The LDS First Presidency sent a letter dated Feb. 9, 2012, to area leaders with directions to read it during sacrament meeting. The letter instructs that no weekday church meetings be scheduled during the precinct caucus meetings to be held in mid-March.
“We are concerned with the decreasing attendance at these caucus meetings in Utah in recent years,” the letter reads.
Craig Janis, executive director of Utah Common Values and outreach chair of the LDS Democrats Caucus, said he appreciates the push from LDS leaders.
“Utah’s caucus system is flawed and difficult,” Janis said, “but it is what drives politics in our state. If we as members of the Church want to ensure that LDS values are represented in our political system we need to be active participants in that system.”
Chase Petrey, BYU political science major from South Jordan, agreed the caucus system is flawed.
“The system is set up so that only extreme candidates will be elected,” he said.
Sandra Shurtleff, BYU political science major from Manhattan, Kan., said she likes the way the caucus system works.
[pullquote]”What matters is that we are determined to make a difference.”[/pullquote]
“Democracy is about people being involved in more ways than just voting,” she said. “The problem occurs when people don’t show up, because then it becomes a few people representing a large number.”
According to Janis the effects of decreasing caucus attendance are especially apparent when it comes to the Republican caucuses.
“You can see the effects of this in the kinds of people who are getting elected in conservative areas of the state,” he said. “The average Republican elected official is far to the right of the average Utah voter.”
Janis said members of the LDS Church have a “scriptural mandate” to be involved in politics.
“I think that this letter makes it clear that we have a modern-day revelation mandate as well,” he said.
Petrey agreed with this idea, referencing the 12th Article of Faith.
“It states that we are subject to the law and we will sustain it,” Petrey said. “Because we live in a democracy and have a choice in the law which we fundamentally sustain, it only makes sense that we have a vested interest in grass roots politics.”
The letter states clearly that the LDS values the Church hopes to see represented in Utah government cannot be found in one particular political party.
“Principles compatible with the gospel may be found in the platforms of the various political parties,” the letter says.
Shurtleff agreed, saying the important thing is participation, not partisanship.
“It doesn’t matter what party you belong to,” she said. “What matters is that we are determined to make a difference.”
Information on caucus meetings in Utah can be found at vote.utah.gov.