The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Political Neutrality
The Church's Position
The position of the Church on the issue of political affiliation to be that the church remains neutral from party politics, prohibits use of church facilities for any political reason, and that no candidate speaks for the church. Perhaps the most surprising finding was the lack of surprising findings. The church has been unequivocally neutral for a very long time. There were numerous press releases that I didn’t include in my research because they were almost identical to one another. The Lord has not wavered in this endeavor. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is politically neutral.
It’s not just that the church doesn’t vocally endorse a specific candidate or a specific party, they are actively promoting a neutral agenda. There are very few topics in the gospel where the Lord has so repeatedly established a very firm and direct stance. The frequency, directness and prominence of the statements included in my research underline the importance to the Lord and the First Presidency that we understand the church’s policy in this matter. Bishops and Stake Presidents don’t read a letter about gambling or pornography every few years from the pulpit, but they do assert the church’s neutrality.
These declarations are so unambiguous that there can be no misinterpreting them. They also carry the same weight as more “doctrinal” admonitions. In other words, when the Lord forbids the consumption of pornography, He has used such explicit language as to dispel all doubt and prevent any misinterpretation. There is no sense among the church that the leaders don’t believe the very clear instructions that we are given regarding pornography (or tithing, or missionary work, or anything else). To do so would be to wrest the words of the living oracles of God and to assert your wisdom and understanding above that of the ordained prophet, seers and revelators. Prophets from all sorts of backgrounds have made these statements, with no implied meaning behind them. The church truly does not support any political party.
To underline their neutrality, the church prohibits the use of any church facility or directory to be used in any partisan or campaign manner. Truly a church that secretly supported a particular platform would declare neutrality but lend its considerable resources to the candidate of its choice. Their failure to do so highlights their commitment to this important doctrine.
These statements also underline a very important fact. Not only does the church refrain from supporting a party or candidate, they also do not oppose a party or candidate. The Lord sees fit to speak on a number of topics to keep our families safe. When there are pernicious issues or evils, he warns us through our kind and loving prophet. However, His silence in terms of opposition to any particular party speaks volumes. If the Lord knew that a particular candidate or party was inherently evil and would do great harm to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the prophet would not sit idly by as that evil person took office. Given these premises, for the church to remain neutral implies that neither party is viewed as evil.
It’s also important to note that these declarations often include the policy that no person, candidate or otherwise, stands as a spokesman for the Lord. Long before any hint of a Mormon candidate, the Lord has made it abundantly clear that only His prophet has the power, ability, keys, and right to claim to speak on behalf of the church. No matter how attractive the policy or eloquent the speech, just because a member of the church is running for office, it doesn’t mean that their views are the church’s views. We need to be able to clearly distinguish between the opinions of man and the revealed word of the Lord.
The children of God live in so many countries governed by so many different systems and led by so many different parties and individuals that it makes sense that the Lord would not make a categorical endorsement of any particular one. He doesn’t stoop to meddle in the affairs with men. They are so temporal and fleeting. The political parties established in the United States are relatively new and have changed even within the last 30 years. His kingdom is eternal, governed by eternal principles and celestial law. For His church to actively support or endorse a man-made, arbitrary political platform seems absolutely ludicrous. I am so glad that the church has consistently asserted and disseminated their policy of political neutrality.
It always impresses me how masterfully the church operates. It obviously is brimming with brilliant, accomplished men and women, but the organizational prowess and institutional maturity and wisdom that permeates this church must come from a higher source. It is not just for legal and political reasons that the church remains neutral… I honestly believe that there is good in both major parties and that the Lord will bring about His purposes no matter who governs.
Although political affiliation is extraordinarily personal and important to us, the Lord cares very little about it. We can learn an important lesson from those whom the Savior called as his apostles. He called Matthew, the publican. Matthew was a Jew, but was employed as a publican by the sovereign Roman government. He went to his fellow Jews, collected taxes and gave it to the very people that had conquered him and his friends and family. By all accounts, he was on the Roman side of that arrangement. He had bought into their government and was actively working to support it. On the other hand, Jesus also called Simon to the holy apostleship. Simon is commonly referred to as a “zealot,” meaning he was an avid supporter of Jewish independence. It is reasonable to believe that both of these men were very passionate about their antithetical beliefs, but the Lord was able to use both of them to do wonders. He cared very little about their secular affiliations, rather focusing on the status of their hearts. He cared little about the kingdoms of men and dedicated himself to building the Kingdom of God.
We are counseled to be in the world, but not of the world and we are instructed to actively participate in the political process. The Lord wants us to be good citizens and to do what we can to improve this world for us, our families, and our brothers and sisters. Unlike the premortal existence, there is not a clear right and wrong choice. To say otherwise is to look beyond the mark and blatantly disobey the words of generations of prophets.
It also impresses me that the Lord would extend so much autonomy to his children. He trusts us (in our various nations) to establish and support the governments wherever we are. One day, He will rule all, but until then, He allows us to actively participate to shape the world with our righteous intentions. It demonstrates His great love and trust in us by teaching us correct principles and allowing us to govern ourselves.
Look for Good Everywhere
This policy also teaches me to look for good everywhere. I’ve been blessed to have been exposed to many different cultures and nationalities. From a young age, it was impressed upon me to seek out the good in everyone. I was fortunate to be surrounded by many different faiths in my adolescence, and again, was able to glean positive traits and characteristics from my peers who adhered to different religions. The church’s active policy of neutrality and some of the statements quoted below teach me that there is also much good to be found in both major American political parties. There are ideals and values represented on both sides and tolerance, love and patience (as always) are required of us.
Our political beliefs are shaped so much by our background. God’s children can be found in every occupation, region, socio-economic class, race, and age group. Since these varying demographics generally associate with different political ideologies, it makes sense that we would find honorable men and women across the political spectrum. This variety of background and experiences makes the church stronger. Each member brings a unique perspective to the gospel and a distinct set of spiritual gifts. By design, the church invites a variety of people. The only thing in common is a love of God and a desire to follow Him. God looks not on the outward appearance, but on the heart.