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Why Mormons should embrace gay Boy Scout leaders


August 15, 2015

written by Zach Sorenson at


When I became an Eagle Scout four years ago, nobody knew I was gay — I was still in the process of accepting it myself. If I had told anyone, I would not have been given the award, despite a decade of involvement with scouting, countless hours with dozens of volunteers installing a garden at my elementary school and more than a hundred nights camping in the California wilderness.

scoutsBecoming an Eagle Scout was one of my proudest achievements as a teenager. My parents were thrilled as I was presented with the award in the Mormon chapel where my dad, the bishop of our local congregation and a former scoutmaster, had received his. As I thanked my peers and leaders for their support, I spoke from the same pulpit where a few years earlier, a letter had been read announcing the church’s decision to intervene in the battle over Proposition 8, which amended California’s constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. The ensuing fight entangled California, the church and the Boy Scouts of America in an intense cultural debate that has continued to play out in my own life and around the country.

Since 2008, the country has moved swiftly towards fully embracing lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the shift has been slower, but there has still been notable progress. Earlier this year, for example, the church backed a Utah law banning housing and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and last month it made an unprecedented contribution to the Utah Pride Center.

The Boy Scouts of America has also responded to this momentous cultural change, and it has become a more accepting place in the process. In 2013, after heated internal discussion, the organization finally changed its policy and began allowing openly gay scouts. Last week, it ended its longstanding and controversial ban on gay leaders and employees — although in order to maintain the support of the many religious institutions that sponsor Boy Scout troops, individual units will still be allowed to discriminate.

Despite this compromise, the Mormon Church said it is “deeply troubled” by the new inclusive policy. After a century of symbiosis and mutual growth, the church is considering ending its relationship with the Boy Scouts of America as a result.

That would be a sad mistake.

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