SALT LAKE CITY — When the Boy Scouts of America began a discussion earlier this year about lifting its ban on gays, some speculated it could lead to the severing of ties with the Mormon church that goes back 100 years.
Those predictions ended up being off the mark.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints threw its support behind the new policy voted on Thursday by the Boy Scouts of America that opens the door for gay youth to join the ranks, while continuing to ban gay adult Scout leaders.
With more Scouting troops than any other religious denomination in the country, the backing of the Salt Lake City-based church was significant for the Scouts.
Following church leadership, Utah’s two main Boy Scout councils — made up nearly entirely by Mormon-sponsored troops and among the largest in the country— also backed the rule change.
“This is a win for youth and a win for the community,” said John Gailey, spokesman for the Utah National Parks Council, which has 84,000 youth Scouts across central and southern Utah. “It gives all youth the opportunity to take advantage of the values instilled by Scouting.”
A survey done earlier this year of Salt Lake City-area scouting families revealed discomfort with lifting any part of the gay ban, but Mormon scholars say the hierarchal culture of the church means members are unlikely to diverge from church guidance.
“I would hope that members understand and pay attention to what their church leadership is saying and follow in that support,” he said.
The LDS church still teaches its members that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that same-sex relationships are sinful. But the church recently launched a campaign encouraging members to be more compassionate toward gay and lesbian members of the church.
The church welcomes members who experience “same-sex attraction” as long as they don’t act on those feelings.
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