Mormons and Politics

New West Politics ran a story this week about the political race for Wyoming’s U.S. House seat. Two candidates are running neck-in-neck, but the Republican congressional candidate, Cynthia Lummis, hopes to add the Mormon vote to her support base. Mormons make up 10% of the voting Wyoming public.

Ms. Lummis is a conservative life-long Missouri Synod Lutheran, but she investigated Mormonism — up to the point of baptism — two times while in college. She had many LDS friends then, and, according to the New West Politics article, she hopes that history, coupled with her conservative politics, will win the day.

But, as the article mentioned, the LDS vote is not “monolithic.” Church leaders in Wyoming say there is a strong minority of Mormon Democrats in the state, and the Church allows people to vote their consciences.

Former House majority whip Alan Stauffer, who is LDS, talked to New West Politics briefly about the history of Mormon party allegiances.

“In the 1800s, Mormons were almost universally Democrats, Stauffer said. ‘That’s because Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party turned on the church back in Illinois,’ he said. Republicans loudly opposed what were called ‘the twin relics of barbarism –slavery and polygamy,’ Stauffer said.”

Stop and think about this for a minute. As reported, Mr. Stauffer says early Mormons were Democrats because Lincoln and the Republican party “turned” on the LDS Church by opposing slavery and polygamy.

As with many other issues, the early Mormon position on slavery is contradictory. It is widely believed today that Joseph Smith opposed slavery, and he did – sometimes. But he also supported it. In July, 1838 Joseph wrote in the Elders’ Journal:

“In obedience to our promise, we give the following answers to questions, which were asked in the last number of the Journal…

“Question 13th. Are the Mormons abolitionists?

“Answer. No, unless delivering the people from priestcraft and the priests from the power of Satan, should be considered such. But we do not believe in setting the Negroes free.” (Elders’ Journal, volume 1, number 3, 36, 43)

As for polygamy, it’s hard to understand how the Republican party “turned” on the LDS Church in its opposition to the practice. Polygamy had been illegal in Illinois since February 12, 1833 (see Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History, 18, 26). The Republican party opposed polygamy in order to uphold the law.

But frustration with the Republican party was not the only reason early Mormons were “almost universally Democrats.” This story illustrates another factor. A few days before an election in 1843, Joseph Smith’s brother, Hyrum, publicly announced that he had received a revelation from God, which stated that the Democratic candidate, Joseph Hoge, should receive the Mormon vote (see Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 353). The day before the election Joseph told his people,

“Brother Hyrum tells me this morning that he has had a testimony to the effect it would be better for the people to vote for Hoge; and I never knew Hyrum to say he ever had a revelation and it failed. let God speak and all men hold their peace.” (History of the Church, 5:526)

Hoge won the election (by 700 votes), thanks to the more than 2,000 Mormons (almost all of the Nauvoo electorate) who voted for him.

Early Mormons remained Democrats (according to Mr. Stauffer in New West Politics) until Utah got serious about obtaining statehood. Then,

“When statehood for Utah finally seemed possible in the 1890s, Mormon leaders knew the U.S. Congress wouldn’t want to admit a one-party territory to statehood. So they simply divided the population in half, Stauffer said, going door to door and telling one family they were now Republicans, the next family Democrats, and so on.”

Not exactly the American Way, but that was then. Things are different today. The LDS Church is now politically neutral and simply instructs Church members to vote for whichever candidate is most compatible with LDS gospel principles (see First Presidency Letter, Church News, September 27, 2008, 7).

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Early Mormonism, Mormon Culture, Mormon History and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mormons and Politics

  1. Michael P says:

    Sharon, I currently in live Laramie, WY. Interesting thoughts on Lummis.

    But, does anyone have the statistics for the Mormons who voted for Romney and those voted against?

    If I recall, didn’t Utah vote something like 80% for Romney?

  2. reggiewoodsyall says:

    Yeah, Utah was above a 70% vote for Romney…

    And so was Orange County, CA…

    I guess we need to ask how many Mormons live in Orange County (70%?).

    Can we pull up the numbers of how many Catholics voted for Kennedy?

    Can we pull up how many “Christian Conservatives” voted for Huckabee?

    Can we pull up how many veterans voted for McCain?

    Can we pull up how many women voted for Hillary Clinton?

    My point is that, the political lines are still drawn today, by race, gender, religion, etc. And, as much as it shouldn’t be this way, Mormons are the same way… they vote in line with their religious beliefs/standards, and they can make a safe assumption that Romney had (has) the same religious beliefs/standards as they do. A persons religious beliefs can help shape a persons character… so i don’t think there is anything wrong with an overwhelming vote for Romney from Mormons.

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