I 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“.
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.