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LDS congregations are organized geographically, so unlike some other religions, there's not an opportunity to self-select which congregation, or ward, you attend.  With a very few exceptions, your address determines where you go to church.

Preaching politics, an LDS perspective

LDS congregations are organized geographically, so unlike some other religions, there's not an opportunity to self-select which congregation, or ward, you attend.  With a very few exceptions, your address determines where you go to church. There isn't an option to simply choose another ward because you don't like the local leadership or because the congregation tends one way or another politically. It's easy in this setting to feel alienated in a ward where only one political opinion is seen as the “right” one and it's not the one you hold, and doubly so when that political opinion is preached from the pulpit.

We also have a cultural history of deference toward church leaders, so a leader who expresses a political opinion runs the risk that some members will interpret it as more than one individual's opinion, and feel obligated to support that position simply because of the role the person who expressed it holds. 

Every year shortly before November elections, church headquarters issues a statement to be read over the pulpit in every ward. It encourages members of the church to study the issues and to vote their conscience, reminding everyone that the church is politically neutral and does not endorse particular candidates, parties or platforms. However, a majority of active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at least in the United States, are politically conservative, and some mistakenly believe that the only way to be a “good” member of the church is to vote republican. (Even though we have had apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve who were on completely opposite ends of the political spectrum; Ezra Taft Benson was very politically conservative and served as Secretary of Agriculture under President Eisenhower and James E. Faust served in the Utah House of Representatives as a democrat and as the chair of the Utah State Democratic Party for several years.)

I have faithful, believing LDS friends who are politically conservative, liberal, and moderate — all over the map — but the more moderate or progressive ones (including me!) often tend to keep their opinions to themselves at church because of the (sometimes hilariously) horrified responses we've received when our not-so-conservative political opinions become known.

So I don't believe it's ever OK to preach partisan politics from the pulpit, at least in an LDS setting, because it becomes exclusionary and too closely identified with one particular understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It denies others the right to interpret and apply the gospel of Jesus Christ as they feel guided by the Holy Spirit.

About Emily Geddes

Emily H. Geddes was born to two physicists and grew up as a Navy brat. Born-and-raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she holds a bachelor's degree in theatre from Brigham Young University, and earned an MBA from Eastern Washington University.

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2 comments

  1. I don’t think it’s ever ok for a preacher to speak about politics. Much of our world’s trouble has been over religion and politics mixing. Church should be faith-centered, and a safe place to turn to God and away from the politics of man. I fully agree with your article.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Lily! I really like how you put that Church should be “a safe place to turn to God.” That’s exactly how I feel.

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