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)