The First Presidency has written the expected letter on political neutrality and by now it has been read over most pulpits throughout the U.S. But this year as I sat in Sacrament and heard the letter, I could swear there was a new addition. As it turns out, I wasn’t wrong. (You can view the full text of the letter here.) The last line in this year’s letter reads, “In addition, members who hold public office should not give the impression they represent the Church as they work for solutions to social problems.”
For those of us living in Utah, this (at least at first glance) seems like an obvious allusion to the Utah State Legislature (which is 90% LDS). In recent years the Legislature has prompted almost half a dozen statements from the Church in an effort to clarify its position after the Church was cited as a reason behind proposed legislation. One such statement addressed the issue of concealed weapons in Church. The ultra-conservative legislature insisted those with concealed weapons permits have a right to carry their 9mm glock into a school or church building. Some legislators expressed their genuine shock and surprise when the Church announced it was opposed to weapons in their buildings and would take the steps necessary to prevent such weapons.
Another surprise for conservatives in Utah came when the Church announced it did not oppose a bill to create hate-crime legislation. Gayle Ruzicka, director of the Utah Eagle Forum (a group so conservative they make John Birchers look like socialists) insisted the Church’s statement on the hate-crimes bill had been misunderstood, and then she graciously took the time to tell everyone exactly what the Church really meant. In response, the Church actually released another statement effectively chastising Ruzicka (a member of the Church) by reiterating that it did not oppose the hate-crime bill and that any attempt to attribute any other meaning to their first statement was a mistake.
Most recently, a political group that supported a bill that would have made it impossible for undocumented workers to get a drivers license, cited LDS teachings of honoring and sustaining the law as a reason why the bill should pass. The group also insisted the Church would not give a temple recommend to an illegal immigrant. The Church issued yet another statement, saying it had no position on the bill in the legislature, and that illegals can have temple recommends, since they are issued based on personal worthiness, not nationality.
So for the millionth time in the bloggernacle, what is it with some Mormons and politics? I just learned that church-owned Deseret Book has received several complaints from customers who are incensed that the store would dare carry Bill Clinton’s memoir. As one customer put it, “Deseret Book used to be my safe haven. Now I can’t even trust it.”
Are most Mormons political conservatives who just can’t fathom that someone would be a Mormon and a liberal? Or are a few squeaky wheels getting lots of oil in the media and in our minds? Am I just so annoyed at people like those who complain to Deseret Book that I magnify them in my own mind to be more representative than they really are?