There have been many charges that the LDS Church controls Utah politics. Rod Decker says the Church is involved in state politics but doesn’t wield as much influence as it could. I was really surprised at his answer.
Rod: The church is somewhat involved in state politics, but it depends on what you mean by involved. Utah politics are essentially what Latter-day Saints want. Mostly that’s what it is. They elect the Republicans and they control the governor and they control the legislature, and they decide what happens in Utah politics, but the church as an institution doesn’t do a lot. It does some, but not a lot in Utah politics. There are two polls…
GT: Would you say the church is less involved than the critics claim?
Rod: Yeah. Now if you talk to conservative Latter-day Saint Republicans, real conservatives, they say they teach them correct principles and let them decide on their own. That’s sort of what happens. The Latter-day Saints are conservative. They don’t like Washington. They’re conservative economically, and giving rise to everything else, they’re conservative on moral issues. They are conservative about sex and families and morals, and that’s the way they vote. That’s what determines Utah politics and that’s what has determined it since 1976. So Utah politics are Latter-day Saint politics. The church hires a permanent staff of lobbyists. They go up the legislature, tell lawmakers what they want–the lawmakers refer to them privately as the home teachers. The home teachers came by and talked to me.
But the church doesn’t get what it wants all the time. They wanted a rule to make it illegal to secretly tape an interview with your Bishop. The people said, what’s this? Or secretly tape a phone call with your bishop. No, they didn’t get that. They’ve had other things they don’t they don’t get, but mostly on moral issues they get what they want. Sometimes they speak. They say they only talk on moral issues. They get to say what a moral issue is. They try to speak mostly on moral issues. They don’t want to appear bossy and powerful and running things. Utah legislators don’t want the Church telling them what to do. Utah voters, the Latter-day Saints vote Republican. Non-Mormons vote Democratic. There are more Latter-day Saint voters than non-Mormon voters, so they win. But by and large, bishops, etc don’t tell them what to do. There are two polls. Both of them polled people of various religions. Latter-day Saints was the one that said they are least likely to hear politics from their pulpit of any religion. They say no.
GT: So compared to evangelicals, the LDS Church does stay out of politics more than say evangelicals.
Rod: That’s what [LDS members] say.
We also talk about some recent political issues in Utah, and the LDS Church’s influence, including medical marijuana, Medicaid for the poor, and even how gerrymandering affects non-LDS voters. Check out our conversation….