SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Democratic Party’s LDS caucus announced a call Tuesday for a day of fasting and prayer this Sunday to help heal the nation’s political divisiveness.
“Bipartisanship and civility are Christian values so it makes sense for us in a religious sense to be fasting for these values,” said Crystal Young-Otterstrom, chairwoman of the LDS Dems Caucus.
She said members of the caucus considered holding the fast earlier this fall but chose to wait until after the election so it would be clear the intent was not to favor a particular political party or candidate.
“With this fast, we’re not saying God favors one party over another, or that God favors one candidate over another,” Young-Otterstrom said. “But we are saying these are values, everybody’s values, and we think they’re important.”
The vice chairman of the caucus, Steven Olsen, said there was concern that any pre-election effort might be confused with a private email reportedly circulated through Western states urging LDS Church members to fast in support of GOP presidential candidate and fellow Mormon Mitt Romney.
“That was definitely part of the discussion,” Olsen said. He said now that Romney has lost, Mormons “are in a unique position to lead the nation in healing the divisiveness that has plagued our nation the last few years.”
He said he hopes a fast will serve as a spark “to put aside our political ideologies and be more humble and look for common-sense solutions based on the teachings of the gospel.”
There are about 1,700 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who are Democrats on the caucus email list, Olsen said.
Longtime Democrat Jan Douglas, a volunteer for the party’s U.S. Senate candidate, Scott Howell, came up with the initial idea for the fast. She said she wanted LDS Democrats to fast and pray for candidates and the sacrifices they make.
Douglas wasn't enthusiastic about having to wait until after the election.
“My first thought was, ‘Eh, you’re a day late and a dollar short,’" she said. “I think we have this mindset that, ‘Oh, we can’t do that because we’re mixing state and church.’ But that’s what it’s all about. We’ve got to come together.”
LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter said, “While the Church does not have a comment on the proposed fast, Church leaders have invited Americans everywhere to pray for elected officials and other public servants as they lead us through difficult times.”
Utah State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said the party doesn’t get involved in caucus activities but he said he liked the idea of the fast.
“I’m a Utah Democrat. We accept and are grateful and appreciative of help anywhere we can get it,” Dabakis said.
Utah GOP Chairman Thomas Wright was also supportive of “any movement to restore civility and eliminate divisiveness in politics. That’s what we should all be striving for.”
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