SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A new policy within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints directs stake presidents to assign political specialists to get church members engaged politically.
Some church members say they are uncomfortable with the policy.
“Perhaps this could have too partisan an influence, we still have such a strong affiliation with a certain political ideology in the church, and so a lot of people online are expressing fears about that,” said Crystal Young-Otterstrom, former chair of LDS Dems.
Still, she calls the policy, “An exciting possibility for people to get more engaged in government.”
State Rep. Brian King is a Democrat and member of the church.
“Over decades, we’ve had this slant,” said King.
“I’m a Democrat because of the teachings of the LDS church. I’m an active LDS church member,” added King.
But he is in the minority in his party. According to a Pew Research study, 70 percent of church members are either Republican or lean Republican.
“It’s just naive to think that you’re not going to have this intensification or magnification of that already close alignment between one political party and the LDS church magnified,” said King.
Civic engagement specialists will be implemented only in Utah and at the Stake level.
A church statement on the subject reads as follows:
“The Church has a strong record of political neutrality with regard to political parties, candidates, or platforms. However, Church leaders regularly urge members to play an active role as responsible citizens in their communities. In letters and other communications dating back many years, the Church has encouraged members to be informed about issues, vote in elections, run for office and support candidates who represent their individual values and political views. That guidance is being reaffirmed, and stake leaders in Utah are being asked to assign specialists who can assist Church members to better understand and participate in the civic process.”