I’m beginning to understand the frustration non-Mormons in Utah feel with the political influence exerted by the dominant religion. The Republican presidential nominations for the past several cycles have been dominated by evangelicals. Now, I have nothing against evangelicals—some of my nearest and dearest adhere to that faith—I’m just reluctant to have them choose a major presidential candidate. I mean, how can I trust a group that thought George W. Bush was God’s gift to America?
The upside is that, nationwide, evangelicals are a minority. No matter how they influence the Republican Party, the other party offers another choice.
Not so in Utah. Utah has not elected a non-Mormon governor since 1928. No non-Mormon senators and congressmen have been elected in Utah in my memory. Approximately 60% of Utahns consider themselves Mormons, but close to 90% of state office holders hold to the faith. Gerrymandered voting districts keep mostly Mormon Republicans in office in all but two counties.
Non-Mormons chafe at Utah’s liquor laws which are directly influenced by Church leadership. Many believe Thomas Monson is the most influential person in Utah politics. Legislators, however, don’t always bow to requests from 50 N Temple. The concealed weapons law did not respect Church wishes to exclude churches from places gun toting is allowed. With the current exception of a humane stance on immigration laws and a firm policy against gay marriage, Church headquarters keeps silent about most political issues.
For some reason—possibly because of long-harbored resentment against lack of government protection during the Missouri and Illinois persecutions, the invasion of Johnson’s Army, and subsequent persecution of polygamy—most Mormons are right-wing Republicans with a distrust of government. Mormons also have a strong aversion to taxes—possibly feeling their heavy Church donations are all they can afford—or that volunteerism can provide for all a community’s needs.
Church leaders may not be responsible for all political views of their followers, but the Church is judged by its members. And non-Mormon Utahns blame the Church for a state government which excludes them.