Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » “Church officials do tell us how to vote”

“Church officials do tell us how to vote”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - February 23, 2012

Apostle Harold B. Lee visited northern California in the summer of 1951. Speaking at a ward meeting in Westwood, Lassen County, on July 20, he discussed the Saints’ responsibility to elect good men (yeah, well, it was 1951) to public office.

As reported in the California Intermountain News, a private enterprise LDS-themed newspaper, Elder Lee made what at first blush seems to be a startling claim:

He informed us forcefully that the Church officials do tell us how to vote.


The paper’s summary of his talk continued:

They warn us that we must vote for the men who believe in God, who believe in the Constitution of the United States, who believe in free agency. He told us that the man himself is more important than the party. If a righteous, God-fearing, nation-loving man, home-appreciating man runs on either side, he is the man who should represent us.

In that context, Elder Lee’s startling announcement morphs directly into the letter that is being read in LDS wards in the United States this month, as in all election seasons in recent memory:

As citizens we have the privilege and duty of electing office holders and influencing public policy. Participation in the political process affects our communities and nation today and in the future.

Latter-day Saints as citizens are to seek out and then uphold leaders who will act with integrity and are wise, good, and honest. Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in various political parties.

Therefore, in this election year, we urge you to register to vote, to study the issues and candidates carefully and prayerfully, and then to vote for and actively support those you believe will most nearly carry out your ideas of good government.

The Church affirms its neutrality regarding political parties, platforms, and candidates. The Church also affirms its constitutional right of expression on political and social issues.

(This text is from the 2008 letter; the wording may have been tweaked this year, but the principles are the same)



  1. Not all that different, but here’s the issue:

    If a righteous, God-fearing, nation-loving man[woman], home-appreciating man[woman] runs on either side, he[she] is the [woman]man who should represent us.

    All of those qualifiers are really open to personal interpretation, so we may all use the same words, but end up with totally different conclusions. You can easily make the justifiable claim that President Obama and all of the Republican presidential candidates, except perhaps Newt the Gingrich, all qualify under these definitions.

    So as they say, that statement doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    Comment by kevinf — February 23, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

  2. Kevin, I think that’s Ardis’s point.

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — February 23, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

  3. “Northern California” so often means within a few dozen miles of San Francisco, so it is heartening to find the phrase being used in connection with a place where it really applies. When I complained about this once, a friend said, “Oh, I just think of that area as part of Oregon.”

    Comment by John Mansfield — February 24, 2012 @ 5:55 am

  4. You can thank the Sacramento Bee (which my family read during our residence in Susanville in my high school days) for that enlightened understanding, John — the Bee routinely referred to that glorious part of the state as “Superior California.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2012 @ 6:08 am

  5. Seems like in 1951 “who believes in free agency” might have had a specific meaning, one that seems to rear its head often in today’s political debate, too.

    Much as I love Elder Lee, I’ll stick with the substantive message of the FP letter.

    Comment by Paul — February 24, 2012 @ 6:14 am

  6. I would emphasize the belief in free agency and the Constitution as being the most important requirement at this time. Our freedom has been badly trampled for about 30 years and not just the last 4-12 years.

    Comment by Allison in Atlanta — February 24, 2012 @ 8:18 am

  7. I remember the California Intermountain News. Even though it wasn’t an official church publication there was always a stack of them in the foyer of my SoCal chapel in the 60s. It was kind of the west coast LDS diaspora connection to the mother land. Since I was California born and bred it held no interest for me but it had an eager audience in my parent’s generation, almost all of whom had left Utah during and after WWII.

    Ardis, I wonder if there are archives available? It would be another source of information about western LDS in the mid 20th century if and when you exhaust your official sources.

    Comment by KLC — February 24, 2012 @ 8:25 am

  8. KLC, the Church History Library has a(n apparently) full run, and I’ve just started mining it. Few of the items I’m finding will be usable without additional research on my part, but always the trick for blogging is finding out that something interesting even occurred — once I know that something happened, there are usually plenty of sources to work on fleshing out the story. So you and I are on the same wavelength with this as a potential source of goodies.

    The Beehive was (is?) southern Nevada’s similar newspaper, the one I knew as a youth.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  9. In today’s corrolation-controlled world, the Church has been very clear that notes taken during ward or stake conference are for personal use only. I guess vetting every stake conference talk was too much work :-)

    Still, many of the “Teachings of…” books published about each Church president contain extensive quotes and Gospel principles that were given at stake conference.

    I suppose it’s an effort to shut down faith-promoting rumors and folklore, but good luck with that!

    Comment by The Other Clark — February 24, 2012 @ 9:38 am

  10. No freakin way. Lassen HS, class of 92. I always have to explain to people where I spent my teen years when I say “North California” – Everyone assumes Sacramento or San Fran. I was amazed a GA ever visited Lassen County. I’m absolutely floored that you grew up there.

    Comment by Frank Pellett — February 24, 2012 @ 11:47 am

  11. Three years probably doesn’t constitute “growing up there,” but yes, Virginia, there *is* a Susanville. Go Grizzlies!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — February 24, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

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