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2020 Census: The Effort To Reach The FLDS Community

Photo overlooking houses
Less than a quarter of the people in eastern Iron County have completed the U.S. Census.

Almost 60% of Iron County residents have completed the U.S. Census, but according to census tract data, less than a quarter of residents in the eastern parts of the county have done it.

Some of those areas have pockets of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And these communities are often difficult to reach, according to Iron County Commissioner Mike Bleak.

Bleak appeared on “County Seat” this week to talk about them.

“These in a lot of cases are people who are wary of the government who haven’t had good experiences or good governmental relationships, really, their entire lives,” Bleak said. “So, they’re a little bit wary of cooperating with the government and giving personal information.”

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop is formerly an FLDS member and said it’s helpful when Census workers can explain what the document is for and that lifestyle choices won’t be shared with the government.

There aren’t as many members of the faith in Hildale now, but Jessop said she’s worried about not having workers go door to door.

“When they [used] to go door-to-door, it was people in Hildale and Colorado City,” she said. “They were trusted members of the community who were also Census workers. They could explain it just one-on-one, now it’s just a broad messaging system and hopefully people will do it.”

But soon census takers will be able to go into communities to talk to people and collect information, said Cedar City Councilmember Scott Phillips. He said this will help raise response rates in rural areas, and the data will help the county as a whole.

“It affects so many things, from our school lunch programs, to hospitals, to roads and affordable housing,” Phillips said. “There’s a real reason why we have to get it done.” 

The deadline for filling out the questionnaire has been extended nationwide, until Oct. 31.

Correction 9:46 am MDT, 7/30/20: A previous version of this story misquoted Iron County Commissioner Mike Bleak about where Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live in the county.

Lexi is KUER's Southwest Bureau reporter
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