I am saddened and disappointed by the LDS Church’s decision to leave the Scouts BSA (formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America).
I have fond memories of scouting in my LDS Church-sponsored troop as a young boy. I remember attending summer camp at Steiner and East Fork of the Bear, where I learned to rappel and paddle a canoe. I broke both of my legs in (separate) accidents on scout trips and once had to be airlifted out of Big Cottonwood Canyon in a helicopter, but that didn’t stop me! I stuck with it and eventually earned my Eagle, as did my four younger brothers.
As a parent I now have boys who would prefer to sit on the couch and look at their phones than get out into the mountains. While I try to take my kids camping and hiking on my own, the Boy Scouts provides a structured program to introduce them to things that most families rarely do these days.
I don’t know many parents who have the energy to spend a weekend teaching their kids to build a tower out of lodge pole pines, shoot a gun, sail a boat, weave a basket or tie knots.
Of course non-Mormon troops will still be available, but I’d be willing to bet that most active Mormons will not send their boys to a scout troop that welcomes girls, let alone LGBT leaders and kids.
Another benefit of the scouting program here in Utah was that it provides a place for Mormon and non-Mormon kids to meet together. Church-sponsored troops welcomed boys of all faiths in the neighborhood and troop meetings and outings were (generally) free from proselytizing. Will the church’s replacement program be similarly inclusive?
According to the Deseret News, the new program “will focus on strengthening faith” and encourage children “to develop spiritually, socially, physically and intellectually as they seek to follow Jesus Christ.”
Not exactly a recipe for inclusivity.
As the BSA moves towards acceptance of girls and LGBT kids and leaders, the LDS Church is moving in exactly the opposition direction. The church and its members are becoming increasingly isolated from their non-member neighbors and society at large. And that, unfortunately, may be the point.
The bottom line for me is that this decision harms LDS children. They will be further separated from non-members in the neighborhood, less exposed to the great outdoors, and excluded from experiences that push them to try new things.
And of course they will be even more isolated from people who think, look or act differently than they do. God forbid.
Mark Pugsley is an attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah.