During hundreds of camping trips and meetings and service projects and weird and wonderful events such as the Klondike Derby (a cold-weather competition in which scouts drag makeshift sleds over frozen ground for hours), I learned how to adapt to changing circumstances on the fly while keeping the main goals in sight.

Now, of course, it’s time for the Boy Scouts themselves to learn a lesson about adaptability—one that I fear may be coming too late to save the group from its long decline in numbers and influence.

I still draw on what I learned in the Scouts, whose mission statement talks about preparing “young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes.” That creed has helped to make me a better father—or at least a less-bad one—to my two sons, whom I kept from joining the Boy Scouts because of the group’s position on gays.

It was a decision that I made with much sadness and not a little anger, but it was fully in keeping with the Scout Oath, which requires members to do their best to be “morally straight” at all times and to do what they think is right.