LDS beliefs prompt some to seek office

The Sacramento Bee/August 21, 2004
By Jennifer Garza

Roseville Mayor Rocky Rockholm credits his church for getting him on track. "Before, I was selling beer for a living," says Rockholm.

That was nearly 30 years ago. In 1975, Rockholm joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He returned to school, worked 20 years in law enforcement and then was appointed to the Roseville Planning Commission. In 2002, he became mayor of Roseville.

"We're encouraged to be involved in the political process. That's why I think there's so many of us," Rockholm says.

Because the church emphasizes civic service, it is only natural for LDS members to seek public office, says Dennis Holland, public information officer for the LDS church in the Sacramento area.

LDS members who hold public office include Rep. John Doolittle, the mayors of Roseville, Elk Grove, Rocklin, Gridley and Biggs, the vice mayor of Folsom and several others, according to church officials.

"What can I say? We like to do our public duty," Holland says.

Sophia Scherman, the mayor of Elk Grove, says that sometimes she'll meet other civic leaders and wonder: Are they members, too? "And when I think so, it usually turns out that I'm right," Scherman says.

Scherman converted from Catholicism to the LDS church six years ago after meeting a former fire chief who was Mormon. "I felt compelled to talk to him about it. There was just something about him that seemed so peaceful," Scherman says.

Since then, Scherman says, her faith has helped her through troubled times. In the past 23 months, her daughter was killed in a car accident, her son died of pneumonia and her mother died of Parkinson's disease. "I wouldn't have made it without my faith," she says.

Both Rockholm and Scherman say their faith influences their work - to a point. They say church officials have never tried to tell them how to vote on an issue.

"The influence is in being truthful. When I look at an issue, I think, 'What is the right thing to do?' " Rockholm says.

Scherman agrees. "There are times when I have real tough issues that need decisions. I weigh the positive and the negative. And I talk to (God) all day long."

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