I pay close attention to the Church and its leadership. I take careful note of what is said, and by whom. The closer you listen, the clearer the Church’s methods and means become. They really don’t take a great deal of effort to conceal things.
The Church is quite important to me. It deserves my careful study. Therefore I do not mind giving it the attention which it requires to understand what the Church is doing to cope with the various pressures, trends, and difficulties it encounters daily.
The Church’s study of public opinion is so careful, so well done, and so frequently updated, that in his October, 2006 General Conference talk, Elder Jeffrey Holland made the following observation:
“Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times. As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth.”
This statement was based upon the Church’s on-going public relations survey taking, opinion polling, and focus group studies. When I attended a valley wide leadership meeting, at which Elder Russell Ballard spoke, he mentioned that from the Church Office Building he had watched focus group discussions the day before which came in by video feeds from Chicago, Seattle, and several other cities (whose locations I do not recall).
When the Church changed its position and supported the same-sex attraction ordinance in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, the Church’s spokesman made the following public announcement of the Church’s reasons for the change:
“There are going to be gay advocates who don’t think we’ve gone nearly far enough, and people very conservative who think we’ve gone too far; the vast majority of people are between those polar extremes and we think that’s going to resonate with people on the basis of fair-mindedness.”
This is the language of opinion polling. The words “going to resonate with people on the basis of fair-mindedness” are the words of social sciences. The decision was not a “revelation” but a change in position based upon the polling which showed the position change could be safely made. The Salt Lake Tribune made the following report on January 30, 2010:
“When Salt Lake City embraced anti-discrimination ordinances for gay and transgender residents last fall — snagging a landmark endorsement by the LDS Church and widespread support from city officials — more shifted than public policy. Public opinion — throughout Utah — jumped, too. Support for some gay rights, short of marriage, climbed 11 percentage points across the state from a year ago, according to a new Salt Lake Tribune poll, and shot up by 10 percent among Mormons. Two-thirds of Utahns (67 percent) favor employment protections and safeguards for same-sex couples such as hospital visitation and inheritance rights, up from 56 percent in January 2009, when pollsters asked the same question. (This year’s survey of 625 frequent Utah voters has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points; last year’s was 4.5 percent.) Opposition dropped, overall, from 40 percent to 23 percent. Among LDS respondents, it plummeted from 48 percent to 28 percent. ‘This isn’t a gradual change of attitudes. This is a fairly dramatic jump,’ says Matthew Burbank, chairman of the University of Utah’s political science department. ‘Clearly, the fact that the LDS Church was officially endorsing this position had an impact on people.’ A similar number of respondents, 66 percent, also say they support expanding Salt Lake City’s anti-discrimination policy — the first of its kind in Utah and already mimicked in Salt Lake County—throughout the state.”