‘Mormon Land’: It will take ‘bolder’ statements to get political diversity among Latter-day Saints, says Ben McAdams

Former congressman discusses the faith’s recent denunciation of strict party-line voting in the era of Donald Trump, how it could affect future campaigns and LDS influence in government.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Ben McAdams, a Democrat who represented Utah’s 4th Congressional District from 2019 to 2021, addresses a crowd in Salt Lake City in 2022.

For years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proclaimed its neutrality in partisan politics, a position reaffirmed in the faith’s recently updated policy on the matter.

But in a strongly worded letter to U.S. members, the governing First Presidency added a new wrinkle, denouncing strict party-line voting.

“Merely voting a straight ticket or voting based on ‘tradition’ without careful study of candidates and their positions on important issues,” the top leaders warned, “is a threat to democracy and inconsistent with revealed standards.” They reminded Latter-day Saints that “principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties” and urged them to “vote for those who have demonstrated integrity, compassion and service to others, regardless of party affiliation.”

For decades, Latter-day Saints have been among the most reliably Republican voting blocs with a number of members either overtly casting a straight GOP ticket or, in essence, doing so by simply backing the candidates with an “R” after their names.

Could this blunt message from the First Presidency begin to change that voting dynamic? Will more members, especially in red states like Utah, start to back Democrats or office seekers from other parties? Would a more balanced Latter-day Saint electorate be helpful or harmful for the global church?

On this week’s show, a prominent Latter-day Saint Democrat, Ben McAdams, an ex-congressman from Utah and a former Salt Lake County mayor, discusses those questions and more, stating, among other things, that church leaders should speak out against partisan redistricting and lamenting that they will have to be even bolder to truly boost political diversity among the membership.

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