Utah Minority Political Parties Welcome Oaks Speech Challenging Belief Latter-Day Saints Should Be Republicans

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The Church leader said in General Conference that “we should never say that a faithful Latter-day Saint cannot belong to a particular party or vote for a particular candidate.”

(Photo courtesy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the Governing First Presidency, speaks at the General Conference on the Constitution of the United States on Sunday Easter, April 4, 2021.

While members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints share certain religious beliefs, religious leaders reiterated Sunday that they do not need to have the same political beliefs.

This sentiment – shared in a speech by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the church’s governing First Presidency – was quickly embraced by members of Utah’s minority political parties. They have long worked to challenge the claim that being a good Latter-day Saint means you should be a Republican, too.

“There are a lot of conservatives in particular who believe… that there is some sort of underestimated or unspoken truth from church leaders that Republicans are more aligned with the teachings of the church and the Church. gospel than Democrats, ”Minority House Leader Brian King of D-Salt Lake City said in an interview.

Oaks’ speech, he said, was the strongest repudiation of that belief of a church leader he can remember.

Most Latter-day Saints identify as Republicans. But in his address, delivered on the last day of the Faith’s 191st Annual General Conference, Oaks said that no single platform or individual candidate represents all positions in the church.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) House Minority Leader Brian King, of D-Salt Lake City, questions a colleague during a House Judiciary Committee meeting on the US Capitol State of Salt Lake City in this Jan 22 file photo.

“We should never say that a faithful Latter-day Saint cannot belong to a particular party or vote for a particular candidate,” he said. “There are many political issues, and no single party, platform or individual candidate can satisfy all personal preferences. “

Rather, members should “seek inspiration” on how to vote according to their individual priorities, he said – a process which may even require changing party support or the choices of candidates in an election. to the other.

“Such independent actions will sometimes force voters to support candidates or political parties or platforms whose other positions they cannot endorse,” he added. “This is one of the reasons we encourage our members to refrain from judging each other in politics.”

Church leaders have made similar statements before, while urging members to become active in politics and even run for office. But the comments at this spring’s General Conference – the first since Latter-day Saint voters voted in last fall’s highly controversial presidential election – seemed to strike a chord with some members.

Some saw in the speech what they wanted to see, with those on the left seeing it as a strong rebuke from the right and proof to some that Oaks was a supporter of President Joe Biden.

Oaks’ comments that “sovereign power in the people does not mean that crowds or other groups of people can step in to intimidate or force government action”, for example, have sounded to some as repudiation of the January 6 insurgency attempt at the United States Capitol. , which aimed to stop the certification of the Electoral College vote cementing Biden’s victory.

An analysis of Oaks’ speech by Religion News Service columnist Jana Riess found that most of the comments were in fact aimed at extreme right-wingers – although some more conservative members of the faith viewed her remarks as aimed at those on the far right. last-day liberals. Saints.

Others believed that the widely varying reactions to the speech belied a central message that was more neutral.

State Senator Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, appeared to address the speech by saying on Twitter Sunday that “if you are using the General Conference to try to prove that your political positions are correct and that others have wrong, then you have to watch it again.

King agreed that the message – while perhaps particularly powerful for Utah Democrats who have often been asked about their political views – also applies to those who questioned how members could vote for the former. President Donald Trump and stay loyal.

“To people on the other side of the political spectrum who have said, ‘How can church members vote for Donald Trump?’ [Oaks] says, “It’s not exactly kosher either” in the sense that you engage in another form of “How can you vote for such and such a person and such and such political party and still be a member? “King, who is LDS, said.

Former Utah Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat who now serves in the bishopric of his Latter-day Saints congregation, said in response to the speech that as a person of “deep faith” he sees ” the good and the bad in both parts “. and agreed with Oaks that people should be prepared to vote for good candidates, regardless of their party.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Former Democratic Representative Ben McAdams conducts an interview with an election watch team at Pat’s BBQ in Salt Lake City, November 3, 2020.

“I am someone who never hesitates to vote against my own party,” he said. “When I’m in the privacy of the voting booth, I vote for the person, not the party, and I often vote for Republicans and Democrats.”

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant adopted a similar tone in an interview on Monday, saying he welcomed Oaks’ sentiment “that there are positives and negatives in every political party.” .

He also said the comments could be indicative of “the church’s desire to be a little more open-minded than it may have been in the past,” as some evidence shows that Young Latter-day Saints and women are more willing to break away from the conservative views of church members in general.

Rob Taber, national co-chair of the LDS Democrats of America, said it was notable that the speech came just days after a recent co-op election survey found that nearly half of Latter-day Saint voters in under 40 had voted for Biden in the most recent election.

“The church is politically diverse,” Taber said. “This is something we have to recognize.”

He said the Oaks declaration could go a long way in ensuring the comfort of Latter-day Saints in the church and that people are not judged “as unworthy because of who they support or which party they choose. to join. Support.”

The United Utah Party – which presents itself as a centrist, third-party alternative to other major parties – also applauded Oaks’ comments.

“We welcome his call on Latter-day Saints not to judge one another based on the political party they support,” the party said in a statement. “His advice to his fellow church members not to just vote for a right party in every election is also much appreciated, as is his instruction to put moral values ​​first and to seek and support the political party and them. candidates who best reflect these values. “

The Utah Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Salt Lake Tribune reporter Matt Canham contributed to this report.


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