Democratic officials have been discussing an unexpected topic at national meetings this week: how to take advantage of a new opportunity to attract LDS Church members to their ranks.
That was spurred by comments from a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who said he wants to obliterate the idea among too many members of his church that it is impossible to be both a good Mormon and a Democrat.Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, brought stacks of a Salt Lake Tribune story for other national party leaders to read. In the story, Elder Marlin Jensen of the First Quorum of Seventy made those comments.
Taylor said the Western Caucus of party leaders, especially, "were more than interested."
LDS members constitute a significantly high share of the population not only in Utah, but also in nearby states such as Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada and California.
"There definitely is high interest, not only among them (Western states), but also among DNC (Democratic National Committee) and White House officials," Taylor said.
"The immediate thought is, `OK, this creates the opportunity for outreach (for LDS Church members). Now, how do we go about targeting them?' " he said.
Taylor said some leaders from Southern California, for example, asked him, " `How do you go about finding LDS voters?' I said that it's never been an issue for us (because so many Utah voters are LDS), so I couldn't help them much."
Taylor said the meetings this week were to help shape Democratic messages for elections this year, "and this could be one of them."
Taylor added that the need to attract more LDS Church members isn't a new topic, especially for Western Democrats.
He said a summit of leaders from Rocky Mountain states in Utah in January bemoaned how Republicans hold big majorities in most Western legislatures and control most of the congressional seats. He said leaders figured one thing needed to turn that around is to make better inroads with LDS Church members.
So, he said they are especially pleased with Elder Jensen's comments. "They clearly represent a new opportunity for us."
In the interview that Elder Jensen gave, after being designated by LDS officials to respond to Tribune inquiries, he decried thinking by some members that the Republican Party is becoming the party of the church.
"There is sort of a division along Mormon/non-Mormon, Republican/Democratic lines," Elder Jensen said. "We regret that more than anything - that there would become a church party and a non-church party. That would be the last thing that we would want to have happen."
Elder Jensen was careful, however, not to endorse either party.