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Most Utah Mormons want their church out of Boy Scouts, poll shows

Published September 10, 2015 5:45 pm

Survey • The poll didn't ask if any specific reason, such as the recent BSA decision to allow LGBT leaders, had an impact on respondents' opinion.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

If most Utah Mormons got their way, the LDS Church would split with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) — a program for male teens that has been part of the Utah-based faith for more than a century.

A new UtahPolicy.com survey shows 63 percent of respondents who termed themselves "very active" in the LDS Church — both men and women — said Mormon leaders "definitely" or "probably" should bolt from the BSA and launch their own group for young male Latter-day Saints.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "declined to comment" about the poll, spokesman Eric Hawkins said Monday.



But last month — after the Scouts voted to admit openly gay leaders into their ranks — Hawkins confirmed that the 15 million-member faith is "considering creating its own international program for boys, separate from the Boy Scouts of America."

A Mormon exodus could devastate the Scouts, given that, as recently as 2013, more than a third (37 percent) of the troops were LDS-sponsored, accounting for 18 percent of the BSA's 2.4 million total membership.

The Mormon mark is even larger on Utah troops. The state's three Scout councils report that between 96 percent and 99 percent of their ranks are in LDS units.

Mormons have been discussing a move away from the Scouts for years, but the vote in late July by the group's 80-member National Executive Board to allow gay leaders to serve in troops heightened the urgency.

Such a stance, the LDS Church said at the time, "is inconsistent with the doctrines of the church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America."

Although the LDS Church has allowed — and does allow — openly gay Mormons to serve in church assignments, including the Boy Scouts, these members are deemed to be living the faith's standards. This means they are not acting on their same-sex attractions.

The BSA's new policy, however, makes no such distinction between "openly gay" and "sexually active gay leaders." So a gay Scout leader could have a partner or a same-sex spouse — and that troubles the Mormon brass.

While the BSA insists that religiously affiliated troops, including those sponsored by the LDS Church, could continue to ban gay leaders, many observers doubt such an exemption could be legally defended.

The UtahPolicy.com poll, conducted by Dan Jones & Associates in the aftermath of the Scouts' decision on gay adults, asked 500 adult Utahns on Aug. 7 to Aug. 14 about the tie between the LDS Church and Scouts. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.99 percentage points.

The survey found that most Utahns (54 percent) want the LDS Church to leave the Scouts, while nearly a third (32 percent) support keeping those ties.

The poll included questions about religious affiliation — whether the respondents would describe themselves as "very active" Mormon, "somewhat active" or former members.

Among the "somewhat active" in the LDS Church, UtahPolicy.com reported, "44 percent said to stay in the Scouts, 47 percent said get out and 9 percent didn't know."

Of the former Mormons, 46 percent said stay in, 47 percent favored getting out, and 7 percent didn't know.

Utah Catholics called on Latter-day Saints to stick with Scouting, 47 percent to 42 percent, according to the survey, while Protestants favored the Mormons getting out, 49 percent to 28 percent.

Those who reported having no religious ties said the LDS Church should stay in Scouting, 46 percent to 32 percent.

The poll didn't ask respondents why they believed the LDS Church should remain with or break away from the Scouts. And that, said Mormon gay-rights advocate Kendall Wilcox, is unfortunate.

"This issue needs to be more precisely parsed out," said Wilcox, a gay LDS filmmaker. "Do those in the 63 percent want the church to leave the BSA because of the leadership policy change that allows chartering organizations to decide on whether or not to include LGBT adults? Or do they want to church to leave because of other issues they have long held against the BSA?"

Wilcox, a member of the interfaith committee of Scouts for Equality that has been pushing for reforms, has heard many Mormons say the church "should walk away for any number of reasons but none of them are about the more inclusive leadership policy. Many also feel that the church has further alienated and hurt its own LGBT members and their families and loved ones by so heavily objecting to the policy change."

pstack@sltrib.com

Twitter: @religiongal

 

 

 

 

 

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