LDS Dems Push Message that It’s Okay to Be Mormon and a Democrat

Last fall, Moises Denis was on a stage in Nevada with Harry Reid, campaigning for the reelection of President Barack Obama, when an acquaintance approached him, a finger stretched in Denis’ direction.


Mo, what are you doing up there?” he asked.

Denis, a Mormon and Majority Leader of the Nevada State Senate, explained that he was doing exactly what it appeared – campaigning with the United States senate majority leader for the President.

“I’m disappointed,” was the reply.

That sort of response – when a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints learns a fellow church member is a Democrat – is exactly what must end, Denis told dozens of attendees recently at a “fireside chat” in downtown Salt Lake City. Denis was the featured speaker in the third of a series of events for the Utah LDS Democratic Caucus.

“There may be some things you don’t espouse in the LDS Church (as a member). But you have to look at how you feel about (issues) and have to really ponder and even pray. And as we do, we come to the right answer and get involved,” Denis said, adding “It’s OK to be an active member of the church and a Democrat.”

Before Denis speech, caucus members were trained on how advocate for the group’s platform – it’s OK to be Mormon and a Democrat – in preparation for the 2014 election cycle. Members also helped draft talking points for candidates who are LDS Democrats and themselves to better communicate with what they call “persuadable LDS voters.”

Before his formal presentation, Denis said one of the Church’s temple recommend questions seems to trip up Mormons who might consider voting for a Democrat: “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” He also acknowledged that the Democratic Party’s official stance toward marriage equality and abortion rights might keep Latter-day Saints from embracing the party.

Denis insists the question does not have to do with political party affiliation.

“The thing is: are we being the best kind of best people we can? Then we can be whatever party,” he said. “We all need that. It’s better for our communities.”

Denis said he doesn’t fully embrace the national Democratic party, but he ultimately decided to join because he is passionate politically about education and immigration issues.

“It’s about being inclusive, being Hispanic, caring about others,” he said. “There are things I don’t espouse that others in the Democratic party do. There are things I probably like about the Republican party. But picking those things that are most important to me that I can do something about makes me a Democrat.

“That’s important for my colleagues and others to realize: the Church needs both. If we only limit ourselves to one party and don’t get involved, we really aren’t able to share our experiences and make a community for all of us.”

Crystal Young-Otterstrom, Utah state chair, led a training on how to effectively phone bank, communicate door-to-door and hold house parties in support of the caucus’ mission.

“The church has said there is truth found in all parties,” said Young-Otterstrom. “LDS Democrats can feel isolated in church with the conservative viewpoint. But they can also feel alone with Democrats, many of who are against the church. We want to provide a home for them. We want them to know they can go somewhere to feel safe.”

Steve Olsen, the Utah vice-chair, says their goal is to get around 17 percent of Latter-day Saints in Utah to consider themselves Democrats by the 2016 election, which would bring Utah close to the national mark of 17.5 percent. Olsen said they hope to grow their membership to about 3,000 by the end of the year.