The Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts

When 15-year-old Jose Vasquez found himself in a plane wreck with one person dead and three others seriously injured, he used skills he learned as a Boy Scout to save their lives. And now three people have another chance at life because he knew what to do.

I’m going to guess that those three people don’t care who taught Jose how to save their lives. I bet they don’t care if his instructors were male or female, gay or straight, black, white, yellow or any shade in-between. Because the only thing that matters is that a volunteer Scout leader taught him lifesaving skills he clearly put to very good use. Emphasis here should be put on the word “volunteer”, because no one gets paid to teach boys these skills. Instructors do it either because their Scouting experience was so wonderful that they want to pass it down to another generation or because they believe in the Scout’s mission and want to be part of the proud Scouting heritage.

It should be noted that at no point does the issue of sexuality come up in this scenario because it simply has no place in the discussion. Gay instructors are no more likely to hit on the boys in their care – because they are gay, not pedophiles! – than heterosexual instructors are likely to hit on girls they teach. If this weren’t generally true, we could never allow a male teacher to instruct female students.

This is on my mind because of the recent decision by the national Boy Scout hierarchy to allow gay men to be Boy Scout leaders, a decision that has upset the Mormon Church.

I have what can only be called a love/hate relationship with the Mormon Church. On the one hand, I have watched Mormon families in this state take in foster children who had some pretty significant issues and never give up on them. No matter what the acting out, no matter how damaged, they never gave up trying to help those kids until the child was either returned to their birth family, aged out of the system or went to jail.  Foster parents are the front line soldiers in our attempt to help children born into less than ideal circumstances and the Mormon families I’ve worked with in this regard have been uniformly amazing. But then the Mormon Church threatens to stop sponsoring the Boy Scouts because the national organization has decided to allow gay people to participate and I wonder how they can reconcile that stance with their clear love of children and family.

How can the Mormon Church be so open, accepting and loving to children with such significant problems while turning their backs on boys and men who want to be part of a tradition that helps create productive, positive adults. The Mormon Church would deny this to them based simply on who they love. What can that possibly have to do with teaching boys how to tie knots?

Scouting’s national leadership has made it clear that local troops associated with churches can continue as members of the organization even if they follow their own rules when it comes to allowing gay boys and men to participate. While I understand why they might do that, I don’t understand why it’s necessary. All this does is continue to foster the stereotype of gay men as sexual predators and, even worse, as sexual predators of children. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once again, homosexual and pedophile are two completely different things.

I truly believe that the more inclusive our world is, the better chance this whole planet has for surviving the next couple of hundred years. Old categories of separation fall away with each passing year. Women are in combat divisions. Men are nurses. Skin color is recognized by more and more people as just that, a color that has nothing to do with a person’s character or soul. And now the Boy Scouts have joined the 21st Century in accepting all boys and men as worthy until proven otherwise.

If only those churches that purport to carry a message of a merciful and loving god could finally understand that god doesn’t condemn the love two consenting adults share, anymore than He or She actually takes attendance on Sundays to determine who spends eternity in heaven.