In a recent statement Elder Ballard said the following regarding the Church’s decision to end its 105-year relationship with Boy Scouts of America:
“The reality there is we didn’t really leave them; they kind of left us… The direction they were going was not consistent to what we feel our youth need to have…to survive in the world that lies ahead of us.”
But, did the Boy Scouts really leave “us”? Is that a fair description of what actually happened? And is BSA really heading in a different direction than we are as a church?
A Little Bit of Background
For over 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America was an iconic defender of Constitutional principles. They won case after case before the Supreme Court that reaffirmed their right to allow or disallow participants, based on their own criteria for affiliation. Their victories established important case law and legal precedent for other institutions that sought the same protections.
But then all of a sudden, the Boy Scouts decided to vote on whether to allow openly gay scouts into their organization. This went against 100 years of Court victories that gave them that right and to many members of Scouting and of the Church, this came as a huge surprise.
At this same time, two of my sons were literally only a Court of Honor away from getting their Eagle Awards. I was the official Charter Leader in our ward, was an Eagle Scout myself, and was over Scouting as the bishop.
I was certain the Church would vote against the proposal and knew they represented a very large voting bloc and funding source within the organization. Surely BSA could not pull this off without the Church’s full support.
To make sure my voice was heard, I did all the things my Church had taught me to do to be “involved” in such important matters. I wrote letters to the Church and to the Editor of our local newspaper and gave reasons for why I believed the Church would/should vote NO on this progressive proposal. I was very open about my views with ward members and with local Church leadership. In fact, I received letters and phone calls from people in my town, even from strangers, thanking me for my letter to the paper. One elderly man said, “I agree with every word you wrote.” Another gentleman said, “When I saw your letter in the paper I thought to myself, ‘oh no, he’s going to be excommunicated.’ Then I read it and now I think you’re going to be called as a general authority.” (Not very prophetic obviously). The point is, many LDS people of all walks of life had very strong feelings about this issue and were opposed to caving to the pressures of the progressives.
Like many of you, I could see this for what it was. It was never about young boys or girls being discriminated against. Not even for a moment. It was always about taking down an iconic conservative institution. And I wasn’t going to just sit idly by. I was hopeful the Church would do the right thing — back then in 2013 — and pull out of Scouts if everyone else voted in favor of the measure.
Eventually, when the Church and other Scouting Board members voted in favor of the above proposals, I refused to sign the yearly ward Charter and refused to support Friends of Scouting. My boys, to their credit, refused to continue in an organization that suddenly seemed confused about what it meant to be morally straight.
Our family left Scouts in 2013 and I was very perplexed why the Church wasn’t doing the same.
The Rapid Demise of Scouting
The great conservative thinker John O’Sullivan once said: “All organizations that are not actually right-wing (conservative) will over time become left-wing (liberal).”
The Boy Scouts is now among countless other institutions that have fallen prey to O’Sullivan’s First Law. They officially filed for bankruptcy in February of this year.
For 105 years, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had partnered with the Boy Scouts. Scouting literally had been the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood. It shared our same values. We were literally joined at the hip.
Both the LDS Church and the BSA had become synonymous with conservativism. In fact, I challenge you to find two more conservative institutions at their pinnacle.
But, at the same time Boy Scouts was moving left, it seemed the Church was moving left too. Here’s just a quick list of things the Church has done in the last 9 years that clearly represents their own change in direction:
- The Church changed its conservative position on illegals.
- The Church abandoned its formal role in the fight against gay marriage.
- The Church unwittingly paved the way for gay marriage by introducing added protections for LGBT people in Utah. A plan they hoped would be the new model for the nation. This upended legislation that had protected landlords and employers previously to be able to choose who they rented to or who they employed.
- Mormonsandgays.com, later changed to “Mormonandgay” was put online by the Church.
- The Church published numerous videos highlighting people who are gay, but who are trying to not act out on it. A very different and deliberate approach that would be criticized by people of all different opinions. Some might argue that if you are not acting out on it, then you are not gay. Others would say it’s preposterous to “be” something and then be asked to not be allowed to be who you are… and then to be withheld the same blessings of those who do not act out or who are straight.
- The Church changed its position on whether a person could be born gay or not with Elder Oaks teaching a person can be born gay–a very different position than what its prophets had taught previously.
- The Church helped fund the Hale Theater and tacitly endorsed the very pro-gay, anti-Mormon, Book of Mormon musical coming to Salt Lake City among other very non-PG-13 performances.
- The Church removed its ban on children of gay parents being baptized (They flip-flopped on this one thank Goodness).
- The Church-owned BYU changed its rules to allow gay ballroom dancers.
- BYU seemed to change its policy on same-gender affection. Then “kind of” reversed it back.
- The recent Cosmo the Cougar came out as gay without any retribution or official response from the Church.
- BYU’s valedictorian came out as a “gay son of God” in an approved valedictorian speech. The audience erupted in applause.
- And now they are in favor of decriminalizing polygamy.
Now to be clear, I am not arguing here that all these changes are wrong or right. I’m simply showing how the Church, like Boy Scouts and like most worldly institutions, is simply becoming more progressive.
The list of policy adjustments and talking points by the Church that veer progressive is much longer than what I’ve listed above. But, the evidence presented is sufficient to show that the Church is on the same course as Boy Scouts when it comes to “leaving” its more conservative principles.
Is it really fair to say that Boy Scouts left us? Even “kind of”?
Couldn’t the Church have voted against the Boy Scout proposals if it wanted to? Wouldn’t that have made a difference, didn’t they have clout in that organization? Some estimated that the LDS Church represented 40% of BSA funding. If the Church didn’t like the direction of BSA, shouldn’t the Church have left in 2013 instead of continuing to pour millions more of tithing money into it? What part about BSA’s direction finally made the Church uncomfortable? How can the Church now say that the Boy Scouts left them when they supported and voted in favor of all the changes being proposed? And when at the very same time the LDS Church was pushing its own progressive changes in the Church, I.e heading in a very similar “direction.” To the left.
One would think that all this capitulation and appeasement would mean that Boy Scouts would now have gay kids and gay leaders and girls and transgenders all lining up at their doors and that membership, even with the loss of the LDS Church, would be through the roof, instead of in bankruptcy. The very argument Scout board members were making was that they needed to “expand their base.” “Make the tent bigger.” “Be more inclusive.” Surely part of their reasoning, if not all of it, was to grow their membership by making these changes.
The Church has also suffered from a numbers and growth standpoint since they changed their course it would seem.
The church’s reported membership as of December 31, 2019 was 16,565,036. The growth of 1.21% in 2018 was the lowest annual percentage growth since the 0.93% in 1937.Wikipedia
Interestingly, since 2013, while the Church has been shifting further left, it has only been growing at an abysmal rate of somewhere between 1 and 2% compared to 8.74% when I was a missionary. The focus then was “flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon” rather than focusing on progressive policy adjustments. Coincidence? It just reinforces the idea that people want to focus on doctrine. The average growth rate in the last 40 years has been well over 4% — that is at least until the Church started trying to be more “inclusive.”
Careful What You Wish For
One thing is certain–the same people who took down the Boy Scouts are demanding more changes from the LDS Church. They demand that we abandon what they view as hate speech and discrimination among other things.
Will we continue to give in as a Church? Mormon Prop 8 picketers have been replaced by LDS pro-gay marriage protestors in a period of just a few years. Is that a coincidence? This picture from this website is the new face of Mormonism when it comes to these progressive issues.
I’ve always been intrigued by what Ezra Benson said he was told by a visiting Soviet leader. I think the same applies here and I think the Church would do well to consider the implications of its movement left:
I have talked face-to-face with the godless Communist leaders. It may surprise you to learn that I was host to Mr. Khrushchev for a half day, when he visited the United States. Not that I’m proud of it — I opposed his coming then and I still feel it was a mistake to welcome this atheistic murderer as a state visitor. But according to President Eisenhower, Khrushchev had expressed a desire to learn something of American agriculture, and after seeing Russian agriculture I can understand why.
As we talked face-to-face, he indicated that my grandchildren would live under Communism. After assuring him that I expected to do all in my power to assure that his, and all other grandchildren, would live under freedom, he arrogantly declared, in substance:
You Americans are so gullible. No you won’t accept Communism outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of socialism until you’ll finally wake up and you find you already have Communism. We won’t have to fight you. We’ll so weaken your economy until you fall like over-ripe fruit into our hands.–1966 address at Brigham Young University
Is the Church heading down the same road as our nation? Of Boy Scouts? Will it fall into the devil’s hands like over-ripe fruit? Is it doomed to move completely to the left? You can bet that these youth in our Church pictured above will push for Equality of Temple Sealings at some point especially now that the Church has encouraged them. And at this rate, they’re bound to eventually get what they want.
One could more reasonably ask, “Is the Church kind of leaving us?”