An Entirely Inappropriate, Unseemly, and Unnecessary Personal and Biased Ranking of Mormon U.S. Senators

Seeing as how Senator Orrin Hatch, a man who for over 40 years served in the U.S. Senate as both pillar of and a lightning rod for Utah (and thus American Mormon) politics, passed away yesterday, and seeing as how I’ve used By Common Consent to honor and reflect upon Mormon senators in the past, and also seeing as how no one has posted anything in a while, I hereby submit a ranking, based solely upon my own entirely personal and idiosyncratic judgments, of all the Mormons who have served in the U.S. Senate in my lifetime. Enjoy!

15. Mike Lee (R-UT)

14. Dean Heller (R-NV)

13. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

12. Paula Hawkins (R-FL)

11. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

10. Wallace Bennett (R-UT)

9. Jeff Flake (R-AZ)

8. Mitt Romney (R-UT)

7. Jake Garn (R-UT)

6. Howard Cannon (D-NV)

5. Gordon Smith (R-OR)

4. Tom Udall (D-NM)

3. Bob Bennett (R-UT)

2. Frank Moss (D-UT)

1. Harry Reid (D-NV)


  1. William Dixon says:

    The only complaint I have about Reid and the church is that he liked to sit on the stand. My first district conference in DC he asked to sit on the stand. There was no church reason for him to be on the stand.

    When I lived in Henderson, Reid’s secret service agents didn’t wear ties, so they could differentiate themselves from other congregants.

  2. Michael Lundberg says:

    *Paula Hawkins

  3. WIlliam–my fondness for Reid in no way mitigates my recognition that, if you become a U.S. Senator, or any other politician of any significance, it almost certainly means you’re a pretty arrogant person, no matter what your other virtues.

    Michael–thanks for the correction!

  4. Russell: Great list.

    Harry Reid’s funeral was an amazing intersection of two of my decade-long interests that have moved off the front burner – Politics and the LDS church. That such a man could reach a pinnacle of Democratic political leadership while remaining a faithful church member kept me hanging around church activity for quite a while. At the funeral, with both political luminaries and the acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, I most impressed by his family, especially his older daughter. Her comment: “When people would thank me for sharing my father with the country, I would think, “I never had to share my father. He was always there for us,” was a resounding testament to balance and commitment and love.

    I keep wanting to go back and watch it again, but I think it would not be as powerful the 2nd time. Instead, I listen to the Killers.

  5. Roger Hansen says:

    You rank Mike Lee way too high; 20th might be more appropriate. He continually embarrasses the State, the Church, and the Nation with his incoherent logic and lack of empathy.

    Harry Reid deserves to be No. 1. He represented Nevada and the Church well. As did Robert Bennett in Utah. It is unfathomable to me that the Utah GOP turned its back on Bennett, and chose Lee.

    I think it is too early to judge Mitt Romney. I might have placed him a bit higher. But I don’t know what he really stands for. He will be a critical senator in the next couple of years.

    Orrin Hatch helped protect Utah’s thriving supplement and essential oil business by keeping them from FDA regulations. Thus allowing them to make unsubstantiated claims about their products. Hatch’s effort made him and his family $$s. I would put him just above Lee.

  6. @William Dixon @Russell Arben Fox

    Re: Sen Reid sitting on the stand – perhaps that was a unique/odd circumstance or for other reasons?
    Sen Reid was in my parents’ (and my home) ward in Nevada, and he seemed to attend whenever he was in town from DC/at his home in Searchlight. I never remember him ever sitting on the stand in that ward unless for other normal-member-sitting-on-the-stand reasons. He would attend Sunday School and the (back then) high priests’ meetings. He’d participate normally, and sometimes when asked his opinion on certain matters, would jokingly say “I’m not sure if you want to hear what I have to say” with a quiet smile. His secret service individuals would sit in the foyer or outside the classroom politely.
    I regret not making more of an effort to get to know him better as an individual.

  7. It’s hard for me to rank your top few precisely — but I heartily agree that all of them belong in that top few. We won’t see the likes of Harry Reid again soon. I’m all too afraid that we will see many of the likes of Orrin Hatch in the near future.

  8. I could understand ranking Reid highly of it weren’t for his completely dishonest attack on Mitt Romney.

  9. No love for Smoot?

  10. Wasn’t a U.S. senator during my lifetime, Ken.

  11. No love for Mark Udall or Krysten Sinema?

  12. Mark Udall has plenty of Mormon heritage, anon, but he (unlike his second cousins Tom Udall, Gordon Smith, and Mike Lee), has never been a member. And Sinema stopped identifying as Mormon over 20 years ago. All the 15 I list here maintained their Mormon identity and membership throughout their time in office, or still do.

  13. lastlemming says:

    I’d put Flake and Romney ahead of Garn.

    And as a sidelight, we can add Marco Rubio to the “stopped identifying as Mormon over 20 years ago” list.

  14. Is there evidence that Marco Rubio joined the church? I know he attended while living in Nevada, but I think his family is affiliated with the Catholic church.

  15. @Ade;e

    Rubio was definitely baptized into the Church as a boy with his mother and sister. But he also left while still a young teen. So he would also classify as “stopped identifying as Mormon over 20 years ago” and well before his service in the Senate.

  16. lastlemming says:

    And while we’re at it, here’s an even more unnecessary ranking of Senators who were members of the Reorganized Church:

    1. Milton Young (R-ND).

    Young retired from the Senate 20 years before the Community of Christ name was adopted.

  17. Fascinating article on Marco Rubio. Thanks for the link.

  18. hewhodecidesall says:

    Mitt and Jeff are too low. Both are amazing. Everything else looks about right.

  19. M.B.Gerry IV says:

    Out of 15 Mormon senators considered, 4 are dimmycrats and 11 are repugnicans. That was the collective voice of the people. Have you no respect for that? :)

    Dividing these rankings into 3 categories; top 5, mid 5 and low 5, an unbiased distribution would average 1.3 dimmycrats and 3.6 repugnicans in each rank.
    Foxy Bro. has 3 of 5 dimmycrats in the top rank; the top 1 above the other 4 in the mid rank; and zero in the low rank.
    He does have 2 of 5 repugnicans in the top rank but 9 of the 11 repugnicans lower than all the dimmycrats.

    It seems unlikely that all senators from the less popular party are clearly better than 81% of the senators from the more popular party. Are voters that stupid? Do we need to institute tighter qualifications to vote?

    This chop piece tells us more about the author and this echo chamber than the senators, senators, senators…
    It makes me think of this family with 4 supersize white boys who moved into the ward when I was a kid in Utah. They claimed that they starred on a team that won the state championship in basketball in Florida. When the snow melted, my little brother (kicked off the high school team) and I could whip all 4 of them at once at the school yard hoop. Turns out that state championship was a stake church basketball tournament in Florida..

    I would like to propose a slightly different, inappropriate, unseemly and unnecessary personal ranking system. Sort of like ranking pretty girls from 1 to 10. At the typical church dance there might be 15 girls and none of them above a 4. To be nice to the girls, no negative number rankings allowed for them, but not so for the senators.

    Hatch gets the average January low temperature in Peter Sinks Utah by Beaver mountain. And most of you think Reid gets the average high temperature in Vegas in July, or maybe even in Hell, where some think he might be getting his hairy self singed.

    Matthew 7:1 (Contradicted by Matt 7:24)
    How about Galatians 6:1?

  20. Well, at least you got the title right.

  21. True story: Harry Reid and John McCain attended a big-time boxing match in Las Vegas. They were later questioned about accepting free tickets. McCain apologized and paid for the ticket. Reid said he was conducting research for pending combat-sport regulations.

    True story #2: Reid earmarked over $20 million for UFO research. The bulk of it went to Bigelow Aerospace, which was owned by a good friend of Reid.

    None of which is to question his “1 ranking. But he was a politician’s politician.

  22. Listening says:

    MB Gerry IV- What kind of person ranks teenage girls at a church dance. I pray you are single and never have a daughter.

  23. never forget says:

    Gordon Smith is a wonderfully nice person, a gifted leader, and represents the moderate Republican strand which is gone forever. I’d bump him up a few slots.

  24. Interesting to see the ranking as well as the comments. I agree with the top handful – I liked Reid. I also like Romney and think is an overall decent person and could rank higher. Question – how did Orrin Hatch rank above Paula Hawkins? Having visited Hatch’s office a few times for professional reasons, I concluded that he is/was a seriously shady person. A cunning type of shady as opposed to a not-smart-kiss-butt type of shady like Lee. The only thing I know about Paula Hawkins is from listening to Living Scriptures dramatized stories of Great Mormon Women cassette tapes that my parents bought in the 80s. I assume she was a mistress of the patriarchy and so worked to enforce the system?

  25. At Bob Bennett’s funeral, both Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell spoke. Harry’s talk was personal, heart felt, and touching, even though Bennett was a Republican. Bob Bennett often spoke of his friend, Harry Reid. McConnell’s talk was sterile, unfeeling, and forgettable. Orrin Hatch didn’t speak (probably wasn’t asked to speak) even as a fellow member and Republican. I’ve always thought that that was interesting.

  26. Decades ago I was in Wash DC on business. On a Sunday I attended a local ward, where it turned out Orrin Hatch taught the Gospel Doctrine class on those weekends when he was in town. Pretty much the entire discussion in GD that day was political, not scriptural. But I don’t totally blame Hatch. The discussion in class was pretty much hijacked by a small handful of “more conservative than thou” members who seemed to be scoring points (just guessing, but probably congressional staffers). Obviously Hatch could have redirected the questions and comments back to the scriptures, and he didn’t…

  27. Three descendants of pioneer John D Lee. He must have been an influential guy.

  28. Harry Reid once said (perhaps many more times than once, but I saw it published in print once), “I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon.” This statement seems highly inappropriate since members have been asked to refrain from identifying The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with their personal political beliefs and even more so to refrain frim identifying any particular political party with the Church or implying that their personal political beliefs are church doctrine. I do not know whether he was ever rebuked by church leadership for that statement, but I wonder if one could get away with saying, “I am a Republican because I am a Latter-Day Saint,” or even say “I am a member of the Constitution Party (or the Independent American Party) because I am a Latter-Day Saint,” with the approval of church leadership.

  29. Hatch’s love affair with Trump is enough to cost him any of the top ten spots.

  30. lastlemming says:

    Daniel Clyde Cummings–how would you suggest that Reid respond when asked (as I’m sure he was many times) “How can a good Mormon be a Democrat?” Even in my ward, which has learned not to ask such questions directly, the winking and nudging is palpable.

  31. As usual Russell, you got it right. I pretty much agree with your list, but might put Wally Bennett and Jeff Flake rankings a bit higher. Harry will be No. 1 for decades because of his leadership, brains and patriotism. I’ll simply respond to the views of several others. 1) The snide comment about Reid sitting on the stand at church was exactly like Hatch, Bennett, et al did. Roger is correct about Hatch. 2) His conflict of interest and corruption in moneymaking ventures selling snake oil “supplements” was wrong and widely condemned. 3) We all realize that no GOPer needed to declare “I am a Republican because I am a Latter-Day Saint.” It was a given after Utah suffered from our state’s “Californication” influx from Reagan Country in the 1970s. The decades before were among Utah’s greatest, run by church and government Dems. There are numerous other features of Borin’ Orrin’s career, but they can be addressed later.

  32. K. Harden says:

    D C you left out part of Harry Reid’s comment. He said he was a Democrat because he was a Mormon because Christ taught us to care for the down trodden and the poor and he felt the Democratic party lived those ideals better than the Republican. Harry was my neighbor and represented me for decades. I miss his straight talk.

  33. Recency bias, but I would put Flake and Romney higher on the list because they stood up to Trump, and Hatch further down the list because towards the end of his career he abandoned the bipartisanship he was known for and went all-in on Trump.

    I don’t know much about Gordon Smith but there were some really cringey recordings of him in a meeting with the Q15, so that left me with a bad impression of him. But he may have been a fine representative.

    I think Mormons should disclaim Mike Lee.

    Harry Reid was in my DC ward when I was in college. I don’t recall him sitting on the stand. He taught gospel doctrine and was honestly kinda boring but surprisingly humble IMO.

  34. I happened to read chapter 43 in Saints II today. I found our history fascinating. Since we are talking politics here I thought I would post a little of our history in hopes we can stay unified as followers of Christ no matter our political views- In September 1892, Francis Lyman and Anthon Lund arrived in St. George, Utah. For several weeks, the two apostles had been visiting wards and counseling Saints throughout central and southern Utah. As the Salt Lake temple neared completion, the First Presidency and the Twelve had begun encouraging the Saints to be more united. But rather than finding harmony and goodwill in their travels, Francis and Anthon had often found wards and branches rife with discord. St. George was no different.

    Much of the contention arose from politics. For decades, the Saints in Utah had voted for local candidates in the People’s Party, a political party composed mainly of Church members. But in 1891, Church leaders disbanded the People’s Party and encouraged the Saints to join either the Democrats or the Republicans, the two parties that dominated United States politics. These leaders hoped more political diversity among the Saints might increase their influence in local elections and in Washington, DC. They also believed diversity would help the Church achieve such goals as Utah statehood and general amnesty for Saints who had entered into plural marriages before the Manifesto.

    But now, for the first time, Saints were caught up in heated battles with one another over differing political views.3 The conflict troubled Wilford Woodruff, and he had urged the Saints at the April 1892 general conference to stop their bickering.

    “Every man has as much right—prophets, apostles, saints, and sinners—to his political convictions as he has to his religious opinions,” Wilford had declared. “Don’t throw filth and dirt and nonsense at one another because of any difference on political matters.”

    “That spirit will lead us to ruin,” he warned.

    In St. George, as elsewhere, most Saints believed they should join the Democratic Party, since the Republican Party had typically led antipolygamy efforts against the Church. In many communities, the prevailing attitude was that a good Latter-day Saint could never be a Republican.

    Wilford Woodruff and other Church leaders wanted to challenge this view, especially since the United States was being governed at the time by a Republican administration.6 As Anthon and Francis learned more about the situation in St. George, they wanted to help the Saints understand that they could differ politically without creating bitterness or division within the Church.

    During an afternoon priesthood meeting, Francis reminded the men that the Church needed members in both political parties. “We don’t want anyone who is a Democrat to change,” he reassured them. But he said that Saints who did not feel strong ties to the Democratic Party should consider joining the Republicans. “There is much less difference between the two parties than at first thought,” he noted.

    Francis then expressed his love for all Saints, no matter their political views. “We must not allow any bitterness in our hearts one toward another,” he emphasized.

  35. James L. Scott, Ph. D. says:

    I was a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation (Health) during Reagan’s first term so I saw a few of these folks in action. I would move Hawkins back two spots and flip Smith and Romney. The early Hatch was excellent, but he stayed one term too long.

  36. John Mansfield says:

    RAF, your rankings were indeed enjoyable to take in as a personal expression of what you like and what you don’t. I was intrigued at Howard Cannon’s high placement at number 6, and then realized that as he is your the lowest ranked Democrat, his ranking likely represents a neutral assessment that you have nothing against him and nothing in particular for him other than that he was at least a Democrat. Thus it is that I provide you a link to a LV R-J column reporting a gathering of Cannon’s admirers remembering what they liked about him.

    [The link will be placed in the next comment and can, if some admin wishes to, be fished out of the embargo queue where comments with links go.]

  37. John Mansfield says:
  38. Thanks for that link, John; sorry I missed it earlier. Interesting thoughts!


  1. […] that just as easily could have been released by Hatch’s office.”Hatch’s passing prompted By Common Consent blogger Russell Arben Fox to rank the Latter-day Saint senators who served during the writer’s lifetime.At the top: the […]

  2. […] passing prompted By Common Consent blogger Russell Arben Fox to rank the Latter-day Saint senators who served during the writer’s […]

%d bloggers like this: