Yesterday Was a Sad Day in Mormon History

Yesterday the SLTrib (5 Dec 2012), on its front page, published photographs and the political party registration of the 15 top leaders in the LDS Church.  To no ones surprise they are white, male, and mostly old.  But to my shock, church president Thomas S. Monson and his first councelor, Henry B. Eyring, are registered Republicans, as are 9 of the 12 Mormon apostles.  The rest (4 in total) are “not affiliated.”  There is not one Democrat in the group.  So the LDS Church is governed by 15 senior white males, 11 of which are registered Republicans.  What message does that send to the membership, a group that is comprised of notorious followers?

An LDS Church spokesman has suggested that we not read too much into voting-registration information.  After all, those records say nothing about which candidates the LDS leaders actually voted for.  But that statement is naive.  Mormons are always looking to their leaders for guidance, and the leadership encourages them to do just that.  What happened to leading by example?  Furthermore, it makes our religion look even more like a business (with 15 men in dark suits, white shirts, and conservative ties) that is in league with Evangelicals.

The LDS Church’s political neutrality statement says its “mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians . . . [the church] is neutral in matters of party politics.”  Yes, but our leaders aren’t.  According to our august Senator Orrin Hatch, “My experience is they’re not political.  They just want to do what’s right.”  Which, according to Hatch I guess, is register and vote Republican. 

This puts to rest the LDS Church’s pledge of neutrality.  We are neutral only in our words, not in our actions.  If the LDS Church were truly neutral, all of its senior leaders would be “not affiliated.”  Congratulations to President Dieter F. Uchtdorf and three current Apostles; they get it.

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10 Responses to Yesterday Was a Sad Day in Mormon History

  1. This isn’t surprising, of course, given the politically conservative interpretations of our religion that we hear so often. We need to realize, though, that politically conservative interpretations are not necessary interpretations. We can support each other even while disagreeing constructively.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      I think that leaders need to lead by example. For 11 of the 15 to register as Republicans is wrong. Too many Mormons look to President Monson as an example without putting much thought in it. In many respects, we are a religion of sheep. So for him (and 10 others) to be in league with the Republican Party is wrong. GAs like Dallin Oaks and Jeffrey Holland should certainly know better.

  2. Susan says:

    I was not surprised that all but a few of the hierarchy are Republican. I was absolutely disgusted, however, with Orrin’s quote, “they just want to do what’s right”. What? So, if I’m a registered LDS Democrat, I apparently don’t want to do what’s right? How we ever re-elected this clown is a mystery to me. And every one of the hierarchy of the church should be unaffiliated, because it sends the wrong message to members.

  3. Bryant Smith says:

    Susan, I think you are overreaching with your interpretation of Orrin Hatch’s quote. Here is what the SLTrib article said:

    “They’re just as good to Democrats as they’ve been to Republicans and I don’t think they’re political,” Hatch said, noting he wasn’t aware of the apostles’ party registration. “My experience is they’re not political. They just want to do what’s right.”

    I hope that everyone who has chosen to affiliate with a political party has chosen to do so based on believing that they are doing what’s right.

    Roger, similarly, I hope that Orrin Hatch believes he is doing what is right, even when I disagree with him.

    I stronglyg disagree with you when you suggest that the LDS church leaders be politically neutral. The Church rightly releases their political neutrality statement every election season, which also includes a request to be politically active. Here are some selections from the statement.

    The Church does:

    * Encourage its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections.

    * Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.

    “General Authorities and general officers of the Church and their spouses and other ecclesiastical leaders serving full-time should not personally participate in political campaigns, including promoting candidates, fundraising, speaking in behalf of or otherwise endorsing candidates, and making financial contributions.

    “Since they are not full-time officers of the Church, Area Seventies, stake presidents and bishops are free to contribute, serve on campaign committees and otherwise support candidates of their choice with the understanding they:

    I agree with the statement that it’s important to be politically active because of the effect that the political process has on things that I feel are right and wrong. Accomplishing things that I feel are right are dependent on the political process, and therefore it is important for me to participate. I expect the leaders of my church to do what they can to accomplish what they believe is right. (Though I don’t always agree about what is right in a particular situation or circumstance.) Therefore I hope for and expect them to take part in the political process.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      Bryant, one problem with your arguement has to do with the nature of religious leadership. Mormons are generally trained to be followers. “Do what the prophet says.” Which is easily translatable to “Do as the prophet does.” In many respects, we are trained not to think, but to follow. So when the prophet and 10 of the other 14 GAs declare themselves as Republicans, what in the general membership to think.

      The job of our ecclesiastic leaders is to lead the Church, not make political statements. The is particularly true in a church with top-down management. If our Church is truly politically neutral, our leaders also need to be politically neutral.

      As for Orrin Hatch, he has a messianic complex and I have no doubt that my interpretation is correct.

      • rogerdhansen says:

        According to the recent Ensign (Dec 2012), in a piece written by Elder Quentin L. Cook, “A few years ago, when Elder M. Russell Ballard and I were the General Authority advisors to the Church Public Affairs Department, we realized that media outlets often contacted people who weren’t members of the Church to find out about the Church. Desiring a change, Elder Ballard and I, under the direction of the First Presidency, began visiting the editorial boards of major newspapers, sharing the message that as, as Latter-day Saints, we are politically neutral. We don’t have a position in tems of candidates or parties.” According the SLTrib, Elder Ballard is a registered Republican. But the good news is that Elder Cook is “not affiliated.”

  4. Bryant Smith says:

    I suppose that you can vote without being affiliated with a party, but in Utah, at least, not being registered as a Republican means you cannot participate in the primaries, which restricts the amount of influence and participation you have. I think that politically unaffiliated actually sets a bad example for the church membership.

    • rogerdhansen says:

      You can declare yourself a Republican for specific primary, but generally stay neutral. President Uchtdorf did that in a recent election. I assume that was to vote for Romney. The GAs need to really be neutral. They can vote for whomever they like, but they need to register as “not affiliated.”

  5. Chuck says:

    The Leadership of the LDS Church being overwhelmingly Republican, is a true stumbling block to my wanting to return into the LDS Church…After studying and pondering on the Book of Mormon and the New Testament for several years….I concluded that my conscience would not allow me to support such an anti-Christ party as the GOP…Infact…the so called “values” of the republican party, are so far removed from the true teachings of the Christ….Therefore, I am greatly puzzled at why the Leadership of the church would even want to embrace such an evil institution as the GOP.

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