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Encountering Turbulence

Taking a Gander: Apostle Uchtdorf should not apologize for his political donations.

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God has something to smile about today.

For far too long, he's been thoroughly dismayed by the blind adherence Latter-day Saints show to the Republican Party. But now, he's reveling in the existence of at least one critical thinker in the hierarchy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I quote...

"Verily, verily I say unto you, good boy, Uchtdorf! While your support of President Biden and other Democrats may irk some of the faithful—and many of Utah's Republicans—it's evidence that at least someone in the ranks is actually alive and conscious—more important, with a conscience. Thank you, Dieter, for being one of my true disciples."

Anyway, so much for what God said. (I'll admit that I may have used just a pinch of creative license.) Consistent with my role as an innocent bystander and observer, Uchtdorf's apparent switcheroo from mainstream LDS politics is, at the least, very refreshing. I can't know, for sure, if his donations to the Democrats were a response to a resounding voice from the heavens or not. But Latter-day apostles believe that they are being led and guided by the almighty, so we have to assume that Uchtdorf's choices showed support and allegiance to the agenda of the Head Honcho.

In a church so steeped in the tradition of Republicanism, this really is noteworthy. It's also a time for Latter-day Saints to reconsider their unhealthy, perpetual, endemic, elephant-centered politics and ponder their own conscience in their polling decisions. Church members haven't just misunderstood; it's a real problem that church leadership has long shown fealty to the Republican Party and supported some of the worst leaders in American history.

Uchtdorf got it right. Though he's surely one of them—you know, the old white men at the helm of the local religion—he broke the rules applied to general church authorities and made at least 13 traceable contributions to President Biden as well as to the campaigns of Georgia Senate candidates Ossoff and Warnock. Though the contributions were made by family members on a shared website, the donations were made in Uchtdorf's name, and, presumably, with his knowledge. Methinks Uchtdorf was one of more-than-a-few Saints who made the decision to support democracy rather than party politics—something much to their credit. Considering the premise that churches provide moral leadership, Uchtdorf's support of non-GOP candidates helps other church members see that they, too, can decide for themselves—not just cast a straight-ticket vote with no forethought.

But now the church is upset; Uchtdorf's contributions have been labeled an affront to the rules that prohibit leadership from espousing political candidates. Uchtdorf will likely get the naughty-boy treatment, submitting to the long line of paddle-wielding confederates and eating crow because he chose to do the right thing.

Donning the humility of exposure, Uchtdorf answered the charges in The Salt Lake Tribune with this acknowledgement: "These donations were made by our family using an online account, which is shared by our family and associated with my name. I regret such an oversight on my part. I fully support the church's policy related to political donations from church leaders."

At a time when religious leadership could set an example for their flocks, encouraging them to make wise choices at the ballot box, the LDS church doesn't want to risk the existence of a maverick in its ranks. It seeks to be lukewarm, never taking a stand, even on the most important challenges facing our people and our country, its policies and conflicts in the world. But should a religion hide during national elections, especially one that can have a profound effect on our world?

While I have no way of knowing how other general authorities spent their campaign donations, it's probably safe to say that they mostly supported the recently dismissed Thug-in-Chief.

Maybe it has something to do with Uchtdorf's former career as a commercial pilot and airline executive. He had seen, firsthand, that people don't need angel wings in order to fly and that many so-called "miracles" are merely scientific principles at work. God has never actually moved 300 people from New York to Paris by simply employing his miraculous powers.

It would appear Uchtdorf understands and respects pragmatism. He didn't mind people finding out he has no respect for wolves in sheep's clothing posing as benevolent politicians who work against the essential functioning of our democracy.

My hat is off to Dieter Uchtdorf. Churches need more leaders like him.

The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.

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