Why Mormons back the new scouting policy

The Boy Scouts of America reintroduced and reinforced some of its century-old core values and nailed those colors firmly to the mast in an unmistakable message.

The dust had barely settled from the May 23 vote on the Boy Scouts of America membership policy, when the media analysis and post mortem on this iconic American institution began.

Understandably, virtually all the headlines referred to the inclusion of gay scouts. The New York Times described it as a “milestone.”  The Washington Post lamented that the policy still excludes gay adult leaders. Time magazine referred to “dramatic change.”  And that is probably how history will record it.

But what has been largely missing from the mainstream media coverage of all the lobbying, placard waving and rhetoric on that day in Grapevine, Texas, was one fact that should have been inescapable.  Rather than representing another episode of slippage in a very long culture war, as some religionists claimed, or a “step in the right direction,” as some gay advocates defined it, BSA in reality reintroduced and reinforced some of its century-old core values and nailed those colors firmly to the mast in an unmistakable message. And it was that reaffirmation of principle, plainly restated in the Membership Standards Resolution, that enabled some of scouting’s traditional supporters – including America’s largest sponsor of scouting, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – to back the new membership policy.

What were those principles? A few hours before the vote was taken in Grapevine, Gary E. Stevenson, the Presiding Bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, delivered the keynote speech to a well-attended breakfast assembly of scout leaders.  Bishop Stevenson addressed those principles directly, rather than focusing on the membership vote that was on everyone’s mind.

“I am very aware,” he said, “of the controversial moral, legal, and policy issues that face this great organization. They are deep and they are wide and they will test the best in us. Although I don’t speak directly to these issues this morning, I believe it constructive counsel for each of us to pray that divine direction manifest itself upon those who have the weighty responsibility to lead this organization appropriately.”

Bishop Stevenson then turned to what he termed a foundational principle “as old and deep as the organization itself ” –duty to God. It’s worth repeating part of what he said.

“Boy Scouts of today face issues not faced by generations before them:  declining morals, technology, addictive behavior and declining academic performance to name a few.   I believe that the key to solving these issues lies in family and duty to God. If boys truly understood what their duty to God entails and lived it, they would grow safely into manhood.

“…It is this common belief in duty to God that has forged the iron-strong connection with Boy Scouts of America we (i.e. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) have shared over the last 100 years. One hundred years of evidence has shown that this impact-proof, non-rusting core principle works better than whatever has been, historically, the next-best idea. Duty to God is where the power lies. Duty to God is what changes lives.

“…Some may not see the sacred gatekeeping role scouting plays. They may see only fundraising and not a foundation. Others may brand scouting activities as merely outdoor recreation, but it can and must be shown that BSA is not a camping club; it is a character university centered on duty to God. I quote again from Robert Baden-Powell: ‘The whole of [scouting] is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God.’

“… Scouting must never overlook this core principle. We still need duty to God. We always will. When the societal and political winds come, and they surely will, scouting cannot unhinge itself from this foundational principle.”

Understanding this emphasis makes it easier to appreciate why Latter-day Saints in large numbers supported the resolution that was later passed by 61 per cent of assembled scout leaders.  For Mormons, embracing duty to God as a core value is inseparable from the behavior that is expected to follow – behavior that it instills in its young women as well as its young men, and encourages in adults as well as its youth.

One key line in the new resolution that the scouting body approved is worth citing:  “…any sexual conduct, whether homosexual or heterosexual, by youth of scouting age is contrary to the virtues of scouting.”  That is it, in a nutshell. For the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this was never about whether the BSA or local scout leaders should try to discern or categorize ill-defined and emerging sexual awareness of pre-pubescent boys and early pubescent young men who make up 90 per cent of scouting. Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint scout troops. Rather, it has always about teaching moral behavior to all boys, and instilling the core values that are part of responsible adulthood. As the church said in a statement issued promptly after the BSA vote, it is responsible behavior that “continues to be our compelling interest.”

Where next? The last line of the church’s official response stated it this way:  “We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner.”  In other words, the church is taking the BSA resolution at its word: that duty to God is an “immutable tenet” of scouting; that the “Scout Oath and Law are fundamental to the BSA in preparing youth for responsible citizenship”; that  “effective screening, education and training,” is in place, as well as “clear policies to protect youth and provide for their privacy”; that “sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is contrary to the virtues of scouting.”

To be sure, not everyone agrees with these values. Those who don’t are not compelled to become scouts or to embrace what traditional scouting has to offer. They ought now to allow scouting to chart its own future, consistent with its century old values, free from interference, advocacy and agenda-driven politics.  Let’s remember, it has always been – and should always be – about the boys.

Image courtesy of Fort Meade.

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  • jerry49

    If any of you have any questions whatsoever, by all means, DO ask FrenchChef, as he is hands down a 100% pure intellect in ALL SUBJECT MATTER !!! Boy-I’ll-tell-’ya…!

  • jerry49

    If any of you have any questions whatsoever, by all means, DO ask FrenchChef, as he is hands down a 100% pure intellect in ALL SUBJECT MATTER !!! Boy-I’ll-tell-’ya…!

  • berrie21

    I am glad to see the BSA continue to focus on providing wholesome settings and experiences for young people, regardless of any inclinations, one way or another, that may exist or seem to exist.

    BSA is not about adult issues or politics, it is about fun, wholesome, and sometimes demanding experience that encourages and builds dependable character and behavior… and valuable talents, qualities and capacities in our young people. Scouting can and does do so much that adds positively to their personal lives and happiness, and to enrich our society in many ways.

    I am glad they are less worried about the commotion of the outside world and more concerned about continuing to provide the truly unique and wonderful opportunities for youth that are found within Scouting itself.

  • berrie21

    I am glad to see the BSA continue to focus on providing wholesome settings and experiences for young people, regardless of any inclinations, one way or another, that may exist or seem to exist.

    BSA is not about adult issues or politics, it is about fun, wholesome, and sometimes demanding experience that encourages and builds dependable character and behavior… and valuable talents, qualities and capacities in our young people. Scouting can and does do so much that adds positively to their personal lives and happiness, and to enrich our society in many ways.

    I am glad they are less worried about the commotion of the outside world and more concerned about continuing to provide the truly unique and wonderful opportunities for youth that are found within Scouting itself.

  • MMMCCM2011

    All need to remember that it is good to understand first before being understood. I personally am grateful that the BSA will continue to bless the lives of all young men regardless of sexual orientation. My two Eagle Scout sons were and I see no reason not to offer this opportunity to all young men. There are safeguards in place to protect the young men from leaders and each other. I have been a scout merit badge counselor and never was allowed to be alone with the boys .. . there was always two deep leadership. I am satisfied that those safeguards will be in place to protect all of the boys. For example, my youngest son was able to use the first aid merit badge he earned to help a young woman who fell at the skating rink he worked at. She sustained a serious injury. Recently as a full-time missionary for the church, a youth leader in scouts asked he and his companion to help re-enact serious injuries so the scouts would learn how to take care of them. My son had a compound fracture to his arm and his companion a deep laceration to his face (all fake mind you but real looking). My son was also able to teach the scouts the things he learned that helped him with this serious injury at the ice rink and how important it is to be prepared.

  • MMMCCM2011

    All need to remember that it is good to understand first before being understood. I personally am grateful that the BSA will continue to bless the lives of all young men regardless of sexual orientation. My two Eagle Scout sons were and I see no reason not to offer this opportunity to all young men. There are safeguards in place to protect the young men from leaders and each other. I have been a scout merit badge counselor and never was allowed to be alone with the boys .. . there was always two deep leadership. I am satisfied that those safeguards will be in place to protect all of the boys. For example, my youngest son was able to use the first aid merit badge he earned to help a young woman who fell at the skating rink he worked at. She sustained a serious injury. Recently as a full-time missionary for the church, a youth leader in scouts asked he and his companion to help re-enact serious injuries so the scouts would learn how to take care of them. My son had a compound fracture to his arm and his companion a deep laceration to his face (all fake mind you but real looking). My son was also able to teach the scouts the things he learned that helped him with this serious injury at the ice rink and how important it is to be prepared.

  • sijels

    FrenchChef you’re killing me. Please Get A Life And Do Something Productive. Whether you are a group or an individual I cannot tell. I hope it is a group so it would make you look less of a complete dimwit and what society in general calls a troll.

  • sijels

    FrenchChef you’re killing me. Please Get A Life And Do Something Productive. Whether you are a group or an individual I cannot tell. I hope it is a group so it would make you look less of a complete dimwit and what society in general calls a troll.

  • woodyam

    His Mom needs to get him re-enrolled in school, or maybe he could pursue his GED and go to Community College. Anything to help him get a life.

  • woodyam

    His Mom needs to get him re-enrolled in school, or maybe he could pursue his GED and go to Community College. Anything to help him get a life.

  • psmithphd

    As a social scientist familiar with the consequences of improper behavior, I believe that valid science supports the Otterson position. The conduct of science I learned better at Stanford University (Ph.D.) only reinforces the importance of correct moral behavior. I hope all good people will support the Boy Scouts in this choice.

  • psmithphd

    As a social scientist familiar with the consequences of improper behavior, I believe that valid science supports the Otterson position. The conduct of science I learned better at Stanford University (Ph.D.) only reinforces the importance of correct moral behavior. I hope all good people will support the Boy Scouts in this choice.

  • leibowde84

    By “correct moral behavior” you mean including homosexuals, right? Because homosexuality isn’t behavior … it is a state of mind (attraction). The question at hand has nothing to do with “homosexual behavior,” as no boy scouts, gay or straight, are aloud to participate in sexual activity.

  • leibowde84

    By “correct moral behavior” you mean including homosexuals, right? Because homosexuality isn’t behavior … it is a state of mind (attraction). The question at hand has nothing to do with “homosexual behavior,” as no boy scouts, gay or straight, are aloud to participate in sexual activity.

  • leibowde84

    NEWS FLASH: There is nothing in the bible that says that homosexuality is wrong in any way. It only mentions homosexual activities. Thus, excluding boys that consider themselves to be homosexual is not in accordance with any religious tradition beyond speculative opinions.

  • leibowde84

    NEWS FLASH: There is nothing in the bible that says that homosexuality is wrong in any way. It only mentions homosexual activities. Thus, excluding boys that consider themselves to be homosexual is not in accordance with any religious tradition beyond speculative opinions.

  • rbmarkham

    Excellent, well written article. I am a strong supporter of the BSA. I agree with former president George W. Bush who said: “The goodness of a person and of the society he or she lives in often comes down to very simple things and words found in the Scout Law. Every society depends on trust and loyalty, on courtesy and kindness, on bravery and reverence. These are the values of Scouting, and these are the values of Americans.”

  • rbmarkham

    Excellent, well written article. I am a strong supporter of the BSA. I agree with former president George W. Bush who said: “The goodness of a person and of the society he or she lives in often comes down to very simple things and words found in the Scout Law. Every society depends on trust and loyalty, on courtesy and kindness, on bravery and reverence. These are the values of Scouting, and these are the values of Americans.”

  • danaman

    Barf.

    Scouting was designed to teach *scouting* skills. I.E. Outdoorsmanship, wilderness survival, craftsmanship, etc. It was never intended to be an extension of any church or cult, although at least a few have tried to assimilate it.

    And the ‘gatekeeper’ comments spell out exactly the problem with cults and religions. Any deity that needs humans to keep his/her/its “gate” isn’t worthy of the rank.

    The omnipotent almighty isn’t kept behind any gates. And scouting isn’t an extension of religion.

    So, just call your troops Mormon Altar Boy Scouts, then, and be done with it. At least you’ll be refreshingly honest about it. For once.

  • danaman

    Barf.

    Scouting was designed to teach *scouting* skills. I.E. Outdoorsmanship, wilderness survival, craftsmanship, etc. It was never intended to be an extension of any church or cult, although at least a few have tried to assimilate it.

    And the ‘gatekeeper’ comments spell out exactly the problem with cults and religions. Any deity that needs humans to keep his/her/its “gate” isn’t worthy of the rank.

    The omnipotent almighty isn’t kept behind any gates. And scouting isn’t an extension of religion.

    So, just call your troops Mormon Altar Boy Scouts, then, and be done with it. At least you’ll be refreshingly honest about it. For once.

  • Dunes316

    This is the epitome of hypocracy. This church states “Sexual orientation… is not a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint scout troops.” So I wonder if it is a disqualifying factor for boys to receive the Church’s Aaronic Priesthood or perhaps get a temple recommend from a bishop based on perhaps incompatible sexual orientation?

  • Dunes316

    This is the epitome of hypocracy. This church states “Sexual orientation… is not a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint scout troops.” So I wonder if it is a disqualifying factor for boys to receive the Church’s Aaronic Priesthood or perhaps get a temple recommend from a bishop based on perhaps incompatible sexual orientation?

  • Thriller

    There is actually no hypocrisy here at all. No where in the interviews for getting the Priesthood or a temple recommend do they ask you about your sexual orientation. They do however ask if you are living the Law of Chastity which includes no sexual activity for ANYONE outside of marriage. And yes the church defines marriage as between man and woman. So my point is that somebody who identifies as homosexual can absolutely receive the Priesthood and get a temple recommend as long as they are following the Law of Chastity and meet the other general requirements.

  • Thriller

    There is actually no hypocrisy here at all. No where in the interviews for getting the Priesthood or a temple recommend do they ask you about your sexual orientation. They do however ask if you are living the Law of Chastity which includes no sexual activity for ANYONE outside of marriage. And yes the church defines marriage as between man and woman. So my point is that somebody who identifies as homosexual can absolutely receive the Priesthood and get a temple recommend as long as they are following the Law of Chastity and meet the other general requirements.

  • Jacob_14

    Try Romans 1:24-32.

  • Jacob_14

    Try Romans 1:24-32.

  • Peter Bellville

    I find your statement confusing, perhaps contradictory. “To participate in sexual activity” is a behavior. Since no one can read a ‘state of mind’, then the question is about behavior.

  • Peter Bellville

    I find your statement confusing, perhaps contradictory. “To participate in sexual activity” is a behavior. Since no one can read a ‘state of mind’, then the question is about behavior.

  • leibowde84

    Wrong. Sinful desires aren’t sinful unless acted upon.

  • leibowde84

    Wrong. Sinful desires aren’t sinful unless acted upon.

  • leibowde84

    Exactly my point. Since “state of mind” is not comprehendible and no scout is permitted to be sexually active, non-sexually active homosexuals should present no threat and barring them from admission is flat out wrong. They aren’t breaking any religious rule, which the scout’s rules are based on. Only homosexual activity is deemed “sinful.” Thus, this is a non-issue.

    No one is arguing that a sexually active homosexual should be admitted to the scouts. No scout is permitted to be sexually active … whether they be gay or straight, so that is absolutely a non-issue. There is no religious teaching that says that homosexual attraction is wrong … only acting on it is. And, lust is wrong, again, whether someone is gay or straight. So, I don’t get why non-sexually active homosexuals present such a threat. That is my point.

  • leibowde84

    Exactly my point. Since “state of mind” is not comprehendible and no scout is permitted to be sexually active, non-sexually active homosexuals should present no threat and barring them from admission is flat out wrong. They aren’t breaking any religious rule, which the scout’s rules are based on. Only homosexual activity is deemed “sinful.” Thus, this is a non-issue.

    No one is arguing that a sexually active homosexual should be admitted to the scouts. No scout is permitted to be sexually active … whether they be gay or straight, so that is absolutely a non-issue. There is no religious teaching that says that homosexual attraction is wrong … only acting on it is. And, lust is wrong, again, whether someone is gay or straight. So, I don’t get why non-sexually active homosexuals present such a threat. That is my point.

  • leibowde84

    What is the difference between judging a homosexual virgin on their uncontrollable sexual attraction and judging a person on their uncontrollable skin color?! Neither, according to any scripture, dogmatic tradition, or law has done anything wrong. In actuallity, they literally haven’t done anything. See what I mean? For some reason people assume that all homosexuals are sexually active. Like it is a prerequisite to being gay. I don’t get it.

  • leibowde84

    What is the difference between judging a homosexual virgin on their uncontrollable sexual attraction and judging a person on their uncontrollable skin color?! Neither, according to any scripture, dogmatic tradition, or law has done anything wrong. In actuallity, they literally haven’t done anything. See what I mean? For some reason people assume that all homosexuals are sexually active. Like it is a prerequisite to being gay. I don’t get it.

  • leibowde84

    What is the difference between judging a homosexual virgin on their uncontrollable sexual attraction and judging a person on their uncontrollable skin color?! Neither, according to any scripture, dogmatic tradition, or law has done anything wrong. In actuallity, they literally haven’t done anything. See what I mean? For some reason people assume that all homosexuals are sexually active. Like it is a prerequisite to being gay. I don’t get it.

  • leibowde84

    What is the difference between judging a homosexual virgin on their uncontrollable sexual attraction and judging a person on their uncontrollable skin color?! Neither, according to any scripture, dogmatic tradition, or law has done anything wrong. In actuallity, they literally haven’t done anything. See what I mean? For some reason people assume that all homosexuals are sexually active. Like it is a prerequisite to being gay. I don’t get it.

  • theOtter

    I love the line “ this was never about whether the BSA or local scout leaders should try to discern or categorize ill-defined and emerging sexual awareness of pre-pubescent boys and early pubescent young men.” There are over 1.1 SEXTILLION recorded definitions of the word “homosexual” and its corresponding colloquialism, “gay.” “Ill-defined” is saying the least. The BSA’s policies affect immoral conduct, not internal temptations—just like those of the Church of Jesus Christ.

  • theOtter

    I love the line “ this was never about whether the BSA or local scout leaders should try to discern or categorize ill-defined and emerging sexual awareness of pre-pubescent boys and early pubescent young men.” There are over 1.1 SEXTILLION recorded definitions of the word “homosexual” and its corresponding colloquialism, “gay.” “Ill-defined” is saying the least. The BSA’s policies affect immoral conduct, not internal temptations—just like those of the Church of Jesus Christ.

  • Jacob_14

    Your right. Feeling it isnt a sin but acting on it is. Romans says that those actions are a sin. 1 Corinthians 7:2 explains that EVERY man is to have a wife, and EVERY woman to have a husband. Not some but every. I’m not mormon but I commend them on sticking to the principles taught in the bible. God doesnt change and neither do his teachings.

  • Jacob_14

    Your right. Feeling it isnt a sin but acting on it is. Romans says that those actions are a sin. 1 Corinthians 7:2 explains that EVERY man is to have a wife, and EVERY woman to have a husband. Not some but every. I’m not mormon but I commend them on sticking to the principles taught in the bible. God doesnt change and neither do his teachings.

  • Jacob_14

    Amen to that!

  • Jacob_14

    Amen to that!

  • leibowde84

    Don’t teach your children to think less of a substantial part of the population. Don’t force the idea that somehow God disapproves of their lifestyle. You are literally breeding hatred, merely because of ancient, seemingly (and I would argue obviously) innacurate texts.

  • leibowde84

    Don’t teach your children to think less of a substantial part of the population. Don’t force the idea that somehow God disapproves of their lifestyle. You are literally breeding hatred, merely because of ancient, seemingly (and I would argue obviously) innacurate texts.

  • tatman9631

    I would just like to thank the Bishop very much for his coments. As a former cub scout who went on to become a boy scout who went on to become a United States Marine and then to become a member of the Church who served in the position of young mens president, scout master,and survival counsler for the BSA merit badge program, i was never the less, concerned upon hearing about the churches disicion to continue support for the BSA after theyre vote to allow gays. Based on what i felt to be moral issues i found myself against that support and with a very heavy heart toward the church. I guess this is one of those times when it pays to have a strong and powerfull testamony, for this reason after reading the Bishops comments i now realize that it was I who was wrong and that the churches disicion was correct. We are so blessed to have the guidence of priesthood leadership guided by the spirit for situations just like this. We should all be truly thankful, I know that I am.

  • tatman9631

    I would just like to thank the Bishop very much for his coments. As a former cub scout who went on to become a boy scout who went on to become a United States Marine and then to become a member of the Church who served in the position of young mens president, scout master,and survival counsler for the BSA merit badge program, i was never the less, concerned upon hearing about the churches disicion to continue support for the BSA after theyre vote to allow gays. Based on what i felt to be moral issues i found myself against that support and with a very heavy heart toward the church. I guess this is one of those times when it pays to have a strong and powerfull testamony, for this reason after reading the Bishops comments i now realize that it was I who was wrong and that the churches disicion was correct. We are so blessed to have the guidence of priesthood leadership guided by the spirit for situations just like this. We should all be truly thankful, I know that I am.

  • vendingdude

    yeah sure liebow

    what about that part where Jesus said if you lust in your heart you’ve already sinned? So, thoughts are actions, eh?

  • vendingdude

    yeah sure liebow

    what about that part where Jesus said if you lust in your heart you’ve already sinned? So, thoughts are actions, eh?

  • ldschristian

    It seems that Christians & LDS Christians in particular will increasingly be “shot at”. As for me, I’m resolved to stand behind the First Presidency, as I have faith that the spiritual “cover” will increasingly be needed. “Step outside” or “in front of” this cover and we increasingly are “on our own”. Did we really think that in these last days the issue that might divide the Church would be a policy just “doubling tithing” or “only watching G movies”?

  • ldschristian

    It seems that Christians & LDS Christians in particular will increasingly be “shot at”. As for me, I’m resolved to stand behind the First Presidency, as I have faith that the spiritual “cover” will increasingly be needed. “Step outside” or “in front of” this cover and we increasingly are “on our own”. Did we really think that in these last days the issue that might divide the Church would be a policy just “doubling tithing” or “only watching G movies”?

  • ldschristian

    You are closing your eyes to the fact that most “are” active. That is a concern to parents who feel the need to protect their children and should have the right to do so. This isn’t spreading “hate”, it is acknowledging “concern”. Skin color does not affect my children. Deviant and often predatory sexual conduct does. I have the right as a parent to teach my children to love the person but be wary and concerned over the behavior.

  • ldschristian

    You are closing your eyes to the fact that most “are” active. That is a concern to parents who feel the need to protect their children and should have the right to do so. This isn’t spreading “hate”, it is acknowledging “concern”. Skin color does not affect my children. Deviant and often predatory sexual conduct does. I have the right as a parent to teach my children to love the person but be wary and concerned over the behavior.

  • awesomeness

    Very interesting article. It’s not about what the news tries to make it about… this isn’t an issue of sexual orientation, it’s about giving all boys the opportunity to improve and learn core values to become better people. Simple.
    It is sad that so many churches are dropping such a great developmental program.
    Bravo to those who keep supporting it.
    And why are there gay activists attacking this church for being one of the few churches to still support BSA after the decision? Does not make sense.

  • awesomeness

    Very interesting article. It’s not about what the news tries to make it about… this isn’t an issue of sexual orientation, it’s about giving all boys the opportunity to improve and learn core values to become better people. Simple.
    It is sad that so many churches are dropping such a great developmental program.
    Bravo to those who keep supporting it.
    And why are there gay activists attacking this church for being one of the few churches to still support BSA after the decision? Does not make sense.

  • awesomeness

    Honey, this article is not about the gay issue… or really anything about disapproving your lifestyle. Almost all the churches out here have dropped the BSA program because of the decision… why are you mad at this one for supporting the decision to allow all boys to join and treat them all with respect? Not sure how that is breeding hatred to say “welcome” to all boys who want to improve their values and selves.
    You may want to take your issues somewhere more appropriate, where they are being argued.

  • awesomeness

    Honey, this article is not about the gay issue… or really anything about disapproving your lifestyle. Almost all the churches out here have dropped the BSA program because of the decision… why are you mad at this one for supporting the decision to allow all boys to join and treat them all with respect? Not sure how that is breeding hatred to say “welcome” to all boys who want to improve their values and selves.
    You may want to take your issues somewhere more appropriate, where they are being argued.