The Church membership in the United States has been riveted by the stand-off between the Church and the Boy Scouts of America. Since the leadership of that organization voted to allow openly gay Scout leaders, with the caveat that local groups could determine their own rules on that account, the Church and the BSA appear to be on a collision course. Will the Church leave the Boy Scouts? Should it? What are the possible paths here, with their pros and cons?
What do you, our readers, think?
Full Citation for this Article: Editorial Board (2015) "Readers' Puzzle for Summer 2015: The Boy Scouts," SquareTwo, Vol. 8 No. 2 (Summer), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ReadersPuzzleSummer2015.html, accessed <give access date>
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I. B. Kent Harrison
Having worked in Scouts for fifty years, my wife Janyce and I have been firmly committed to the BSA. The Church and the BSA have had a long, close relationship. I think the Church will continue to sponsor units in the BSA until such time as gay groups begin to sue the Church. At that point, I have no doubt that the Church will sever its relationship with BSA and will institute a substitute program. We have been members of the Provo Peak Scouters, an honorary group, for about forty years and the group has already changed its name to Provo Peakers Association and its bylaws to allow recognition of leaders of boys, in whatever group they may hold membership, including the BSA. I am sure that the BSA will continue to do good work with boys, no matter what sexual orientation leaders may have, but I think the Church will have no choice except to sever the relationship as soon as its hand is forced.
Also, our ward for many years has had a program called "Huff 'n Puff", in which adult leaders take young women on a summer mountain hike, often to the Uintas. Of course, the BSA itself has had female leaders for many years, if only for the boys.
At our next Provo Peakers Association meeting, I will recommend a further change in our bylaws to the effect that we recognize leaders of youth, not just of boys, in any organization. That would set us in line with the Church, presuming that it does eventually drop the BSA and institutes a program for both boys and girls.
II. V H. Cassler
I am sure this must all be very painful for President Monson, who has been such a loyal and true friend of BSA for many years, even having been awarded the Silver Beaver. I can only imagine that until the Church feels that there is a legal threat it cannot win, Church troops will remain within the BSA framework. However, I'm also darn sure that the Church has a committee that has been tasked with putting together a new, non-BSA program that will be in place and ready to go immediately if and when that legal threat materializes. It is my fervent hope that that committee is also taking a look at Achievement Days and the Young Women's program, with an eye to exposing our young women to some of the tremendous opportunities that our young men have had through the BSA program. The disparity between the programs for the two sexes is so obvious that it's corrosive. In a way, moving to a new program could be a win-win for both our female and male youth, if Church administration was far-seeing about the current situation.
III. Neylan McBaine
I absolutely think the Church will leave the Boy Scouts, and it may very well be because of the BSA's changing stance on gay participation in the organization. I think the Church's most recent policy change regarding gay families solidifies this as a sticking point in their relationship. However, I think the BSA's openly gay leaders will be simply the public excuse for the break, while several other factors are also now contributing to the foundational rupture. These other factors include the fact that there is no equivalent of Boy Scouts for the girls of the Church, and the amount of time, money and effort that goes into Boy Scouts is not paralleled for our girls. While we as a church have lived with this disparity for several generations now, the imbalance is becoming intolerable as girls' leadership education is now just as vital as boys' in a global context. Additionally, the leadership education boys have received via Boy Scouts is no longer universally relevant and applicable as it was in past generations; the Church is less and less in the business of cultural education (think roadshows, etiquette balls, mutual songbooks, or any number of activities my parents remember). Rather, the Church has been developing the Duty to God program as a more effective program for spiritual education, a more culturally universal approach to teaching leadership, and more appropriate balance to the girls' opportunities. While the gay question may be the public catalyst for the break, it will not be the only factor.
IV. Michelle Brignone
I don’t think it matters whether the church leaves the Boy Scouts or not. The LDS church is the largest supporter of the BSA - the BSA needs the church more than the church needs the BSA. The church is quite capable of developing leadership skills in its youth (male and female) without teaching them how to tie a knot or start a fire without matches. Frankly, I think the scouting program is a little outdated, since we no longer live in a frontier environment. Granted, there are plenty of people who would disagree with me, my own eagle scout brothers included, but honestly, any program that discriminates against half of the population (women) should not hold such a coveted place in the church. I think the church, if it decided to leave the BSA, could easily develop a leadership program for ALL of the youth of the church that integrates a more holistic approach then the current scouting program offers.
V. Stephen Cranney
There are a couple of interrelated, albeit distinct, issues at play here. Whether the Church should leave specifically over the policy: this may be a little after-the-fact, but in general I guess I don't see the issue since exemptions were specifically carved out for local groups. Whether the Church should leave the BSA in general: when I think back about the influence that the Church's youth program had on my development, Boy Scouts trips loom larger by many factors than in-class YM activities. I think the strength of the BSA approach is that it encourages more of an active-learning approach, whereas I suspect that if the Church tried to create their own version of BSA it would be a slight variation on the YM program in general (heavy on scripture memorization, light on backpacking, when in certain circumstances backpacking is better for youth development than scripture chase). Keeping the BSA involvement might be the best way to assure that the backpacking is retained. Some have pointed out the discrepancy between the emphasis on the BSA and YW, but I think the solution here to make the YW more BSA-like than to make the YM experience more YW-like (e.g. include more high-adventure type activities in the YW program).