Provo -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Mormons were ill-served by the conservative politics of past church leaders.
The Nevada Democrat, who is Mormon, specifically named Ezra Taft Benson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985 to May 1994 and U.S. agriculture secretary during the Eisenhower administration.
"Members of the church are obedient and followers in the true sense of the word, but these people have taken members of the church down the path that is the wrong path," Reid told reporters Tuesday after speaking at church-owned Brigham Young University.
Reid said he joined the church at age 19.
"My faith and political beliefs are deeply intertwined. I am a Democrat because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it," he told more than 4,000 people at BYU's Marriott Center.
The LDS religion is the dominant faith in Utah, the world headquarters of the LDS church. Utah also is among the most conservative states, regularly supporting Republican candidates for president.
Vice President Dick Cheney gave the commencement speech last spring at BYU.
The church said it does not endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms. Spokeswoman Kim Farah said the church had no comment on Reid's remarks.
Mitt Romney, a Mormon, has found Utah to be a fertile place to raise money for his GOP presidential run. He was in charge of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
Reid said voters who like Romney should be influenced "by his political stands and not his religion."
He said Mormons must recognize there are more important issues than abortion and gay marriage. Reid opposes abortion.
"We have a country that needs to do something about health care. Global warming is here. We have a president who doesn't know how to pronounce the words," Reid told reporters, referring to President Bush.