[A few further points now added at the end of the post.]
The poor judgement exercised by some sections of Public Affairs was in evidence during the Kate Kelly affair. It has happened again, this time in the form of one of the most intemperate releases I have read coming from 15 E. South Temple Street. The Newsroom can do better than this.
Herewith some comments on the testy “Church Re-evaluating Scouting Program” statement of 27 July 2015:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet.”
If they knew the vote was going to happen anyway, perhaps some vacations needed to be re-arranged? It sounds to me as if an organisation that is used to getting its own way with Scouting is shocked that this may no longer be the case.
“When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined.”
Wow. What an I’m-taking-my-ball-home comment! If Scouting is good for young American men, then it will surely remain good whatever the outcome of the vote. And to be grumpy like this in public seems remarkably impolitic.
“The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation.”
Really? It would certainly have come as a surprise to Elder Jack Goaslind, who in 1991 said that he “would recommend that the church withdraw from the Boy Scouts of America if the church is forced to register homosexual Scouts.” Openly gay Mormon youths could not officially be BSA Scouts until 2014, when the BSA’s policy changed (a move which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints admirably did not oppose, having distanced itself somewhat from the attitudes of 1991). It would be better to say that “The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation for as long as the BSA has had that policy,” which, of course, is pretty meaningless. The Newsroom might counter that this has only ever been about a commitment to chastity not orientation, but there are gay Mormons whose experiences suggest otherwise. (Best also to keep quiet about the time when black Mormon Scouts were not allowed to have leadership positions in their troops.)
“However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”
Can someone point out to me the “doctrines of the church” that are opposed to openly gay leaders holding leadership positions in the BSA?
“As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.”
There’s so much wrong here. First, the sheer Amerocentricism. Scouting is most assuredly available to the vast majority of Mormon youth, just not in Mormon troops. There are over 30 million registered Scouts worldwide in over 200 countries (thus only 0.8% of Scouts are Mormon). Ironically, in some countries Mormon youth have a better chance of being a Scout than their LDS counterparts in the United States (who feel confined to Mormon scouting) by virtue of Scouting being available to girls. This reflects the second problem with this statement: all this concern over “one-half of its youth” internationally (boys), but seemingly little interest in the half of its non-Scouting youth in the US (girls). N.B. In Canada, Scouting is open to girls but the church won an exemption to run boys-only troops.
The church’s whole approach to homosexuality is in flux and it is understandable that the odd statement will be a little ragged. However, given that this is about the only thing the church seems willing to make a public stand on, it is only reasonable for members to expect the Public Affairs department to be very careful in what it says. Mormons around the world are affected by the church’s policy on gays given that it is rapidly becoming the hallmark of the modern LDS image. They deserve better than this half-baked lecture.
[Edited to include the following post script:]
This story is now doing further rounds online, which leads me to some final observations:
1. The sheer absence of the “other half” of Mormon youth (girls) in all of this is very frustrating.
2. The Mormon bubble is a major problem. Mormon kids in other parts of the world are active in their wards and youth programmes and get involved in non-Mormon activities. For example, in the UK: Scouts (for girls and boys), Guides (for girls), cadets (JROTC), the Duke of Edinburgh Award, etc. The church need not be the overseer of everything Mormon children get up to.
3. The fuss over the vote taking place when church authorities were away makes no sense given that we know that “that church leaders Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Young Men’s President Stephen Owen and General Primary President Rosemary Wixom, all of whom belong to the BSA National Board, voted against the new policy.”
4. I thought gay Mormons were welcome to hold callings in their wards (“Members of the Church who have same-sex attractions, but don’t act on them, can continue to enjoy full fellowship in the church, which includes holding the priesthood, carrying out callings, and attending the temple.”). Why then can a gay Mormon not be a Scout leader? What is the truth about the status of gay Mormons in the church?
5. Why does the church feel the need to review its relationship with BSA given that BSA clearly says, “This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own”? The church can still discriminate against gay Mormons (but see #4) in Scouting, so why vote against the change? If the church does disassociate from Scouting because of this it will be a retrograde step, especially given what looks to be the Catholic position.
6. I am still amazed that anyone can, with a straight face, say that the church has always welcomed gay Scouts.
7. I can only surmise that the church expected its dissent would have clout, but it didn’t and so feels the need to strike back. The whole thing is remarkably intemperate.
8. Is there nothing other than homosexuality that exercises us? If there isn’t, it will be our doom.