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Is the Boy Scouts of America Really Trying to Be Like the Church?

Scouting’s Different Direction

By Rex Goode


Several weeks ago, the Boys Scouts of America announced that they were considering lifting the national organization’s ban on homosexual scouts and scout leaders, leaving the policy-making on the issue up to the local sponsoring organizations. At first, the announcement was met with accolades, but later faced opposition from conservative sponsoring institutions and local Scouting organizations.

Notable among those organizations was the Great Salt Lake Council, a preponderance of whose sponsoring institutions are units of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Though the Church itself declined to comment, the cultural influence of the members of the Church in the Council no doubt was at the heart of the push to urge the BSA to abandon its proposed changes.

Now, weeks later, the BSA is back in the news, proposing a compromise that would allow youth members who are gay to remain but continue to ban adult leaders. As before, the initial reaction seemed positive, but for people like me that are affected by the ban on adult leaders, it still stinks.

On the surface, it seems like a well-meaning offer. Why not at least make an effort to include youth? Deep down, I find it offensive on a couple of fronts.

Firstly, I’ve never been a big believer in a cure. I know some claim to have been cured and I don’t question them, but most of the people I know who tried to get cured gave up on it long ago. What this compromise seems to say to me is that the BSA will let a young homosexual deal with his problem until he turns 18, and then he’d better be cured if he’s going to have any opportunity to give back to the organization as an adult.

Secondly, the focus has still not been removed from the blind homophobia that has always been at the root of the BSA’s policies. I can’t prove it, but I would bet if you did a survey of members of the national organization to find out how many youth were passed for the Eagle award who were heterosexually active, you would discover a double standard. Between heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior, only the latter is official grounds for denying an Eagle award.

I do not know for sure, because I saw some boys slip through, but I would think that the Church would consider any sexual behavior by a youth as a deal-breaker for earning an Eagle award. Considering the Church’s stance on sex outside of marriage, known as its “Law of Chastity”, extramarital sex is a serious sin and the sexes of the two involved is irrelevant.

This dilemma is not just a matter of the youth and their behavior. In the Church, sex outside of marriage is serious enough to warrant disciplinary action, putting a person’s standing in the Church at risk, and usually disqualifying them from holding any “callings” in their local church units.

Yet, in my personal experience, I have served in Scouting callings with a few different men who were under the discipline of the Church, including men who were currently excommunicated for adultery. Being excommunicated didn’t seem to disqualify them for a calling in the Church’s scouting program and hence for registration as a leader in the Boy Scouts of America.

As a die-hard Scouter, I spent a lot of time in Scouting activities outside of the Church. I served both as a member of and as a director of a district training team. I was trained at Woodbadge and went to a few district and council activities. There, I got to know a lot of non-LDS Scouters and discovered many that were sexually active without the benefit of marriage. It wasn’t uncommon to find a man as a Scout leader who was living with a woman, even fathering children with her but not marrying her.

I don’t recall any raised eyebrows about that. I even knew a man and woman, both registered Scout leaders, who were having an affair. The man was married. You know, boys will be boys, unless the boy likes boys. Then he’s not a boy anymore. He’s something else.

I hear lots of talk about how these potential policy changes will bring the BSA more in line with the Church’s teachings. What people mean by that is that the Church policy doesn’t focus on an identity as a gay or straight. The Church focuses on whether a person is keeping the Law of Chastity.

I think that the only way the BSA can resolve this is to either drop the ban on homosexuals or institute a ban on heterosexuals who are having sex outside of marriage. Of course, that raises the question of same-sex marriage.

People keep talking about same-sex marriage as a threat to the institution of marriage. I don’t entirely disagree. I’m conservative enough to think marriage should remain between a man and a woman. What I don’t believe is that homosexuality is the biggest threat to marriage.

In my opinion, the biggest threat to marriage doesn’t come from homosexuals. It comes from heterosexuals that have turned their back on the traditional value of abstinence from sex outside of marriage. Marriage is increasingly becoming a mockery, a quaint tradition to get around to years after trying everyone out.

In some ways, it seems that gay people who want the right to marry are more supportive of the idea of marriage than the current culture of straight people.

Where are the bans on people who don’t hold with the sanctity of marriage? Why can a shacker-upper or a serial adulterer be a Scout leader and I, who have been faithful to my wife of 35 years, can’t? Why can a youth who is having sex with the cheerleader squad become an Eagle Scout but a gay youth who is maintaining his celibacy can’t?

The earlier idea the BSA had was better. Let the individual sponsoring institutions decide. Let the churches qualify Eagle Scouts based on their adherence to the teachings of that church.

There is a list of virtues known as the Scout Law. These virtues are:

  • Trustworthy
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Friendly
  • Courteous
  • Kind
  • Obedient
  • Cheerful
  • Thrifty
  • Brave
  • Clean
  • Reverent

Perhaps one of those virtues should have been, “Chaste.” It really isn’t necessary, because that should be adequately covered by Clean and Reverent.

I believe in the Law of Chastity as taught by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I always have. Though it has not been easy for me to keep it considering my distinctly gay feelings, I have been spiritually blessed by following my conscience in spite of any other consideration. With the Church, that counts for something. With the Boy Scouts of America, it apparently counts for nothing.

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7 Responses to “Is the Boy Scouts of America Really Trying to Be Like the Church?”

  1. Steve said:

    Dear friend, you are, of course, correct about the incorrect BSA policy and the incompletely correct new BSA proposal. I’m amazed that they haven’t been disqualifying people for immoral behavior and teaching morality more clearly. I sure hope you share your message with decision-makers at BSA HQ and in major sponsoring churches.

    The BSA leadership, in their proposal to allow what they call “gay” Scouts while continuing to exclude what they call “gay” adult leaders, seems to be recognizing that many young people are still trying to understand homosexual feelings, and I was glad to read that they also recognize that nobody the age of Scouts should be involved in any kind of sexual behavior. They must preserve the teachings of Scouting about morality and purity.

    The real problem with these proposals is that they don’t seem to be defining very well who is covered under the unfortunately ambiguous label “gay.” (And some of the Church’s own use of that term has added confusion, also.) There is a huge difference, for example, between someone who experiences attractions for his own gender and wants to deal with it in ways that will help him in his eventual family life and someone who accepts worldly gay philosophies of self-identification and promotion of gay living. You can’t label everyone as “gay” with policies like these who experience same-gender attractions. Some adults and youth with such feelings are perfectly appropriate for Scouting, and some are quite inappropriate.

  2. Rex Goode said:

    Thanks, Steve.

  3. Ross said:

    I’m in no way an expert on scouting, quite the opposite.

    Personally, I don’t want scouts to have anything to do with sex. I’m dismayed they allow women and girls into scouting, especially on long campouts.

    I have heard many stories about boys teaching each other about sex on overnight campouts. The last campout I overheard one of our more troublesome boys explaining the whole concept of “First base, second base etc” to some younger scouts. I regret the way I handled that situation and wish I could get a do over.

    I don’t feel comfortable with having boys who are same sex attracted sharing tents with other boys at night given what I’ve seen and heard going on between those attracted to the opposite sex. At the same time the last thing I want to do is ostracize a good young man who is same sex attracted. They feel ostracized enough on their own.

    I’m not sure what the right solution is here. My opinion for the last three years has been that it is time for the church and the Boy Scouts of America to part company. Our values are no longer in step with one another.

  4. Rex Goode said:

    Ross, I’ve been busy lately but wanted to respond to you. The real problem is not with the BSA, with same-sex attracted boys on campouts, or with same-sex attracted leaders. It is with the encroaching worldly attitudes that infiltrating our youth through the media, through school, and through their friends. Campouts become a place to spread the word, but the word begins elsewhere.

    I don’t really think the Church does a good job of teaching our values about sexuality to our youth. I think we’re still way too afraid of frankness and directness. What we are unwilling to discuss, the schools, media, and friends are all too willing.

  5. J said:

    Hey Rex,

    Currently, I do not believe the BSA is following its own principles and virtues. The scouts are not here to teach discrimination. They are here, in part, to promote tolerance. In the Scout Law, as pointed out above, there isn’t a section or clause stating an exception for homosexuals or any one else.

    If the church wants to interfere then maybe they should start their own scouting program. By doing this it will be able to control who has access to the program. Granted, scouts has been used a recruiting tool for the church. It has also been a way to integrate non-LDS in with LDS to show we are all the same just having different beliefs. Growing up in the scouting program in SLC I can tell you that the non-LDS scouts didn’t last long due to the LDS church influence.

    With respect, I want to address the camp out comment. As a gay youth I went on the monthly camp outs and the week long camp outs. I can tell you I was more afraid of the others finding out more than anything. I had no problem sleeping in a tent with a fellow scout. Most gay youth are not trying to have sex with everyone. They are just trying to fit in and be accepted for who they are.

    I’m also glad you brought up the point about gay marriage. Heterosexuals are the greatest threat to heterosexual marriage. With divorce rates around 50%. Drive thru wedding chapels. tv shows (bachelor), etc. Where has the sanctity of marriage gone? It’s definitely not the homosexuals that are making it happen.

    Ok.. I think I’ve rambled on enough. Great conversation feed.

  6. Rex Goode said:


    Thanks. I was like you. I would not have told anyone on a Scout campout. I’ve heard very little of homosexual stuff while being a protective Scoutmaster, except for some hazing plans that I thought were not really about being gay as much as about humiliating someone. I did hear one boy speaking to an enthralled small gathering of other boys from the ward when he thought I was at the mess hall. He was regaling them with a story about his sexual escapades with his best friend. To this day, I’m not sure if he was being honest or just appealing to their adolescent curiosity. He didn’t get very far as I walked into camp and he was more careful about it in the future.

    That was twenty years ago. I don’t know how long ago you were a Scout, but it does happen.

    One of the most annoying attitudes I’ve come across is when people assume that I’m trying to get into the pants of every man I meet, as if we have no tastes or preferences other than one anatomical part. Such people are dirty-minded.


  7. The One Baboo and Elle Hate Most said:

    Hi SexyRexy,

    I agree with you about the real threat to the institution of marriage.
    Though as to the issue of future Scout Troop’s Sexuality, gay of not every Scout needs the Right to be able to attend camp without the worry of being ‘shagged’ or ‘hit on continually/ pressured to perform’ by others in the Group.
    The Scout group is not a family or even a completely friend group, its people that are random or share a common association. Thereby rules must be defined for the group.
    But I think you missed something of subject:
    While there are the homosexuals that just want to be part of the scouting program, and not spring board it for their own sexual benefit, there are also the predator homosexuals, both among the adults and even the youth, that would take the position that: sure the camping is fun but it’s time for meat.
    The only Realistic solution is for the B.S.A. to allow each Troop to define its own rules, and give Troop’s a element of privacy at multi-troop camps.
    When recruiting new Scouts, each Troop would need to declare its rules then and there.
    Gays and Straights could both enjoy the benefits of scouting with this policy. Unfortunately that won’t be enough for the Neo-homosexuals, that will insist that mere scouting is not enough for homosexuals. Such would insist on being admit-able to any Troop; which will suppress the rights of the heterosexuals. Leading to (as you talked about) the invalidation to the core values of scouting.
    And just so its said ole Mr Anti-Christ-Obama needs to stay the %#&8@& Out of it.

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