Utahns split about post-Prop 8 temple protests
Religious divide » Most say LDS Church didn't cross the line, but demonstrators did.
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Utah's religious divide shows up in a new poll: Most Mormons approve of their church's push for California's Proposition 8 and disapprove of protests outside their temples in response.

Non-Mormons tend to feel the opposite.

The Salt Lake Tribune poll finds that 69 percent of Utahns overall see the LDS Church's backing of Prop 8, a ballot measure that eliminated gay marriage in the Golden State, as appropriate.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Mormons overwhelmingly back that view (85 percent). Other Utahns are more divided -- with 48 percent labeling the church's actions inappropriate and 41 percent giving them an OK.

Last summer, the LDS Church urged its members to donate their time and cash to the Prop 8 effort. The measure passed, and Mormons were widely credited -- and blamed -- for aiding its success, donating millions and organizing volunteers for door-to-door lobbying.

"It is absolutely appropriate for churches to speak out on moral issues," writes LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter in an e-mail. "Maintaining traditional marriage is a vital moral issue with broad societal consequences."

In the election's wake, gay-marriage proponents staged rallies outside of LDS temples, including those in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and New York.

In the Tribune poll, 44 percent of Utahns say such demonstrations are appropriate, and 48 percent call them improper. Those results fall within the statewide survey's 4.5 percent margin of error.

Most Utah Mormons, 58 percent, deem the protests inappropriate, while 56 percent of non-Mormons disagree.

"The Mormon community and Utah as a whole needed to have a wake-up call," says Jacob Whipple, who organized the protest outside of the Salt Lake City temple. "To do that, it was necessary for us to gather at a place of personal importance to the majority of Utah's citizenship."

Lucy Vasquez, who is LDS and lives in Fruit Heights, considers the rallies unfair.

"I feel it was their right to do so, but I felt like [Mormons] were being singled out," she says.

The LDS Church's stance on the rallies appears to have softened. In November, the church declared it "wrong to target the church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process."

But last week Trotter did not condemn the protests when asked whether such rallies were appropriate, saying only, "We live in a democratic society where all are free to express their views."

Conducted by Washington-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research on Jan. 8 and 9, the Tribune poll includes the opinions of 500 registered Utah voters.

rwinters@sltrib.com