Sunday, June 30, 2013

Burgers and Blessings

We cruised down I-15 toward the MTC. We planned to get lunch along the way and had scheduled enough time to stop for photos and last minute good-byes. It was sunny and relatively warm for November.

Through the rear view mirror I examined my son in the back seat of the car, looking for signs of anxiety. Decades earlier when I had made the same trip with my parents my father told me to lighten up because I was acting like a soldier right before going into combat for the first time. After all, many thousands had survived the MTC just fine. My son seemed to be in a state of heightened awareness, but didn't seem overly anxious.

My wife suddenly realized that she had failed to get postage stamps and stationary for our son. Seeing as she wanted him to write home—you know how moms are—we had to make a stop. I noticed an office supply store that was easily accessible from the adjacent freeway exit. I took the exit and drove to the store. It didn't take long to secure the needed supplies.

We then figured that it would work best if we ate lunch in that vicinity rather than making a second stop. We asked our son to pick from the multiple nearby dining establishments. He saw a Five Guys Burgers and Fries across the parking lot and he suddenly had a hankering for a gourmet burger.

Upon entering the burger place I saw a fellow that I recognized sitting down to lunch. But I couldn't quite place him. His face lit up as he asked, "Are you ... ?" We began an enjoyable chat. In the meantime we got our order and sat down to dine.

As we ate, our friend turned to my son and said, "I need to tell you a story about your grandfather." He explained that he suddenly felt that it was important for my son to hear this message. Years earlier as a teenager this man had visited my father to receive a patriarchal blessing.

At that time the young man was had been steadily dating a girl for quite awhile. Everyone in both of their families assumed that the two of them would someday wed. Indeed, during the blessing my father voiced some things about this man's future wife that seemed to apply to the young man's girlfriend. Among these comments was that the man's future wife was being raised in an "inactive" family. Indeed, his girlfriend was the only active church member among her immediate family members.

The following day the young man left on a long planned trip to Europe with an educational group. During the trip he became good friends with a young lady he had never previously met. His new friendship caused him to question facets of his relationship with his girlfriend.

During the young man's absence, my father delivered a printed copy of the patriarchal blessing to the young man's home. Soon after the young man returned home, he read this copy and was surprised to see that some of the wording regarding his future spouse had changed. Among other things, it said that she was being raised in a "loving" family rather than an inactive family. Other subtle changes made for a picture that didn't seem to match his girlfriend as much.

The changes bothered the young man so much that he visited my father and asked about it. Dad explained that English was not his native tongue, so that the words he said while speaking the blessing were not always the best fit for what the Spirit had spoken to his heart. He also said that a patriarch is allowed to receive revelation while preparing the printed copy of the blessing. Dad said that by the time he delivered the final copy, he was certain that the words were a close match for what the Spirit had told him.

Before long, this young man left to serve as a missionary for the church. The relationship with his girlfriend ended up not working out (as is often the case for missionaries that leave a girlfriend behind). About a year after returning from his mission, he ran into the girl he had met on his trip to Europe. They began dating and eventually married. He said that her family members were among the most loving people he had ever met.

As the story and our lunch wrapped up, the man told my son that he had no idea why he felt so strongly that my son needed to hear that story; only that it was important. As we climbed into the car, I wondered about the 'coincidence' of ending up in the same restaurant as this man so far from our homes. My son saw it as a tender mercy from the Lord.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pardon Me, but You Need a Blessing

It kept niggling in the back of my mind during worship services. I couldn't escape the feeling that this man needed help. But what could I do?

Earlier that day I had run into the father of a family that I home taught. This industrious, normally placid fellow was frustrated. More than that, I sensed anguish in his soul as he grappled with matters beyond his control. Half a world away his missionary child was dealing with a newly diagnosed chronic disease. The love and concern this father felt was running up against the obstacles of time zones and bureaucracy.

During priesthood meeting it became very clear to me that this brother needed a priesthood blessing. The clarity, calm, love, and warmth that washed over me were unmistakable. Given the repeated counsel to act promptly on direction from the Holy Spirit, I knew that I needed to take care of the matter that day.

But thinking about approaching this man made me feel rather awkward. He held an influential leadership position. He had close associates with whom he served and worthy adult sons that could and would readily perform the ordinance. While I was his home teacher, I certainly didn't have the close relationship with him that these others had. Besides, he would be busy in meetings throughout the day as part of his calling. When could I even talk to him?

As I was tempted to rationalize away the responsibility I felt had been placed upon me, I realized that later in the day this brother and I would end up at the same meeting. I arrived early and saw him speaking with one of his close associates. I was pleased to note that his wife was also in attendance.

As the brother wrapped up his conversation I broke in and asked if he had received a priesthood blessing. It felt socially uncomfortable, but spiritually right in a powerful way. At first this man looked at me with obvious surprise. I explained that I had repeatedly felt since our conversation earlier in the day that he needed a priesthood blessing and that his wife ought to receive one as well. I said that one of his sons or close associates could take care of the matter or that I would be happy to do so as his home teacher.

The man became thoughtful and suggested that we go to his office immediately following the meeting. I invited the associate with whom he had been speaking to accompany us. I felt so good throughout the meeting. I knew I had done the right thing and that good would come of it. I received whisperings of the words I should speak.

After the meeting I and the man I had invited blessed this priesthood leader. It was a powerful spiritual and emotional experience. There were few dry eyes in the room. The other two of us then joined this man as he blessed his wife. He almost couldn't speak at first, choking with loving emotion. Then he spoke mighty words of spiritual comfort as tears rolled down his cheeks.

The whole experience lasted only a few minutes. Then we all went our separate ways, changed for the better. While I often fail to do what I should, this time I knew I had done the right thing. Church leaders have problems and need help from time to time too. Despite social awkwardness, it felt good to know that I had allowed myself to be an instrument in helping calm an anguished soul.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Imported Initiative

At five years of age my aunt was shocked when her school teacher said that she couldn't speak English. Well, of course she could speak English. She could readily understand her teacher and her classmates. But she was frustrated that many of them could not understand her. She got along just fine at home and at church; why was school so different?

A representative from the school visited the family home and bluntly told my aunt's parents that they would need to start speaking English at home if they wanted their children to keep up in school. After all, my aunt's father spoke English at work and her mother could get along in English.

Things changed after that. My aunt's parents made an earnest effort to speak English at home; although, the family continued to attend a church for a few more years where the parents' native language was spoken. My aunt and the other students for whom English was a second language rapidly learned to communicate in English.

I recall my aunt having an impressive English vocabulary. She was incredible at playing Boggle. She said that by the time she graduated high school in Minnesota her command of her parents' native Norwegian language had gotten pretty rusty and that most of her younger siblings knew almost no Norwegian.

I thought about my aunt as I read this Wall Street Journal article about how well Hispanic immigrants in the U.S. are assimilating. Despite critics' claims that today's Hispanics are not assimilating like earlier waves of immigrants, "the evidence overwhelmingly shows that today's immigrants are acculturating and moving up the economic ladder like previous generations."
"All of this follows the traditional three-generation model of linguistic assimilation that characterized European immigrants in the last century. Typically, English is the dominant language of the second generation, and by the fourth generation fewer than a quarter can still speak the immigrant tongue."
Of course, it isn't just language that sets immigrants apart; it's culture. U.S. history is replete with established residents fearing cultural changes fostered by new immigrants. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin asked, "Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs?"

Despite technological, commercial, and social offerings that allow immigrants to keep in touch with their mother country's culture, today's Hispanic and Asian immigrants are also following the standard three-generation model of economic and cultural assimilation. It can seem as if this is not the case, because we continue to get new waves of first generation immigrants, who rarely assimilate as well as their children and grandchildren.

A few weeks ago my wife and I dined at Javier's, a Mexican restaurant in the area. A lean Hispanic man in his mid-50s wearing a restaurant employee uniform ate his dinner at a nearby table. After observing him for awhile, I realized this this was Javier himself.

Born in poverty in Mexico, Javier came to the U.S. because he excelled in track and was recruited by a local university for their track squad. He found work in the restaurant industry and eventually followed his dream of opening his own restaurant, which has grown to a small chain over the years. I deeply admire what this hard working man and his family have achieved.

Of course, not all immigrants are as upstanding as Javier. How often do we hear about gang problems and crime among immigrant populations? While crime rates are indeed higher among first generation immigrants than in the broader population, crime rates among the second generation closely match the population average (see Open Borders report, Tyler Cowen post). Some researchers say that crime rates are much lower for current immigrants than they were among 18th and 19th Century immigrants. Nor do today's immigrants use social welfare programs at abnormally high rates (see CATO Institute paper).

My son recently wrote to me about the high rate of social welfare use and lack of initiative among the native population of the European country where he is serving as a missionary. Many people are unwilling to work. Many that are willing to work prefer some kind of government job or something very low risk, preferably with reduced hours.

Like other western European countries, the country where my son is living has a large immigrant population. Should the lack of native ambition be blamed on the immigrants, my son wondered. "No," I responded. Rather, blame should be placed on well intentioned programs that rob people of initiative to the point that they have to import immigrants that still have ambition and drive. These immigrants are also needed to supplement social infrastructure because natives have lost the initiative to reproduce and raise families.

While many features of social welfare systems are cherished and most of the cases where they go awry are founded in good intentions, there is a darker side that insidiously weaves itself into the human soul. Alexis de Tocqueville's amazing 1833 treatise Democracy In America warned that such a system "rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces [the] nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd."

A missionary that recently returned from the country where my son is serving said that people there are proud that their country ranks high on some kind of happiness scale. He said that it is more like they have a low rate of social factors that are construed to represent unhappiness. The people aren't necessarily unhappy, but many of them aren't happy either. They've got lots of stuff, but their lives lack the thumos that makes life worth living. You've got to go among the immigrant population to find that.

Is this where the U.S. is headed?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Father's Day In Primary (Again)

Our ward Primary has long had a tradition of inviting several dads of Primary children to attend sharing time on Father's Day. The dad and the child (or children) are seated next to each other at the front of the room, much to the delight of the children whose fathers are in attendance; although, the fathers often seem uncomfortable.

Then the game begins. Each child is asked to give responses to questions about their dad. Primary presidency members have previously plied the dads for their responses so that no one can fudge. Each dad holds a stack of papers face down on his lap denoting his responses.

Being the father of five children I have had at least one child (and usually more) attending Primary for more than two decades, so I have participated in this Father's Day game every few years for a long time. Yesterday was the latest (and perhaps final) episode. In keeping with the game, I refused to give my daughter clues beforehand.

My daughter and I actually did better this time around. I have discovered that it does no good to be wishy-washy about things like my favorite color. I had a favorite color years ago, but not so much anymore. There are colors that I like. Lots of them. Why do I have to pick just one? But for my daughter's sake, I reverted to my childhood favorite color and she guessed right. I smiled when she got my eye color right this time. And my favorite Primary song (My Heavenly Father Loves Me).

One of the questions was mine. I knew immediately that my daughter would say that her favorite thing to do with me is to go on our monthly daddy-daughter date. I was right.

Years ago when our two oldest were small and I was busy working full time while also taking a full load of university courses, we instituted daddy-child dates so that each child could get some one-on-one time with dad. Sometimes we just run errands. Sometimes we have a picnic or go to a movie. But the child always gets some kind of treat. The funny thing is that each child that lives at home (even when they're 20-something) still looks forward to their turn to hang out with dad. I'm flattered.

I was disappointed that my daughter still had no clue as to my favorite dessert. Part of the reason for this may be that I have eaten fairly restrictive diets her whole life. I do indulge in various treats on occasion, but maybe this occurs rarely enough that she hasn't been able to formulate a basis for the correct answer. No, it's not cake and it's not pie (although I tend to like pie better than cake for some odd reason); it's forever and always ICE CREAM! At least my daughter didn't answer "cake" this year.

My daughter vaguely recalled that I had served my mission in Norway, after almost failing to answer the question at all. That surprised me, because it's not like her mother and I don't talk about our missions. Yeah, it's been a long time since either of us has been back to Norway (me) or Central America (her). But we do have a fair amount of trinkets from these places on display at home and I still read Norwegian content daily. It's not a secret.

In the end, all of the daddy-child teams performed about equally well yesterday. The scores didn't really matter anyway. It was fun and rewarding in non-competitive ways. After the game the Primary joined in singing the favorite Primary song of each dad that had played the game. (There were no duplicates this year.) It was a nice way to wrap up the event.

As I left the Primary room my daughter gave me a big hug and kissed me on the cheek. The look on her face said how proud she was of the two of us. No purchased Father's Day gift can ever come close to being as good as that.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do Mormons Have to be Dehydrated While Fasting?

Sometimes priesthood meeting is calm; so calm that some of the brethren sleep quite soundly. Sometimes we have fairly lively discussions, which can be quite uplifting. And on rare occasions the atmosphere becomes downright contentious.

The last of these situations happened one Sunday when we had a lesson about fasting. One brother that occasionally attends became very offended about the whole topic. The instructor had explained right up front that those that have special health needs (which would include this brother) should not risk their health by abstaining from food and/or fluids. But for some reason that disclaimer wasn't enough. The man felt that he was being judged simply because of his health condition.

Once things settled down, a new point of contention arose over whether it is acceptable to drink water during a fast. After all, if the purpose of the fast is to give to the needy the value of that which would otherwise have been consumed, and the monthly water bill is unaffected by a few cups of water, why is it necessary to be dehydrated? Isn't the "drink" referred to in the proscription on drink during a fast (see Handbook #2 section 21.1.17) something for which you would pay, such as soda pop?

I'm sorry to say that our group waxed rather Pharisaical on this point. There was much bickering. The website (scroll down and click on OBSERVE THE LAW OF THE FAST) clearly states, "Once a month, God asks us to fast, or forego food and water for two meals." But as I understand it, the website does not claim that its content constitutes actual church doctrine or policy (except where directly quoted from authoritative sources).

Russell M. Nelson wrote an answer to the water during fasting question when he was the General Sunday School President in 1976, saying about abstaining from drink that "the use of water is excluded in this kind of a fast." But right up front the article clearly states, "Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy."

The First Presidency under Heber J. Grant issued an official statement on this topic in 1932 saying:
"When fasting, members of the Church are advised to abstain from two meals each Fast Day and to contribute as a donation the amount saved thereby for the support of the worthy poor; also by prayer in connection with fasting to develop spiritual power. No direct instruction is given in the Doctrine and Covenants regarding abstaining from water while fasting. In the Bible there are three references in connection with fasting and abstaining from water. These are: Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 9:9-18, where it states that Moses 'did neither eat bread nor drink water'; and Esther 4:16, where Esther asked the Jews to fast for her and to 'neither eat nor drink.'
"The spirit of fasting is the main thing to encourage. Too much stress should not be laid on technical details, but the self denial of food, striving for spiritual strength and donating for the benefit of the poor should constantly be in mind."
This statement sounds very non-committal to me. It's kind of like, "If you want to go without water while fasting, go ahead. But don't get too tied up in the details. It's mostly about not eating food, praying, and caring for the poor."

By the time our group got around to people trotting out various evidences to support their points of view on the matter, I think it's pretty safe to say that we had gone far afield from the spirit of the law and were debating the letter of the law. Wasn't that kind of behavior repeatedly condemned by the Savior in the New Testament?

But none of this answers the question of whether your fast is acceptable if you drink water on fast Sunday. I'm afraid that my answer on this point resembles what I say when a child of mine mopes around on fast Sunday asking if he can eat yet: "Well, the family is ending its fast at such-and-such time. If you want to end your fast earlier, that's between you and the Lord. You talk it over with him and do what the Spirit tells you."

Yes, that's a guilt trip wrapped up in the soft shell of a righteous sounding answer. But it puts the responsibility where it belongs. Most of the time my children decide to endure, but not always. I don't nag or berate the child about his choice. After all, maybe the child's fast was acceptable. At any rate, the Lord blesses the child according to the faith applied.

My advice is similar when it comes to drinking water while fasting: it's between you and the Lord. Do what the Spirit tells you is the right thing for you. And don't get all hot and bothered about how others choose to observe the fast.

Let me tack a disclaimer onto that advice. You should take anything I say on this matter with a grain of salt. Or not. Salt would only make you thirstier.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Fever Grind

For the past week I have been contemplating Ken Craig's post about the wondrous summers of his youth. I didn't have carefree summers like that. I had one job or more jobs starting at age 11 and we lived a long way from anything resembling the beaches Ken describes.

My main job was an afternoon shift, so I would often sleep in before spending time staring at the inane content available on the three stations we could view on our black-and-white TV set. Many weekdays we would walk a mile to the municipal swimming pool where we would spend 1-2 hours before lazily walking back home through the cemetery. We rode around the neighborhood on our bicycles and took hikes into the nearby foothills.

But the summers of my youth were all pretty mundane; nothing like the idyllic summers described by Ken Craig. Although I groused about my jobs, I was happy to have the responsibility and the income.

My high schooler is in his third week of summer vacation from the grind of compulsory public schooling. But he grouses that he has had no summer vacation yet. He had hoped to earn some money doing the window cleaning business he learned from his older brother last summer. But so far his summer has pretty much been more school work.

This boy is quite intelligent. He understands a number of subjects quite well. But he has long had academic challenges due to failure to focus on, complete and turn in assignments. Frankly, a lot of this stuff seems like worthless busy work to him, since he usually understands the concepts already. And to be honest, a lot of it probably is inane. But it's also the unavoidable path to a passing grade.

My son is far smarter than I was at his age. I was forced to take chemistry back then. I have no idea how the geniuses in the office determined that chemistry was right for me. It wasn't even one of my alternates. I had somehow managed to pull C– grades in algebra, although, I had absolutely no clue what was going on in the course.

Chemistry was worse. I didn't even understand why the textbook was filled with math. (A subject, as stated above, that completely eluded me.) After a D and a D– in chemistry the school finally allowed me to transfer out of the class. But only after my mother had a stern exchange with a vice principal, who then reprimanded the counselor that had been blocking the transfer. I still rather resent the chemistry teacher for publicly belittling me in front of the whole class when I had him sign the transfer form.

My son, on the other hand, gets and even enjoys chemistry. But he failed one quarter this past year due to the above mentioned failure to complete assignments. He has spent the past two weeks doing intensive online work to compensate for his failing grade. Before completing the work, he complained that it was on a much higher level than what he had studied in class. He ended up watching college level chemistry lectures and even consulting with one of his older brother's genius friends.

This week my son is off to EFY. Although he is happy to be attending, it is far from the unstructured time he has been craving. He is also chagrined that he had to shave his proudly cultivated beard.

Even when our son returns from EFY, his unstructured time will have to be put on hold for a few more weeks because he has to make up for two failed quarters of World Civilization. I can understand my son's problem with the course. The 'teacher' (a term used quite loosely here) mainly distributed and corrected worksheets, piled on additional useless work, and acted as an obstruction to actual education. (See YouTube video of student's rant about a similar World Civ program in Texas.)

Still, plenty of other students have managed to survive the silliness of my son's lousy World Civ teacher. My son has yet to learn that life is fraught with situations where, in order to advance you have to play the petty games demanded by those that have power over you.

By the time my son gets around to having unstructured time this summer, his remaining days of vacation will be limited. If he learns anything from this summer, I hope that he grasps the value of completing required work before it is initially due, despite the distastefulness of doing so. Not only is it important to achieve the stated learning objectives of each course, it is important to learn the unstated objectives of what it actually takes to get along in life.

We all romanticize about the rugged individualist. This theme never loses its popularity in books, movies, and other entertainment. One of the reasons for this popularity is that we are aware of how much our real lives differ from this ideal. There are countless inane things we have to do just to get along and to get ahead. We loathe the times that we bow down and pay obeisance to small minded people that have a little authority. We are uncomfortable with the reality that leading a successful life includes playing such ridiculous games.

The last thing I want to do is to squelch my smart, creative son's unique spirit. But he needs to learn that there are unpleasant things that cannot be avoided if he hopes to maximize his individual potential. Doing some irksome tasks now can be the springboard to future freedom.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

O Wretched Man That I Am

I enjoy hearing the children's song I Feel My Savior's Love. We regularly sing it as a family. But sometimes I feel dishonest as I sing, "He knows I will follow him, Give all my life to him." I think to myself, "Does he really?" because I am often aware of how poor a disciple I actually am.

Sometimes when I pray, I feel bereft of faith that my prayers will be attended to because I am so poignantly aware of my failings, my selfishness, my disloyalty toward God. When I open my mind to praise God, I often feel that the attempt is half-hearted because I am so aware of how often I fail him.

I don't always feel like a contemptible lout. Sometimes "I think myself," as C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity "a nice chap." Lewis adds that "those are, no doubt, my worst moments." Why is it that I am so blind to the sin of pride while I am engaged it it?

When I feel myself inadequate, when I am reminded of my sins and weaknesses, when I do something despicable, I am occasionally heartened by the Psalm of Nephi recorded in 2 Nephi 4:15-35. This man that is revered as a great prophet leader; this man that is so unwavering in his obedience to God cries out in verses 17-19:
"O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins."
Yes. Yes! That is how I feel. If a prophet of God feels wretched and despairs because of his sins, how much greater reason do I have to do so? Still, Nephi provides a wonderful model for us to follow. In verses 19-20, after expressing anguish for his failings, he calmly states, "[N]evertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support."

Nephi then counts his many blessings, describing to himself and his readers some examples of how God has blessed him. He then asks in verses 26-27 "why," having been so greatly blessed, "should my heart weep and my soul linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions? And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?"

While these musings are inspiring, surely they lead full circle to Nephi's original despair due to the natural fallen human and carnal state in which finds himself, do they not? Yet Nephi continues, admoninshing himself in verse 28, "Awake, my soul! No longer droop in sin. Rejoice, O my heart...."

Nephi then moves into a powerful prayer for his own soul in verses 31-35. Using mighty words and vivid imagery he calls upon the Lord to help him choose right. Nephi wants to do right; he doesn't ask to be blessed despite his sins. He tenderly asks in verse 33, "O Lord, wilt thou encircle me around in the robe of thy righteousness!" He reminds himself in verse 35 "that God will give liberally to him that asketh. Yea, my God will give me, if I ask not amiss."

Finally, after having reviewed how God has powerfully blessed him, after he has engaged in mighty prayer and reminded himself that God liberally answers prayers, Nephi concludes, "[T]herefore I will lift up my voice unto thee; yea, I will cry unto thee, my God, the rock of my righteousness. Behold, my voice shall forever ascend up unto thee, my rock and mine everlasting God. Amen." Three times (v. 30, 35) Nephi calls God his rock, his only true source of stability.

As powerful as is the Psalm of Nephi and no matter how often I read it and recite it (I have committed it to memory), I eventually find myself back where I started: "O wretched man that I am!" Still, I find some hope in the words of the song I Feel My Savior's Love. The chorus goes, "He knows I will follow him, Give all my life to him." It does not say, "He knows I do follow him...."

The entire scope of Christianity looks forward to a heaven for those that seek to follow Christ. Furthermore, Latter-Day Saint belief offers an expansive view of a glorious afterlife for the vast majority of God's children, including a heaven where eternal progress is possible. The Savior knows that I do not always follow him or give all my life to him at present. But perhaps he knows that I will ultimately follow him and give all my eternal life to him.

It is my belief in this hope that keeps me going, despite my wretchedness.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Boy Scouting: Toward Fewer?

I have been puzzling about sentiments expressed by people that are or have been connected to the Boy Scouts of America as expressed in my 5/24 and 5/31 posts. I have also been considering my own response to the recent vote to allow openly gay but chaste youth to be members of any BSA unit.

After talking to more people and considering various perspectives (including some outlined in this Washington Post article), I am beginning to believe that what has upset current and former Scouters and BSA supporters is the diminution of the BSA brand. As part of its exploration of the recent vote, the WaPo article states:
“To be a ‘Boy Scout’ — even that phrase is a metaphor for all that’s good,” said Jay Mechling, an American studies professor at the University of California at Davis who wrote a history of the Scouts. “It was this steady drip of things. Each time something happened, it kept nibbling at the Boy Scout brand.”
I mentioned a friend in my 4/23 post who opined before the vote that it really didn't matter what the BSA did at this point because the Boy Scout brand had been irreparably damaged through its handling of the controversy.

The more I talk to people, the more I realize that people on both sides of the issue are unhappy that the recent vote took place at all. Those advocating for a more liberalized membership policy toward gays are upset that the BSA didn't drop the policy long ago in the name of fairness and equality. Those that feel that dropping the ban amounts to a basic violation of core principles cannot comprehend how such principles can even be considered something that can be voted on.

Many on both sides have expressed the opinion that the BSA would not find itself in its current mess if only it had acted differently back in the 1990s when the controversy over gays first became a serious issue.

One side imagines that fully accepting sexually active gays would have resulted in expanding rather than contracting membership rates. Never mind the fact that many of the BSA's largest sponsors would have abandoned the organization had that liberalization occurred.

Another side envisions a return to the 'don't ask, don't tell' days of yore when gays were content to keep their sexual preferences secret rather than seeking acceptance. If only the BSA had done "the right thing" back then, we'd still have those blissful 'don't ask, don't tell' days now. As if Boy Scout culture could somehow operate in a time capsule apart from cultural changes.

"If only" thinking can be useful for developing lessons learned. But living in "if only" land is a dead end. It provides no way forward. Unlike the recent Star Trek movies, we do not get to live in an alternate reality. We have only what is, not what could have been.

The question is where to go from here. As mentioned in my 5/31 post, some conservative churches may opt to develop their own Boy Scouting program. For those that are LDS, the choice is fairly clear: follow the church's general leaders or forge your own path in either open or subvert rebellion. Withholding support may be better than open vocal opposition, but this is a difference of degree rather than type. I assume that many involved in liberal churches or secular sponsorships will push for greater change.

While some say that the path they are choosing is a choice for greater inclusion, it is more likely that all of these paths will prove to be more exclusive than past BSA policy. Liberals see the commandments taught by conservative churches as invalid and unacceptable. Traditionalists see the liberal gospel of social justice as opposition to God's commandments. Each side pursuing its understanding of morality will necessarily exclude the other side.

Each person that cares about Boy Scouting will have to figure out where to go from here. It is important to note, however, that the number of those that do care about Boy Scouting is declining rapidly. Each must act quickly if the BSA is to be saved.