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Perhaps you will find no issue reflecting a greater divide among Utahns that whether LDS Church leaders have too much influence in the Utah Legislature.

A new UtahPolicy poll by Dan Jones & Associates finds that three-fourths of the faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say their church has “about the right amount of influence” on state lawmakers’ political decisions.

But when you ask the same influence question of non-Mormons, you find super-majorities – 79 percent of Catholics, 84 percent of Protestants – say the Mormon Church has too much influence on Capitol Hill.

Now, the question of LDS Church influence on the Utah Legislature is always present.

But it was at the forefront in the 2015 Legislature as members of the Quorum of the Twelve – the leading body of the 15 million-member church – first endorsed a gay rights/religious freedom bill and then attended the bill’s unveiling and gubernatorial signing after passage.

It was an unprecedented, clear involvement of LDS Church leaders in the legislative process.

Those events were highly publicized in Utah. And was followed up by a news analysis story in The Salt Lake Tribune by reporters Lee Davidson and Matt Canham after session’s end on the church’s lobbying of lawmakers over the years.

UtahPolicy and Jones decided to measure the public’s opinion on the church’s influence in the 104-member, part-time Legislature, whose members are around 80 percent faithful members of the Mormon Church – with a number of legislators having served in the church’s lay leadership positions, like bishops and women’s auxiliaries.

Asked if LDS Church leaders have too much, about the right amount or too little influence in the Utah Legislature, Jones found the following:

  • Among all Utahns: 34 percent said the church has too much influence; 51 percent said about right; 10 percent said too little; 5 percent didn’t know.
  • Among Republican Utahns: 15 percent said too much; 67 said about the right amount of influence in the Legislature; 13 percent said too little; 6 percent didn’t know.
  • Among Utah Democrats; 70 percent said too much influence; 22 percent said about right; 5 percent said too little; 4 percent didn’t know.
  • Among political independents: 48 percent said too much influence; 40 percent said about right; 8 percent said too little, and 5 percent didn’t know.
  • Among those who said they are “very active” members of the LDS Church: 5 percent said too much influence; 73 percent said about right; 15 percent said too little influence; 7 percent didn’t know.
  • Among those who said they are “somewhat active” in the LDS Church: 26 percent said too much influence; 54 percent said about right; 16 percent said too little; and 4 percent didn’t know.
  • Among those who said they are “no longer active” in their LDS Church: 49 percent said the church has too much influence; 38 percent said about right amount of influence; 7 percent said too little influence; and 5 percent didn’t now.
  • Among Catholics: 79 percent said too much influence; 18 percent said about right; 0 percent said too little influence; 3 percent didn’t know.
  • Among Protestants: 84 percent said too much influence; 16 percent said about right; 0 percent said too little influence, and 0 percent didn’t know.
  • Among those who said they belong to some other religion not specifically listed by Jones: 85 percent said the LDS Church has too much influence in the Legislature; 9 percent said about right; 3 percent said too little influence, and 3 percent didn’t know.
  • Among Utahns who said they have no religion: 80 percent said the LDS Church has too much influence in the Legislature; 17 percent said about right; 0 percent said too little influence, and 3 percent didn’t know.

Jones polled 601 registered voters from March 30 to April 7. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The gay rights/religious freedom issue was the main topic LDS Church leaders were involved with in the just-completed 2015 Legislature.

But in the past Mormon leaders have taken stands on liquor law, same-sex marriage, abortion and other issues church leaders say are “moral” in nature – and thus appropriate for their public expressions.

Mormon leaders steadfastly decline to endorse political candidates, and they encourage their church members to be good citizens, get involved in their communities, politically and otherwise, and vote.

Utah is overwhelmingly Republican. And polls by Jones and others continually show that most Republicans are Mormons, and many Mormons are Republicans.

It is well known that any major – and sometimes, even minor – changes in Utah state liquor laws don’t happen unless Mormon leaders stay neutral on the change or endorse it.

For example, it took a lot of work with LDS Church leaders for the Legislature several years ago to do away with private liquor clubs and allow liquor-by-the-drink in properly-licensed bars.

It was a major change in Utah alcohol laws and LDS Church liquor stands.

Part of that deal was the installation in new bars and restaurants of the so-called “Zion Curtain,” a 7-foot barrier that keeps patrons from seeing liquor bottles and alcoholic drinks being mixed.

Several legislators – both Mormon and non-Mormon – have since tried to repeal the Zion Curtain (Jones’ polling has consistently showed most citizens want the curtain law repealed), but LDS Church officials have not agreed to such a change and the bills have always failed – as one did in the 2015 general session.