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Mormons Face A Painful Loss If The Church Severs Boy Scout Ties

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Boy Scouts work on canoes at camp Maple Dell outside Payson, Utah. The Mormon Church is considering pulling out of its 102 year old relationship with the Boy Scouts after the Boy Scouts changed it's policy on allowing gay leaders in the organization.

The vote by the Boy Scouts of America to lift its ban on openly gay troop leaders last week was a blow to some religious conservative organizations that have long been connected to scouting, especially the Mormon Church, which has deep roots in the Boy Scouts.

The church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has used the Boy Scouts as its official program for young men for more than 100 years, according to Quin Monson, a political science professor at Brigham Young University.

"The church took the Boy Scout program and decided its values and mission aligned closely enough with that of the church's program for young men that they just wholesale adopted it," says Monson, who is Mormon, the father of a Boy Scout and a former Boy Scout himself. "Basically, if you are a young Mormon male, you join the Boy Scouts."

Monson just returned from two nights at scout camp with his son. He tells NPR's Rachel Martin that the secular and religious overlap in Mormon scouting. "In some senses, it's hard to tell the two apart," he says.

Interview Highlights

On what Mormons are saying about the BSA vote

It's clearly on the minds of the scouting community in Utah, which is very heavily LDS. My sense is that there's not disappointment with the church as much as maybe disappointment with the scout program, and just disappointment that the relationship might be in danger, because it's something that's valued and loved. I think that, for most Latter-day scout leaders in particular, they're loyal to scouting but their loyalty lies with the church and they'll ultimately go whatever direction the church asks them to go.

On why the church might split with the Boy Scouts

The BSA statement allows for leaders who are openly gay, and what that means in practice is, I don't think, exactly clear, but I think it could very well conflict with the church's own policy, which is you can identify as gay and be an active, faithful member of the Church Christ of Latter-day Saints. The problem is acting on that same-sex attraction, so there's a distinction made between actions and orientation.

On his son's reaction to the BSA vote

His reaction was interesting: It's not a concern to him. He's a pretty deep thinker, and a thoughtful kid, but his reaction was, "Well, I don't see why it matters, dad. Why is this such a big deal?"

That's the hard part about all of this, is that it impacts a group of young men who don't necessarily understand why.

On how he'll feel if the church severs ties with the Boy Scouts

Well, I'm torn with that too. Yeah, it will, it would make me sad, and mostly because my own history with the scouts is filled with great memories.

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