As this article is being written, there is a Mormon running for president and a number of Mormons running for other offices. Many have wondered about—and some have spread inaccurate gossip concerning—the role the church would have in the governing decisions made by those candidates.
The first thing to notice is that there are many Mormons in office in both parties. Both Harry Reid (Democrat) and Orrin Hatch (Republican) are both important leaders within their own parties, for instance. They essentially make their decisions based on the teachings of their parties, which means they seldom agree with each other. This alone should make it very obvious that the Church is not giving them instructions.
Mormon is a nickname sometimes used to describe members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon leaders have consistently outlined their stance on politics and religion:
“Elected officials who are Latter-day Saints make their own decisions and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated Church position. While the Church may communicate its views to them, as it may to any other elected official, it recognizes that these officials still must make their own choices based on their best judgment and with consideration of the constituencies whom they were elected to represent.” (Political Neutrality)
This means that the church, like every other organization in the country, has a right to express opinions and to send those opinions to political leaders, but not to insist they be obeyed or to punish Mormon politicians for not following them. When they issue these types of statements, they are directed to all politicians, not just those who are Mormon. A study of Mormon history will show that as far back as Joseph Smith’s time, the Mormons spoke with political leaders and even presidents, none of whom were Mormon.
What types of political opinions do they issue? While many churches today are using sermons and church bulletin boards to endorse candidates, Mormons do not. Individual members are free to do so, but may not leave the impression they are speaking for the Church. Church leaders who serve full-time, such as apostles, may not get involved in partisan politics.
The Mormons speak out on the moral issues that are the natural territory of faith. It is, of course, the role and duty of churches to teach morality. While Mormons have spoken out on a very few subjects, they do speak on topics such as marriage and family, abortion, and immigration where immigration meshes with the Christ-like treatment of others. They always do so in a non-partisan way and their views seldom line up to either major political party. In addition, the Church is found world-wide and most declarations refer to the world as a whole, not merely to US 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.
The Church does:
Encourage its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections.
Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.
Request candidates for office not to imply that their candidacy or platforms are endorsed by the Church.
Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church.”
Mormon leaders, more than many churches, takes strong steps to avoid any appearance of partisan politics. Reporters have been consistently frustrated in their attempts to get the church to comment on Mitt Romney’s campaign and when they speak on political issues, his name is left out of any statement. While they respond to inaccurate information being presented, they do so without mentioning the candidate