…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Taking the Plunge

A Leap of Faith

By Rex Goode


Jumping Off of Lower Punchbowl Falls

My Friend Eric Jumping Off of Lower Punchbowl Falls

Many years ago, while serving as a Scoutmaster in a troop sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we backpacked up Eagle Creek Trail occasionally. It is and always has been my favorite piece of nature. From the first time I visited there in high school until I got too arthritic to handle it, I would seize any opportunity to go and enjoy its magnificent beauty.

It is a divine masterpiece of magnificent vistas, breathtaking waterfalls, and lush greenery that fills me with awe at God’s creativity. For me, the many memories of my time spent there mirror my memories of life. Life is a trail, filled with beauty, wonder, and sometimes danger.

It was at Eagle Creek that I started dating a girl. It was at Eagle Creek where I said “no” to a guy. It was at Eagle Creek where I got abducted by aliens (although they threw me back after discovering I was over their weight limit).  It was there that I did the one and only daredevil stunt of my life.

I walked the half-mile side trail down to Punchbowl Falls and jumped off of a fifteen-foot high waterfall into the icy, dark green water below. I couldn’t see more than a couple of feet into the murk and wasn’t sure if I would end up dashed on the floor of the cauldron or impaled on some submerged tree branch. My only reassurance was that I had seen others do it before.

In fact, just a few minutes before me, one of my former Scouts had just shown me that it was safe. When I was his Scoutmaster, I wouldn’t have allowed it. By then, it was his own funeral, so to speak. He survived it and so did I.

Despite my physically cautious life, I am still somewhat of a risk-taker. A risk I took about two years ago was to write about my experience having to leave Scouting because of my lifelong experience dealing with same-sex attraction and the policies of the Boy Scouts of America.

Since writing Big Can of Worms, not much has happened regarding me and Scouting. I’ve remained unregistered and largely disinterested. Woodbadge-trained Scouters will know what I mean when I say that I’m growing old and feeble and I can Buffalo no more. Even if I was eligible to be a Boy Scout leader, I don’t think I could physically do it, although I really think that it saved my life to be called as a Scoutmaster.

In the last few days, I’ve been getting a barrage of messages through various media wondering how I feel about the recent news that the Boy Scouts of America might change their policy around the suitability of gays as registered members.  One reason I haven’t missed Scouting much is that I have so little time, and at this point, don’t have a lot of time to get involved in big discussions about the latest news.

Not being really big on holding grudges or thinking life has dealt me a raw deal, I can’t think about Scouting without having a big smile come across my face. It’s not that it wasn’t hard to realize that I couldn’t be in Scouting any more. I’ve always felt that they can take you out of Scouting, but they can’t erase your Scouting memories, memories like the trip to Wahtum Lake.

So,  I’m grateful for the time that I had. Some people have asked me if being asked to leave Scouting made it all seem useless. I say that it was all worth it. I can’t dig up one bad memory from those days.

When I recently wrote How Silence Feels, I was operating quite a bit out of character. I worried about how that piece might feel to my local church leaders. I was always told that criticizing leaders was the first sign of apostasy. I worried that the article would be taken as criticism, and I suppose in some ways, it was. It gets frustrating to see the subject of homosexuality treated like a dirty topic, because it leaves me feeling like they think I’m a dirty person.

If that article was dipping my toes in Eagle Creek, this one is jumping off of Lower Punchbowl Falls. I hope the waters aren’t too icy. I have faith in my Church leaders and hope they will understand the feelings I am about to express. Like my plunge into the cauldron, I don’t know what lies below the surface, but God has always taken care of me.

Just as I am no stranger to the controversy about the Boy Scouts of America and homosexuality, I am no stranger to the issues of being Mormon and gay, especially given my somewhat unorthodox point of view about it. When I say “unorthodox”, I mean I that don’t easily fit in any of the extreme camps on the subject. I’m committed to the Church and its teachings but I feel empathy for people who found it too difficult. Heaven knows I sometimes wonder how I manage it.

Don’t even ask me if I know the mind and will of God for others. I’m handling all I can to know His mind and will for me. I will say that I believe in my heart that most people are doing the best they can with what they have and know.

In the same way, I don’t now that I have a firm opinion about what the Boy Scouts of America should do. My gut feeling is that changing their policy is long overdue, because they have always failed to make a distinction between gay men who do and gay men who don’t have sex with other men.

I’m with the Supreme Court. A private organization ought to have the rights of free association and to choose the criteria upon which they decide eligibility. I think the government and the law should protect those rights.

At the same time, any private organization needs to behave with fairness and concern for others. An organization whose lifeblood is its members and volunteers needs to make tough decisions and listen to its members. I think that for a long time, BSA’s members have been calling for a more inclusive attitude.

My personal belief is that the BSA can maintain its excellent programs and ideals while being inclusive of those who are attracted to the same sex. I’ve never known the BSA to take a stand against sex before marriage. Many of their youth and adult members have strayed from that Christian ideal without any censure from the organization. I even knew two adult Scouters committing adultery with each other (heterosexually) and no consequences came from the BSA.

I’ve heard countless times from the Church that sex outside of marriage is wrong and the sex of the participants is irrelevant in judging that standard. Yet, I had an Assistant Scoutmaster who was excommunicated at the time for sexual sins and I, who has always been faithful to my wife, am not allowed to hold a Scouting calling.

It is this kind of paradox that I think the Boy Scouts of America and the religious institutions that sponsor it need to face. The Christian ideal of hate the sin but love the sinner needs to prevail. Either hold all Scouts and Scouters to a strict definition of sexual morality, or drop the criteria entirely.

All of this is a question of policy, and when people ask me, as many have lately, what I think of potential policy changes, I have so say that a policy change is a relatively minor thing. What I’m looking forward to is when the hearts of people change. That has always meant more to me.

For example, if things in the Church and the Boy Scouts of America were to change sufficiently to allow me to serve as a Scout leader again, would I do it? I probably wouldn’t.

I would first look for people to change. I fear I would always be eyed with suspicion. As one mother in an old ward did when I “outed” myself in a fireside, some parents will always gather their children to one side of the hall when I walk past.

One Sunday many years ago, before anyone knew about my experiencing same-sex attraction, we had a Scout Committee meeting. I was the Scoutmaster at the time. One mother stood up with me and my assistants in attendance and said, “We need to ask the bishop to call adult leaders that the boys can look up to.” I’m pretty sure she was referring to the fact that I hadn’t served a full-time mission for the Church.

The general authority who demanded I be released from my Scouting position never even tried to find out if I was being faithful to the teachings of the Church. All that he needed to know was that I dealt with same-sex attraction. No discussion allowed.

I just don’t feel that I’m ready to face people who continue to believe that a man like me is not a suitable role model for youth. Change the policies, please. Even more than that, work on the people. Years ago, I took myself out of Scouting and let someone talk me into joining again and accepting a position. To be so ignominiously removed after that was just about more than I could bear.

For now, I am content with the many other things I have to do.

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5 Responses to “Taking the Plunge”

  1. Colleen Naqshbandi said:

    Rex, you know that I love you and am proud of you in all ways. I can tell by your lovely wife and family that you are a good Latter Day Saint, a good and valiant husband and father. I have a huge problem with homophics and cringe while watching a program and someone will point out those who are gay. Gee, can’t they let people live their own lives? I could care less. There are still those who point out people who are “half caste” or use filthy words like “spik”, “n…..” (won’t even spell that one out) and I’m sure you know many others. Be aware of those who love you and love ’em back. Forget the others! They will be accountable from withholding love!

    Aunt Iona with love

  2. David John Weck Spooner said:

    Having had been raised on a farm in MI, went to a small school there in Dansville, MI, I know how SSA/SGA developed in me when I believed I found a best friend~in a boyhood pal, Johnny Wolfe. Who also lived on a farm serval miles down the road. The our/most popular teacher in our school, I later learned was gay. Along w/his brother Bonnie Bonnet, they lived there in the small village of Dansville in their late mother’s house. Bonnie was the local Boy Scout leader. And this in a small town where most everone knew each other!?! Johnny by the way was straight, don’t know if he ever married or if he is still alive.

  3. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Aunt Iona. I agree with you.

  4. Rex Goode said:

    David, you have an interesting story. Finding old friends is wonderful. I hope you find Johnny.

  5. Springs Of Water » Avowed said:

    […] registration of gay members, you know that I had my own run-in with the policy. You also know that I hope they will change their policy. I don’t really have any way of knowing where I stand with other Latter-day Saints, but a […]

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