Former Democratic governor Calvin L. Rampton said one reason the Republican Party is predominant among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that doctrine and practices of the church are often seen as being more consistent with conservative philosophies espoused by Republicanism.
Speaking to Salt Lake Rotarians at the Marriott Hotel, Rampton, a Mormon, said he believes Republican dominance can be traced to the fact the party, both in Utah and the nation generally, is perceived as being more conservative.The work ethic that no laborer deserves an economic reward that is not earned is so pervasive in the LDS Church that it has come to be popularly called the "Mormon work ethic."
Rampton said if not modified by compassion, this can become a very harsh doctrine indeed. Government social programs are perceived by many to be a circumvention of the work ethic.
"As liberal social programs have largely been products of Democratically controlled Congresses, those who, from the lack of compassion or for whatever reason, oppose the more liberal political and economic philosophies tend to gravitate toward the Republican Party," Rampton said.
The fact that LDS Church members are less favorable to unions than the general populace gives further impetus toward the Republican point of view, he said.
While there is a strong tendency among LDS members to vote Republican, Rampton insisted that church officials do not secretly instruct members how to cast their ballots.
"It just does not occur," the former governor said emphatically. "When the church as an organization takes a position as to a government matter, the message is neither covert nor ambiguous, but it is open and clear."
However, he conceded that some LDS leaders on a stake or ward level have inappropriately injected themselves into political controversy under circumstances that might lead one to wrongly conclude that they speak for the church.
During his administration, Rampton complained to the First Presidency of the LDS church about a man who was apparently presenting his political views as the official church position.
LDS Church officials sent that man a letter that read: "You have a right as a citizen to take whatever position you wish on a partisan political issue. You also have the right to try to persuade your fellow citizens, but you should not imply in any way that what you are doing is on behalf of the church."
When the LDS Church has involved itself in public issues, it has usually been in regard to issues with moral overtones, about which the church feels a responsibility and advocates a position. Among issues of this kind have been abortion legislation and liquor control, Rampton said.
"It is quite common for not only the LDS church but other churches to become actively involved in matters of this kind," he said.
During his 12 years as governor, Rampton said his relationship with the general authorities of the LDS Church was cordial. "There was a recognition of each side of the role and the responsibility of the other," he said.
Rampton said he often sought counsel from LDS Church leaders just as he did from other men and women of "wisdom and experience" in the community.