Change is good. For Mormons and for Boy Scouts

(David Manning/Reuters) During the summer of 2011 there were three separate hate-motivated violent attacks on three different gay men in … Continued


(David Manning/Reuters)

During the summer of 2011 there were three separate hate-motivated violent attacks on three different gay men in Utah. As a Mormon, and a currently serving bishop of the church from Illinois at that time, I decided that I needed to do more to stand up against hate and support the civil and human rights of our LGBT sisters and brothers. As a result of that decision, I flew to Salt Lake City and “came out” as an LGBT ally.

Since that time Mormons have been found marching in pride parades across the country, and the church launched a new website called mormonsandgays.org where church leaders reach out and affirmatively acknowledge that orientation is not a choice and family members should never shun or exclude regardless of the path their gay loved ones may choose. Only a few weeks ago, the church has taken a crucial step towards supporting change on an issue that would have been completely unheard of even a year ago—the change of policy on orientation in Boy Scouts.

For Mormon boys, Boy Scouts is the activity arm of the church. Since I became an LGBT ally, I had become concerned as my own children began and continued in scouting if one day they would face discrimination if they were gay.

The messages of exclusion and discrimination from an organization that is supposed to build character and inculcate principle-centered values seemed completely at odds with one another.

The ban of gay boy scouts and leaders also seemed incongruent with current church policy that allows openly gay young men to bless and pass the Sacrament (communion), receive ordination, and perform the ordinance of baptism. And 18 year old young men are allowed to serve as missionaries and be ordained to the high priesthood if they are openly gay. Yet, if my son or any other Mormon parents’ son is gay they could be excluded from Boy Scouts under the current ban. Gay adults and parents would also be ineligible to become Boy Scout leaders under the ban. This gap in Mormon culture between church and activities is not sustainable and does not make sense.

I was excited and enthused when I heard the church recently came out in support of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) moving towards ending the ban against gay scouts. This was a huge step for our faith tradition that has such strong ties to scouting. In fact, our church sponsors 25% of all local Cub and Boy Scout groups. Many in our faith community previously believed that if the scouts took the step towards inclusion, the church would abandon scouting and start their own activity program. It appears this won’t be the case and I could not be more pleased. This important inclusionary step will harmonize with current church policy.

While I am excited and energized about this progress, there will continue to be a ban on gay leaders. This is extremely unfortunate because it continues to promote the atrocious myths and stereotypes that have long been assigned to our gay friends, family, and neighbors. These myths promote fear, misunderstanding, discrimination, hate and even lead to violence against our sisters and brothers. They also send the wrong message to our youth.

I look forward to a day when our LGBT sisters and brothers will be judged not by orientation or gender identity but on the content of their character. We still have not come to that day yet, but I do see progress. I hope my faith community and the BSA will continue to make progress towards inclusion and acceptance of our gay neighbors and loved ones, and that scouting will return to its honored tradition of developing leadership and values in all of our youth and the ban against gay leaders will be lifted.

Kevin Kloosterman is a former Mormon bishop and a devout and active Mormon from Illinois. He is married and the father of three children. He has been a mental health professional for over 15 years.

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  • Oscarthe4th

    Several comments have suggested that this is something of a ploy and the the LDS remains anti-gar.

    That could be, but it is also possible that there is in truth division within the LDS over the issue. (The two things are not mutually exclusive. Some reformers may be driven by their vision of equality, others by their concern over PR.)

    If there is a division emerging, then encouraging the pro-gay (or at least less anti-gay) factions is worth doing, even if the motives are mixed.

  • Candyman

    I find it very interesting that this former Mormon Bishop talks about openly homosexual young men being able to serve missions, bless the sacrament, etc., but he does not specify that they can have a homosexual orientation and be worthy only if they do not act on their orientation. They are expected to live the Law of Chastity, which deals with sexual purity. If they are openly pursuing a homosexual lifestyle, then they are out of the realm of the Lord’s teachings. Yes, if they are sexually pure, they can serve. If they are not, they can’t. He only presents part of the teachings.

  • twmatthews

    Every religion claims they are the “only true church”.

  • An-Toan

    The notion that there is an inherent contradiction between sexuality and spirituality is false view, regardless of “sexual orientation”. “Straight, bi, gay” . . . these are social constructs that were invented in the West less than two centuries ago. The sexual oppression that for decades has been directed against the LGBT by fundamentalists, Catholics, etc., Mormons, and their political allies is a form of spiritual oppression. Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Ted Haggard, Convicted Felon Ralph Reed, and others are towering examples of this dukkha.

  • Woulde

    So when will you welcome atheists?

    signed,

    an atheist Eagle Scout

  • An-Toan

    Statement by Mormans on where their church stands: “The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”

    What a contradiction. Sounds like the Catholic Church. More Western hang ups about sex and sin! Please stop exporting them to Buddhist cultures in which we do not define being by these illusory social constructs of “straight, bi, and gay”.

  • An-Toan

    Not everybody is supposed to be a priest or a monk!

  • jay2drummer

    Completely different issue (though I, for one, agree that the ban on atheism is just as stupid). It is impossible for obey the Scout Oath (“duty to God”) if you do not believe in God. Also, unlike homosexuality, religious belief is a choice. That said, I would like to see the ban on atheists removed, but it is not the same issue.

  • Ken in Cville

    Mr. Kloosterman

    Thank you very much for your support — it is very much appreciated. I do have a question, though. Does any of this support and progress change if the gay person–by nature, as you state–has a loving relationship with another gay person?

    Thank you. And, I really mean it when I say ‘Thank you.’ — And thank you for understanding that the proposed dual message the BSA is considering is wrong-headed. I believe it would do more damage to some gay young persons than the decision-makers realize. I truly hope this is not their intention.

    Ken in Charlottesville, VA

  • Dudeist Priest

    On my honor, I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law;
    To help other people at all times;
    To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.

    I will do my best does not mean I will not be allowed as a scout until I am perfect, it means I will always try.
    If you believe there is a power greater than yourself that provided all that there is today then that could be considered a “God” by mortal definition. For a group of theists to determine if “your” god is acceptable would violate this oath.
    An Athiest is keeping themselves “mentally awake” if they are open to review and debate the possibility of a momo-thiestic diety, just provide them some proof (more than some of the “Chapter & Verse” Fiction Thumpers who have been spouting venom lately)

  • Yoda Man

    We will see if change is good. Now it seems like both gay and anti-gay supporters alike are mad at the scouts no matter what they decide. How is it going to be good when everybody quits and there are no more boy scouts? Ask J.C. Pennys if change is good.

  • jay2drummer

    Ask the military. They haven’t seen any mas quitting or even any major dips in recruitment.

  • theOtter

    Sorry, An-Toan, but I’m a bit confused. May I ask what “contradiction” are you seeing here?

  • gmmull

    If an organization can’t survive a change that makes it more inclusive and reduces discrimination, perhaps it isn’t an organization that our country really needs.

  • Gary Castillo

    Mr. Kloosterman, although I appreciate your comments and especially your commitment to fairness I am concerned about two of your statements. “The ban of gay boy scouts and leaders also seemed incongruent with current church policy . . ” I know that you mean it is inconsistent with church policy but the ban is A BSA ban and not the churches. Also the line you wrote that reads: “Yet if my son or any other Mormon Parents’ son is gay they could be excluded from BSA under the current ban.” Should, in all fairness, read: “Yet if my son or any other parents’ son is gay they could be excluded from BSA under the current BSA ban.” Just want to make sure that the readers of your article are aware that you know that the ban was not and is not a church ban.

  • Gary Castillo

    Mr. Kloosterman, I too agree that change is good and I support the church’s statements in regard to the Boy Scouts of America Policy change. However I do have some concerns about a couple of your statements and in the spirit of fairness would like to give my opinion regarding them. Where you say, “The ban of gay boy scouts and leaders also seemed incongruent (not in agreement or not consistent) with church policy . . .” I think should read: “The Boy Scouts of America’s ban of gay boys, etc” also “Yet if my son or any other Mormon Parents’ son is gay they could be excluded from Boy Scouts under the current ban.” Again for fairness sake should read: “Yet if my son or any other parents’ son is gay they could be excluded from Boy Scouts under the current Boy Scouts of America ban.” My concern is that your reader might be confused in thinking that any ban of gay boys or leaders was anything other than a BSA ban.

  • daveHEART

    why must a bishop come out as an “ally” of the gay community? it is ILLEGAL and IMMORAL to assault people, in general. there should never be a different set of laws or rules for any special interest group. the law is meant to serve us all equally. this is very disappointing to me, and I’m not even Mormon.

  • daveHEART

    why are you censors censoring out my comments? You don’t want another view to be heard??? You truly are propagandists, aren’t you? PATHETIC!

  • xxixpines

    @ Kevin Kloosterman

    Odd, the copy of Handbook1 is not at all friendly to lds identified as gay.
    Perhaps it is outdated and you would like to send a link to the one with the changes in it.
    (handbook 1 that which is issued to Bishops)

  • TomSixGunDrawHombre

    Ah, the Mormons and sex – now THAT is a fine endorsement !

  • blvnyrslf

    I saw your talk on homosexuality and assumed this would be another Mormon diatribe about
    evil and gayness and it being a choice, etc.
    Instead, I was reduced to tears and wanted to commend you for the courage it took to stand
    up for what is right, despite the inevitable repercussions. I cried at your seeing the truth–that we all are as God made us, that we are asked to embrace diversity and that we are called to love.
    But–I still checked up on you, to make sure you were true to your word, that you had truly changed.
    This article proves that you have. The world you have created for your children now is more tolerant,
    more honest and above all, more compassionate.
    Thank you.

  • psmithphd

    The statement above, “I look forward to a day when our LGBT sisters and brothers will be judged not by orientation or gender identity but on the content of their character.,” is important. Fundamental to good character, of course, is the willingness of a person to keep God’s law of chastity. Any homosexual who keeps this law, as with heterosexuals who do the same, is reflecting good character.