SmokeyTheGrandpaI want to follow up on my post, The Long-Awaited Day, now that the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America removed the restriction on openly gay Scout leaders. when I wrote the former, a smaller, higher-level committee had recommended the change.

In that post, I described how the change in policy would change nothing for me, even if it resulted in me being once again eligible to serve as a Scout leader. Many people in my life have missed and continue to miss my point. While true that I left Scouting because of their policy regarding what they were, at the time, calling “avowed homosexuals,” and knowing that their definition fitted me, even though I’ve been faithfully married to a woman for almost four decades now, my departure was not intended to be making a statement.

I wasn’t trying to bring attention to myself or my family. In fact, quite the opposite. The last thing I wanted was to be found to be a leader who knowingly was violating a policy and begin a process that would be an embarrassment to my family. So, I initially chose to bow out. Later, in a different part of the country, when a bishop talked me into accepting a calling with his assurance that he would go to bat for me if anyone was against it. He hadn’t bargained on a general authority of the Church being the one to notice me and insist I be released. Fortunately, there was no media attention.

I was, however, in the process, noticed by the local district of the BSA, who wanted me to at least serve on a district level as a trainer. Since it wouldn’t be a church-related position, the district leader felt that no one in the Scouting organization could possibly think I fit the description of an avowed homosexual. Yes, they knew I admitted to experiencing same-sex attraction, but they felt that my marital status and devotion to my religious standards meant I was eligible to be registered. I agreed on the condition that they got agreement on that point at the national level. The National Legal Committee of the BSA decided against me and I was out of Scouting.

It is interesting to me the change in terminology from “avowed homosexual” being excluded to now “openly gay” being included. The former term is somewhat old-fashioned and the latter consistent with what many in today’s world use. Unfortunately for my situation, neither are very descriptive. If you ask me if I’m homosexual, I’ll probably say that I am. I suppose one might say that saying that I am is an avowal. If you ask me if I’m gay, I would probably say that it wouldn’t be my label of choice, but that, yes, I am. Am I open? Have been for about twenty years.

Many people could own either of these appellations and you still wouldn’t know much about how they live their lives. One thing the BSA change in policy accomplished was to make it irrelevant. You can be a Scout leader if you’re attracted to the same sex, as long as your unit isn’t sponsored by an institution that still believes you are unsuitable. The BSA has left it up to the sponsoring institutions.

I happen to belong to one of those institutions, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who responded immediately with a press release expressing the Church’s displeasure that the decision was made at a time when the leadership of the Church was not available to participate in a vote. The press release said the Church would have to re-evaluate their association with the BSA and that the “…admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church…”

I have struggled with this statement ever since I read it and hope that when the leaders of the Church are once again meeting there will be a clarification of that statement. If I can concede to the label of “openly gay”, is it really inconsistent the doctrines of the Church for me to be considered for a position in Scouting? I am as obedient to the Law of Chastity as any man in my ward and have been for all of my adult life. What doctrine of the Church says that I’m any less worthy to hold any position than the next man?

Is it not our doctrine that what counts is obedience to the commandments? The nature of our temptations are irrelevant, because we are all temped in ways that are “common to man“.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church  (General Conference, October 1998, “What People Are Asking about Us”).

So, if July 10, 2015 was not my long-awaited day and on July 27, 2015, I’m still waiting, what is it I’m waiting for? It’s simple. It has nothing to do with the Boy Scouts of America and everything to do with the Church. I’m waiting for the day when the ideal expressed in the following statement becomes a principle in practice.

Anyone in the Church is entitled to the same blessings as anyone else who keeps the same commandments.

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    Of course. It’s so obvious. But a lot of people are being (deliberately) confused by terminology, and they are focused on the wrong aspects of these issues.

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    I agree, some clarification is needed. It is also my belief that being SSA is irrelevant if you are keeping yourself morally worthy, you do have the right to every blessing anyone else in the church is entitled to, including being a scout leader. Many disagree with me on this point but to label or accept the label of gay, to me, means accepting and living the gay lifestyle. I hope you will correct any one who tries to label you that way. Rex, I commend you on your integrity and living the straight lifestyle, and I think it was abusive and wrong what happened to you in scouting and I’m really sorry. Boy, they sure went from one extreme to the other.

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      Thanks, Garry. I don’t mind the g-word that much because people are so conditioned to use it, but I always clarify my position on obedience.

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    Where did that final statement come from?

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    No wonder I love it.

  5. avatar

    Carroll Barlow

    I was moved last night as I read your blog entry. I even responded and when I went to post it, I got the message that I had been “timed out” and in my attempt to post, my messaged was lost. Such a frustrating feeling to take the time to express yourself and when you think you have it right, it is all lost in the press of a key. I am not sure if I can recreate but I will try.

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I especially enjoyed reading and again being reminded of the quote from President Hinckley. That quote totally backs up your feelings and concerns.

    I am the mother of a man married to a man. I mention this so that you will understand my connection with the issues involving SSA.

    A few years back, I attended an Evergreen Conference, shortly after my son came out. I remember going to a session lead by a wonderful, obedient to the commandments, healing young man, married to a woman with children. He spoke of the hurt he experienced when he was released as a scout leader because he divulged that he experienced SSA. I felt his pain. I knew in my heart I would trust him leading any of my sons. Having been a scout leader myself, I thought of the two deep leadership rule. If that rule were strictly implemented it should solve the problem. I still think it could be a solution. Then I thought of the bigoted, ignorant, ward members, who have no understanding of SSA, and the stink they might raise. How hard it must be to be a Bishop! I would be honored to support any Bishop in his decision to allow a worthy SSA man to be a scout leader, but so many parents might object! One of a bishops main concerns, I am sure, is to have harmony in a ward. What a conundrum! It is a hard issue without an easy answer!

    I see the scout program changing. I don’t think it is the same “old scouts” it used to be. The recent ruling in not allowing squirt guns at scout activities is evidence. The ruling to allow homosexual leaders might impact curriculum in a negative way. Scouting may become an organization I would rather not have my children participate. BSA may be gong down the same path as Girl Scouts, that is with a progressive agenda to teach political correctness to our youth. At this point, this is conjecture, time will tell, but these are my concerns. It may be a program that is best left behind by the church.

    Rex, thank you for your thoughts. Thank you for your wonderful example, for being a man of integrity and loyalty. Thank you for your patience, especially concerning so many that don’t have a clue concerning SSA and the issue that come with it. The great blessing I have enjoyed in being the mom of a gay man, is the knowledge I have gleaned through the experience. Before my son came out, I was just like so many others, I had preconceived ideas ands in many ways no idea of who my son really was.

    The church does need you and many more just like you! Thanks for being valiant, loyal and patient, and faithfully serving. I am sure it has not always been easy. Sincerely, Carroll Barlow

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      Thanks, Carroll. How frustrating to have your first response deleted. I’ve had that happen to. Very annoying.

      In my case, my poor bishop couldn’t have anticipated that his decision to ask me back into
      Scouting couldv’e attracted the attention of a general authority. He didn’t have much choice but to release me.

      I appreciate your willingness to respond. I like how you look at things from the perspective of learning lessons. I try to never present my story as if I’m a victim. My life has been too good to ever think of myself that way. Instead, like you, I think of myself as learning things I couldn’t have learned any other way. That is, after all, why we came here.