I cried hearing Jon Huntsman Sr. passed away on Feb. 2.

A couple of years ago I saw him striding through Huntsman Cancer Hospital, his right arm in a sling. I said, “Thank you for this place,” adding, “I’m a patient.”

He stopped, waved off his driver and took my hands in his. “What type of cancer do you have?” Listening patiently, he never broke eye contact; upon turning to leave, he glanced back over his shoulder and said, “You don’t look sick!” He had me at hello.

Mr. Huntsman was the most credible, respected, renowned advocate for the legalization of medical marijuana in Utah. In a 2017 interview with FOX 13 News, he said he would try it, if given the chance. “I think some folks have it terribly confused with smoking marijuana. I won’t take opioids. I’ll take the pain.”

In July 2017, Mr. Huntsman told The Salt Lake Tribune, “If medical marijuana was known by another name, it would have been utilized as a pain medication many years ago. From national research and understanding, the side effects of medical marijuana are considerably less than virtually all opioids and therefore less destructive to the body.”

Mr. Huntsman bridged the gap between his fellow Mormon brethren and others in our community. I do not believe the LDS Church would be advocating Proposition 2′s defeat if he were still alive. Does there exist a single Mormon leader (or anyone) who could look the four-time cancer survivor in the eye and say, “No. You can’t have relief for your pain”?

As for political neutrality, the official stance of the LDS Church from its newsroom site:

“The church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established. The church does not: Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms.”

On July 29, 2011, CNN reported, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is reminding its leaders to stay away from endorsing political candidates or offering political statements. LDS President Thomas S. Monson provided its members with ‘further clarification of the church’s position on political neutrality.’”

In October 2016, the LDS Church urged Mormons in four Western states to “let their voices be heard” in opposition to legalizing recreational marijuana use and physician-assisted suicide. The First Presidency of the LDS Church called on church members in Arizona, California and Nevada to oppose pro-marijuana initiatives on ballots.

“Drug abuse in the United States is at epidemic proportions, and the dangers of marijuana to public health and safety are well documented,” said the letter, signed by Monson and his counselors, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf.

On Aug. 23, 2018, the LDS Church sent an email to members in Utah urging them to vote no on Proposition 2. The email went out just hours after LDS Church leaders participated in a news conference opposing the proposition.

Some of the qualifying illnesses included in the initiative are Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and autism. Not all pain is physical. Dealing with mental demons after a terminal cancer diagnosis is mind-blowing. I know this firsthand. I have thymoma, a disease so rare that it is estimated that fewer than 1,000 of us exist in the U.S. There are no known standards of care. I’ve opted for quality of life over aggressive unproven treatments. I’m receiving the best care possible at Huntsman Cancer Hospital.

Could we please separate church and state this one time? Please.

You can make a tremendous difference in people’s life quality in November. Think of Mr. Huntsman’s face when you vote. Have mercy on us all.

Norma Tharp

Norma Tharp is a feminist, activist and writer living in Murray.