BFFs With the Mormons Except When We’re Totally Not

With the recent decision from BSA to allow openly gay scouts, a number of long-time scouting supporters were, and continue to be, upset. So upset, in fact, that a new program has been established: “Trail Life USA – the new Christian-based alternative that excludes openly gay boys.”  

Naturally, the question on everyone’s mind, of course, is whether our super-allies will let us Mormons join. Will “Trail Life USA” become the new official Activity Wing of the Aaronic Priesthood? Let’s consult Trail Life USA’s FAQ page for answers!

Would Mormons or potential Mormon troops be welcomed in your organization?

  • We certainly respect Mormons. However, Mormons would not participate in our program as a denomination because of our specific Statement of Faith which holds a belief in the Trinity, which is not in step with Mormon theology. The Mormon Church has issued an official edict that the recent change in membership requirements at the BSA is not at odds with Mormon theology, so Mormons as a denomination are not leaving the BSA at this time.

Well, at least that’s resolved!


  1. Check the newspaper picture. They have an awesome group salute. Even the black kid is doing it.

  2. Good riddance to them. I hope they make a mass exodus from the BSA, and leave our kids to earn their Eagles and accept their gay peers in peace. (This from a mom who has been somewhat ambivalent on the ties between the BSA and the Church until this particular moment…)

  3. That salute is unbelievable. Can people be so unaware? Or is that on purpose? (Even worse.)

  4. It’s not a salute, they’re acting out part of a song. Manipulative media representation, indeed. I don’t care for the BSA, which seems to me to be a big money suck, and I don’t care for the Trail Life group either, but I think that using that picture was really lousy. I notice it’s not associated with the article anymore, but I think the damage has been done, at least among my Facebook friends. Lame.

  5. The picture is not of a “salute”. If you click through and read the caption they are in the middle of a song that includes arm movements.

  6. RobotCrow says:

    I’m still seeing it on the article–though you make a valid point. I didn’t realize the caption indicated it was a still from a song. In any case, I’ve pulled the image.

  7. Uh… Ditto, Villate.

  8. What song are they singing? “Deutschland Uber Alles” perhaps?

  9. So, are the uniforms chocolate brown shirts and caps?

  10. “also, they endorsed the thing that prompted us to form a separate organization, so there’s that”

  11. Instead of merit badge sashes, they get arm-bands. Can’t wait for a video showing them march, I mean, hike.

  12. RobotCrow says:

    Okay, seriously–enough with the Nazi thing. It’s an out-of-context still image. Godmakers did the same thing with Popcorn Popping years and years ago.

  13. “I looked out the window and what did I see?
    Planets populating for eternity…”

    At least that’s what I think we sang in Primary. There was another verse about celestial reproduction, with a word that rhymed with “populating”, but we didn’t learn that until later.

    And speaking of childishness, this organization sounds like the kid who runs home with the game ball because he’s afraid of losing.

  14. Dave K. says:

    Nuts! I was hoping to switch to a group whose official uniform is even less strict than BSA Class B’s. If it makes you feel better, jews are also excluded. And they didn’t even bother to include a Q/A post about muslims.

    According to the article, the Trail Life Oath calls on the boys in part “to serve God and my country, to respect authority, and to be a good steward of creation.” I wonder if “creation” includes stuff that is older than 6,000 years, like the goblin valley pillars.

  15. On a similar note, I giggled quite a bit at Albert Mohler’s testimony/testimony against Mormon teachings in the BYU forum last week: “My confidence is in the Lord, the unchanging God of the Bible, who revealed himself in the Bible and who redeems sinners through the atonement accomplished by his Son, Jesus Christ, who was both fully human and fully divine. My confidence is in the Gospel revealed by Christ and preached by the Apostles — the Gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. I believe in the saving acts of Christ in his death, burial, and bodily resurrection from the grave. I believe that the Bible is our sufficient written revelation, inerrant and infallible and unchanging. I believe that God’s promise of salvation will be fulfilled and that all he has promised in Christ will be given. I believe in the truth unchanged and unchanging, because I believe in the God who tells us in the Bible that he never changes. I can close my eyes at night and I can open them to face each day because I know that my Redeemer lives, and that history is in the hands of the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I know that I, along with all who come to him by faith, are safe in Christ. I can trust that he, as the Apostle Paul stated so famously, will be faithful to the end.”

  16. It’s too bad that they don’t recognize that Mormons who are sick of Scouting are candidates. My ward’s troop is on their last strike relative to my son finishing his Eagle (I know, Trail Life isn’t a target, but a non-LDS troop might be an option).

  17. Rude Dog says:

    Granted, maybe I skimmed over the comments, but is anyone seeing the irony that the LDS church, if it had a desire to stay exclusionary by joining a fellow Christian organization who’s chief structure is defined by being exclusive, would in turn be excluded?

  18. Alex P. says:

    Though I have recited it countless times, I cannot say their novel interpretation of “morally straight” ever occurred to me.

  19. FWIW, the caption was changed. It originally said that they were reciting their creed, so seeing the extended arm as a salute was not an unreasonable conclusion.

    As to whether or not the caption was changed to reflect or obscure reality, I couldn’t say.

  20. Rude Dog says:

    Uh, nevermind, guess that’s the whole point of the post. Sorry. I’ll put down the cack pipe and try better cromprehension.

  21. Dave K. says:

    Rude Dog, the great plan of happiness is accomplished by drawing lines so that your behavior and beliefs barely merit your inclusion in the “in” group, and as many other people as possible are excluded. Some days it’s truly tiring to work out your salvation.

  22. Villate says:

    I thought the creed caption was with the picture of the little boys holding up their hands, some of them with the habituated three-finger Scout gesture and some with all fingers raised. Now I’m confused. Curse the Internet and its ease of obfuscation!

  23. RobotCrow says:

    Rude Dog–

    Sorry I wasn’t super-clear in the post with the point, but yes–that is it. It might have been clearer if the link to Mohler’s talk hadn’t been accidentally deleted when I removed the image from the post (it’s back now).

  24. RobotCrow says:


    At the end of the day, I just don’t know what precisely the picture depicts. Given that uncertainty, I think it’s wise (not to mention Christlike, etc…) to not assume the absolute worst (that they’re Nazis) thereby help perpetuate a meme. Those kids may be part of (in my eyes) a wacko organization, but I place that blame largely on their parents’ shoulders, and consequently I don’t want to harass them unduly (that’s why I took the picture down).

  25. MikeInWeHo says:

    I remember when Mormons didn’t want to be accepted by other churches, and in fact were uncomfortable being called Christians at all. Anybody else here remember that? My how times have changed, starting around when the church changed the logo to make the words Jesus Christ bigger than the rest of the name.

  26. I feel safer when people like this aren’t our friends. The guilt by association gets to be a bit too much sometimes.

  27. Rude Dog says:

    It’s a super important point. I am always quiet in GD class, however there have been many times I’ve wanted to make this exact same point. Thanks for making it here.

  28. I think we need a poll: Which would you choose? 1. Going to hell (Regular Mormon, Spooky Mormon, Christian, etc.) or 2. Going A) to jail or B) camping with these jokers. Make this happen BCC!

  29. Villate says:

    RobotCrow: I fully support your decision. In any case, I hate the tendency in the media to present things in such a way that even when they are completely benign, they seem somehow sinister or frightening (see the recent NYT article on sister missionaries) as well as the tendency in myself to draw the exact conclusion that is being fed to me.

  30. Mark Brown says:

    With apologies in advance to RobotCrow for continuing to beat a dead horse.

    There are gestures and hand motions which cannot be excused or overlooked because they are the motions to a song. Holding up one’s hand with the middle finger extended is one example. I will argue that the nazi salute is another, and even more offensive. I realize it’s not the kids’ fault and we shouldn’t ridicule them for something they don’t understand, but somewhere nearby there is an adult who richly deserves our strongest disapproval.

  31. As Groucho Marx said, “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that would have me.” As one who has had a love/hate relationship with the BSA, this alternative seems to me to be sending a lot of wrong messages, so no improvement. I was glad to see the BSA make the changes that they did, but there are still a bunch of underlying unresolved issues for me.

  32. Turin Turambar says:

    I think a logical response to Trail Life is “Why would we want to be members of such an organization?” The Boy Scouts policy change RE: gay boys is a highly positive step forward in creating a Zion community, because it shows love and understanding to those who are different, and it recognizes the need for all boys to have access to the positive experiences the Boy Scouts offers.

    That being said, I look forward to the day that Boy Scouts is dropped as an all-inclusive youth program for the boys, and moves back toward being an organization that is staffed by volunteers who really want to be involved, and boys who really want to be there. A day when an Eagle Scout ceases to be seen as yet another part of the exaltation checklist for boys.

  33. I bet if we Mormon’s actually showed up with a thousand troops and all our BSA money at their door, they might change their mind. What do you think?

    Here’s hoping no one at the COB gets the bright idea that Trail Life is a good idea. Disney just pulled out of the BSA (though that is more symbolically important than financially so). There is only so much Chik-fil-a money to go around. I don’t mind the preacher guy coming to BYU and saying whatever he wants. Its a university for heaven’s sake. You are supposed to hear from people you vehemently disagree with. The sad thing is who they won’t let in to speak.

  34. annegb5298 says:

    Shaking my head………

  35. RobotCrow says:

    FYI, a little bit of googling will help provide the context for the salute:

    Taps With Hand Motions

    Preparation: Have one den practice this so they can demonstrate. Have the pack join in the second time.

    Day is done. (Hands out to sides, palms up)
    Gone the sun, (Turn palms down)
    From the lakes, (Hands in front at waist height, palms down)
    From the hills, (Hands in front at shoulder height, palms down)
    From the sky. (Hands high above head)
    All is well, (Right hand to left shoulder)
    Safely rest, (Left hand to right shoulder)
    God is nigh. (Bow head after singing)

  36. DavidFerg says:

    Tangentially relevant, but what’s now considered the Nazi salute was, in fact, the Boy Scout salute in pre-WWII times. It was also the official Olympic salute. Symbolism, including its evolution, is a funny thing.

  37. Peter LLC says:

    I hate the tendency in the media to present things in such a way that even when they are completely benign, they seem somehow sinister or frightening (see the recent NYT article on sister missionaries)

    What was sinister or frightening about the NYT article?

    the context for the salute

    Well, then, they’re doing it wrong. However, as an old school pledge of allegiance they’re right on (or would be if the flag were, say, in the middle of the circle).

  38. Villate says:

    Not to get too far off the topic of the OP, but I found the NYT article to be condescending and just plain weird in many respects. I thought that it was being written from the point of view of women who just couldn’t wrap their heads around how any young woman could possibly see anything of value in a religion that doesn’t make them equal in the way they define it. This is reflected in the use of words like “sequester,” “throwback,” “flinch,” “ruling patriarchs,” and “regulations,” the focus on specific aspects of experiences (the sister “getting to watch from the side of the font” at the baptism comes to mind), the mission president’s wife tearing up over her lost mission opportunity, the stock “we don’t want extra responsibility” quote about the priesthood, etc. It all just seems weird. Maybe I’m just being sensitive about it. Like the picture, there is nothing factually wrong or false about anything said in the article. It’s just presented in such a way that the opinion of the author (or photographer) is clearly revealed, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a positive opinion. Or if it is positive, it is unexpectedly so in light of the events being portrayed: “they’re weird, but just so sincere you can’t help but like them,” that sort of thing. My scientific poll of my Facebook friends revealed that several of them had similar thoughts and felt that their experience had been ignored or misrepresented.

  39. Peter LLC says:

    Thanks for the response, Villate. The resonance I perceived was positive but I can see how others could respond like you describe.


    “The Bellamy salute is the salute described by Francis Bellamy to accompany the American Pledge of Allegiance, which he had authored. During the period when it was used with the Pledge of Allegiance, it was sometimes known as the “flag salute”. During the 1920s and 1930s, Italian fascists and Nazis adopted a salute which had the same form, resulting in controversy over the use of the Bellamy salute in the United States. It was officially replaced by the hand-over-heart salute when Congress amended the Flag Code on December 22, 1942.”

    Those who don’t know their history are doomed to… mock it?

  41. Meldrum the Less says:

    I am sort of in awe at receiving an award last night so I am flying high on scouting. It wasn’t anything spectacular, like the Silver Weasel award the scouts gave me a few years ago.

    My thoughts:

    1. Scouting is the single most successful youth development program in the history of western civilization. It was a wise decision that we Mormons hitched our wagon to it early.

    2. Scouting has struggled recently and is not doing as well as many would hope in more than one way. Scouting was never perfect and many are concerned about various problems which do not exclude financial cost and top leadership issues. Scouting has and will change.

    3. Mormons make up only some small fraction of scouting, probably less than 5%. Our troops are small so we have a disproportionate large number of units. Rumor has it that we pay about 30% of the upper level donations but who knows that for sure. In my experience we Mormons think they have more influence in scouting than they actually do, but our influence is not zero.

    4. Mormon scouting with which I am personally familiar is a horrible parody of real scouting to which I have been a dedicated leader for over a decade. Hence, I don’t quite know what to make of it when Mormons have issues with scouting. I am tempted to query: have you tried the real thing? Because most of the specific complaints I hear from Mormons about scouting don’t exist in my non-LDS troop. I do allow for the likelihood of excellent LDS troops but I have not met them (I don’t have the chance to visit very many of them).

    5. I really hate to see scouting divided and conquered. A general principle of organizational behavior (mentioned by one of my kids in college) is that when you split a volunteer organization, each side gets about a third and a third leave both.

    6. Scouting was the best thing I ever did with my son and provides the venue for the richest experiences and best memories of my entire life.

    This Trail Life USA is in no way good news for anyone. Unless it fizzles out.

  42. No, Mark, sometimes those who know their history simply want to change it. When a symbol becomes nearly universally associated with evil, it’s fine to let go of it and use something else.

  43. We do it with words all the time.

  44. “When a symbol becomes nearly universally associated with evil, it’s fine to let go of it and use something else.” I’ve got no problem with that, it’s just that once upon a time, I had no idea that “the Nazi salute” was really our salute. Before we point to someone else’s salute (or perceived salute), I just think it helps to be aware that there but for the grace of history go we.

  45. Meldrum makes some good points. I am not so keen on the current relationship between scouting and the LDS church, though I agree that there are plenty of great things about scouting. I would be even less keen on us joining this Trail Life group.

    I was recently asked to be an assistant scoutmaster in a ward that has about 6 active young men. Not all of them are “into” scouts. Scouting simply doesn’t work with that small of numbers. We meet combined with a neighboring ward’s troop, which makes some things better but some things worse (esp. coordination). If the situation is the same when our boy hits scouting age I’ll probably be looking for a non-LDS troop for him if he wants to do scouts (which I hope he will).

    When I was young, our ward had a critical mass of youth my age and a very dedicated scoutmaster, and somehow everything worked. That combination doesn’t exist everywhere.

    Maybe we could sponsor troops on a stake level instead of a ward level (wards could form patrols). And then make it optional for the boys, and make sure leaders have a Bishop-like tenure instead of switching them out all the time. That doesn’t mean eliminating ward-sponsored weeknight activities, just making them more driven by the young men needs and less by scouting per se.

    Sorry if this is getting too far afield of the OP…

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