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Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014

Wright Words: What the Boy Scouts of America decision means for your son

By Jason F. Wright, For the Deseret News

Published: Tue, May 28 11:00 a.m. MDT

 The Boy Scouts of America's decision last week to amend their membership rules regarding sexual orientation presents a tremendous opportunity for parents of young men.

The Boy Scouts of America's decision last week to amend their membership rules regarding sexual orientation presents a tremendous opportunity for parents of young men.

(Associated Press photo)

The Boy Scouts of America's decision last week to strike the restriction denying membership to youths on the basis of sexual orientation presents a tremendous opportunity for parents of young men.

Regardless your family’s position on the hot-button issue, the change in policy gives parents and sons at least three fantastic discussion topics.

First, young men must understand that with regards to sexual behavior, absolutely nothing has changed. The BSA’s official statement is clear: “The resolution also 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.”

We live in a pulsating world where our children are bombarded with blatant sexuality and subtle innuendo years before sexual conduct belongs on their radar. If your son is a Scout, why not use the news to have a frank discussion about abstinence? Remind them of the expectations of Scouting, of your faith and of you.

Second, this is a golden opportunity for parents to teach sons how important it is to treat others with respect. Perhaps you’re among those who disagree with the change or who would have preferred an even greater pivot in the direction to include adult leaders. If so, consider using this moment to demonstrate to your children how you can voice disapproval calmly through the proper channels with dignity and honor.

It’s critical that our sons see that we respect all young men no matter their Scout rank, race, religion or sexual orientation. This approach is central to Scouting’s mission. Parents and boys should always remember that among other things, the Scout Law defines these young men as loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind and cheerful. Those attitudes and behaviors are not optional, even when we disagree with one another over such critical matters.

Third, the resolution regarding sexual orientation should be a clarion call that God loves us all. Any parent ought to divorce himself from the poisonous attitude that his son is any better than another because he happens to be a star football player, or a member of the National Honor Society, or because he isn’t experiencing same-sex attraction and someone else in the troop is.

Talk to your sons — and daughters, for that matter — about the incomprehensible love that our literal creator has for each and every one of us. We do not have to agree on sexual politics, policy or preference, but we do have to care for one another, because God commands it.

Let's show love. Model a caring attitude. Teach compassion.

The controversy surrounding this new policy isn’t likely to be fueled by the young men learning to tie knots, fold flags and be good citizens. If negativity and distrust catches fire and spreads, it will come from adult leaders and parents who perhaps lose sight that it’s not about press conferences, boycotts and bullying. It’s about the boys.

What does the Boy Scouts of America decision mean for your son? It means a chance to sit down with dad, mom or both over their favorite treat and have an honest talk about sexuality, respect for others and God’s unwavering love for all his children.

If you’ve got a young man in Scouting, go seize the moment — and the conversation.

Ice cream is optional. Talking is not.

Jason F. Wright is a New York Times best-selling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars," "The Wednesday Letters," and "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at jwright@deseretnews.com or jasonfwright.com.

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1. Commenter88
Salt Lake City, Utah,
May 28, 2013

I disagree. Scouting and sexual orientation have no connection, so I wouldn't introduce it in this context. It was never the design of scouting to exclude any boys based on orientation, but to preserve the experience as a place free from such politicized and distracting topics. Admittedly, the public cultural messages regarding this topic are insipid and full of bromides, but its not up to scouting to add substance to the dialogue. Quite the opposite. For my son, scouting is the same. If he has a question, he will ask. I think the opportunity requires more nuance than seizing.

2. NC Rick
Chapel Hill, NC,
May 28, 2013

Very good suggestions and perspective here Jason. As and LDS parent of two boy scouts, thanks. The one addition I'd make though is the insight that the church has actually been more liberal than BSA historically in that they've never excluded anyone based on sexual orientation (at least not to my knowledge) whereas BSA has long had that discriminatory policy in place and still does with respect to scout leaders. I'd also add that BSA is still being hypocritical as (to my knowledge) a gay man who is celibate cannot be a leader in scouts but a single, straight man who is not, can (not in LDS troops, but in others). That seems like a bad double-standard.

3. The Economist
Newport, PA,
May 28, 2013

I think there is no problem with Scouts admitting young men who openly acknowledge they feel a same-sex attraction. I think we have become more civilized as a society to recognize that the attraction by itself is not threatening anyone. BYU changed its Honor Code several years back to reflect the same thing. But the values haven't changed. Scouting still does not encourage any sexual behavior so claims that Scouts are now allowing open Homosexuality are ridiculous.

4. Rocket Science
Brigham City, UT,
May 28, 2013

Excellent article Jason! Your 3 points to talk with our youth about are excellent, they are crucial, they are what we need more discussion of in society. I do agree; scouting has not changed, the same standards, values, morals and expectations are in place and have not changed.

Youth will have questions and while a very few may ask a question here or there we are fooling ourselves if we think we can wait until they come to us with a question. It is up to the parents to bring up topics of sexual standards, values, morals and expectations. If we don't start the discussion our youth will learn from another source.

5. Opinionated
Sandy, UT,
May 28, 2013

I understand the article and the comments made so far. For the most part I agree. However, the point being missed here is that the gay community will interpret this as a partial victory and a sign that we as a society are becoming more accepting of them. Here I part ways with the BSA. In my opinion, any sexual behavior outside a legally binding marriage should not be condoned. In my opinion, marriage should stay defined as between one man and one woman, recognizing marriage as the foundation of a strong family. In my opinion, any homosexual behavior (not tendencies) is wrong. I reject that life style as I do the lifestyle of pedophilia etc.