Reid proof that good Mormons can also be Democrats

LDS politics and religion: Modern LDS leaders have made efforts to dispute the idea that the GOP is the church's party, but the perception still lingers

The Salt Lake City Tribune/November 19, 2006
By Peggy Fletcher Stack

Sen. Harry Reid's ascension to the top of the U.S. Senate is an unexpected victory for a tiny band of beleaguered Utahns: LDS Democrats. His most vocal critics?

Other Mormons.

Despite the fact that Reid held weekly Family Home Evenings and sent three sons on two-year missions for the church, and all five of his children were married in LDS temples, some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints question his faith because of his politics.

Reid's son, Josh Reid, tells the story of a Halloween party at his brother's LDS ward in Nevada. Someone had put up a picture of Harry Reid as a vampire.

"Dad's pretty comfortable in his skin," Josh Reid said, "but it bothers some other family members."

Utah Democrats hope Reid's new position as Senate majority leader while being a temple-recommend-holding Mormon ends such personal attacks.

"It puts to bed once and for all the idea that a good Mormon can't be a Democrat," Democrat Kem Gardner said Friday. "You can not only be a Democrat, but at the highest levels."

The LDS Church declined to comment on Reid's new position, but Josh Reid said a couple of years ago he accompanied his father to a meeting with the LDS First Presidency.

"President [Gordon B.] Hinckley had great things to say about my father," Josh Reid, who is active in Utah's Democratic Party, recalled this week. "From the top, they've always been supportive; some rank-and-file [Mormons] are less so."

The idea that Mormonism and Democratic Party affiliation are incompatible traces back to the early 1970s, when LDS general authority Ezra Taft Benson, who later became church president, was quoted as saying it would be difficult for a faithful member to be a liberal Democrat.

Eight years ago, LDS officials became so concerned about the perceived link between the Republican Party and Mormonism that it took steps to publicly refute it.

"We regret that more than anything . . . that there would become a church party and a non-church party," Elder Marlin Jensen of the First Quorum of Seventy, a long-standing Democrat, told The Salt Lake Tribune. "That would be the last thing that we would want to have happen."

Gardner thinks Reid's new position will help Utah Democrats recruit more Mormons to the party. They will likely "parade him all over the state" as a kind of Exhibit A to show Latter-day Saints they have the same values and standards as the leader of the Senate.

"We all have confidence he will do a great job," Gardner said. "I think he'll be a uniter."

Jill Remington Love, a Mormon Democrat on the Salt Lake City Council, echoed that enthusiasm.

"If we can get the word out, the more successful we will be," Love said. "It would be very healing in our com- munity."

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