Last week the Boys Scouts of America changed their name to reflect a change of accepting girls. This week major Scouting sponsor, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced they will discontinue their association with Scouting at the end of 2019.
|President Thomas S. Monson with Scouts|
April 13, 2002
image from here
It looks like cause and effect. But I don’t believe that’s really accurate.
So, what I’m about to present are my personal views; I am in no way a spokesperson for either the Church or Scouting. But I have an insider’s view of both. So, maybe I can help offer some understanding.
Let’s start with what I see as the Church’s viewpoint.
For the past century the Church has adopted Boy Scouting as the activity program for their young men, starting with Cub Scouts at age 8 (so not including Tiger Cubs at age 7), and up through Boy Scouts, including Explorers, Venturers, and/or Varsity Scouts for ages 14-17. This has always been in addition to the larger youth program that teaches young men to grow into spiritual leaders in their homes and communities.
A year ago, the Church announced that it would discontinue the Boy Scout program for boys age 14+. For a very long time, the Boy Scout program for older boys has not been a good fit for the Church. With few exceptions, the Church has sponsored a troop for each congregation, called a ward, including the units from Cubs on up. But outside the Church, the older groups are designed to attract young men (and some young women) with similar individual interests, rather than the general interests of all the Boy Scouts in a unit’s neighborhood. So youth leaders have long struggled with various iterations, trying to make the program work for all the young men in a particular ward.
In other words, Boy Scouting has never been all there was for youth in the Church, because it has never been enough.
Add to that the fact that, for the past 22 years (since February 1996), there are more Church members outside the United States than inside. While Boy Scouts exist in some other countries, the reality is that the majority of boys in the Church have never had access to Boy Scouting.
That means the Church has long been developing a full, worldwide program for youth. That, program, along with changes for young women, was what was announced this week.
When the Church discontinued the Scouting program for older boys, the Church nevertheless paid sponsorship throughout the year as though they were still sponsoring those boys. In other words, the Church went out of its way to prevent its withdrawal from doing harm to the Boy Scout national organization.
|Boy Scouts perform flag ceremony in the Mormon Tabernacle|
in honor of Constitution Day celebration September 18, 2009
image from here
Now we come to the announcement this week. The Church is giving more than a year and a half for the BSA to prepare and rearrange their budget and planning. It will be a significant adjustment. As the news has been announcing, that’s a loss of about 425,000 boys nationwide. In the Sam Houston Area Council, where we live, about 3,400 LDS boys in 221 units make up about 10% of Boy Scout membership, and about 17% of the total units, along with their budgets, a portion of which goes to support the Council and the national BSA organization.
In Utah, I don’t have access to the numbers, but I’m guessing Boy Scout membership is probably north of 70%, and the budget might be more than that. That will include property, such as scout camps, which are outright gifted to the Boy Scouts.
Non-LDS boys have always been welcome in LDS troops. And after the pull-out, LDS boys will still be welcome in other community troops. But, in Utah especially, it will be a much smaller organization than it has been.
The Church could have simply made the announcement and gone ahead immediately. If they were reacting to last week’s name change or something else, that’s what you would expect. Instead, they’ve tried to make the transition as easy on BSA as possible. Why would they do that, unless they wanted the Boy Scouts to continue on without them?
In the joint statement made by the Church and BSA on May 8th, they say this:
While the Church will no longer be a chartered partner of BSA or sponsor Scouting units after December 31, 2019, it continues to support the goals and values reflected in the Scout Oath and Scout Law and expresses its profound desire for Scouting’s continuing and growing success in the years ahead.
|Scout Oath and Law|
The Scout Oath and Law, as I’ve written before, are a very good guide for civilization. [In fact, I’ve written about Scouting here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.]
About the timing. For those paying any attention, the Church has been going through some major changes in the past few months. Our beloved Prophet Thomas S. Monson passed away in early January; he was a lifelong champion of the Boy Scouts, but it is obvious that any changes happening now were in the planning stages for a long time and had his full support. His successor, President Russell M. Nelson, is age 93 already—older than President Monson was. But he just finished a worldwide tour, and has been so full of energy it leaves many of us breathless. (He still skis with his grandchildren, by the way.) He is wasting no time putting changes into action.
None of these changes are doctrinal. All of them are designed to put more responsibility for our own spiritual growth on ourselves, from children on up, and for helping us put the gospel into action by ministering to one another. This has included changes in local priesthood quorums, retiring the visiting teaching and home teaching programs and changing them into more integrated ministering programs. There have been changes in what young people (ages 12+) are able to do in our temples—which follows lowering the ages for missionaries, a change that came about just a few years ago.
We’re getting so we’re expecting a new announcement every week. So the announcement this week—which was expected eventually, after last year’s ending of Scouting for 14+—is timed for the Church’s needs, and not in response to any BSA policy or name change.
Now for my view of the Boy Scouts.
|Boy Scout badges, image from here|
Here’s a brief timeline related to current issues:
· 1907 Boy Scouts are founded in Great Britain by Robert Baden Powell.
· 1910 Boy Scouts of America begins founded by W. D. Boyce.
· 1912 Girl Scouts are organized in America by Juliette Gordon Low, patterned after the Boy Scouts, but always a separate organization.
· 1913 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adopts Scouting as its activity program for boys.
· 1969 BSA begins allowing young women to join Explorer posts wherever chartering organizations allow.
· 2000 After years of litigation, BSA prevails in the US Supreme Court’s ruling in “Boy Scouts of America v. Dale,” which means BSA and other private organizations have the right to set membership standards, including exclusions of homosexual Scouts and Scout leaders.
· 2000+ Despite the legal victory, BSA faces persecution and exclusion from organizations, institutions, and facilities over their exclusion of openly homosexual members (as Scouts or leaders).
· Meanwhile, BSA tightens its training and rules to prevent molestation of youth, even as NAMBLA prints materials telling predators how to infiltrate youth organizations, particularly BSA[i].
· 2012 BSA’s 11-person national committee reaches “unanimous consensus” that continuing to exclude homosexuals from Scouting was in the best interest of Scouting.
· 2013 More than 1400 BSA volunteer leaders nationwide vote to accept all boys into Scout troops, regardless of sexual orientation; local entities retained the ability to abide by church beliefs. This became policy January 2014. Mr. Perry, the National President, said, “Everyone agrees on one thing, no matter how you feel about this issue, kids are better off in Scouting.”[ii]
· 2015 In July “open or avowed homosexual” adults were no longer banned from youth leadership.
· 2017 In January BSA began allowing transgendered boys (i.e., biological girls who see themselves as boys) to participate in BSA troops.
· 2017 In October BSA announces it will begin having Cub Scout dens for girls, and in 2019 will begin having regular BSA troops for girls (local units will have separate dens or troops for girls, and will not include girls within boy troops).
· 2018 On May 2nd a name change was announced, from Boy Scouts of America to Scouting BSA, to accommodate the addition of girl troops into Scouting.
· 2018 On May 8th The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announces plans to end its relationship as a sponsoring organization as of December 31, 2019.
The Boy Scouts have been pummeled for literally decades now, by people who, rather than start an organization catering to their own values, have insisted that the Boy Scouts become something different.
You’ve heard of the slippery slope. The Boy Scouts continue with the same Scout Oath and Law they have always had. But society around them, instead of recognizing those values, has derided and persecuted them.
In our Church, youth with same-sex attraction were never disallowed from any troop I’m aware of. However, there’s an assumption—because it’s in the Scout Oath as well as part of the religion—that the boys are not sexually active. A boy with same-sex attraction would receive the same level of care and attention as any other boy (maybe more, simply out of concern for him in his challenges). But the Church would never have supported a boy’s acting on those impulses, any more than it would have encouraged heterosexual boys to be sexually active.
Legally the Boy Scouts won their case in 2000. And they continued to stand strong for yet another dozen years. People who insisted that homosexual sex was not a sin told the Boy Scouts, who weren’t even accepting illicit heterosexual sex, that they needed to conform. The method of persuasion was persecution and pressure, to the point that Boy Scouts could no longer use public facilities, including many schools. Some schools even refused to allow them to recruit, or pass out informational flyers—while Girl Scouts and other organizations were allowed.
Every step of change has included considering, “How can we do what’s best for the boys?” Sometimes the decision went something like, “If we give in on this point, the pressure will go away, and it will have very minimal impact on the organization overall.” That was certainly true for allowing boys with same-sex attraction.
|At this year's District Awards Dinner,|
Mr. Spherical Model accepted
the Chartered Partner Award on behalf
of our local Church jurisdiction
Later, with the increased protection policies and training, there was less risk for allowing homosexual adult leaders, although there was the loss of leaders who would model only moral sexual behavior—i.e., marriage. I would have preferred they’d stayed strong on this. Unlike for boys, at this point it became about, not what a boy thinks, but what an adult does.
The transgender policy was another step with very little impact. The number of actual transgender teens is tiny, and the number of those individuals who would choose to join themselves to an organization with the Scout Oath and Law would be much tinier. And local organizations always retained their freedom.
Now, about girls joining.
The insider view looks more family friendly than feminist. What happens is that families who support their sons in Scouting also have girls. Those girls end up tagging along at those Scout activities. I did this myself, decades ago, as an unofficial Cub Scout. I did the field trips and the crafts. I just didn’t get any badges—and I didn’t get to make a pinewood derby car. But I was there, because, where else was I supposed to go?
So girls have been hanging around, unofficially for a long time. Or, sometimes the family gets split up trying to support a Girl Scout troop as well. During the few years when we had Boy Scouts and a Girl Scout at the same time, we divided duties that way, and kept ourselves very busy. But, as I’ve said before, the Girl Scout program wasn’t ever up to the level of the Boy Scout program.[iii]
What most families who will have girls join Scouting want is to have the whole family together. That does not mean the girls will be in the boys’ troops. It means that they’re hoping the sponsoring organization—their school, their church, their Kiwanis Club—will also sponsor a unit for girls. Then they can share some of the leadership, and can coordinate.
So you might have the boys’ troop meet on one side of the school cafeteria and the girls’ troop on the other. The family goes together to the same place at the same time. And the girls get a better program than they were offered before.
Girls have been part of older Boy Scout units—the Explorers, including the Sea Scouts—for decades, even in the same troops as boys. This is simply an expansion to younger ages, with more continued separation at the Cub and Scout levels.
Would I have liked this opportunity for my daughter? I might have. Much of it was about associations with friends, and meeting her needs. So I can’t be certain I’d have signed her up. But, because of my familiarity with Boy Scouts, I would have been willing to consider it.
It would be interesting to see the alternate universe in which the Scouts never gave in at all, regardless of the persecution. But, at the local level, among those who give all those thousands of volunteer hours for their kids, they’re still going by that Scout Oath and Law. And I hope they can hang on for the next generation.
[i] Jeffery Curley, age 10, was raped and murdered Oct. 1 1997. The perpetrators had in their possession NAMBLA materials, as well as a book, “Rape and Escape,” published by NAMBLA. They used an idea from the NAMBLA materials to lure the boy. The family sued NAMBLA for its contribution to the murder of their son; the ACLU defending NAMBLA pro bono, claiming NAMBLA has 1st amendment rights to free speech; ironically, the ACLU requested a gag order against the prosecution and asked for witnesses who testified in the Curley case concerning the NAMBLA information to be disallowed.
[ii] “Boy Scouts End Longtime Ban on Openly Gay Youths,” by Erik Eckholm, New York Times, May 23, 2013: https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/24/us/boy-scouts-to-admit-openly-gay-youths-as-members.html
[iii] We participated in Girl Scouts up through her Silver Award. But changes like this show why we didn’t want to further the relationship: “Girl Scouts Now Allowing Adult Males to Share Female Restrooms and Changing Rooms With Children as Young as 5” It isn't feminists who want to join the Boy Scouts; it's people who don't want that agenda pushed on their daughters who are likely to join Boy Scouts.