By Walter Gong
The Latter-day Saint Church will host the governor of Arizona in Salt Lake this weekend. Her visit will include meetings with the First Presidency and a briefing on the church welfare system.
Gov. Janet Napolitano is interested in learning about the church because of the large LDS constituency she serves, said Napolitano”s spokeswoman Jeanine L”Ecuyer.
“This [visit] has more to do with understanding her constituency,” L”Ecuyer said. “It”s about understanding the customs, culture and beliefs of the LDS people.”
Almost 340,000 members of the church live in Arizona, which accounts for more than six percent of the population.
Church spokesman Dale Bills confirmed that Napolitano will be visiting and meeting with the First Presidency, but declined further comment.
Napolitano and her staff are particularly excited about seeing the church welfare system, L”Ecuyer said.
“The governor doesn”t know a lot about it, I don”t know a lot about it, but we”ve been told that it”s an impressive thing, so it”s on the agenda,” L”Ecuyer said. “It”s something we”re definitely looking forward to seeing.”
L”Ecuyer said she didn”t think there would be any immediate changes to the Arizona welfare system.
According to a Temple Square employee, Napolitano and fifteen people in her group will be touring Temple Square.
The group will include members of Napolitano”s staff, and certain Arizona government leaders who are members of the Church.
As governor, Napolitano makes a number of out-of-state trips every year for work on projects like the tobacco settlement and job creation, L”Ecuyer said.
The Salt Lake trip is unusual because any benefit to the state will be indirect, L”Ecuyer said.
Napolitano was raised as a Methodist, but regards herself as a practicing Christian, according to L”Ecuyer as quoted by the Associated Press.
Many Arizonan students at BYU were unaware of the planned visit, but were supportive.
“Anything she can do to better understand the church and improve the Arizona welfare system is wonderful,” said Justin Larson, a senior from Mesa, Ariz., majoring in psychology.
Larson said he is not a strong supporter of Napolitano. He plans to return to Arizona after graduating.
Mareo McCracken, a sophomore from Arizona, majoring in psychology, agreed that Napolitano”s visit is a good thing.
“All politicians need a little religion,” McCracken said.
The church has 685 wards and four missions in Arizona. Two temples are located in Snowflake and Mesa.
In October 1927 Heber J. Grant dedicated the Mesa temple, making it the seventh of the temples still in operation today.