Top LDS Church lobbyist tapped to head Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel

The LDS Church’s top government affairs person, John Q. Cannon, will be hired by the Utah Legislature to run its largest staff office, leaders of both political parties, both House and Senate, decided Wednesday night.

Cannon, as reported first by, was among five finalists interviewed by a special committee of legislative leaders to replace Michael Christensen, director of the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel.

Christensen retires Aug. 11 after 17 years in the top staff post.

One of Cannon’s assignments for the Mormon Church was lobbying the Legislature, around 80 percent of whom are active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Cannon worked 20 years in the LRGC, first as a research analyst, then as head of the research division of the office.

He left in 2012 to work in the church’s government affairs office, being named its director several years ago.

The special committee’s recommendation of Cannon will go the next month’s meeting of the Legislative Management Committee – where it is expected to be reaffirmed.

In January’s general session, the whole Legislature will have to pass a resolution hiring Cannon.

But all that is a formality.

The special committee was co-chaired by Senate President Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, and House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake, and legislators are not going against a recommendation of their leaders.

In a press release, King said: “I look forward to John’s leadership at LRGC. He brings to the job excellent experience from prior service in that office as well as government relations work in the private sector.  His integrity and commitment to quality will allow the office to move forward on the foundation built by Mike Christensen.”

Said Niederhauser: “John is an innovator and a diplomat, with expert knowledge of legislative processes here in Utah and around the nation. He has the experience and leadership ability to get the work done. The choice was not easy.  We had a very strong group of applicants, but he rose to the top. If you were to craft an ideal skill set for this position, John Cannon has it.”

The position’s gross pay with benefits is around $215,000 a year.

Cannon will oversee a staff of 65 attorneys and researchers who staff legislative committees, in-session and out and draft hundreds of bills each year.