Mormons stick with Boy Scouts, nix Benedict Option

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"Duty to God" Merit Badge presented to Mormon Scouts until 2002

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"Duty to God" Merit Badge presented to Mormon Scouts until 2002

"Duty to God" Merit Badge presented to Mormon Scouts until 2002

“Duty to God” Merit Badge presented to Mormon Scouts until 2002

The LDS Church, which sponsors more Boy Scout troops than any organization on the planet, was “deeply troubled” last month when the BSA national executive board decided that it was OK for Scout leaders and employees to be openly gay — which may mean, post Obergefell, openly married to a person of the same sex. It seems that the church’s general authorities were all on vacation and hadn’t been kept in the loop. They announced they’d be taking a good hard look at the situation.

Now they have, and have decided to keep Scouting as the church’s program for male youth, at least for now. The Scouts’ position is that religious bodies with whose teachings the new policy conflicts can continue the ban, and presumably the church will stay the course unless the courts rule otherwise.

Polling showed rank-and-file Mormons ready to sever the century-old connection, but LDS leaders recognize that adapting to the norms of the ambient society is a strategy to survive and prosper. In the 1890s, they formally abandoned the theologically important practice of plural marriage and surrendered much of the church’s economic power in order to gain statehood for Utah. In 1978, they overturned the doctrine that forbade men of black African descent to be ordained to the priesthood.

Careful accommodation to gay rights has been a hallmark of the church this year. In March, the Saints joined forces with the Utah LGBT community to pass landmark state legislation that protects the latter from discrimination in housing and employment while protecting the rights of religious institutions to discriminate. The legislation, of a piece with the Boy Scouts’ decision, drew criticism from some conservatives in other faith traditions.

No doubt, the latter wish the Mormons had withdrawn the hem of their garment from the BSA. That would be in line with the “Benedict Option” advanced by blogger Rod Dreher, who has made a splash by urging religious conservatives to retreat into their own worlds, a la the monks who preserved European civilization from the barbarians in the early Middle Ages.

Of course, it’s not as if other traditions haven’t prospered by accommodating themselves to prevailing social norms. Evangelical leaders no longer berate their flocks for drinking, dancing, getting divorced, and indulging in secular pursuits on the Lord’s Day. Catholic bishops now embrace religious liberty in a way that would have appalled their predecessors prior to the Second Vatican Council.

What’s different about LDS leaders is that they don’t pretend otherwise. Good for them.

  • low-tech cyclist

    Re: Rod Dreher’s ‘Benedict Option’:

    I’m not familiar with Eastern Orthodoxy which is the faith Dreher now subscribes to, but his primary audience in the American scene presumably consists mostly of evangelical Protestants. And as long as evangelicalism has a nontrivial connection with evangelism, there’s a limit to how far it can withdraw.

    Not to mention, the ‘Benedict Option’ seems to be the result of an excluded middle. It’s not like there’s no acceptable place in between a society where one’s religion sets the rules, and a retreat into some corner where only one’s co-religionists gather.

    The first-century Christians were able to live their faith in a world that was just as secular as ours. And if God is all we say he is, and he’s taken up residence in our hearts, we shouldn’t be such hothouse flowers that we can’t spend time in the big, bad world without being corrupted. We’re supposed to be the salt of the earth – we can’t be that unless we…

  • low-tech cyclist

    This is a test post. I’m having occasional trouble getting past the robot filter because the photos aren’t always clear. When asked to identify all pix with pasta, who knows whether that off-white stuff next to a steak is pasta or fries? When asked to identify all street signs, it isn’t clear whether a street has a sign, or whether a sign is on a street or somewhere else.

    -Not Mr. Roboto

  • Doc Anthony

    The Mormons are quickly surrendering to the Gay Marriage Cult on the installment plan. It’s their choice, but it’s a very bad choice, not only for them, but their kids and grandkids.

    America, you’re on you way down fast. Rock-bottom approaching quickly.
    Crash-And-Burn on impact.

  • Clinton King

    As a rank and file Mormon (and an Eagle Scout), I wanted to the LDS Church to leave scouting because it’s too expensive. I’ve wanted them to leave scouting for years.

  • Jon

    Mr. King you are too expensive. Why did your parents have you?

  • Richard Winmill

    The long term trend is toward a divergent trajectory for the Church and the BSA having less to do with social issues (like gays and God) or even internecine scout leader squabbles. The Mormon Church has many more young people outside the US whose needs must be attended to. It building it’s own excellent achievement, leadership, sports and group aesthetics programs for both young men and for young women that are rapidly maturing and may eventually exceed anything the BSA can offer. Until that day, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will offer like minded families (Mormon or not) an excellent Scouting experience with Scout leaders whose religious and moral values ‘in word and deed… will best inculcate …(their) values through the Scouting program. ” The BSA which has been a central part of the Church’s youth programs for 100 years may prove to become just excess baggage at some point.

  • Richard Winmill

    The Mormon church will continue to chose its Scout Leadership as they have in the past. The chose those whose religious and moral values ‘in word and deed… will best inculcate …(their) values through the Scouting program. “

  • Cary Martinez

    Professor Silk misunderstands the church’s reason for it’s action. He refers to the church allegedly “adapting to the norms of the ambient society” as “a strategy to survive and prosper”. He later stated, “it’s not as if other traditions haven’t prospered by accommodating themselves to prevailing social norms.”

    The LDS Church is not concerned with accommodating itself to prevailing social norms if those norms are in conflict the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The principle at question here is homosexual activity as a sin.

    The Church draws a clear line, beyond which it will NEVER cross. That line is that living a homosexual lifestyle and homosexual marriage are not and never will be acceptable to God. The church will do everything it can to accommodate homosexuals, up to that point. It will demonstrate love and acceptance to all, without compromising that basic principle. If a legal challenge ever forces the church to accept gay leadership, it will drop…