LDS Church is assigning ‘specialists’ to help members become more politically active. Dems worry it may make Utah even more GOP.

This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune. Read it in its entirety here.

Virtually every year, Latter-day Saint leaders read a statement over the pulpit, reaffirming the faith’s political neutrality while encouraging members to be informed about issues, vote in elections, run for office and support candidates who represent their values and views.

Apparently, that hasn’t been enough for Utah officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so they have devised a more hands-on approach.

Recently, high-ranking church leaders in the Beehive State, including general authority Seventy Craig C. Christensen, directed Utah-based stake presidents — who supervise groups of about six to 12 congregations each — to “assign specialists who can assist church members to better understand and participate in the civic process,” according to church spokesman Doug Andersen.

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Despite some concerns, the church’s new move in Utah to assign political-participation specialists drew praise from several groups across the political spectrum.

“Getting more people involved is better for the process” and will make it more representative, said Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton. “It’s really great when we have a full caucus in the caucus-convention system. It would be really great if we get 80-90% of the people to vote. That’s not happening. Anything to improve that is welcome.”

Utah did set a 50-year high for a midterm election last year. Still, only 55% of the voting-age population cast a ballot.

Adams said he is not worried that the church or specialists would try to favor one party over the other.

“My experience with the church is it’s nonpartisan. I mean there’s a lot of good Democrats in the church and a lot of good Republicans,” Adams said. He said the church pushing its members to be more politically involved is not “any different for me than the PTA or League of Women Voters encouraging it.”

“It doesn’t raise any red flags,” said Chase Thomas, executive director of the left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah. “We would encourage people to be active in politics or their community and no matter what their religion.”

He added that the church “has always pledged to be politically neutral. I think the church really tries to stick to that.” As long as individual specialists do also, Thomas has no problem with its move.

This article originally appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune. Read it in its entirety here.

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