| Letter Reminds LDS Faithful of Church's Stand on Candidates
|Monday, October 25, 1999
BY CONNIE COYNE|
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
A letter from the governing First Presidency of the Mormon church reaffirming its policy of political neutrality was read during sacrament meetings throughout Utah and the United States on Sunday.
"This is a fairly routine reminder letter that is sent out during every political season," said Mike Otterson, media relations director for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But the letter could be more than routine this year in the minds of church members confronted with the contentious race for mayor of Salt Lake City, where two descendants of a Cache County polygamist want the office.
Rocky Anderson and Stuart Reid are both Democrats, but the resemblance, according to many, ends there. Anderson acknowledges his Mormon roots and Reid advertises his in campaign literature touting his years as an LDS police chaplain and public affairs official for the church.
Unsigned fliers raising questions about Anderson have also caused finger-pointing in the campaign. Anderson maintains that Reid's supporters are responsible for the fliers contending that Anderson owns gay bars and may be gay himself. He is not. Reid states that Anderson may be producing the fliers to get a sympathy vote.
Despite the LDS letter's assertion "the church does not endorse political candidates or parties in elections nor does it advise its members how to vote," Mormon leaders still reserve the right to sway opinion on political issues it considers to have moral implications, such as the ballot initiative banning gay marriages in California, Otterson said on Sunday.
"The California initiative is a totally separate issue," Otterson said. "This letter deals with support of candidates or parties or platforms; the church does not support candidates."
In California, the Mormon church instructed followers to offer political and financial support for the ballot initiative that would deem only heterosexual marriages "valid and recognized."
The fund-raising aspect of the California campaign -- where members sent contribution to a post office box along with information on their church membership so that individual stake presidents could see how they were doing -- has caused some California political activists to raise questions about the use of tax-exempt contributions to the LDS Church for political purposes.
Sunday's letter, signed by LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley and his counselors, Presidents Thomas S. Monson and James E. Faust, points out that church facilities are not to be used for political purposes, nor are church directories or mailing lists.
"Political candidates should not imply that their candidacy is endorsed by the church or its leaders," the letter states.
Addressed to "dear brethren and sisters," the official letter encourages members to support "measures and candidates that strengthen society morally, economically and culturally."
Otterson said the "wording of past letters is very similar" to the most recent one. "This is something members have become most familiar with."