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LDS Church satisfied with Scouting membership compromise

SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Thursday indicating it is satisfied with the Boy Scouts of America's proposed policy compromise on membership and leadership.

The BSA proposal, released last week, says "no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." It does not change the existing policy for Scout leaders of not granting "membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."

In its statement Thursday, the LDS Church said "the current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the ongoing dialogue" on Scouting membership and leadership. It also applauded BSA's "recognition that Scouting exists to serve and benefit youth rather than Scout leaders, a single standard of moral purity for youth in the program and a renewed emphasis for Scouts to honor their duty to God."

"While the church has not launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change we have followed the discussion and are satisfied that BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address issues that, as they have said, remain 'among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today'," the statement continued.

The LDS statement concluded with an expression of gratitude to BSA "for their careful consideration of these issues. We appreciate the positive things contained in this current proposal that will help build and strengthen the moral character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the future.”

The LDS Church is the largest sponsor of Scouting, with more than 430,000 Scouts currently registered in various Scouting programs. According BSA statistics, 38 percent of all BSA Scouting units are affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In late January BSA officials indicated they were considering eliminating language referring to sexual orientation in the national organization's membership policy. That determination, BSA officials said at the time, would be a local council decision. The BSA National Executive Board decided not to decide on the proposal during its early February meetings. Instead, the board said it would hear input on the proposal from chartered Scout organizations and sponsors before a proposal was submitted to the meeting of the BSA National Council in May.

National Scout officials said the resolution reinforces "that Scouting is a youth program and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting."

Speaking of Thursday's LDS Church statement, Deron Smith, national BSA spokesman, said the organization is "pleased they are satisfied that the BSA has made a thoughtful, good-faith effort to address this issue."

"For nearly 100 years we have worked together with the mutual goal of building the moral character and leadership skills of youth," Smith said. "We believe kids are better off when they are in Scouting, and the program is successful because of its relationship with valued chartered organizations like the (LDS) Church."

Rick Barnes, scout executive for the Great Salt Lake Council, one of the largest councils in the United States, said his executive committee will be meeting on May 8 to consider the compromise resolution as well as the LDS Church's Thursday statement. He said the council will comment on the issue at that time.

The resolution will be voted upon during the BSA National Council meeting in Grapevine, Texas, May 22-24.