The three Boy Scouts walk next to each other in a line, a wild trail ahead leading them into the forest, but when together, none are afraid of what lies ahead.
This is the lasting image Christopher Wood has of three of his troop members from Scout camp this summer.
While all three faced their own challenges: being away from home, earning a particularly tough merit badge or trying to make new friends, none were fazed, knowing they had support from the rest of their troop members.
“You see these situations where these boys are learning to do things together in a real positive way,” Wood said. “These boys really form a brotherhood ... I know that's a moment that they don't even see but they will remember.”
With the decision to allow gay Scouts into the organization being approved in late May, many chapters of the Boy Scouts of America have struggled to keep their charters with churches who are against homosexuality.
But at the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church in Oklahoma City, things continue as normal.
A tough call for churches
Scouts from Troop 85 gathered on Wednesday night at the Mormon church to collect the merit badges they had earned over the summer; patches for forestry, canoeing, wilderness survival, leather working and water sports were just part of the large haul earned by Woods' Scouts.
Family members listened as Wood asked each Scout what he had learned while earning his badge and how he will use it going forward in life.
Wood's son Noah, 13, is close to becoming an Eagle Scout, the highest rank the Boy Scouts offer.
“When I think about those troops that are losing their charter, I think it's a tragedy,” Wood said. “The Boy Scouts are such a great organization that provides so many opportunities to learn about themselves and the world. I can't imagine having all of that ripped away.”
Jake Mendenhall is the Scouting liaison for the church. He said he understands why other churches would leave their Scouting programs behind.
“I think the social implications are a big contradiction with the Scouts going one way and the churches going another,” he said. “Right now I think it's a tough call. You have to love these kids, but not the sin if it is indeed a sin. This gives us an opportunity to work with all the young men.”
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