Op-ed: We are Democrats because we are Mormon, and you can be, too

Op-ed: We are Democrats because we are Mormon, and you can be, too

This Op-Ed was originally published at The Salt Lake Tribune (Link)


By Brian King and Suzanne Harrison

As we pull into the home stretch of a brutal presidential election, Mormons in Utah are wondering whether anyone in politics reflect their values. While Republicans have traditionally relied on Mormons as some of their most reliable religious supporters, this cycle has seen that party champion a man who passionately opposes almost everything Mormons hold dear. The Utah Republican Party, placed in the unenviable position of either opposing their party’s nominee or opposing their state’s values, has decided on their party. The GOP seems to be going out of its way to alienate Mormons.

Under these surprising circumstances, the two of us recently participated in a public forum about our faith and our politics. The event, organized by the ABU Education Fund and the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, provided us each an opportunity to explain how our profound faith in the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has led us to the Democratic Party.

We are living in a state with one of the worst education systems — adjusted for demographics — in the nation. Our teachers are given some of the very biggest classes and then provided fewer resources per-pupil than almost anywhere else in the country. We hold sacred the words criticizing a society that distinguished people “according to their riches and their chances for learning.”

This prophetic author describes the effects of such a misguided system: “some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches” (3 Nephi 6:12). This rings true to us on a spiritual level. As Mormons, we believe that helping children should rank much higher on our state’s list of priorities.

Similarly, Utah’s air quality is so bad that our children often can’t go outside for recess. The toxins in our air can cause asthma, cancer, pregnancy complications and, in some cases, even death. One recent estimate suggests that the deaths of hundreds of Utahns per year can be directly attributed to our criminally dirty air.

Our Mormon faith urges us to be wise stewards of the environment — not just because we’ll breathe toxins if we don’t, but also because, in the words of an official church website, “making the earth ugly offends [God].” Caring for creation shows respect for its Creator. It’s as simple as that.

These are just two of the issues that matter to us. We are Democrats because we are Mormon. We invite you to take another look at what we stand for. There is room for you here.


Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, is House Minority Leader. Dr. Suzanne Harrison is the Democratic candidate for House District 32 in Sandy.

Utah lawmakers discuss crossing of Mormon faith, politics

Utah lawmakers discuss crossing of Mormon faith, politics

This article originally appeared at The Salt Lake Tribune (Link)


By Michelle L. Price | The Associated Press

Several Mormons who serve as state lawmakers said Monday that their church has a subtle influence on Utah politics but is selective about directly weighing in on issues.

Three Mormon legislators participating in a discussion about faith and politics late Monday afternoon at the University of Utah said they’ve never been contacted by church leaders about how to vote on legislation and have at times cast votes that countered the official stance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Monday’s discussion, involving two Democrats and two Republicans, was part of a broad talk about their faith and how it aligns or contrasts with their politics and influences their decisions.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, said the church is clearly a significant presence in the state, where more than half of the residents and most lawmakers are members of the faith.

“To think that that’s not going to exist is just naive,” he said of the church influence. “It does exist, but it doesn’t play itself out, in my experience, in a very direct way.”

Church policy is to remain neutral on party politics, platforms and candidates and to not direct members how to vote.

In an official statement about its politics, the LDS Church says it reserves the right to express its views on issues that have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect church interests. The church states that it communicates its views to elected officials who are members, as they would any other elected officials, but that politicians must make their own choices.

Mormon Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, said that in his five years as a lawmaker, he has been contacted by church lobbyists on legislation related to alcohol, adoption and gambling. “In my experience, the church is hands off in 99 percent of the bills that we handle,” he said.

It makes sense for the church to weigh in on some Utah policy matters like other stakeholders, Weiler said, because the church employs many people and owns a large sum of land in the state.

Two lawmakers who didn’t serve on Monday’s panel publicly criticized the church earlier this year, saying the faith’s opposition steamrolled their proposals on medical marijuana and hate-crimes protections for LGBT people.

Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, said Monday that he differed from his church on the medical marijuana bill and felt no inner conflict about supporting the measure.

When church lobbyists weigh in on legislation, Stephenson said, he considers their perspective, “but I don’t vote carte blanche because of it.”

Monday’s panel discussion was organized by the ABU Education Fund, an affiliate of the left-leaning group Alliance for a Better Utah.