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Mormon stake president gets political at church, laments election results
Religion » Speech over pulpit wins cheers on right, jeers on left.

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Mecham, who is Mormon, does not think DeVis­ser crossed the church’s line on politics.

"He wasn’t promoting a political party or any partisan politics. President DeVisser was only promoting correct principles, the principles that make people free. Modern prophets from [Mormon founder] Joseph Smith until today have all been teaching us correct principles, even regarding the proper role of government," Mecham said. "That is not politics; it is simply truth as it relates to government."

The LDS Church’s policy

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. The church does not:

Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms.

Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.

Attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to. This policy applies whether or not a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader.

Source: lds.org

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Mormon libertarian Connor Boyack agrees.

"The LDS Church’s position of political neutrality deals with candidates, not issues," Boyack, author of two books dealing with Mormonism and politics, wrote in an email. "DeVisser did a good job of connecting the dots that, to many Latter-day Saints, might be unrelated. Political machinations and current events, both at home and abroad, have as much relevance to our faith as do the breakdown of the family and rampant immorality."

To Boyack, LDS leaders "need to speak much more about our faith’s application to these things, and not less."

Everyone agrees that DeVisser’s starkly political wording doesn’t happen often in the LDS Church.

"It is fair to say it is very, very unusual to see this kind of thing in an official church meeting," said Brigham Young University political scientist Quin Monson, who has asked about it on surveys he has conducted. "Personally, I can’t remember specifically in my 10 years in Orem hearing something political over the pulpit."

While DeVisser’s approach isn’t unprecedented, Monson said, "you’d have to go back to the 1960s with speeches by [then Mormon apostle] Ezra Taft Benson to find some examples."

Federal election records show that a Matt S. DeVisser, of Draper, gave at least three campaign contributions to Romney between May 2011 and June 2012, totaling $950.

LDS stake presidents are allowed to donate to campaigns, because they are not full-time church leaders, but speaking about partisan politics over the pulpit "gives extra weight to their position and implies some kind of officialness that isn’t there," Monson said. "What I see generally is the church bending over backwards in the other direction."

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During Romney’s White House run, Monson said, "it was almost like [LDS officials] were playing a game of Twister to try to avoid commenting or engaging on any topic that seemed to tie the church to the campaign."


Tony Semerad contributed to this story.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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