In my life, I've met more Congressional Medal of Honor recipients than I have Eagle Scouts. That's true. The only Eagle Scouts I've ever really known were an old friend, Scott Crump, and my nephew, Nick Saltas. Scott was the best scouter in the Copperton LDS Ward troop, of which I was also a member. I made it to Star ranking—basically a knucklehead with a Cracker Jack compass. I earned a few merit badges but when the non-LDS kids were given the choice between staying in the troop or attending Mutual on Monday nights, my scouting career ended.
Scott was a studious scout and had merit badges flying off his chest. All of us kids in Bingham Canyon knew how to sleep out in the hills with a small fire, a few hot dogs and a crappy sleeping bag. We probably all had camping merit badges. I remember our troop leaving Copperton one day and hiking high into Barney's Canyon in the Oquirrh Mountains for a camping trip. That was a really pretty little canyon—if you never saw Barney's Canyon, sorry, it's kinda gone now. Anyway, Scott somehow carried nearly every size and shape of cooking utensil in his rucksack. We were grateful he did. He fed us well to earn his cooking merit badge. I like to think all Eagle Scouts are equally dedicated as Scott.
It may surprise some in the Greek community, but my nephew was awarded his Eagle status at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church in Holladay. Churches and scouts are a bad mix, but that's how it is, I guess. Nick was a good scout, too, but there were only a few kids in his troop, which must have made for some serious challenges—like, what's the point in earning a bugling merit badge if there's no one to wake up? Some dedicated adults do their best to get Greek kids interested in scouting, but lacking merit badges for Greek dancing, frappe making, filo dough rolling or horta gathering, scouting has been a tough sell to Greek kids. I'd rather not guess why, lest I piss off the few remaining Greeks who still talk to me. Let's just say that the last time most of today's Greek kids saw the inside of a tent was during the Greek Festival, and the last time they saw a lamb was also at the Greek Festival, spinning round and round over a bed of charcoal. No, paidi, garlic is not found naturally inside a leg of lamb.
So that makes two: Scott and Nick as the Eagle Scouts I've known. Surely there must be others, but damned if I know who they are. Actually, if you can believe the job résumés that have been submitted to City Weekly over the years, I've met lots of Eagle Scouts, because it's a common attribute to embellish a job résumé with—especially in these parts where listing Eagle Scout status is a known method to indicate religious affiliation. An employer cannot ask about religious beliefs in an interview, but an applicant can volunteer that information willingly or divulge it in other ways. And they certainly do.
So, when an employer sees Eagle Scout listed under "other qualifications" on a resume, that employer can quickly surmise with more than 90 percent accuracy in Utah that the applicant is LDS (that percentage rises to 100 percent if the blue-eyed applicant also lists that he is fluent in Korean and boasts about his genealogy merit badge—yes, it exists now). That can be good or bad. Some applicants list Eagle Scout expressly to let the employer know what their religion is. Some employers are just as grateful to discover that aspect without breaking any equal-opportunity hiring laws. At the same time, other employers are quick to disqualify Eagle Scouts, because they don't want to hire Mormons. Life: such a gamble, eh? Poor Nick—a Greek Orthodox Eagle Scout in Utah. I wonder how many employers he's confused.
It now appears that additional confusion is coming. A recent UtahPolicy.com poll reveals that most active LDS members prefer that troops currently under the dominion of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) depart, and that LDS troops go their own route. The poll didn't ask the question directly, but it's easy to determine that the recent announcement that the BSA will allow gay scout leaders has clearly made some former Eagle Scouts uncomfortable. It's no secret that the modern LDS Church struggles to understand gay men and women, and for roughly 67 percent of active members, one of the lines is drawn at the Scouting level.
What's the big deal? I swear, and on my honor to do my best, I don't give a rat about a gay scoutmaster, so long as he knows how to tie an Adams Wulff fishing fly, can show me where true north lies, can teach me how to treat hypothermia and can tell a gloriously scary campfire story.
Gayness is not an indication of sexual predation. This is, plain as day, paranoia about gays and sexuality—not a position based on facts or a willingness to "help other people at all times." I don't believe that being gay and "morally straight" are mutually exclusive—especially so long as we blindly allow the straight scoutmaster to carry booze in his canteen and store porn images on his cell phone. It's time to give up the ghost. A place to start might be on insisting that the first merit badge earned should be Citizenship in the Community. And, if you leave the larger community to form your own community, you can't earn it at all.