“I would like to hear you scream in pain.”
“Play some rap music.”
— from the film “The Last Boy Scout”.
Although it may grow tiresome for some that read my columns, there is a reason why I always harken back to my upbringing in South Philadelphia. Many times in this space, the mission of this column is to compare my former life as a big city kid to my current life as a middle-aged man in northern Utah.
Your Humble Columnist attempts to convey to my dozens of readers why I see events that affect all of us that live here differently than many whom I would refer to as “Logan lifers”.
I was raised in an Italian-American neighborhood with a strong Catholic background in a city of 1.5 million residents. My boyhood playground was constructed with concrete and metal gates. We used the side of brick rowhouses to play games with rubber balls and broken broomsticks. The only mountain I saw as a kid had Julie Andrews twirling on it.
It was not a terribly long drive to the lush, green countryside of Lehigh Valley, aka, Amish Country, or the serene forests of the New Jersey Pine Barrens; but, these were day trips, not a common way life.
It wasn’t Utah.
It should be obvious by this awkwardly long preamble that I was never a Boy Scout (proper noun), or a boy scout (allegorical common noun). I know there are Boy Scout troops in Philadelphia, but they mostly stayed hidden away in the northeast part of the city—which is the same place we stash the Republicans, all 12 of them.
The proper noun Boy Scouts just weren’t a thing for my kind. And the common term “boy scout” was used disparagingly. Anyone tattooed with that moniker was considered a goody two-shoes (another pejorative) that was pious in their dress and behavior. A boy scout never lied, never used bad language, always did what he was told and would rat out other kids for doing wrong things.
Those might sound like admirable traits to many of you…and that is why I frequently mention that I am from a different place than where you come from.
When I became familiar with Mormons and the Mormon Church in the 1990’s, I was still ignorant of the symbiotic relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then I moved to Utah in 2004 and soon became fully cognizant of how being a Boy Scout is an ingrained part of Mormon culture.
Moving from Cub Scout to Boy Scout to the ultimate goal of Eagle Scout is a rite of passage for Mormon boys, especially in the west. For many, their brothers were Boy Scouts, as was their father, his brothers, both grandfathers, and so on.
For Mormons, the appeal of being a Boy Scout can be found in the values they espouse. The Scouts often preach a system of self-reliance, doing good deeds, seeking spirituality in nature, and being honorable, patriotic American citizens.
There is an abundance of hokeyness in both Mormonism and the Boy Scouts that destined them to be an inseparable pair. As a movie metaphor, they are most like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” with the subtle innuendo of “Brokeback Mountain” on the fringes.
And this is where the culture clash returns to the conversation. I think a group of dudes spending an entire weekend in the woods camping without any women or beer in sight to be nonsensical and counterproductive. It feels like purgatory, with mosquito bites.
Again, not my thing. But, I readily admit that being a Boy Scout might have held sway with me when I was younger had I been raised in a rural area. If my father did it, I might want to have done it. My father taught me to love chess, history, and hockey. That’s usually how it works.
Had I been a Boy Scout, I wonder how I would have reacted to this week’s story that the LDS Church would officially cut ties with the BSA, effective at the end of 2019.
Why the split after a century of harmony? Girls and gays.
In 2015, the BSA voted to allow for openly gay men to serve as troop leaders. The Mormon Church is, in my expert opinion, intolerant to the idea of homosexuals in a position of authority over their children. After all, Mormon boys may learn that gay men are not deviants, but regular human beings with the same emotions, aspirations, and dreams they do. Can’t have that!
The first step came last year when the Mormon Church pulled all teenage boys from the Scouts. Recently, the Boy Scouts announced that girls would be allowed to join.
Girls and gays being treated as equals with healthy, young, (hopefully) heterosexual Mormon boys? Nope! Not happening!
The LDS Church is currently building their own program that will replace the BSA. It will hold many of the best virtues of scouting, but with a decidedly religious bent.
Good! Mormon boys do not have enough Mormonism in their lives. Three hours of church on Sunday, weeknight meetings, and seminary five days a week just is not enough to keep these boys concentrated on Mormon themes. This new scouting program should finally get the point across.
The Mormon Church warned the Boy Scouts of America that any effort to be tolerant towards homosexuals would be met with a severe reaction. I can only guess that the BSA was…wait for it…prepared for this. Mormons make up 20% of the Scouts, and nearly all of them will be gone soon.
The Boy Scouts wanted to be tolerant and shed the archaic belief that homosexuality is bad, and the Mormon Church wanted no parts of it.
Disgusting, disgraceful, deplorable.
But, this is what happens when social mores move past the primitive fears of outmoded religious dogma. The Boy Scouts evolved past the bigotry embodied in homophobia. And the price they will pay might be their own extinction within a decade.
The Mormon Church and its members have every right to leave the Boy Scouts behind them if they truly believe that a small modicum of humanity shown to homosexuals is truly unacceptable to their interpretation of Jesus’s ministry.
If the new Mormon scouting program fails it will not just be because after 100 years of steadfast traditions that generations of Latter-day Saints passed on from father to son will have been irrevocably altered, but because in these present days a foundation built in the sediment of willful ignorance cannot sustain its own weight.