They aren’t getting a lot of press, but one very dedicated group of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working very hard to convince the Boy Scouts to end their ban on gays in scouting.
The group is Mormons Building Bridges, the ad hoc group that wanted to put half a dozen marchers in last year’s Gay Pride Parade in Salt Lake City. When word got out what they were up to there was a spontaneous rising of support among other LDS families and they ended up with more than 300 people.
The group now has several thousand members. Exclusion of gay youth is the leading cause of teen suicide and homelessness, not to mention incredible family discord and unhappiness. The group has had zero opposition from the LDS Church in its work, too.
Because, really, isn’t loving our children — all of our children — one of those family values things we all talk about?
Anyway, the group’s facebook page (click) is full of testimony supporting doing away with the ban as well as ways to tell the BSA what they want done. A few extracts:
– We had lunch with a very devout family last Sunday. They said learning that same-sex attraction is not a choice was really eye-opening for them and has completely changed how they feel about this topic.
This concept alone ought to lead to a huge change in how our gay members are treated.
I also had the opportunity to dispel the myth that someone who identifies as gay is choosing to pursue a same-sex relationship. A single sister who also joined us for lunch talked about the devotion and sacrifice required to remain in the church as a single member, and she sung praises about how valiant and dedicated celibate gay members are.
We also talked about welcoming gay couples to church and pondered what things may look like in the future when more and more legally married same-sex couples and families desire to attend church.
– Please support the policy change to allow gay youth and leaders to participate. I am a leader in my LDS ward’s troop. I work with the 16-18 year old boys in our priests quorum. My son is 15 years old and working toward his Life rank advancement. The BSA policy needs to change to be better in line with LDS church policy. There is a boy [details removed to protect identity. I told him about a boy I know who is very spiritual and popular, who has some tendencies that make me think he may come out someday]. If he comes out of the closet at some point, I can not imagine telling him he can’t participate. It would be a huge loss. How ridiculous would it be to tell him “The church loves you. We want you to participate. You can hold a temple recommend and we can take you to do baptisms at the temple. We just can’t take you to scout camp because the boy scouts of america don’t agree with our church policy.”
Thank you for the work you do. I know this change is not popular among a lot of people in Utah, but it is the right change to make. Sometimes standing up for what is right means standing up to our friends.
– Former Bishop Bob Bradley and Eagle Scout Taylor Bradley welcomed their out gay former Scoutmaster and former First Counselor to the Mt. Airy ward this Sunday. Other scouts from troop 551 joined in, too. It has been 8 years since I left. It was great to come back as an honest man knowing I was probably the first person to come out in a Sunday School and Elders’ quorum meeting in the Mt. Airy Ward. I perjured myself for 30 years to accept callings as Ward Mission Leader, Scoutmaster, First Counselor and other callings.
After 8 years I returned to my ward in Mt. airy, NC where I had served as Ward Mission Leader, chorister, Elders Quorum Teacher, first councelor and Scoutmaster for almost 30 years. I explained that I was participating in Mormons Building Bridges / Sit with me Sunday and asked if they would mind my posting pictures with their out gay Scoutmaster. Since I had come out to a former bishop after the SLC Affirmation Conference …several years ago, I hoped I would not have to tell my story again. We shook hands again and again, hugged and hugged again; yes I was welcome and would I like to attend the next Eagle Scout ceremony? My former Scouts now dwarf me and have taken their rightful posts in church leadership. After Sacrament I had opportunity to speak briefly in Sunday school and Elders Quorum…”in my true identity.” I don’t know if these brothers and sisters realize that I had to live a lie in order to serve them, which I did with all my heart. How wonderful it would be to think that that quarter century of my life might not have ended in the defeat of an outcast, but might serve as an example to welcome other LGBT youth to an opportunity for acceptance and self realization within the Mormon fold. Certainly they cannot know how deep the wounds, how bitter the griefs I gave buried nor how long it will take to dismantle the walls of self defense I have built in order to survive. In fact, I have been forced to move on and find sanctuary within. The simple truth is that I loved them first, knowingly and believe that they cannot be made perfect until they can accept and cherish all of God’s children as I know He does. At least my brothers and sisters tried to convince me today.