The BSA, the LDS Church, and Homosexuality

BSA

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) may soon welcome openly homosexual youths and leaders into its organization (1)(2)(3). The news has shaken many people in the Scouting organization and also in the Latter-day Saint community. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of the BSA’s largest contributors, as each of the LDS Church wards in the United States sponsors its own BSA troop for its Young Men organization.

The recent news of the BSA’s possible admittance of openly homosexual youths and leaders has caused some questioning concerning the LDS Church’s possible stance on the BSA. Will the Church pull away from the BSA? Will it continue its relationship? Will it amend its relationship with the BSA?

While I do not in any way speak for the Church, my position is that it doesn’t matter what the BSA does – the Church should continue its relationship with the boys’ organization. In other words, I don’t see any reason why the church would or should not continue to support the BSA.

Concerning leadership positions, the homosexual issue would not be a direct issue with LDS sponsored BSA troops. Troop organization is assigned by the Bishop through the Young Men organization. The Church’s policy is that non-acting homosexuals are to remain in full standing in the Church, and practicing homosexuals are not considered in full standing. This would make the point null-and-void for anyone who argues that practicing homosexuals could lead BSA troops. In addition, non-practicing gay leaders are “non-practicing” for a reason, and it seems odd indeed if such men would encourage and support behavior that they are themselves self-regulating against.

This same principle applies, for example, to any person who may have a propensity to view pornography or take harmful drugs but who does not indulge in the addiction. Such a person who has overcome supposedly immoral and addictive behavior is in full standing with the Church. As such, I see no reason why such a person with same sex attractions and with a propensity to pornography or drugs should be banned outright from the Young Men / Scouting organizations of the Church if they are in full standing. If these people are okay with the Lord and in full standing, and the Bishop is inspired to call them to an office with the Young Men and the Scouting program and organizations, then I actively sustain the person as well.

Concerning youth attendance, this ban would open up wide possibilities of influencing tomorrow’s generation in the homosexual community. Most religious anti-homosexual ideologies posit that homosexualism is immoral, and that if homosexuals associate with non-homosexuals that the non-homosexuals will be tempted and confused at their own sexual attractions in immoral behavior. I am left to wonder, if this position is true, how it is that the supposed morally superior side (i.e. the anti-homosexual side) is so easily succumb to immoral behavior by mere association. How is it that the morally superior idea is seen as so “strong” that it has need to be regulated to be sustained? It has always seemed to me that the morally superior idea is the one that is most convincing because it is right, and that, when actually implemented and followed by those who preach its doctrine, produces the greatest results. As such, if the anti-homosexual position really is morally superior, then it should actively support integrating homosexual youths into whatever programs they can – not exclude them – as a way of influencing the wayward youth towards the right way.

Homosexuality is an issue today that isn’t going away. The way Christianity and many members of the LDS Church have handled this situation is grotesque at best. If we as a people actually practiced our religion of inclusion and actually loved the sinner that we are now fighting against, this issue/problem would not have arisen to the level that it has today. The issue of homosexuality has become a scourge upon religious observers because of these observers’ failure to entreat perceived sinners as Christ would.

Let’s take the position, for argument’s sake, that homosexuality is a gravely immoral sin. The Church’s position is that any openly gay person, so long as they are not actively participating in homosexual behavior, is in good standing with the Church. Openly but non-practicing gay members of the Church can also hold temple recommends and hold callings. This is the same policy for any sinful propensity: the sin is not in the temptation, but in the act. As such, how can anyone disparage anyone in full standing in the Church for their propensity to sin? Are we not all sinners? Did President Dieter F. Uchtdorf not recently say “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you”?

I know several people who struggle with drug propensities, pornography propensities, anger issues, self-destructive issues, etc.. Yet, as youth leaders and Sunday school teachers, they do not promote their personal struggles as “normal,” “acceptable,” or “appropriate.” To say that an openly gay scout leader in good standing with the Church is going to inherently preach, expound, exhort, and promote his homosexuality in Church is grossly naive and is the very source of the harmful generalization and stigma against homosexuality that has created the problem we see today.

Sin everywhere is on the rise, but why? The root of sin is self-centeredness. In other words, it is pride (maintaining a “my will” vs. a “thy will” outlook). Instead of looking at the sin, why don’t we look at the cause? If we are to correct the sin, we must look at the cause. Simply treating the symptoms will do us no good. If we are to address the actual evils of our society, it is not to regulate against the person but to entreat the spirit of each individual to do good.

I see great benefit in bringing in strong members of the Church who struggle, or who have struggled, with certain things to teach in leadership positions – provided they actively seek and honestly desire to have the Spirit with them as they teach. The Spirit should be the qualifier in any classroom, not what sin the teacher is most apt to have or struggle with. (For clarification, I do see the wisdom in not letting former guilty and convicted pedophiles from teaching primary — since this was a sin that actively injured an innocent party — but the sins we are discussing here are not of that kind.)

Whether homosexuality is an inherent or a developed trait, I don’t know. I don’t really care. I believe that such a discussion is looking beyond the mark. But I do know that unless we start treating all sinners as ourselves –ourselves being sinners – then we are not true Christians.

Let openly gay men lead Scout troops, and let openly gay youths participate in the Troop activities. Let all learn how to be men of good character, morals, and truth. Let these principles carry the day.

As per the religious view of sin in general, we are commanded to help bear each other’s burdens in order to build Zion and the Kingdom of God, but we so often keep our burdens (whether trials, sins, etc.) so private that we exclude other helping arms. I do not believe we should “air our dirty laundry” at all times and places, but I believe Elder Quentin L. Cook’s words carry great weight, as he quote from President Thomas S. Monson,

 

“Find someone who is having a hard time, and do something for them.”

 

What would our society and world look like, especially among those in our Church who suffer from various types of sins, if we were to truly and humbly follow that simple phrase? We say we belong to a gospel of inclusion, it is time we start acting like it in meaningful and personal ways.

If homosexuality is sin, how are we to act except through “persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge” (D&C 121:41-42)? Our values, as Latter-day Saints, are of these principles, yet, in most cases, we have turned to ridicule, ostracizing, damnation, guilt, and separation. We have used government and law to regulate human behavior, instead of applying Christian principles of gentle persuasion to win this supposed “battle of morality.”

The BSA, the LDS Church, or any other individual, group, or institution should not be forced to accept or make policy against its own moral creed – let all live and worship “how, where, or what they may.” That said, whether the BSA accepts homosexual leaders and youths into its organization on its own accord, I am not opposed – especially as a Latter-day Saint who works in the Young Men’s program in my own ward. Let men and women of good character who have overcome amazing obstacles and personal trials and who have a living testimony of Jesus Christ teach our children. It matters not to me that they have propensity to sin differently than I do.

12 comments

  1. Daniel says:

    The LDS church (and the Savior) grants membership and full fellowship and attached blessings to homosexuals, as long as they commit to the same gospel principles as everyone else. I’m surprised the LDS church hasn’t put more pressure on the BSA to allow homosexuals to be members.

  2. Eric Collyer says:

    There have been some who implied a while back (10 years ago or so) that the LDS Church created its new Young Men program for the sole purpose of breaking away from the BSA should they ever accept homosexuality. I am not commenting as to whether this view is right or wrong, I just find it interesting that that this point has finally become an issue.

  3. Matthew Pilling says:

    Shiloh, there are some great thoughts here and I agree with your stance. That being said, I am curious what legal battles will be opened up if the Church pursues this path. In today’s litigious society, it seems more than likely that the moment an activist isn’t chosen for the leadership position they want in an LDS Sponsored Boy Scout Troop, there will be legal pressure brought against the Church to conform to the BSA standard or to disassociate. I don’t know that such proceedings would have any legal teeth, but I could easily see the possibility of such a case.

    • Shiloh says:

      Sadly, we have used government to remedy our own moral failures. If we are not on fire with a testimony of Christ, we cannot use that testimony to purge our own natural man — let alone help others purge their own natural man. As such, we turn to use force to solve issues that have grown out of hand in consequence of our failure to use patience, gentleness, meekness, persuasion, and love unfeigned.

      We have regulated, licensed, forced, coerced, limited, restricted, and criminalized our fellowman’s behavior instead of reaching our in Christian goodness. We, as a society of individuals, have used government improperly and thought we were being “individually responsible” and “personally accountable.” Ironically, in such regulation of others we have violated the very ethical basis and moral foundation of personally accountability and individually responsibility by getting government (i.e. legalized force) involved.

      What we are witnessing today is the fallout of our failure, as we — the supposed “moral majority” — are now on the receiving end of the game of “force.” The tactics that we adopted in our failure of truly turning to the Lord in reclaiming people are now being used against us — and we don’t like that.

      Until we, at some point, finally sit down as Christians and start actually practicing our faith in bringing all together in unity — realizing that we have all sinned and need a Savior, and stop bickering about the type of each others’ sins — we will forever going back and forth in this legal battle until everyone’s freedom is lost to godless tyranny.

  4. scott stover says:

    Shiloh, thanks for this perspective! It is important that it be considered carefully.

  5. Paul says:

    “yet, in most cases, we have turned to ridicule, ostracizing, damnation”

    Is there a difference between openly shunning behavior and shunning an individual? Are hey both wrong?

    • Shiloh says:

      We’ve often heard of “hating the sin, loving the sinner,” but I’m to a place in my life where I have too many personal weaknesses to overcome to focus on anyone else’s sin — I’ve got too much goin’ on to focus on mine.

      I don’t really want to “shun” anything. This does not mean that I want to “accept” everything, but I have only so much time and focus to go around. So, my answer and endeavor is to love those I come into contact with. Serve. Speak by example, and let the Spirit teach.

  6. tremain says:

    Great article Shiloh! We can accept homosexuals without condoning sin. The most important distinction made, in my opinion, is that the sin is in the act, not the temptation. We should all be more tolerant of each others unique propensity to sin and be willing to both seek and offer support in resisting such propensities through the power of Christ. The result would not only be less sin, but more progress toward Christ-like character.

  7. Brent says:

    Good points and perspectives all around. The fly in the ointment, as I see it, is that people who adopt homosexual behavior are fairly unique in seeing said behavior as “who they are” as opposed to just something they do. It is also one of the few sins that the Lord places in the “abomination” category. This gives rise to emotional distortions on both sides of the issue. As a society, if nothing else, we have a duty to love the sinner while abhorring the sin. However, Matthew Pilling points out the “pink elephant in the middle of the living room” reality of what is most likely to happen should an LDS Boy Scout leader be “uncalled” due to acting out or simply be found promoting this type of sinful behavior in some way – something they would do in the case of someone whose sin of choice (a whole other issue) were of a different variety. This is easily as difficult a situation as being forced by the Government to offer health care to its employees that would include funding for on-demand abortions.

  8. Julie says:

    The point you’re missing, though, is that it’s about the BOYS. Ministering, as adults, to those struggling with homosexuality is not the same as exposing our children to them. The BSA ban is on those “open and avowed” — in other words, those who are comfortable with their sin and living that lifestyle. It’s not about banning those who do not PRACTICE it. Let’s not confuse the two. Just as someone openly practicing and embracing homosexuality would not be allowed full membership in the church, it is they that the BSA ban.

  9. Amber says:

    This is a very convincing argument, but I have a technical question about the word “open.” In the Church, we generally do not announce our sins to others. If, in a private interview, we’re asked by the Bishop if we have said sin, yes we honestly confess, but we’re not encouraged to stand up in a church meeting a confess our anger problem or pornography weakness and such (in fact, I remember hearing some memos reminding people that the pulpit is for bearing testimonies, not for confessions or gratitude lists or travel logs). Every now and then, one may volunteer such information during a discussion, but usually only to help illustrate how the Gospel or the Atonement has helped them overcome it, and this is very rare in my experience, and usually only done with “minor” sins, like being lazy. I typically can live in a ward for years and years and never know that Sister so-and-so ever took crack and abused her children. So what is the definition of “open”? If it means the same thing that’s done with these other major sins (being honest about it, but not announcing it for the entire ward to hear), then I know it’s not treated any differently and I accept it. But it’s another matter if they put it forth as part of their identity and just add the disclaimer “but I don’t practice it.”

  10. Richard says:

    Do we allow heterosexual men to lead young women groups? How comfortable would you be with a 21 year old man taking your 17 year old daughter on a campout by himself? Even if he is a member in good standing, why would you ever create that situation? Do you think a 21 year old man is not attracted to a 17 year old woman? I see no difference with letting a gay man, however worthy he may be, take 16 year old boys out camping. Sure, things will probably be OK, but in the Church we are much more cautious than that. I think it’s unwise to even create the situation.

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