April 26th, 2013
08:20 AM ET
By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said it was "satisfied" with the Boy Scouts of America’s move to consider no longer denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation.
In a statement Thursday, the Mormon church called the issue “complex and challenging” and said it believed the Boy Scouts were making “a thoughtful, good-faith effort” to address the issue.
“We are grateful to BSA for their careful consideration of these issues," the statement said. “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 Boy Scouts of America said last week it would consider a proposal that would no longer deny membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation but would maintain its ban on openly gay adult leaders. The organization's executive committee made the proposal.
"If approved, the resolution would mean that 'no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.' The BSA will maintain the current membership policy for all adults," Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith said.
The Boy Scouts proposal was anticipated after the group had punted on the issue in February. At the time, the Mormon church heralded the postponement, saying the organization had “acted wisely in delaying a vote on this policy issue until the implications can be more carefully evaluated.”
The Mormon Church has long been a supporter of the Boy Scouts, both in numbers and words. In 2011, Mormons represented 15% of the 2.7 million registered Boy Scouts, the single biggest group.
The church teaches that sex should be reserved only for a married man and woman, and congregants in violation of the church's teaching on sexual relationships can be excommunicated. Since gay people cannot be married in the church, any sex would be premarital and therefore sinful. Under these beliefs, members of the lesbian, gay and transgender community could be practicing Mormons as long as they are celibate.
Though the church’s doctrine condemning homosexuality has not changed in the last few years, and it remains opposed to same-sex marriage, some observers say the church is subtly but unmistakably growing friendlier toward the LGBT community, including voicing support for some gay rights.
Some activists pointed to the less public role in same-sex marriage ballot initiatives in 2012, a marked departure from earlier fights – such as California's Proposition 8 in which the church vocally supported the move to have same-sex marriage banned.
A statement in support of allowing gay children to join the Boy Scouts would be another step in that softening.
“The current BSA proposal constructively addresses a number of important issues that have been part of the ongoing dialogue including consistent standards for all BSA partners, 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,” this week's Mormon statement continued.
The Boy Scouts' proposal is expected to be presented to voting members at the organization's May meeting in Dallas. If the policy is approved, it will take effect January 1.
– CNN’s Katia Hetter contributed to this report.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team and frequent posts from religion scholar and author Stephen Prothero.