The president of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert M. Gates, called Thursday for an end to the organization’s ban on gay adult leaders. “I truly fear that any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement,” Gates said at the Scouts’ annual national meeting.

Gates said that he was not yet making a formal proposal but that the organization should take up the issue formally at a future meeting. “We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this.”

Churches make up 70 percent of Scout units.

Gates said, “the one thing we cannot do is put our heads in the sand and pretend this challenge will go away or abate. Quite the opposite is happening…. We can act on our own or we can be forced to act but, either way, I suspect we don’t have a lot of time.”

Two years ago the BSA leadership voted that no youth would be denied membership on the “basis of sexual orientation or preference.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded Thursday to the announcement by issuing the following statement:

We have noted the comments by Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates in relation to possible policy changes in the Boy Scouts of America. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will, of course, examine any such changes very carefully to assess how they might impact our own century-long association with the BSA.