The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons) has a unique relationship with the Boy Scouts of America. It is the only religious organization that has adopted as their only youth program for boys the program offered by the Boy Scouts of America (with some modifications). As a consequence, each and every Mormon boy is automatically registered with a BSA
unit when he starts second grade.
For this reason, the LDS charters the most number of BSA units out of all the national chartered partners. However, because LDS units are populated by members of a particular LDS ward or branch, non-LDS members are rarely members Thus, while the LDS charters the most number of units, it has one of the lowest average number of youth per unit. The United Methodists on average have twice the
number of boys in their units than the Mormons.
Because of this relationship, many feel that the BSA is being held hostage by the LDS church over their discrimination policy regarding sexual orientation. In fact, in 2012, for the first time, the BSA used a specific term -- same-sex attraction (SSA) -- in their policy statement regarding sexual orientation. SSA is the term used within the LDS instead of sexual orientation.
At the time the Dale case was being considered by the US Supreme Court, the LDS stated that if the BSA abandoned its discrimination policies, that they LDS would withdraw all of their members from the BSA. With such a threat, is there any doubt as to who is in control of the BSA?
Most people are aware that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes a negative view of homosexuality. However, same
-sex activities is not even mentioned in the three uniquely Mormon religious texts: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants (D&C), or the Pearl of Great Price.
D. Michael Quinn, in his book, Same-Sex Dynamics among Nineteenth-Century Americans - a Mormon Example, suggests that Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), was
relatively accepting of gay and lesbian relationships. In Quinn's book, he asserts that Mormons endorsed physical and emotional intimacy between members of the same sex. Two examples he provides are:
Evan Stephens (1854-1930), director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and author of many church hymns never married. However, he maintained intense friendships with several young men who
lived with him and was his traveling companions at different times.
Joseph F. Smith (1899-1964) was a Church Patriarch and a homosexual. While an instructor at the University of Utah, he had a homosexual relationship with a student. He later became sexually involved with another Mormon young man.
Quinn concludes that the church tolerated homoeroticism until the mid-1950s. In contrast, a recently published LDS pamphlet, states that "Homosexuality Is Sin: Next to the crime of murder comes the sin of sexual impurity." In another pamphlet, a former (unidentified) LDS president and prophet stated: "Satan tells his victims that it is a natural way of life; that it is normal; that
perverts are a different kind of people born 'that way' and that they cannot change. This is a base lie...it were better that such a man were never born."
The LDS church is led by the President, who is also the Prophet. Gordon B. Hinckley is the current Prophet. According to church doctrine, it's teachings could conceivably change at any time, as the church believes in continual revelation from God through His Prophet.
"In the past, they have been able to adapt to two major upheavals of their social policy. The first revelation occurred in 1890; it suspended polygamy as a lifestyle. They received a second revelation in 1978 which reversed their racist policies against African-Americans. However, Harold Brown, the church's official spokesman on homosexuality, said that no amount of press coverage or activism is going to influence God to change the rules about homosexuality. Brown said: "Being black is not a sin...Being immoral is."
It is worthwhile noting that the LDS can change previously strongly held beliefs, as their last major Revelation involved the Boy Scouts of America.
In 1974 the Mormon doctrine of discrimination against blacks brought the Boy Scouts into a serious confrontation with the NAACP. The Boy Scouts of America did not discriminate because of race, but LDS sponsored troops did have a policy of racial discrimination. On July 18, 1974, the Salt Lake Tribune reported:
"A 12-year-old boy scout has been denied a senior patrol leadership in his troop because he is black", Don L. Cope, black ombudsman for the state, said Wednesday.
Mormon 'troop policy is that in order for a scout to become a patrol leader, he must be a deacon's quorum president in the LDS Church. Since the boy cannot hold the priesthood, he
cannot become a patrol leader.' "
Shortly before Boy Scout officials were to appear in Federal Court Friday morning on charges of discrimination, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a policy change which will allow black youths to be senior patrol leaders, a position formerly reserved for white LDS youths in troops sponsored by the church. An LDS Church spokesman said Friday under the "guidelines set forth in the statement, a young man other than
president of the deacons quorum could (now) become the senior patrol leader if he is better qualified". - (Salt Lake Tribune, August 3,1974).
Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball "had been subpoenaed to testify" in the suit (Ibid., Oct. 23), but on Nov. 7, 1974 the Tribune
reported: "A suit claiming discrimination against blacks by the Boy Scouts of America was dismissed Wednesday in federal court...all parties to the suit..signed an agreement stating the alleged discrimination 'has been discontinued.'"
Below is a digest of an article (The Struggle for the Soul of the Boy Scouts) which appeared in the July 6-20, 2000 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. It was summarized by the Mormon News and
concentrates on Mormon related excerpts.
LDS Church Entwined In Struggle For Scouting
Summarized by Rosemary Pollock
(The struggle for the soul of the boy scouts)
Rolling Stone pg100 6Jul 00 N1
By Chuck Sudetic
WASHINGTON, DC -- On April 26th the Supreme Court met to
determine the constitutional rights of the Boy Scouts of America. The case on the docket was Number 99-699, the Boy Scouts of America vs. James Dale. In a courtroom filled with law students, gay activists and television crews, Supreme Court Justice David Souter argued that the Boy Scout Handbook does not spell out any policy banning gays. Yet, Boy Scout supporters base their explanation on the Scout Oath declaring that scouts should be "morally straight."
"It doesn't say anything about arson or forgery, either," replied BSA attorney George Davidson, claiming that it was about the First Amendment right of an organization to decide who can be a member. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia stated, "Our law simply prevents the state from diluting or imperiling the message that an organization wants to convey." James Dale and millions of Boy
Scouts and their supporters expect a decision by late June of this year.
James Dale, now twenty-nine, earned his Eagle after eleven years of scouting. In July 1990, James who was an assistant Scoutmaster and looked forward to a lifetime in Scouting, was expelled for being a homosexual. Never before hearing of any such rule against gays,
Dale sued for reinstatement. The ten year ordeal finally came down to a one-hour hearing in the Supreme Court on April 26th.
The Mormon Church, the largest sponsor of Boy Scout troops in the United States is fiercely opposed to admitting homosexuals and has stated that it will end its nine-decade-long affiliation if gays are admitted. This decision would mean the departure of more than 412
,000 Scouts who are sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In total it is about twelve percent of the entire BSA organization's membership.
"Power in the Boy Scouts of America has gravitated to the professionals, and they derive their power from the groups with the largest financial donations," said a volunteer. "These tend to be the
Mormons and the Roman Catholic Church." "It would take a major effort from outside the organization to change how the BSA views the Mormons and the Catholics."
In 1995, Elder Jack Goaslind, a national BSA Executive Board member and president of the Mormon's youth organization, was asked during a civil hearing why the top leaders of the church were
willing to leave BSA if it becomes accepting of gays. "Well, to be direct with you, it was because of the number of cases that have come before the courts on different homosexual-conduct acts that it's been discussed thoroughly there. And the decision has been reached," Goaslind said.
The Boy Scouts of America have over 1.3 million adult volunteers
who drive the organization and support the Boy Scout oath to promise to do their duty to God and country, to help others and to keep themselves "physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight." In its ninety-year history, BSA Inc. has been resistant to cultural change and proud of it.
Volunteer Ray Benjamin says, "I would be uneasy if I knew my sons
had a gay troop leader - unless I knew him." "And if the guy's an Eagle Scout, he's got to have decent credentials." From 1993 to the end of May 2000, Jere Ratcliffe was the Chief Scout executive. A native from Tennessee, Ratcliffe, valiantly upheld the organization's exclusion of "gays, girls and the godless," otherwise known in Boy Scout jargon as the three G's. "The BSA has always reflected the
expectations that Scouting families have had for the organization," he said, "and we do not believe that homosexuals provide a role model consistent with these expectations."
Ratcliffe oversaw one of the biggest charities in the country, The United Way. It is a significant backer to the BSA, but the BSA may have crossed the line in its effort to produce high minority
-recruitment figures for top dollar donations. Dale Draper, a former employee of the Circle Ten Council, blew the whistle on how Circle Ten's executives used the money from the council's budget to pay registration fees for Scouts, volunteers and troops that did not exist. The money went into the national office of the BSA. Draper, a Mormon who graduated from Brigham Young University with a special degree in Boy Scout management, resigned after the seven months
when the council auditors reported that there was no wrong doing at Circle Ten.
"You know how you've got the good ol' boy system," Draper said. "I think that was in place in this situation." The BSA is dependent not only on the United Way but also on many government-related
organizations. Yet the Boy Scouts have maintained through two decades of discrimination lawsuits that it is a private organization. Since its earliest days, the BSA has sought to maintain strong ties to church and state.