Thursday, July 30, 2015

Will the LDS Church Drop the BSA? (Part 2)

On Monday, July 27 I wrote this post about the response of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to end the BSA's blanket ban on gay adult leaders. Since then a variety of thought has emerged on this subject.
  • The LDS Church has publicly stated that it is "deeply troubled" by the vote in favor of the new policy. "Church leaders Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, General Young Men's President Stephen Owen and General Primary President Rosemary Wixom" were three of the 12 BSA National Executive Board members that voted against the new policy. (45 board members voted in favor of the policy change.) Church leaders will re-examine the church's involvement with the BSA, perhaps opting for an international program that will be uniform for young men throughout the church.
  • The National Catholic Committee on Scouting expresses "strong concern" about several aspects of the new policy, but in the end the committee recognizes "the increasing need for the Catholic Church to offer Scouting as a program of youth ministry."
  • Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said that the new policy will bring the cooling he has seen by Baptists toward the Scouts to a freeze. However, "Baptist churches are autonomous, so each church will decide for itself."
  • The Methodists seem to have no qualms with the new policy.
  • Jewish and Unitarian Universalist leaders have signaled a greater interest in sponsoring BSA units. Total numbers sponsored by these groups has always been small.
  • BSA assurances that the national organization will defend the rights of sponsoring churches to restrict unit level adult membership to those that sufficiently observe the religion's teachings comfort some but not others. LGBT advocacy groups have made it clear that they plan to barrage conservative churches that sponsor BSA units with lawsuits.
Many practicing Latter-day Saints with whom I have spoken are already nailing the lid on the coffin of the LDS Church's involvement with the BSA. Some gleefully so. This is admittedly not a scientific sampling. I feel that members should avoid speaking for the prophet before the prophet speaks. A Church spokesman told reporters, "In our church, the leaders don't make decisions on a 7-to-5 vote. They make decisions in unanimity...."

One LDS Newsroom statement does not make official church policy. The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve unanimously do that. So, calm down. We know that the Church is miffed about the BSA's snubbing of the Church's request for a delay in the vote. After all, the Church has traditionally had a cozy relationship with the BSA and has been able to call on favors of that nature without problem. The BSA's snub clearly communicates that that kind of thing is over.

We also know that the Church has long worked on plans for a church-wide activity program for young men that would allow boys in all of the 170 countries with LDS Church units to be on the same page. This may be the time for that program to go forward.

Something that many outside the Church (and some inside the Church) don't quite understand is that Scouting has acted as an extension of the Aaronic Priesthood. The New York Times, for example, says that "Mormons use the Boy Scouts as their main nonreligious activity for boys...."

Being an activity program does not mean that it is not religious in nature. Church leaders have repeatedly called Scouting "the activity arm of the Aaronic Priesthood." LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson has said that Scouting is "an activity program to apply the values and put into practice the principles they learn in their [Aaronic Priesthood] quorums."

While the Church maintains relationships with many organizations that have practices that the Church does not condone, these are not integrated with the Church's priesthood. This latest change in what some see as foundational principles of the BSA may simply mean that the program no longer aligns closely enough with purpose of the Aaronic Priesthood to retain its hallowed place in LDS theology. If it were simply a nonreligious activity program, the BSA's policy change wouldn't be as big of a deal.

Of course, all of this is speculation. After considering the matter as a fully body, LDS Church leaders might opt to stick with the BSA. I suspect that this would only happen if BSA leaders were to undertake some serious patch up work with the Church over the next few weeks. But what do I know? Top Church leaders will have the final say.

I am highly disappointed in Latter-day Saints that have taken to social media to gloat over what they assume will be the complete demise of the BSA. They assume that if the LDS Church leaves the BSA, all conservative churches will likewise defect, resulting in a 50% drop in membership. Some are openly glorying in the BSA declaring bankruptcy. Excuse me, but how is this any better than the hard edge LGBT activists that have engaged in this same kind of sentiment?

Actually, right now it looks like the Methodists (2nd largest BSA sponsor) and the Catholics (3rd largest BSA sponsor) are going to stay with the BSA. Baptists seem the next most likely to leave the BSA, but they sponsor only 5% of youth. And since they are independent, some Baptist churches will stay. The BSA also promises to bolster its flagging numbers by heavily recruiting sponsors among schools and other nonreligious organizations.

Still a 20%-25% drop in membership would be very painful for the BSA, especially after seeing a 13% decline in membership over the past two years. No organization that experiences that kind of business reduction can remain viable without major restructuring. This would necessarily involve layoffs and asset liquidation. While Utah and heavily Mormon areas of Idaho and Arizona would see the worst of it, BSA councils throughout the nation would be impacted.

On the other hand, one of the reasons the Church has stuck with the BSA for this long is that it has provided a platform for church members to develop relationships with people and organizations outside of the Church. Many missionary and public relations opportunities have ensued. If the Church retains its relationship with the BSA, this will be part of the reason for it.

Having been a longtime Scouter, I am seeing a variety of reactions among LDS Church members involved in Scouting. Some are tired of watching the BSA pull back from its moral stances. They are ready to let it go. Some aren't happy about the situation, but they're resigned to the Church disassociating itself from the BSA. Some are in denial. They just don't want to think about it. But one thing that is for certain is that overall enthusiasm for the program is way down among the Scouters I know. They will continue to do their duty for the sake of the boys. But the spark isn't there anymore.

I wonder what Church members will do if the Brethren say that the Church is sticking with the BSA. Will they wholeheartedly sustain the move, or will they receive the word with a doubtful heart?

Monday, July 27, 2015

BSA Allows Gay Leaders: Will the LDS Church Drop the BSA?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post asking whether the Boy Scouts of America would vote to drop its ban on gay Scout leaders. The 17-member BSA Executive Board had just voted unanimously to drop the ban. The board had then scheduled a final vote on the issue by its National Executive Board (reputed by have around 70 members) for just a couple of weeks later. That didn't leave much time for opponents of the vote to prepare their opposition.

The proposal called for removing sexual orientation as a factor in adult BSA membership, allowing religious organizations that sponsor Scouting units to retain the ban for religious purposes. This is an attempt to thread the needle of what has become a very sticky situation for the BSA. While conservative churches that sponsor most BSA units have generally been opposed to dropping the ban, I explained in my post how it has become socially and legally untenable for the BSA to retain the ban.

While this storm has been brewing for a couple of decades, the BSA has arrived at a state where keeping the ban would very likely result in the organization's demise from external and liberal internal pressures. But dropping the ban could also destroy the organization by way of internal conservative pressures.

As I thought would happen, the BSA National Executive Board today voted (45-12 — apparently some members of the board did not vote) to approve the proposal, thereby, dropping the ban on homosexual adult leaders, while promising to defend the right of churches to select local BSA unit leaders that conform to each church's religious standards (see KSL article).

Due to a statement released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which currently sponsors more BSA units and youth than any other organization — we now know that the LDS Church was snubbed by the BSA when it requested that the vote be delayed. The full statement reads:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.
"As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead."
In my earlier post I opined that the LDS Church would accept the new policy. It is now quite apparent that I was overconfident in that opinion. Some will say that it's a done deal. Maybe. But let's not get the cart before the horse. Let's wait and see what the prophets, seers, and revelators that guide the Church have to say on the matter after they reconvene next month. Once we have clarity we should move confidently ahead with the direction given, regardless of which way it turns out.

If the LDS Church drops its sponsorship of the BSA, roughly a quarter of the BSA's membership will evaporate. By my estimation, additional conservative sponsors that might separate from the BSA could add up to nearly that same number. So the BSA would likely lose somewhere between a third and a half of its membership over a fairly short time frame. Presumably the national board has done the math on this and they figure that this is the least painful path forward.

Membership losses like this would result in large layoffs among BSA employees and the liquidation of many BSA assets. I cannot see how any of the three Utah based BSA councils could survive. I'm guessing that the LDS Church would eventually acquire many of the camps currently run by these councils to facilitate the church's own program for its young men.

The LDS Church has a long history of forethought and planning. So I can't imagine that the church has no plan for what would happen if it dropped its relationship with the BSA. Although it's possible, I doubt that the church would drop its BSA sponsorship overnight. It would likely be set at a future date or a phased plan to allow transition time.

The LDS Church also has reasons to stick with the BSA. Doing so presents opportunities that otherwise would not exist to interface with members of other churches and organizations. But if the church retains its sponsorship of BSA units, the relationship between the church and the BSA will likely be somewhat strained. This would result in far less enthusiasm for Scouting among U.S. church members. Increasing numbers of church members would simply be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

From a personal perspective, it would be sad for me to see the LDS Church quit sponsoring BSA units. I have spent thousands of hours over decades volunteering in Scouting on both the LDS Church and BSA sides of the program. My life has been immeasurably enhanced through my lifelong relationships with both the LDS Church and the BSA. I have five full Scout uniforms hanging in my closet. (And I use them too.)

But to be quite honest, I would never have been involved in the BSA without the church's sponsorship of the program. It would be sad to see that go away. But times change and organizations change. Not everything that was can continue to be. If the church quits sponsoring BSA units, I imagine that my Scout uniforms, paraphernalia and memorabilia will be relegated to symbols of a cherished but bygone era and of promises made that have become part of who I am.

Until such a time comes, however, I will continue to proudly and energetically fulfill my Scouting obligations. I urge others to do the same.

Friday, July 24, 2015

My Mormon Pioneer Ancestors That I Didn't Know About

July 24 in Utah is Pioneer Day, an official state holiday that celebrates the 1847 entry of the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. For me it's pretty much just a normal work day.

For most of my life I thought that I didn't have any ancestors that came across the plains to Utah. As far as I was aware, the first members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in my family line were my maternal grandmother on the one side and my father on the other. I have always revered these as my Mormon pioneers.

Somewhat recently I became aware that I actually do have Mormon pioneer ancestors that came to Utah in the mid-19th Century. My maternal grandmother's ancestor Archibald M. Wilsey joined the LDS Church in 1835. He held leadership positions in the church near Nauvoo, Illinois during the church's Nauvoo era. His wife Phebe Manchester died the same year that Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844.

Records indicate that at some point Archibald migrated to Utah with at least some of his children. We also have record that his son-in-law William Penn Hatch (also my maternal grandmother's ancestor) came to Utah with a wagon train at some point. So I do indeed have bona fide Mormon pioneers among my ancestry.

However, neither Archibald nor William, nor apparently any of their descendants (as far as I know at present) remained in Utah. I have no idea how long they stayed around the main body of Mormons, but at some point they returned to Illinois. Nor do I have any information about why they did so.

We do know that William served in the Union forces during the Civil War and that his grave marker says that he was a colonel. (I don't know whether he achieved that rank during or after the war.) He died in Quincy, Illinois (near Nauvoo) at the end of the 19th Century.

Back in Illinois Archibald became affiliated with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now known as the Community of Christ), where he served as one of the seven presidents of that church's First Council of Seventy. Archibald served several missions for the RLDS Church and was a faithful member and leader until the end of his life.

This explains why my grandmother was raised in the RLDS Church. Through this church she developed a fervent testimony of the Book of Mormon, which like the Bible, is revered as scripture by Mormons. Still, Grandma eventually developed questions about her RLDS faith. Failing to get satisfactory answers from those she knew, she wrote to the church's top leaders. Some of their responses are still in our family's possession. These letters failed to resolve Grandma's concerns.

Like many others of that era, Grandma and Grandpa moved westward with their expanding brood. They were farming in a remote spot in Nebraska when Grandma's sister wrote to her about the LDS Church, promising to send missionaries. Grandma wrote back saying that she was opposed to that plan.

But when the missionaries showed up they offered their labor on the farm in exchange for room, board, and preaching opportunities. They worked long hard days on the farm with Grandpa. In the evening after dinner they taught the family about the gospel before bedding down in the barn.

By and by, Grandma and the children that were old enough were baptized members of the LDS Church, although, there was no nearby branch of the church. Later when the family relocated to Wyoming (bouncing back and forth between Montana and Wyoming a couple of times), Grandpa was baptized; although, he never pursued the faith as seriously as Grandma did.

Grandma remained a stalwart member of the LDS Church through the end of her life. Grandma's youngest daughter moved to Salt Lake City after high school graduation. Several years later she had a remarkable experience (recounted in this 2011 post) that led her to serve as a missionary for the LDS Church in Germany for two years. Doubtless that would not have happened had Grandma not been a solid Mormon pioneer.

During her mission, Mom helped teach the gospel to a young German man. He was baptized just a few days before Mom left Germany. But they corresponded. Sometime later the young man emigrated to Colorado. When Dad had been a member of the LDS Church for a year, he and Mom were married and sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. This union worked out very well for me.

I don't know why my Mormon Pioneer ancestors Archibald Wilsey and William Penn Hatch left the LDS Church. But their involvement in the RLDS Church provided a platform for Grandma to join the LDS Church, for Mom to serve as a missionary in Germany, for Dad to join the LDS Church, for my parents to get married, and for me to be born.

Happy Pioneer Day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Will the BSA Drop Its Ban On Gay Adult Scout Leaders?

Just two years ago the Boy Scouts of America agreed to admit openly gay (but chaste) youth into its traditional programs. At the same time, the organization firmly maintained its ban on openly gay adult leaders. (See 5/23/2013 KSL articlemy 5/24/2013 post.) Although most members of the executive board and many members of the national executive board had wanted to drop the ban altogether, their studies revealed little support among sponsoring churches and Scouting families for permitting gay adult leaders.

What a difference two years makes. Since the policy change in 2013, acceptance of gays has grown dramatically among the general population. Prohibitions on same-sex marriage have systematically met their demise at the hands of courts, legislatures, and even voters. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that states and local governments must recognize gay marriage.

Quite frankly, top BSA leaders have been preparing for this situation since 2013. Just days after the Supreme Court issued its recent ruling, the BSA executive board voted to abolish its general ban on homosexual adult leaders (see KSL article, St-Ex article, BSA Newsroom Blog post). Most adult membership requirements will still be maintained at the national level, but questions regarding sexual orientation of adult leaders will now be shifted to local sponsoring organizations. More on this in a moment.

The new BSA document titled Why the BSA Must Reconsider the Adult Leader Standards does exactly what its title says. Here are some salient quotes:
  • "Over the last three years there has been a sea change in the law with respect to gay rights."
  • "The inescapable consensus in the legal community is that a protracted legal battle to defend the BSA’s current standard excluding gay adult leaders is unwinnable."
  • "[O]verly-broad court decisions could limit the BSA from maintaining any membership standard until an appellate court reaffirms the BSA’s and religious chartered organizations’ constitutional rights with respect to the duty to God."
"[I]nstead of leaving the matter for the courts or lawmakers to decide"—a process that has been increasingly unfriendly to moral objections to homosexuality—the executive board decided to take actions that would preserve the right of religious organizations that sponsor BSA units "to determine the standards for their Scout leaders."

Some warned in 2013 that the vote to drop the BSA's ban on gay youth members would eliminate the legal basis for maintaining any kind of ban on gay adult members. They were right. The BSA's own document states, "The BSA no longer has a policy stating that homosexuality is immoral and unclean, which was the basis for the BSA prevailing in Dale." Ergo, the BSA no longer has a legal basis for its ban on gay adult members. Some leaders that supported the policy change anticipated this development.

A second BSA document titled Effect of Changes In Adult Leader Standard On Religious Chartered Organizations offers a legal analysis of potential challenges to BSA unit sponsors that restrict gays from holding BSA adult leadership positions. Non-religious organizations that sponsor BSA units will have no legal protection if they attempt to restrict gays from holding leadership positions. The document mostly addresses churches.

A strong case for First Amendment and other legal protections allowing religious organizations to choose leaders for their BSA units is laid out. It assumes that churches will maintain pretty much the same rights they have for selecting ministers. The writers opine concerning two potential types of lawsuits, apparently unable or unwilling to imagine other approaches that will certainly be tried.

Some Scout camps, for example, are on property leased from the Forest Service or another government agency. What if the government creates a policy stating that organizations that discriminate against gays will not be permitted to use this property? It would be argued that this policy is not specifically directed at religious groups.

Under this scenario, the BSA could continue to operate the camps, but BSA units sponsored by churches that do not allow gay people to serve as leaders would be banned from attending those camps. Where would the courts come down on this issue? How certain is that outcome, especially given how courts have ruled recently? How much would the litigation cost?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sponsors the largest number of BSA units, might be able to circumvent a problem like this, since it allows people with same-sex attraction to serve in all kinds of callings, as long as they keep the church's chastity code, which prohibits homosexual behavior (see

Still, activists will undoubtedly step up to challenge any restriction on homosexual behavior. After all, churches argue that the Constitution protects religious behavior and not just religious belief. Activists will contend that the same is or ought to be true for sexual orientation.

While the BSA Executive Board paints its proposal as a best case scenario, it's clear that the envisioned bed of roses is fraught with many thorns. It seems clear to pretty much all observers that the Supreme Court's recent ruling will lead to many legal clashes involving religious freedom. The proposed BSA policy change will feed into that.

The BSA National Executive Board will vote on the executive board's proposal on July 27. There are somewhere around 77-81 members of the national board, including high ranking LDS Church officials Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Primary General President Rosemary M. Wixom, and Young Men General President Stephen W. Owen.

Apparently the national executive board's vote is the final word on the matter. I'm not sure why the the 1,400 member BSA National Council doesn't get to vote on it, as was the case with the last major membership policy change. But apparently leaders have found a way avoid that body—a body that might not go along with the proposal. But I would be surprised if the vote on the 27th failed to affirm the executive board's proposal.

In my own circles, I know more than a few that will be dissatisfied with the policy change, seeing the BSA as an organization that fails to stand for the principles it purports to espouse. People will withhold donations and will refrain from doing BSA volunteer work.

Some will be disappointed when the LDS Church fails to drop the Scouting program following the vote, perhaps to the point that it negatively impacts their testimony of the faith. Perhaps they would prefer to stand on their moral high ground while riding the old policy down to the legal destruction of the BSA.

Some that are called to serve in Scouting positions in the LDS Church will simply refuse to implement the BSA programs, substituting their own ideas instead. I admonish any that feel this way to follow the counsel of Mac McIntire from his 9/8/2014 LDS-BSA Relationships Blog post.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote on July 27th, Scouting will continue to offer valuable programs to young people. But to continue to exist, the BSA must operate in the legal and cultural environment of the day. I know of those that will disagree with this statement, but I say better some Scouting than none. It's not a perfect program, but I have seen it bless the lives of many people. May it continue to do so.

Friday, July 10, 2015

My Son the Dreamer

My son Ben became interested in lucid dreaming when he was in high school. In fact, he and his friends tried to form a lucid dreaming club at school. They had more than 150 interested students and a willing adviser. But the administration turned them down, giving some kind of vague excuse that made it sound like they thought that it was some kind of occult practice.

Ben also learned about the concept of shared dreaming. As Ben puts it, lucid dreaming is scientifically verifiable, while shared dreaming is not. But the fact that shared dreaming seemed like a fantasy led Ben to begin concocting a fantasy about lucid and shared dreaming in his head.

During his first year at university Ben finally began codifying that story into written words, completing the first draft of a 366-page novel just a couple of days before leaving to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for two years. Upon his return, Ben completed second and final drafts of the book and then self published The Oneironauts: Schools of Thought.

My wife and I had been among those that read and commented on the work as Ben was rolling it out. Unfortunately for us, the book is truly the first part in a two-book series. So the ending left us hungering for the sequel, which we knew Ben couldn't begin writing until he returned from his mission.

Ben worked on the second book during this past school year. He wrapped up the final draft and published The Oneironauts: These Apparitions just a few days ago (also available in Kindle edition). So now that story is complete and Ben is a dozen chapters into a completely unrelated epic fantasy novel called The Stonelayer.

In the two Oneironauts novels Ben takes readers on a series of exciting adventures both in the waking world and on the dream plane, where shared dreams turn out to have greater consequences than the lead character had imagined. I'll put in a shameless plug for my son and tell you that you should definitely read his books. You might also enjoy checking out his Eulogy of Sanity blog.

Ben's fantasies have kept me thinking about lucid dreaming — the ability to control your dreams while in the dream state — for a number of years now. Although I haven't made the kind of conscious efforts that others have, I have experienced lucid dreaming on rare occasions. I have had far more occasions where I have become aware of my dream state without being able to control it. But the vast majority of the time I an either unaware of my dream state or I recall nothing about my dreams upon awakening.

Last night I had a dream that was quite vivid. I was at some kind of Scouting event, something that is quite common for me. There was a young man with special needs in attendance. As he tried to recite the Scout Law, he rushed through the first part and then he got stuck. He said, "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly..." and then he paused, obviously searching for what to say next. A smile then came to his lips. He confidently and quite innocently finished, "and casually flatulent." In the dream I was trying to courteously maintain my composure when I wanted to roll on the floor laughing. And then I awoke and realized it was just a dream. A very funny dream. But just a dream. However, I could easily imagine something like that happening in real life.

Dreams can be nightmarish or enjoyable. My son Ben is quite far along in his studies to become a nuclear engineer. But his true dream is to become a bona fide career fantasy author. He knows the odds are stacked against him on that score. Hence, his physics and engineering studies. But he continues to work at the authoring dream that consumes him.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Patriotism, Nationalism, and the 4th of July

Throughout my life I have considered myself to be a patriotic American. But what does that even mean? It turns out that patriotism means different things to different people. Some have equated it with nationalism, another term that has varied meanings. But says that "there is a vast difference between" the two terms.
"Nationalism means to give more importance to unity by way of a cultural background, including language and heritage. Patriotism pertains to the love for a nation, with more emphasis on values and beliefs."
That may not come across as very satisfactory to some. What is the difference between culture and values/beliefs? Variations on the meanings of these terms are rampant as well. adds:
"Patriotism is based on affection and nationalism is rooted in rivalry and resentment. One can say that nationalism is militant by nature and patriotism is based on peace."
"A patriotic person tends to tolerate criticism and tries to learn something new from it, but a nationalist cannot tolerate any criticism and considers it an insult.
"Nationalism makes one to think only of one’s country’s virtues and not its deficiencies. Nationalism can also make one contemptuous of the virtues of other nations. Patriotism, on the other hand, pertains to value responsibilities rather than just valuing loyalty towards one’s own country."
 No doubt some will disagree with the way defines these two terms. That's fine. The point is that the two terms are not complete synonyms. Thus, they are different in at least some ways.

For my purpose, it suits me to define patriotism roughly as positive affection and nationalism more or less as negative rivalry. That's not to say that both sentiments can't exist in the same person. I'm certain that even the most strident nationalists around the globe harbor some warm affection for some of the values of their respective nations.

However, nationalism is what my father saw growing up in Nazi Germany. After emigrating to the U.S. he was stunned to find this same sentiment among certain segments that considered themselves to be proud Americans. Dad said that these people would have proudly murdered Jews in concentration camps for "The Fatherland" had they been born in his native country. In my book, that's not patriotism.

My brand of patriotism is not ignorant of my nation's problems and abuses. It is informed but also balanced. William J. Bennett said we should see America "warts and all." But he also called on us to resist following those "who see America as nothing but warts" (America The Last Best Hope Vol. 1, p. XV).

A few years ago President Boyd K. Packer of the LDS Church Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk called The Test. He explained that after the 19th Century Mormon pioneers were persecuted to the point of being driven from the organized states, they still held a large patriotic celebration celebrating America. Even after an army was sent to quell a nonexistent Mormon uprising, Mormons in what is now Utah remained patriotic.

One of the church's seasoned men said, "[We] know that the outrageous cruelties we have suffered proceeded from a corrupted and degenerate administration, while the pure principles of our boasted Constitution remain unchanged." He added, "As we have inherited the spirit of liberty and the fire of patriotism from our fathers, so let them descend [unchanged] to our posterity."

In my mind, balanced patriotism requires humble gratitude. All of us that have been blessed enough to enjoy the goodness that America has to offer stand on the shoulders of countless others that came before and multitudes that have made incalculable sacrifices.

In my view of patriotism, pleading for God to bless America does not imply that God should not also bless other countries. Why wouldn't I want others to enjoy the kinds of blessings I have? I bear no ill will toward other countries and I am quite certain that God loves everyone. But I live here. So I pray and sing especially for God's blessings on this country.

This Saturday is July 4, Independence Day. Our Boy Scout Order of the Arrow chapter has the privilege of conducting early morning flag ceremonies for two different cities. As usual, we will lead the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I feel that I can patriotically pledge allegiance to our republic while simultaneously recognizing the unacceptable levels of corruption and malfeasance in our nation's government and politics.

After all, the government is not the republic itself, but an appendage. And it often poorly represents the "pure principles" mentioned by the old pioneer. It's not the government we celebrate on Independence Day. It's the American Spirit that lives in the hearts of this country's inhabitants that we celebrate. Nobody has expressed this better than C.W. McCall in his poem American Spirit.