Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday published (Mormon stake president gets political at church, laments election results) an unbelievable account of Stake President Matthew DeVisser of a Stake in Sandy UT, delivery his personal political theology from the pulpit during a stake conference:
An LDS stake president in Sandy did something in a speech earlier this month that other Mormon leaders have done many times: He warned that evil is corrupting the world.
Then President Matthew DeVisser did something few LDS leaders ever do over the pulpit: He rattled off a number of Republican talking points, lamenting that voters last year chose “socialism over capitalism, entitlements over free enterprise, redistribution and regulation over self-reliance.”
DeVisser, who oversees a number of LDS congregations in the south valley, never referred to President Barack Obama or his Mormon opponent, GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in his speech Feb. 3 to the Hidden Valley Stake Conference but did say 2012 would “prove to be one of the more significant years in our lifetime.”
He cited evidence of the nation’s declining values, including an effort to raise taxes during “the worst economic times since the Great Depression,” some states legalizing same-sex marriage, government-funded abortions and the frenzy leading up to the “fiscal cliff.”
“The U.N. ambassador,” he added, “was instructed by the White House to cover up what happened in Libya, attempting to minimize the deaths of four Americans who were murdered.”
In the speech, DeVisser — who did not return calls seeking comment for this story — said he did not intend to be controversial or political, but was directed in his thinking by the “Holy Ghost.”
It’s absolutely fine for President DeVisser to hold such political views–but sharing them over the pulpit at a Stake Conference in his official capacity as Stake President, cloaking them as impressions of “Holy Ghost” leads one to believe the Holy Ghost also serves as a part time Fox News political analyst. Such an abuse of a Stake Conference address is in direct violation of the Church’s long standing political neutrality position:
The Church’s mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to elect politicians. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.
The Church does not:
Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms.
Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.
Attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to. This policy applies whether or not a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader.
While President DeVisser did not specifically mention political candidates by name or party affiliation. He did not have to–particularly in Sandy, UT. President DeVisser quoted a litany of GOP talking points in his stake conference talk in his official capacity as a Stake President, in direct violation of the Church policy outlined above, and on the Church’s official website:
1. “The U.S. Ambassador was instructed by the White House to cover up what happened in Lybia, attempting to minimize the deaths of four Americans who were murdered.”
Setting aside for the moment that statement is simply false (meaning that is is a lie)–it was one of the loudest most politically charged GOP talking points of the entire election. Several political posts from a variety of political websites confirm this GOP talking point: Talking Points Memo; Media Matters; The Hill; Huffington Post.
2. Other overtly political GOP talking points both during, and after the election, referenced by President DeVisser in his stake conference address include: Voters chose socialism over capitalism; voters chose entitlements over free enterprise; and, that voters, including American Mormons who voted fore Obama instead of Romney essentially chose “evil” over “good.”
This is very problematic for President DeVisser. Labeling “socialism” as evil, and “capitalism” and/or “free enterprise” as good immediately paints millions of Latter-day Saints around the world as participants in evil by electing and supporting “socialist” governments–at least based on President DeVisser’s definition of socialism. This includes all the Mormons in the United States who voted for President Barack Obama–since according to President DeVisser, the American President is a socialist (another political talking point of the far right tea party contingent of the GOP). This also includes all the European and other Mormons where ever situated in the world who elect and support (as they are commanded to do in Mormon theology see here and here) their democratically elected governments, which by President DeVisser’s definition are also “socialist” President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, currently serving as Second Counselor in the Church’s First Presidency (the highest governing body) must by President DeVisser’s definition also be an evil “socialist”. President President Uchtdorf:
President Uchtdorf was born on November 6, 1940, in then Mährisch-Ostrau, Czechoslovakia, to Karl Albert and Hildegard Else Opelt Uchtdorf. He was raised in Zwickau, Germany, where his family joined the Church in 1947.
If President Obama is an evil socialist, by any measure of the socialist standard, Germany–and all other European countries–are far more socialist in their education, health care, and welfare policies toward their citizens. Participating in, electing, and supporting such policies taints and/or has tainted President Uchtdorf as well as all other Latter-day Saints across the European continent, including Great Britain. One has to wonder whether the same “spirit” would have prompted President DeVisser to give the same address over the pulpit in a Stake Conference to our European Sisters and Brothers?
Mitt Romney, the GOP Presidential Candidate and his would be competitors made this exact same point throughout the last presidential election, deriding Europe and Britain as socialist, over and over. See here and here. Holding and even promoting such political views in the public square is the absolute right of every American, even Mormon Stake Presidents (or former Stake Presidents, as is Mitt Romney); however, wrapping them in the cloak of sacred theology, characterizing them as impressions of the “Holy Ghost” and delivering them over the pulpit in a Stake Conference in your capacity as a Stake President is inexcusable, indefensible, and so far removed from a Stake President’s calling as to border on blasphemy. It demeans and pollutes the concept of personal and official inspiration and revelation (The Rock upon which the Church is founded) and to which individual Mormons and Stake Presidents are entitled. God (and by extension His Son, Jesus Christ) does not involve Himself in the day to day political polemics of American elections. Mormon Stake presidents should know better–and fortunately most do. It remains a mystery to me how some of my Mormon sisters and brothers hold views similar to that of President DeVisser. I mean, what screams “capitalism” and “free enterprise” louder than say a critical reading of the Sermon on the Mount here, here, and here. Or the building of a near Zion like society by the Nephites in 4th Nephi.
I don’t speak in any official capacity for anybody on this blog. “The Brethren” don’t seek my opinions on anything political or theological (probably with very good reason). But, my own view is that Stake President Matthew DeVisser has far exceeded the appropriate bounds of wedding Church and State in the Mormon Church in his Stake Conference address. I also believe the best way to address this wrong is for him to apologize publicly over the pulpit, to every ward in his stake, pointing out his mistake, and admitting he should never have mixed GOP political talking points as part of a Stake President’s address during a Stake Conference.