry "Yes, let's allow gays into the BSA" or "No, let's not allow gays into the BSA". Instead, what the BSA has proposed is to prohibit openly-gay leaders while allowing gay youth to be admitted. As I have stated previously, I feel that the 'fatal' flaw in this policy is that there is no differentiating between youth with gay tendancies who keep the issue private while, at the same time, trying to control and overcome those tendancies and the "openly-gay" youth who have accepted that they are gay, want everyone else to accept that they're gay and are determined to make sure that everyone KNOWS they are gay. Same-sex attraction is a very real issue for many but how they deal with and work through these tendancies is what separates them. The reason why it's so important for there to be such a distinction is due to the influences that our youth will be exposed to, knowing full well how powerful peer pressures and influences are to these age groups. For an organization such as the BSA which is founded upon such a firm moral code, it doesn't make sense to now send mixed messages to the youth who are taught to be "morally straight"- and that's where many of us have a problem with the direction they are headed. Now, that being said, we do not yet know how the board will vote in May and I'm not even going to speculate what the results will be. In all honesty, I could see it going either way.
Back to the statement issued by the LDS Church. It can be seen at lds.org and is as follows:
Church Issues Statement on Boy Scouts of America
25 April 2013
For 100 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has enjoyed a strong, rewarding relationship with Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Recently, BSA has been reviewing a possible policy change in its standards for membership and leadership. Now that BSA has finished its review process and has proposed a resolution for consideration, the Church has issued the following statement:
“Over the past several weeks BSA has undertaken the difficult task of reviewing its membership standards policy. In their own words, this undertaking has been ‘the most comprehensive listening exercise in its history.’
“While the Church has not launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change, we have followed the discussion and are satisfied that BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain ‘among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.’
“The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the ongoing dialogue, including consistent standards for all BSA partners, recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program, and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God.
“We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”
What has prompted me more than anything to post on this has been some of the chatter among the LDS community as to what the Church is and isn't actually saying here. There are always those who try to draw conclusions where conclusions are not meant to be drawn and this is one of those instances. The following is my opinion and my opinion alone and does not in any way reflect the official stance of the LDS Church.
If we read carefully this statement, the Church is saying nothing more than that they are pleased and appreciative of the time, work and resources the BSA has put into exploring the gay issue and attempting to determine the mind and hearts of current BSA members and leaders. The Church also emphasizes the good the BSA has done in the past and reminds them of their obligation to continue to do so in the future. There are no other conclusions to be drawn from this, nor will there be until the vote is held, and a result published. Then and only then will the Church issue any further statements that they feel need to be made, particularly if the board members vote in favor of these new admittance and membership policies. I have nothing but my own personal opinions and speculations of what the Church's course of action would be in such a case, but I will keep them to myself as I have decided that I will support the Church and its leaders regardless of what they decide.
It is especially important for non-LDS readers to understand the long and intimate relationship The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has had with the BSA over the past 100 years. In fact, the Grand Teton Council of the BSA, in conjunction with the LDS Church in the area in which I reside here in Southeast Idaho has been planning a major encampment celebration to honor that 100-year relationship this coming June. So far we have over 10,000 Boy Scouts and Scouting leaders registered to attend this 4-day event with still some last-minute stragglers working to get their names in. I mention this only to emphasize just how big a part the BSA has played and continues to play as the "activity arm" of our Church. The Church's leaders will continue to carefully weigh and consider any and all consequences if a change in policy is enacted and I am completely confident that they will make the right decision when all is said and done. In the end, God has established the rules with His moral codes and it is the duty of the Church to adhere to them while, at the same time, remembering that Scouting is about the boy and we must do what is best for him.