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Does LDS Church Control Utah Politics? (Part 3 of 4)

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….

Rod Decker says the LDS Church stays out of state politics more than evangelicals.
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Downwinders & Utah’s Fight Against the Feds (Part 2 of 4)

In the 1930s and 40s, the United States was involved in the race to build an atomic bomb.  Many of those above ground tests took place in the Nevada desert, and fallout from the blasts fell upon southern Utah residents.  As a result, Utahns have had a history of opposing the federal government.  Rod Decker will tell us more about these tests, as well as Utah’s love/hate relationship with the defense industry.

Rod:  Utah was hit by the Great Depression, harder than most other states. What pulled them out was World War II. After World War II, Utah had a big defense sector. Utah for a number of years in the early 1960s, Utah had the largest defense sector of any state in proportion to its economy. I mean, we were nothing compared to California, but California was a bigger deal. Our defense sector provided a bigger percentage of jobs. We had Hill Air Force Base, we had other military installations, and we had a big rocket, a big aerial defense industry. We had Litton. We had Marcon. We had Hercules. We had a lot of them.

In World War II, if you had a good job, that was good. But defense was was a good thing to do. We believed in America. We wanted to win the war. By Vietnam, we didn’t believe so much in America. We didn’t particularly care whether our guys won the war, maybe. We weren’t so patriotic. We weren’t so pro defense, and it wasn’t just us, it was the whole country. So then there were a series of controversies that are still going on, though less than they used to, over destroying nerve gas at Toole, over a lab to test biological weapons at Dugway. The big one, the start of them was the downwinder issue where were the United States tested atomic bombs in Nevada, the fallout drifted over southern Utah. It was said thousands died. If you look at the scientific papers, probably fewer–what they could show is maybe 50 or 60, not good, but…

GT:  But not thousands, either.

Rod:  Maybe only 10, maybe only 10 or 11. I mean, you can’t tell who died. A guy gets cancer and he dies, you don’t know.

GT:  Was it from the smoking?

Rod:  So yeah, what you do is they do two things. They do dosimetry. They calculate how much radiation he might have been exposed to, and they calculate how much–epidemiology it’s called–they calculate how much cancer there was against how much cancer they think there ought to have been. We end up with maybe 10, maybe 50. Now the level of proof has to be high. It has to be 90 or 95% statistically, that it wasn’t just bad luck. That’s the way epidemiology works. Those aren’t special rules to beat up on southern Utahns. That’s the way it works, and by that 10 to maybe 50 or 60 died, mostly the little children, a lot of childhood leukemia.

Check out our conversation…..

How many Utahns got cancer from atomic bomb tests in southern Nevada?

Don’t miss our other episode with Rod!

324: Utah: Most Politically/Religiously Divided State