The apostles’ political affiliation — no Democrats

I am trying to capture attention with the headline to this post. Don’t be offended — I am barely a Republican myself and may register as a Libertarian next time around.

In any case, I thought this story was interesting:

Eleven of the 15 apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — including LDS President Thomas S. Monson — are registered Republicans, according to public records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.

The other four did not affiliate with any political party when they registered to vote and none of them voted in this year’s Democratic primary. All 15 voted this November.

However, we get this:

The four politically unaffiliated apostles are the governing First Presidency’s second counselor, Dieter F. Uchtdorf; and David A. Bednar, Quentin L. Cook and D. Todd Christofferson, of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

Uchtdorf — who was born in the Czech Republic and only recently became a U.S. citizen — did, however, register as a Republican to vote in the primary this year and then changed his registration back to unaffiliated.

It is worth noting that the youngest apostles are unaffiliated.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

30 thoughts on “The apostles’ political affiliation — no Democrats

  1. That may be the case at the moment, but it should be pointed out that Pres. Faust (formerly of the First Presidency) was a prominent Democrat.

  2. Can’t anyone at the Trib get geography (and political boundaries) right? Pres. Uchtdorf wasn’t born in the Czech Republic just as George Washington wasn’t born in the United States of America. He was born in a city that is now part of the Czech Republic, but then was part of German-occupied Czechoslovakia–the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, to be precise. (But, when the Nazis arrive telling you they’ve come to “protect” you, don’t believe ’em.)

  3. Trevor, agreed. One of my favorite apostles — Hugh B. Brown — was a prominent Democrat and an overwhelmingly positive influence on the Church.

  4. The problem with “The Apostles in the past were Democrats” is that the Democratic party is not the same as it used to be when Faust and Brown were registered. The platform can be describe for today’s party as grievance and free sex with a good portion of abortion.

  5. What is significant there may not be any Dems among the Q of 12 and First Presidency? Who cares? I don’t see anything wrong with disagreeing w/ a member of the Q or FP over something as transient and silly as politics. Since I could not care less about their political views, I don’t know if I agree or disagree with their points of view on politics. As a registered Republican, I suppose I have at least that in common with some of them on politics, but I am wholly uninterested in their political affiliations.

    I do, however, get a kick out of listening or reading some of President Benson’s jeremiads against socialism and Democrats, declaring his opposition to both as an apostle and Mormon. (Classic LDS speeches podcast) President Benson’s invocation of his apostoloic credentials in support of his crusade against socialism is no more persuasive to me, as a political matter, than if he were to support socialism and inveigh against Repubs the way he did Dems.

  6. rb, it is *very* clear to me that you can disagree with the apostles on politics and still be a member in good standing, have a temple recommend, be a good person, etc. In fact, I think I have heard that in different ways more than once from the apostles themselves.

  7. During the Depression, most LDS members were Democrats and the majority voted for FDR. They fell for the propaganda line that FDR was saving the Nation, but the depression continued until after WW 2. My parents were fervent Demos and it was a matter of great family arguments when my older brother challenged FDR as a leader.

  8. CTJ, if you would like to comment here avoid personal attacks on other commenters. Your point would actually be stronger if you did that. You are welcome to try again.

  9. Interesting factoid. How exactly did we find out about this? Statement from Public Affairs?

    Of course, it’s one thing to hear the fact. It’s something else to draw conclusions or to surmise the implications of there being no Democrats in the top 15 at this time. As stated earlier, more interesting to me is the presence of unaffiliated or independment voters among them.

    Some good advise from Joyce’s Finnegans Wake:

    “Thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude…”

  10. Michael, I presume the Trib searched the voter registration rolls. *Who* you vote for is confidential; but the fact that you voted in a given election and your declared party affiliation (if any) are matters of public record.

  11. I’d like to point out the obvious–that party affiliation is not necessarily indicative of voting behavior.

    I’m a registered Republican–it’s the only way my vote matters in a Republican-heavy state (like Utah, where I imagine these fifteen vote). With few exceptions, the winner of the Republican primaries wins the General Election, and if I want to vote in the primaries I need to be registered as a Republican. So I vote for the moderate Republican in the primaries. And then, despite being registered as a Republican, I usually vote for the Democrat in the General Election.

    I know many moderates and Democrats who live in Republican states who do the same. I’m not saying I know how these 15 men vote, but I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of these “Republicans” sometimes or often votes for a Democrat. (My money’s on Uchtdorf, being German and all, but that’s just pure speculation).

    On the other hand, I’m sure most of them fit the political profile for the average older, white, upper middle class or upper class religious male–they vote Republican. Big surprise there. And that’s just fine.

  12. It doesn’t matter. They are allowed have their own political opinions aside from representing the church.

  13. “It doesn’t matter. They are allowed have their own political opinions aside from representing the church.”

    But you’d think that the 15 would do something about at least three members of the Seventy participating in a party that, allegedly, is all about promoting baby murdering and sexual promiscuity, yes?

    Or could it be that (edited) members of the Church, high a low, are allowed to choose their own political affiliation, that one’s political persuasions don’t effect one’s standing in the Church, and that one can be a Mormon in good standing and also be a Democrat.

    You’re right, though. Their official work for the Church is not related to their political views, and vice-a-versa. I’ve never said anything different.

    But guess what, the same goes for all the Republican General Authorities as well.

    So, what again was the exact purpose of this discussion?

  14. Stephen Smoot, nobody is forcing you to read this blog or make comments here. The purpose of the conversation is simply to bring up an interesting political note. If you don’t find it interesting, you can ignore it or go read something else.

  15. ” If you don’t find it interesting, you can ignore it or go read something else.”

    To the contrary, I am very interested in this discussion. Hence the posting of my comments.

    If my comments are in any way inappropriate, just let me know. I was under the impression that if one commenter was allowed to paint Democrats with such a large brush another would be allowed to respond.

    Perhaps I was mistaken.

  16. You can comment about Democrats without attacking other commenters. A comment like “I find the Democrats’ position more in line with Gospel principles than the Republicans” is perfectly fine. Personally, I think both parties have their problems, but that’s just me. 🙂

  17. The Republican party seems to often espouse true principles, then fails to act on them, or water them down. The Democratic party seems to often takes true principles then misinterpret how to apply them, or applies them wrongly.
    Of course, the inverse also seems true sometimes.

    But back to the subject that makes the Ds feel uncomfortable. I’d assume the Lord’s Apostles vote Republican because they feel it’s the best application of their principles. While no one would suggest you can’t be a good person or Mormon and vote Democratic, it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t simply be wrong while being Mormon and voting and voting Democratic (it also doesn’t mean Democrats aren’t right sometimes — they are).

    But the same group of men who take a set of principles and then act on them (vote Republican) work from the same set of principles and then act on them in writing and delivering conference addresses.

    I believe they are inspired and act with authority when they deliver an address, meaning the Lord honors their words as if he were giving them and they speak for the Lord. I do not believe the same authority applies to their voting behavior, but it certainly should shed some light on how we should act individually when we understand everything in its proper sphere.

    Ultimately, I don’t think knowing how they “most likely” vote compels us to vote the same way. But I do think that knowledge should compel us to try to understand why they’d vote that way and then seriously consider applying that same understanding to our own decision making process.

    For those church members who like to dismiss Republicans out of hand (I’m certainly not a member of the party, but my interests and theirs often align) as being unfeeling, or blindly mistake, should at the very least reconsider their approach.

    It doesn’t surprise me though, that the same group of people who often reduce church authority to being “mis-guided opinion” (blacks, homosexuality, gender, etc.) would also apply that same reasoning to the voting activity of church leaders. In fact, I often get the hunch that a large part of their criticism of the church stems from their different political viewpoints than the other way around.

  18. It doesn’t surprise me though, that the same group of people who often reduce church authority to being “mis-guided opinion” (blacks, homosexuality, gender, etc.)

    — was not suggesting black people reduce authority to being misguided opinion, but rather that was short hand for those who frequently insist the church leadership was wrong and uninspired in creating and maintaining the black/priesthood restriction.

    (maybe they were, but since it wasn’t me and doesn’t pertain to my stewardship, and I have no authority in the matter, I’m not going to start pointing out motes and beams in the eyes of others)

  19. Jettboy, it wasn’t that long ago that Faust was around. And then you have Marlin Jensen, recently released from the First Quorum of the 70, who is a prominent Democrat today. I’m sure there are others among the 70 that are just not known about.

  20. I believe the Lord chooses GAs (in our day) who are conservative, not by culture, but by nature: conformists, defenders, and sustainers, not revolutionaries, progressives, or free-thinkers. In the early days of the church, the Lord chose revolutionaries to lead his church, to completely overturn Christianity of the day. But today, the Lord wants his church to stay the course and defend the faith, not revolutionize the world.

    If God wanted to change things, he would make someone like Orson Scott Card or Richard Bushman GAs. But that would be the wrong path. Those men are important in their liberal and libertarian spheres, because they keep Mormonism vibrant and diverse. They show it’s magnificent potential, beyond the safe Gospel Doctrine approved boundaries.

    But the core of the church, the top leadership, has to be strong like the trunk of a tree, while the world around them is blown about by every wind of doctrine. We are in it for the long haul. Our revolutionary era is over, and the era of conservative defending and sustaining is here to stay until the end.

  21. “We are in it for the long haul. Our revolutionary era is over, and the era of conservative defending and sustaining is here to stay until the end.”

    I agree essentially with the tenor of your statement and the point you were making. However….(you knew there was a but or a whatever coming…)

    I disagree that there won’t be a time for revolutionaries in the future. Neal A. Maxwell said once, “The easy things in the Church have all been done. Get ready for high adventure.”

    I believe that as events come to a head in the future (Armageddon, all nations gathered against Jerusalem, Adam-ondi-Ahman, etc., etc., etc.) we will come full circle and will need leaders who possess the same revolutionary mindset as the early Smiths, Pratts, Youngs, Kimballs, Woodruffs, etc., did. It will take charisma to see us through the very end.

  22. “I disagree that there won’t be a time for revolutionaries in the future.”

    You could be right. I shouldn’t have put “until the end” at the end of my comment.

    However, I think it should be emphasized just how far the church really is from being a crusading or revolutionary force within the broader dynamics of the Last Days. Like Jesus, who didn’t do anything to challenge the political status quo, Mormons are not here to do anything political. Christianity went into apostasy as soon as it became popular. Constantine destroyed true Christianity. Christians were always supposed to be a small, insignificant sect, just like Mormons are. We are picking up where the first apostles left off. And our mission is completely and totally non-political. (With the exception of one-off mistakes like Prop. 8, which won’t happen again).

  23. Ehhh, not so fast.

    Joseph Smith said, “I intend to lay a foundation that will revolutionize the whole world.”

    And I’m not sure I go along with the idea of Prop 8 being a one-off mistake. In fact, I would suggest that it wasn’t a mistake at all. It was inspired. An enormous amount of good came about because the Church joined forces with various groups that wanted to preserve traditional marriage. The final verdict hasn’t been written; those who want to say that Prop 8 will go down as a strategic mistake are confusing strategy with tactics.

  24. I also apologize for the threadjack.

    Perhaps a more pertinent question to ask is: Perhaps there are few Democrats among senior Church leadership because they find it difficult to accept modern Democratic Party extremism with respect to abortion (including partial-birth abortion), gay rights, etc.

    Yes, I know Harry Reid is pro-life. He’s just about a unicorn at this point. The Democratic party used to have hundreds of pro-life folks. Just something to think about. (I personally know a lot of people who quit the Democratic party over abortion. Seems like some people just don’t have the stomach for abortion-on-demand).

    Perhaps if the Democratic party moderated its views a bit on abortion, folks might be enticed back in? It’s a big-tent party right? (Unless you’re old, white, moderately wealthy, and believe strongly in the traditional family unit.)

  25. “Perhaps a more pertinent question to ask is: Perhaps there are few Democrats among senior Church leadership because they find it difficult to accept modern Democratic Party extremism with respect to abortion (including partial-birth abortion), gay rights, etc.”

    Michael Towns, add in the general sexual libertinism that seems to exist in the Democrat party (witness the ad comparing voting for Obama to losing one’s virginity) and you get a pretty good condemnation of the Dems. There is no doubt that some (not all) of the Dems vote for the party for these very problematic reasons.

    Meanwhile, the worst elements of the Republican party are appealing to nativism with its anti-immigrant position. This clearly contradicts the Church’s own position on the issue. I would also add that I would not be at all surprised to find GAs uncomfortable with John McCain’s general warmongering (to use one prominent Republican example).

    Another point: the GAs say again and again how important it is to live within your means, to be frugal to avoid debt and overspending. Both parties are guilty of creating our horrendous debt problem, so how does that all fit in?

  26. I happily agree that the FP and 12 should be able to register for whatever party they want to and vote however they feel is best. This news should not be news. If I were the editor of the paper, I would have refused to publish it.

    The leadership of the church does a good job of officially declaring political neutrality in the church and making it understood that members can vote for who they feel would do better for their constituents.

    I encourage the leaders of the church to also make church businesses politically neutral. In particular, the church owns AM 770 in Seattle, which is a right-wing radio station (Rush Limbaugh, etc.). This sends the message that church resources are being used to promote a political agenda. Not only that, but it is in fact the use of church resources to promote a political agenda. It calls into question the political neutrality of the church.

  27. While the Church is politically neutral it is certainly not philosophically neutral. As such we probably shouldn’t be surprised to see the Church, both as an organization and as a people, tend to gravitate towards one party or another based on current political philosophy.

    Of course, no party is a perfect match and it is reasonable for members to disagree about whether Party A or Party B is the more Mormon choice.

    I’m also reluctant to criticize business decisions of the Church. Bonneville International is trying to be a successful and responsible media company. That means deciding on programming based on a complex mix of who their target audience is, where the revenue comes from, the standards of the company itself, who wants to do business with them and who knows what else.

    They want to run Glenn Beck and Rush? Cool. They’re popular, relatively clean shows with a large audience. Seems like good business. Maybe it’s not the perfect decision, but I’m not steward over that particular branch of Church investment. And honestly I’m not sure I’d want to be. Imagine being in charge of handling the Lord’s investment money. There’s one shareholder you don’t want to disappoint.

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