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October 20, 2014

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The Mormon vote: More faith in Sharron Angle?

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Steve Marcus

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is Mormon, responds to a question during a debate with Republican Sharron Angle in August 2010. Local Mormons say they have concerns about Reid’s liberal policies.

Sharron Angle

Sharron Angle

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When Sharron Angle’s pastor went on a hate-filled rant about Mormonism, calling the religion “kooky” and a “cult,” it was tempting to assume the Republican U.S. Senate candidate would pay the consequences. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are among Nevada’s most politically engaged and conservative constituencies.

But it is Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, himself a Mormon, who is facing the tough questions from members of the faith.

That was apparent the moment he walked into a meeting of the Mormon Business Associates networking group in August. Members, angry with his liberal policies, peppered Reid with questions about immigration and gay marriage. They booed him, according to people who were there, and shouted catcalls.

“It was an absolute blood bath,” said a woman who attended.

Wednesday, it was Angle’s turn to appear before the group — and she was welcomed with cheers and a standing ovation. The woman who described Reid’s “blood bath” called the Angle event a “love fest.” The candidate was even signing autographs.

“She was on the home-team turf,” said Ron Futrell, a former TV sports reporter turned Republican political consultant who attended both events. “When Harry came, it was like he was on the visiting team. You’d think it would be the Mormon who would get the nice reception. It was the exact opposite.”

Mormons make up 7 percent of the Nevada population, according to the church. Leaders stress civic engagement and voting as sacred responsibilities, so turnout among church members is expected to be high. In the 2008 Republican presidential caucus, Mormons made up a quarter of the vote. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, captured 94 percent of their support.

Rallying the Mormon base won’t be easy for Reid, despite his shared religion. Reid has an uneasy, sometimes contentious relationship with some members of his church. An appearance by Reid at a Mormon chapel this year had to be canceled after members expressed anger over him potentially using the venue to gather votes.

Several LDS members interviewed by the Sun stressed that they see Reid as a good and respectable man of faith. But they don’t agree with his politics.

“I don’t think there’s this big hate from the members toward Harry,” said Cory Christensen, a Republican political consultant and LDS member whose brother Chad ran for Senate in the Republican primary. “Most people I know just disagree with him philosophically on real issues ... Some folks who are more his age that he grew up with will support him. But I don’t know anyone under age 50 who say they’re with Harry.”

Reid’s standing among church members appears to have eroded as he ascended the ranks of the Democratic Party. Reid is the highest-ranking Mormon in government.

“Harry, in 24 years in the Senate, has progressively become more of an East Coast liberal Democrat than a Nevada conservative Democrat,” Futrell said. “He’s counted on the LDS community for years and years to back him, which a lot of members have. But the LDS church is very conservative — we believe in less government and more liberty. Those are tenets of the religion and I think a lot of people in the community see Harry Reid as the opposite.”

A turning point came in 2006 when Reid voted against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Although Reid believes marriage should be between a man and woman, as the church teaches, he said the ban would “divide our society.”

In a rare move, LDS church leaders in Salt Lake City urged members to write elected officials and ask them to support the ban. When Reid didn’t, it opened a rift between him and members who concluded that his politics betrayed his religious beliefs.

Afterward, Reid wrote a letter to Mormon leaders in the Las Vegas Valley defending his position, saying gay marriage is a states’ issue in which the federal government shouldn’t play a role, a message he reiterated when he spoke to the Mormon business networking group. Futrell said some saw Reid’s explanation as a “convenient excuse.”

A 2009 survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that nearly 65 percent of Mormons are Republican or Republican leaning. That’s 15 percentage points higher than members of evangelical churches and 30 points higher than the general population. Only 22 percent of Mormons said they are Democrats.

Angle’s message of reliance on the Constitution and a free-market economy resonates with the conservative LDS community, experts said. She’s also working hard to make herself known to Mormons.

For months she has met members at gatherings in private homes and businesses to explain where she’s coming from and the similarity of her beliefs with the teachings of the church. Angle told a story to the networking group about a Mormon girl she befriended in her youth. She said she attended church with the girl and participated in the church’s program for young women.

“We had her in our house in August and I was very impressed,” said Kenna Cooper, a Las Vegas Mormon. “I wanted to make sure she’s not wacky like she’s being portrayed. She’s not. She’s a good conservative mother and grandmother.”

Cooper said she decided to volunteer for Angle after the visit. Like other Mormons, she has canvassed and hosted phone banks.

To be sure, there are Mormons who support Reid, but they seem to be the minority, at least among members who openly share their political preferences.

Jay Evensen, editorial page editor for the Deseret News and a former Las Vegas reporter, said he returned to Nevada recently and reconnected with several Mormon friends who support Reid. “Why?” Evensen wrote in a column. “Sharron Angle is seen as too far out there.”

Evensen also pointed to the anti-Mormon comments by Angle’s pastor, a concern that some Las Vegas Mormons echoed. Pastor John Reed of Sonrise Church in Reno, which Angle stated was her church in her official legislative biography, accused the religion of having “hit squads” that “kill Mormons that go against them,” among other things.

Angle tried to distance herself from Reed, saying she shouldn’t be held responsible for other people’s comments and believes no one should be persecuted or ridiculed for their faith. When her pastor’s comments came up during her meeting with the Mormon networking group, Angle quoted scripture — 1 John 5:10: “Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.”

Most of the group appeared to accept Angle’s word. But at least one woman who heard Angle speak didn’t buy her explanation.

“I would have asked her how she can prove to me that she doesn’t feel like my church is a cult,” the woman said. She declined to give her name because she said she feared repercussions for talking to the media.

The Mormon church, although certainly conservative in its views now, hasn’t always been in line with Republican and Tea Party philosophies. During the Depression and up to the middle of the century, the LDS church leaned Democratic, said Jan Shipps, an expert on Mormonism and a professor emeritus at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Only in the 1950s did it shift right, likely the effect of a conservative rising leader, Ezra Taft Benson, who was a supporter of the John Birch Society.

“It became more and more conservative until it almost seemed like being Republican and being Mormon were the same thing,” Shipps said.

Modern day influences such as conservative media personality Glenn Beck, who is a Mormon, keep the church on that path, Shipps said.

“I think it’s a time of extreme conservatism,” Shipps said. “I think even though Mitt Romney talks about being conservative, he is more liberal than Sharron Angle. I think if they ran against each other, Sharron Angle would win the Mormon vote.”

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  1. "Modern day influences such as conservative media personality Glenn Beck, who is a Mormon, keep the church on that path, Shipps said."

    So, the complete wack-job Glen Beck keeps Mormons on their "Neo-Con" path? Which got it's conservative roots from the John Birch Society? And their own Mittens Romney isn't "conservative" enough?

    I know quite a few folks of the Morman faith, and I just haven't heard that kind of outright, blatent EXTREMISM from them. (Perhaps it's my heathen influence...wink wink.)

    Why is it that religious-based political groups now go HARD RIGHT?
    It doesn't even come CLOSE to the teachings of any organized religion that I'm familiar with. In fact, some religions have done a 180 over the years...swinging left to right; How can you embrace the hateful, selfish "I, ME, Mine" dogma of today's Neo-Con, for example, and call yourself "Christian"? In large measure, it boils down to one ugly word: ABORTION.
    If the Dem's would denounce abortion rights for women, the crackpots on the right in today's version of "Conservative Republican" would lose voters by the tens of thousands in a nano-second.

  2. There were German jews who thought Hitler would bring peace to Germany and restore it to greatness and that his anti=semitism was just a political ploy that would disappear once he gained office and had to be responsible.

  3. I'm a Mormon under the age of 50 who is voting for Harry Reid. He's done a lot for Nevada. I'm not his biggest fan, but when you look at Sharron Angle's voting record it speaks for itself. A vote for Sharron Angle because Harry Reid is a democrat and you're Mormon is reckless. Better to not cast your vote in that race.

  4. Enjoyed the article.

    And it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that politics and religion don't mix.

    But I'd like to point out one thing that is apparent about Sharron Angle showing up at this event. It just continues a trend that she does. And this is a continuation from the one debate she had with Senator Reid. And a continuation of showing up on Fox News and Heidi Harris and other ultra right wing commentators.

    Sharron Angle does not talk substance. She is more interested in a sound byte that will make her look good. She craves and yearns for that BOO YAH! IN YOUR FACE! moment continually. She's desperately searching for that "Swift Boat" instance or some other charge she can level at Senator Reid. Because she knows she cannot sway voters her way by talking about processes or issues. That's all she's got. She's empty. She's a problem creator, not a problem solver. All she knows is she wants to be in power...and serving constituents in Nevada is not a big priority for her when she gets in power. In other words, if she gets in, she will compliment Senator Ensign wonderfully. Because they could both out do each other in the useless department.

    So, in the next two weeks or so, we'll continue to see these types of theatrics from her. Because she has nothing else.

  5. Look at this line from Angle: "reliance on the Constitution and a free-market economy".
    Angle claims that the 'separation of church and state is unconstitutional', so WHICH CONSTITUTION is she referring to? The one that is written or the one in her head that she has constructed. This is called 'doublespeak'.
    The 'free-market economy' means deregulation, and that means getting the Government out of the Real Estate and Banking industry. Record foreclosures so large they had to be halted, and this has been building since 2006. 320 Bank Failures since 2000.
    The FREE MARKET ECONOMY means NO RULES and the privilated use YOUR MONEY freely. 'Free Market Economy' is doublespeak, meaning FREE MONEY for finance and executives and Bank Failures for the rest.
    And Angle STILL WANTS DEREGULATION! Get ready for school closures and giving your pension money to the banking executives with no guarantees...get ready for the Romanov option.

  6. "A turning point came in 2006 when Reid voted against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage... he said the ban would "divide our society." In a rare move, LDS church leaders in Salt Lake City urged members to write elected officials and ask them to support the ban. When Reid didn't, it opened a rift between him and members who concluded that his politics betrayed his religious beliefs."

    Goldberg -- good article.

    Any group of people can easily develop a herd mentality. Reid correctly separated church and state on this issue -- his oath is to the Constitution, not to his church.

    It's quite unfortunate the herd can't see the difference between their bibles and the promises of the republic we live in, or that the very protections they enjoy to spew their opinions and demands are also enjoyed by the rest of us who neither believe like they do nor live our lives by their standards. We are each entitled to be protected from them when they seek to turn their beliefs into public policy.

    Unfortunately, candidates desperate for our votes do pander. In this context it's no wonder Thomas Jefferson's word for the bible was "dunghill."

    "As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed?" -- John Adams, letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

  7. At 2:44 PM Friday 10/15/2010 on "the Jerry Doyle Show" heard on KDWN 720AM, Wayne Alan Root, who writes for the other paper in town said: "Harry Reid was a member of the Mormon Mafia."

    He then went on to guest host the Alan Stock Show on kxnt 840AM ar 3:07 PM the same day. This guy gets around (pay to play = payola Wayne?)

  8. "Let's face it, the Mormon religion is bizarre and for anyone to follow it must have a few bricks shy from a full load..... Mormons = hate = Satan."

    Carroll -- some parts of the religion could be considered "bizarre," but the exact thing can be said of Free Masons, Catholicism, the KKK and any other group using rituals and unusual garb. Your "= Satan" conclusion is way off.

    I grew up 5th-generation LDS, I have ancestors prominent in church history and its founding, who suffered grievously for their faith, I served an honorable mission, participated in the ceremonies in several temples, and am one of the few of my generation who no longer have a use for it. That said, I'm telling you and your ilk from a position of first-hand knowledge unless you've been on the inside of it then the outside as I have, your opinion is just empty hot air over something you don't understand. Look up "buffoon."

    mred -- I'd love to hear what you have to back up your post's Senator Reid "was a member of the Mormon Mafia" and what exactly the MM is supposed to be?

    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

  9. Ron Futrell mentioned in the article went from anchor man to sports guy to weatherman to reporter, then fired after an alleged "hit and run" in the spaghetti Bowl. (charges dropped after the guy he hit was paid damages).

    Of course, after the incident he went on the "conservative fixers" talk radio show, The Alan Stock Republican News Show. For thirty minutes, he told Alan how he was a "victim and was left dazed and confused after the accident.

    Stock also associated himself with Sean Hannity's 2 star rated vetrans charity that was critisized by VoteVets and CREW - Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics in Washington. The charity has a low ratio of getting money to Vets it claims it helps.

    Futrell was then given a newsman job on kxnt for a time.

    Of course, when it's Charles Darling accused of drunk driving, Stock took to the air along with then Station Manger Jack Landreth and repeatedly trashed Darling and defended the police, before all the facts were in.

    You see if it is a working man like Darling, or a harried mother who leaves her kid in the car on a hot day, Alan Stock and his type have no mercy, but if it is a "conservative" like Futrell, scandel plagued Senator John Ensign or a pill-popping Rush Limbaugh, Alan Stock makes the airwaves available to defend these individuals.

    One standard for his cronies, another for everyone else. He eminates the same hypocracy as his hero Sharon Angle.

  10. Nationally syndicated Las Vegas based talk host Jerry Doyle, whose show the anti-LDS bigoted comment was tendered, suffers from the same hypocrisy. (He claims to be the 7th largest talk show, but he is only on live in a handful of markets, Vegas, Victorville, and a small New England station.)

    Of course, a big defender of Sharon Angle and trash-er of Reid. "Harry Reid is the biggest piece of crap to hit the Senate floor." He and Wayne Alan Root chortled over how "Harry Reid had a stroke."

    Recently however, Dolye, who claims military expertise because he commanded a cardboard space ship on a low budget Sci-Fi TV show "Babylon Five,"
    was in a coma because: "his live in girlfriend of 7 years (20 years younger than Doyle) left him and he stopped taking his blood pressure pills."

    Of course, after he got back on the air after a month absence, he proceeded to attack, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears...great targets of opportunity Mr. "family value" Doyle. He doesn't apparently have the same outrage when it comes to nude pictures of his ex-wife all over the Internet. Welcome to the world of hypocritical hate talk radio...Vote for Sharon Angle.

  11. Jerry Doyle, Wayne Root, Alan Stock, Ron Futrell, John Ensign ET AL see "Mormons" as useful idiots for the agenda. The family values crap is just something they pay lip-service too. Someone should ask Ensign about taking trips paid for with "terrorist tainted" money.

  12. Most voters must know that Mormons are programmed to a highly theocratic organization at a very early age. Mormons I have known all my life have never voted their conscience, and they never will!! They must first of all, contact their Bishops, which in turn they will contact Salt Lake City, Then and only then, will they vote their Republican (Mormon) conscience. Sad but in this day and age that still happens. That explains their hatred for Harry Reid, he's out of step with the Church!!!

  13. "They must first of all, contact their Bishops, which in turn they will contact Salt Lake City,"

    azstripper1 -- at least until 2002 (last time I was active LDS), and according to recent heated discussions on Prop 8 with other family members still active, your statement is a load of crap. I was never told how to vote and neither were they.

    mred -- I see you had nothing to say about your "Mormon Mafia" comment.

  14. Killer B, no disrespect, but truth to say the beehive emblem not only denotes the Mormon's work ethic, it also reminds one of the Queen Bee's ability to control all the colony's workers by the use of Pheromones!!!?

  15. "Killer B, no disrespect, but truth to say the beehive emblem not only denotes the Mormon's work ethic, it also reminds one of the Queen Bee's ability to control all the colony's workers by the use of Pheromones!!!?"

    azstripper1 -- the beehive symbol's origin is from the Book of Mormon, you're right on the work ethic. The "queen bee" and "pheronomes" is without basis in either fact or history.

    I basically have a problem with any belief system, or person, that has to tear down others for its own validity.

    "There is no hell. There is only France." -- the late Frank Zappa in "You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore"

  16. So why aren't the liberals screaming "separation of church and state"? They do it when it suits their agenda. But, I guess Reid gets a pass.