SALT LAKE CITY -- Mormon church officials and Boy Scout leaders in Utah applauded the Boy Scouts of America for putting off a decision Wednesday on lifting its ban on gay members and leaders.
The policy under consideration would let troop sponsors make their own decisions about leaders and youth members.
Boy Scouts of America "acted wisely in delaying its decision until all voices can be heard on this important moral issue," said Michael Purdy, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The church will continue to closely monitor the proposed policy change, Purdy said.
The delay will give local Boy Scout leaders in Utah and around the country time to determine how members feel about the proposal and pass on those opinions to the national executive board, said Kay Godfrey, a spokesman for Boy Scouts in the Great Salt Lake Council.
The Great Salt Lake Council - one of the largest in the country with 5,500 troops and 73,400 youth members - had joined 32 other councils in writing a letter urging the national organization to delay the decision.
Faced with intense pressure from two flanks, the Boy Scouts of America said Wednesday that it needed more time for consultations before deciding whether to move away from its divisive policy of excluding gays as scouts or adult leaders.
Possible changes in the policy will not be voted on until the organization's annual meeting in May, the national executive board said at the conclusion of closed-door deliberations.
"In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public," said the BSA's national spokesman, Deron Smith. "It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization."
In Utah, nearly all scouting troops are sponsored by the Mormon church, which teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman, and same-sex relationships are sinful.
Nationally, the Mormon church has more Boy Scouts than any other denomination, with 37,000 troops and 420,000 youth members, according to figures from the Boy Scouts of America.
The discussion about the policy change by the Boy Scouts comes on the heels of the most significant move yet by the Mormon church to soften its stance toward gays and lesbians.
In December, the church launched a website encouraging members to be more compassionate in discussions about homosexuality.
Church officials aren't changing Mormon teaching, but the website instructs Mormons to be loving and respectful toward gays and lesbians, while appealing to gay and lesbian Mormons to stay in the church.
Associated Press writers Nomaan Merchant in Dallas, and David Crary in New York contributed to this report.