Bob Bernick’s Notebook: Some Thoughts on the Poll Showing Mormons Want to Leave the Boy Scouts

One of the most popular poll questions/stories UtahPolicy has ever done came out this week – a new Dan Jones & Associates survey showing that nearly two-thirds of “very active” Utah Mormons think their church leaders should get out of the Boy Scouts of America.

It’s always a bit testy in Utah when you poll on what LDS Church leaders should do – mainly because faithful church members believe, as part of the religion’s doctrines, that their leaders are chosen by God and that the Prophet and members of the Quorum of the Twelve are directed by the Lord in their earthly callings.

So, one may argue, it is not the place for church members to tell their leaders what to do – that direction comes from a higher source.

Still, it is of considerable interest – as the hits and links to our poll story testify – among Mormons and others as to what members feel about the Boy Scouts these days.

Mainly that’s because after the national BSA board members decided to allow gay men to be scout troop leaders, the LDS Church said its leaders would consider whether to stay with the Boy Scout program, or develop a new male youth program.

Thus, there IS a connection between the issue of gay male scout leaders and the church leaders’ upcoming decision on boy scouts in the LDS religion.

Now, our poll asked 500 Utah adults whether the LDS Church should stay in the Boy Scouts – the church’s Scouting program is large and extensive – or whether in light of the BSA board’s decision the church should get out of Boy Scouts.

Among the “very active” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 63 percent said get out, only 23 percent said stay in.

Among all Utahns, 54 percent said the church should get out, 32 percent said stay in.

After our poll story had run on Monday, we starting getting some comments asking why we didn’t follow up that overall question with the reason those who wanted to get out, wanted to get out.

Some commentators said gay male scout leaders would be but one reason – and maybe not even the greatest reason – to leave the BSA program.

Over the years, my journalistic colleague – and friend – Lee Davidson has done some fine reporting on the LDS Church and the Boy Scouts – both for The Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.

And those stories show there are some hard feelings by church members concerning their scouting program.

— It costs too much.

— LDS Church members dislike the mandatory scout fund-raising program, which puts poorer Scout troops/wards at a disadvantage to richer Scout troops/wards.

— The BSA is a large bureaucracy, which may not listen well to concerns of scout leaders and scouts themselves.

— The Boy Scout camps are too few, too small, and becoming run down.

— And while scouting may all be well and good in developing a young man’s character and morals, perhaps an LDS-chartered program could meet the needs of Mormon boys better.

— Finally, the LDS faith is closely tied to boy scouting, but not girl scouting.

And so there’s a feeling a lot of effort, money and time is given to Mormon boys’ development, but much less to Mormon girls’ development.

In short, while 63 percent of Utah Mormons may want their church out of the formal Boy Scout program, it is NOT just because of a national BSA stand on gay male scout leaders, but a combination of all of these other – long simmering – disagreements with the current church’s Boy Scout operations.

UtahPolicy editors didn’t sidestep the question of WHY get Mormons out of the Boy Scout program on purpose, or over the fear of what the answers might be.

We just can ask so many questions on each Dan Jones monthly poll. And such open-ended questions as to why you feel this way or that are time-consuming for pollsters.

We may ask the WHY question on Boy Scouts/Mormons at a later date. It likely would be interesting.

Finally, it’s with some sadness that I noted that KSL TV and the Deseret News – owned and operated by the LDS Church – did not report our poll’s findings on this subject.

(My apologies if either outlet did report the poll, but I didn’t see or read it in the next day’s editions, nor could I find any such reports in a GOOGLE search.)

Other local TV stations did report it, as did other local newspapers.

And KSL Radio did report the poll.

I worked for the DN for 33 years. And I can only assume when such an interesting poll is put out there – getting good play in other media – the only reason KSL and the DN don't report it is because editors observed self-censorship.

It certainly is news – a lot of folks were talking about this poll result.

Such self-censorship, of course, just adds fuel to the fire for those who say The Salt Lake Tribune must remain free of any LDS Church influence – certainly LDS Church ownership.

Otherwise, news not welcomed by LDS Church leadership may never see the light of day in the two main statewide newspapers in the state.

Some may argue that with the explosion of information via the Internet and social media, one TV station, and one newspaper not reporting a story doesn’t have the impact of years gone by.

Other information dissemination outlets will just take up the slack.

But if you mainly read the DN, or watch KSL Channel 5 TV news, then you might miss such information.

And isn’t any general news source supposed to report the interesting events of the day – regardless of the ownership?